Saturday, December 19, 2009


Allen Johnston - The Music specialist
Not long ago I had an online discussion about the new R. KELLY project and I took the stance that his inability to grow up and be a man, while sexually and mentally messing with teenage girls was enough for me to never be associated with his music again. This stance made a real stir online and of course I got all of the pseudo reasons why I should endorse his music.

a. He had not been convicted so regardless of what I thought he was innocent.
b. God wants us to forgive one another for our transgressions.
c. Since we came together as a people and fought the trail of OJ we should be behind R.KELLY.
d. Where are the fathers to stop this kind of teenage girl treatment and where was his father?

Not one person wanted to address the 2 main true issues I see surrounding R.KELLY.
1. He preys on young teenage women (girls) for his own mental and sexual satisfaction.
2. He is not a musical genius but a high school drop out with a creative musical, marketing and promotional team that constructs his success.
I, for one, refuse to put my personal feelings aside to allow a man with such a confirmed history of abuse make more money. I have found out that I am not alone on this subject for literally millions of other people from almost every racial and age group agree with my viewpoint. He is now and shall continue to be, in my mind, less than a man.
Musically he has years of education ahead of him before he can be classified as proficient. His lack of formal education shows in his lyrical content. His lack of musical knowledge is apparent because he uses co-producers on all of his songs to make sure he has music.

When asked on the Tom Joyner Morning Show if he would go back to school he said NO he believed that he would lose his creativity if he got education. By any standard this is NOT what you want young aspiring kids to think, and showed me his disdain for education and fear of learning.

I understand that he has made a lot of money, but looking at his career strictly from a professional point of view, his team has made much more money than him. R.KELLY has to hold himself responsible for loss of family (wife, children, and brother) exorbitant legal bills, declining fan base and the karma of his actions.
His latest endeavor R.KELLY MEMOIRS being written by David Ritz is supposed to tell the truth about his life. Interestingly enough one person has already commented “How can he write a book when he can’t read”.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Copyrights 2014

Copyrights 2014

The implication that major labels will be devastated by the litigation of hundreds of artists receiving their copyrights is really humorous. Especially when one looks at exactly what the major labels currently own.

Major record companies have a built in money machine selling the catalog of past artists. The sales of cd, vinyl and “Live show” DVD keep the lights on while new artist sales fluctuate. During the 1980’s the major labels came up with a scheme that put the independent retailer out of business while solidifying their own distribution divisions. They created the Sound Scan system (digital database using a products UPC code) and gave free computers to the independent store owners and coalitions. This gave the labels direct access to the independent store data and told them what catalog items were consistent sellers. Now they could lower product manufacturing costs and increase profits on products they were paying little or no royalty on. And since they owned the copyrights, they paid themselves for mechanicals, synchronization and performance publishing rights.
The recording contracts written before and during that period gave the major labels ALL of the revenue streams from the copyright. The only stream left to the artist was possibly a percentage of the Writer’s share of publishing, performing and merchandising. PA & SR copyrights, for virtually every hit song prior to 1984, are either owned, or controlled by a major label or major label affiliate. Example Sony records will control the SR copyright on a song, contracted at least 50% of the PA copyright, which in turn is part of the Sony publishing(100% owned) catalog ultimately allowing one pocket to pay the other. Most artists have taken an advance against royalties that allows the major label to own even the original songwriters 50%.

Just so you don’t forget, here are a few of those affected artists.
Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding, Ray Charles, Chuck Berry, James Brown, Clyde McPhatter & The Drifters, Big Joe Turner, The Temptations, Little Richard, Wilson Pickett, Fats Domino, The Dominoes, Sly & The Family Stone, Lloyd Price, Martha & The Vandellas, Parliment Funkadelic, The Four Tops, The Isley Brothers, Jackie Wilson, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, Kool & The Gang, The Supremes, Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers, Earth, Wind & Fire, etc..

Ultimately, worst case scenario, the labels will have to re-negotiate with a few wise and non-hungry copyright owners, otherwise it will just be business as usual by advancing some monies and getting another contract.

These catalogs still have a valuable worth in digital downloads, film & commercial licensing and corporate licensing, the labels have the staff, connections and technical support to pursue this.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Best In Black Music And Entertainment


Allen L. Johnston - The Music Specialist

Once upon a time Billboard magazine was considered the “bible” of the music industry. If you did not chart in this magazine you did not have “high” sales, if you did not show upward movement you did not move into “high” rotation at radio, if you were not written up within its pages you did not acquire any advanced or international publicity. Basically you were a NOBODY. Billboard never planned for its own demise, so it never created an Awards show based on the excellence of its artists. The Billboard Urban conferences were a weak venture that never achieved the support of the major labels or major selling artists. This made them available to the independent artist and label who still thought that Billboard was the bible. The Billboard nightclub was suppose to be a place where the “best of the best” performed, in reality these clubs became overpriced disco’s and have disappeared into night club nirvana. There is a lesson to be learned from the downfall of Billboard Magazine.

Can anyone give me suggestions on how we can save or re-create an Awards ceremony that has the qualities we need to instill about our music?

The Soul Train Awards gave me a feeling of dread and shock when I realized that the bar of excellence has been lowered to an all time low. The show was as dreadful as it was based on numerous problems. The biggest of which is the in ability to have a vision of excellence to strive towards.

Soul Train started in Chicago Illinois as a teen dance show with MC Don Cornelius. His personal vision of excellence brought national recognition, national audiences, advertising and the ability to launch acts which most teen dance shows lacked. In 1985 the Tribune Entertainment Company partnered with Don Cornelius Productions Inc. as the exclusive syndicator and distributor. In 1987 the Soul Train Music Awards hit television making history and setting the bar for Black music & entertainment award shows. After years of progress it too became dated, lost its national audience and relevancy along with the Don Cornelius vision of excellence. In 2007 the parent Tribune Company was sold, Don Cornelius became very ill and Soul Train Music Awards was sold to Madvision Entertainment in 2008.

Don Cornelius, born September 27, 1936 was raised with an entirely different set of morals than business principles than most of the current generation. Not only was he an excellent television producer, promoter, salesman and visionary, but he was also a radio announcer (WVON) and a former Chicago Police officer. He envisioned the pomp and ceremony, the panache and elegance that made the Soul Train Music Awards the best of its era.

The Soul Train Music Awards originally contained a voting body of professionals within the radio and record communities. These radio programmers, retail store owners, wholesale buyers, managers, and recording artists who had charted within the previous year, actually cared which person won each individual award. Having a great selling “novelty” record was not a requirement for winning and the winners immediately had increased sales directly connected to the Awards show. The past hosts included Dionne Warwick, Luther Vandross, Will Smith, Patti Labelle, Gladys Knight, Anita Baker, Brandy and L.L. Cool J. The presenters tried to out dress and out class each other and they included Quincy Jones, Montell Williams, Barry White, Oleta Adams, Eddie Murphy, Elizabeth Taylor, Billy Dee Williams and even Don King.

This was an award show that had refinement, major professional entertainers, completely innovative and substantial performances and dignity.

The current Soul Train Awards structure seemed to miss the entire scope of the awards. Gone were the super star celebrities, the outstanding performances, the advertising and the dignity. I see the problem as the inability to have a wider sense of quality both in music and presentation.

People are doing business as if it was a relationship. They are acting emotional, personal, self serving with no regard for others or what they are trying to accomplish. The level of brilliance has been watered down for singers who feel that they can make a few vocal runs or hold a note a few seconds longer than anticipated and that makes them a superior

artist. This is not only musical artists but includes the entire behind the scene individuals who make an awards show possible. It was easy to see, even after the show was edited for television that rehearsals had not been effective, camera direction was sub standard and the outreach to the Black music and larger arts community was mediocre at best.

The World audience expects more and deserves more. What will happen next year? Who knows but one thing is for sure this year’s show was NOT The BEST IN BLACK MUSIC AND ENTERTAINMENT