Three Los Angeles-area rhythm and blues radio stations began a boycott Wednesday of Warner Bros. Records, alleging that the company discriminates against black-oriented stations in advertising buys and promotional giveaways such as concert tickets.
The stations--KJLH-FM, KACE-FM and KGFJ-AM, which cater to a largely black audience--suggested that the boycott could spread to include other cities and other record companies.
Warner Bros. had no comment but said it would issue a statement today.
The stations allege that Warner Bros. has consistently discriminated against local black-oriented stations in favor of pop stations that have a largely white audience. In the Los Angeles radio market, where 85 AM and FM radio stations vie for listeners, promotional concert tickets and giveaways for popular artists such as Prince and Michael Jackson can affect ratings.
James Blakely, vice president and general manager of KACE-FM, said there is a discriminatory "attitude that exists today in the record industry. What is happening with artists like Prince and Lionel Richie is that, traditionally, the black stations break their records and then when they cross over to the pop stations the record companies' treatment of us is one of benign neglect. We can't get promotional items or concert tickets."
The disagreement with Warner Bros. came to a head during a series of nine Los Angeles-area concerts by Warner recording artist Prince, Blakely said. "We'd sent several hundred people to the Prince movie 'Purple Rain,' we'd given away two Prince motorcycles and a Prince wardrobe by his designer . . . and we did two (simulated) Prince concerts on air, a total of six hours of nothing but his music for our listening audience that couldn't afford concert tickets."
Despite the station's big push on Prince, however, "our information leads us to believe that local pop stations were given promotional items by Warner that we weren't given--umbrellas and plaques, even some tour jackets."
According to Blakely, for the first Prince concert "we got a pair of tickets for our program director, our music director and for each of the disc jockeys." For the second concert series in Long Beach, "the day before, we received 15 pairs of tickets but we couldn't give them away on the air because it was so late."
KJLH program director Jim Maddox said that his station was similarly mistreated by Warner. "We got 15 pair of tickets for one Sunday matinee at the Forum to give to our listeners," Fleming said. "In our case, the tickets for our listeners were way up in the rafters, and we know for a fact that KIIS had a ton of tickets to give away and all of their seats were down in the front rows," he said.
Maddox added that the stations were also slighted in that Warner made no advertising time buys on the black stations.