Four black Los Angeles radio stations' monthlong boycott of Warner Bros. recording artists has paid off. The Burbank record company promised Thursday to increase advertising and promotions on black stations across the country.
Officials of both the four stations and the record company announced at a joint press conference at Warner Bros. offices that the company will "redouble its efforts" to curtail any discrimination against radio stations that primarily program for a black audience.
The stations--led by KACE-FM Program Director Alonzo Miller--vowed to carry their anti-discrimination message to other major record labels, using the Warner Bros. agreement as a model. Miller named regional broadcasters in New York, Chicago, Memphis, Atlanta, Houston and Los Angeles who will act as a liaison panel between record companies and black stations with discrimination complaints.
Programmers at KACE-FM, KGFJ-AM and KJLH-FM all stopped playing Warner Bros. records last Saturday to protest poor treatment they said they had received during the February and March tour stops by Warner Bros. pop star Prince in Southern California. KDAY-AM also briefly joined that boycott.
Within four days, the stations resumed playing Prince, Madonna and other Warner Bros. acts, but refused to report any airplay to trade publications, such as Billboard and Radio & Records. Those weeklies rely on such reports from radio programmers to compile their music popularity charts.
The announcement ended a monthlong stalemate over black broadcasters' allegations that Warner Bros. and other major labels have consistently discriminated against black stations by refusing them an equal share of concert tickets, advertising and promotional giveaway items, such as record albums and clothing.
When a black performer such as Prince or Michael Jackson "crosses over" in airplay from black stations to Top 40 stations, major record labels have tended in the past to switch their promotional budgets to Top 40 stations. Thus, promotional sweat shirts with the artist's picture and name on them, concert tickets, posters and other giveaway items go to the Top 40 stations and not the black stations, black broadcasters have alleged.
Even more important to many stations is that record companies also cut down on their black station advertising and increase it on Top 40, according to KACE general manager Jim Blakely.
Blakely explained that by refusing to report airplay, they hoped to affect Warner Bros. artists' chart positions. That in turn could lower Warner Bros. record sales because customers tend to buy more records if they're higher on the charts.
Though he would not say how much the four stations' protest action had affected sales, Warner Bros. black music department chief Tom Draper acknowledged that the boycott did hurt the company.
During the weeks leading up to the nine Prince concerts in Los Angeles and Long Beach, such black stations as KACE built up the pop star's visit with elaborate contests, giveaways and increased airplay of his records. But, when he arrived in Los Angeles, Prince's concert promoter and his record label virtually ignored those stations.
Blakely said the Prince episode was only the culmination of years of a building black backlash. He said black stations were weary of being a "free research and development service" for record companies.