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Artists Tired of Playing by Corporate Radio’s Stringent Rules Become Savvy in Other Ways to Promote Product

 width=RFFocus recently wrote about the changes taking place on the KBLX in San Francisco. The most noted was the demise of the 20-plus year morning radio show hosted by Kevin Brown.   The show was replaced by The national Show and we are STILL getting angry emails (most that we can’t post) from fans who are tired of the cookie-cutter concepts being force-fed to them by many corporate stations nationwide. The biggest complaints are extremely limited variety and outrageously tight playlists or in laymen’s terms ‘All the radio stations sound the same.’

Urban stations have been getting flack mostly from seasoned like who just experienced major backlash, complaints and compliments for his Adult Mix Tape of a song “If You’re Ready to Learn.” The controversial line that comes directly before that, “Let me show you how your P$*+y Works” is what got McKnight the most attention. Fans wanted McKnight to remain in the classy balladeer vain and some thought it was a desperate attempt for attention. One of my FaceBook friends even asked people to pray for McKnight because he was not mentally well.   After listening to his interview on Reach Around Radio yesterday, there is nothing wrong with Brian McKnight at all, he is tired of not being free to be creative and while talking about certain subject matter may offend some of his previous fans the amount of attention he got from this concept is probably the most publicity he’s gotten in years. The last time I heard about Brian McKnight he was working at one of the most boring stations on the planet KTWV in Los Angeles.   He’s currently selling his controversial single on iTunes.

Cool J, Chuck D and Tank have also expressed their dismay at various times about the significant changes that have taken place at urban leaving the starving for more and artists fewer spaces to promote product. I have stated many times in this blog that the day urban radio started depending on research is the beginning of the end. Urban radio does not FOLLOW trends urban radio once gave birth to them.   Without going too far back into the history, urban radio was once the main resource for African Americans for not just entertainment but news and information.   All is not lost, there are still some great urban stations out there that still take chances and still provide the community with much needed programming, new music, news and information, some of those that immediately come to mind are WBLS/New York, KKDA/Dallas, V103/Atlanta and KJLH in Los Angeles.

Brilliant Move…

’s label could have spent weeks promoting his new album Tuskegee to country radio, a relatively new format for the Motown superstar but an appearance outside of the radio arena helped to catapult his current CD in a way that radio could not have. Lionel Richie‘s country duet CD “Tuskegee” (at last count) is now Platinum.   Lionel made old music new again which was a BRILLIANT move. Many older artists have an almost incredible time getting their new music played on radio when they are over 40 because it doesn’t fit in with the rest of the format making it sound dated. Radio likes the hits and Richie took his old classic hits and did new duets with country superstars to add a new twist to his old songs and it worked. Other seasoned artists are sure to be paying attention to his success as many attribute his appearance on the Home Shopping Network promoting the CD as the catalyst to help bolster sales. This was certainly a non traditional but one of many growing avenues older artists are using to promote product.   Richie made a very interesting statement when talking about the direction he wanted to go in with this album.

“This album continues to amaze me and I am so grateful for all that it has accomplished,” Richie says. “Just when I think it couldn’t get any bigger, Tuskegee reaches a new level of success. When I came up with the idea for Tuskegee, I didn’t want to be confined by boundaries of age, genre or demographics. I am thrilled with how well this album has been received by people from all walks of life. It is truly living up to the vision we had when we created it.”

Several other recording artist have expressed their growing dismay, perhaps no so calmly as Richie over having to play the current radio airplay .   One constant sentiment is how can an artist be creative when they have to constantly consider so many things like: if the music blends well with what the station is currently playing or having to make sure it’s either an adult song or a mainstream song or a rhythm song that might get played on CHR radio to get the biggest bang for the buck. Indeed that has to literally destroy an artist’s ability to create when he has to consider all of these elements. Perhaps this is why many listeners complain about all of the music sounding the same. Some radio stations are so research intensive that worrying about which format a song will be played in seems to be secondary to even being considered for airplay at all which is even MORE stressful. Contrary to popular belief the don’t have a shortage of new music as much as the radio stations have a shortage of spaces to play the music in.   When it comes to commercial radio the to research may very well come back to bite radio in the ass if enough internet companies and online radio stations take off.   There are some artists who are SO frustrated playing the radio game they are creating their OWN online stations, we’ve gotten three press releases this week with popular musicians going that route.

Creating their own radio stations is not the answer, the belief that artists, especially vet artists, have to get over is that radio is not the ONLY source to sell music. Lionel Richie should certainly be a lesson to many older artists and many younger artists are adamant about using sites like World Star Hip Hop to promote their music first.
OK, so we know the problem what’s the solution. Tank made an interesting point during a radio interview in Chicago on recently when he said, make the music that YOU want to make first. Which is what he said he did with his latest project. Artists are going to have to be more responsible for helping to market their own product. As artists try to identify the online sources for selling boatloads of their music, commercial radio can’t maintain such stringent and ultra tight playlists (or people in charge who don’t understand urban culture for urban radio) and remain successful. The outcome will be interesting at best as commercial radio seems to still be the Holy Grail for releasing and helping to promote new music. Retail record stores were once also the Holy Grail for selling music. Where are they now?

While we have many ideas on how to promote product without radio especially for vet artists who have not gotten airplay for several years (like doing campaigns right here on RFFocus ), research on who reaches your audience best is vital and so is a budget.   In addition, we invite industry readers to comment on some of the ways they know as well.


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1 COMMENT

  1. The solution is internet radio and stations like Fullasoul Radio (fullasoul.com) that are taking a fresh approach to building playlists without the same limitations and constraints as the big corporate-owned stations on the FM dial.

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