Michael Jackson: the music industry is racist.
July 8, 2002 2:06 PM   Subscribe

Michael Jackson: the music industry is racist.
The erstwhile Agent M made some interesting claims about the record industry as a whole while in the midst of a dispute with his record label, Sony. He mentioned such paupers as Little Richard, Mariah Carey and Sammy Davis, Jr. as "vistims of the industry," and singled out Sony Music chairman Tommy Mottola. In other news, Al Sharpton and Johnny Cochran have formed a coalition to investigate financial profiteering off black recording artists.
posted by me3dia (43 comments total)
Gah! Make that victims -- I hit post instead of spellcheck.
posted by me3dia at 2:09 PM on July 8, 2002

I thought for sure this would be a link to The Onion. But, alas, it's not. Yes, one of the most important issues facing black America today is whether the most prominent black musicians should be receiving nine instead of eight figure contracts. Thank god Al Sharpton and Johnny Cochran are on the case.

And I don't get the Mariah Carey connection at all. She went nuts, her album sold for shit, and her record company bought her out for 50 million dollars. And the person who is singled out as the biggest racist is Tommy Mottola -- who used to be married to Mariah Carey. Of course, I didn't think Mariah Carey was thought of as a "black artist" (but I'm white, what the hell do I know). Bizarre stuff.
posted by pardonyou? at 2:20 PM on July 8, 2002

um... i knew i was out of touch with the mainstream music business but.... i always thought Mariah Carey was caucasion.
posted by dobbs at 2:21 PM on July 8, 2002

michael jackson is black?
posted by deftone at 2:27 PM on July 8, 2002

It will be interesting to see how Jackson, clearly a white woman, will explain being the victim of racist treatment of black artists. And besides, he (she?) may have Al "Tawana Brawley" Sharpton and Johnny "O. J. Simpson" Cochran stepping up for him, but we all know that no headline-grubbing, n-word-wielding, anti-racist campaign can be taken seriously until the real Mister Jackson steps into the spotlight...

(dobbs: I remember reading that one of Carey's parents is black, the other white, allowing her - Halle Berry style - to choose what race she'd like to belong to in order to best further her career...)
posted by JollyWanker at 2:29 PM on July 8, 2002

There is only one real Michael Jackson.
posted by yhbc at 2:33 PM on July 8, 2002

gotta love the photos from the event . . . too weird. woulda loved to have seen him do the fist-pumping thing on his doubledecker ride around the block.
posted by nobody_knose at 2:35 PM on July 8, 2002

so many thoughts come to mind here:
1. michael is crazy.
2. michael is right
3. courtney love is crazy.
4. courtney love is right.
5. michael does not have to make this about race.
6. of ALL people, michael should not be making this about race.
7. sure fire way to make whatever valid points you have about any topic instantly lose their credibility-- have jesse jackson and al sharpton stand behind you and nod their heads.
8. p.s. the record industry rips off whites, non-whites, women, and children too.
9. pps the record industry also rips off their fans.
posted by tsarfan at 2:37 PM on July 8, 2002

As much fun as it would be to get into a discussion about cultural definitions of race, I think that's veering off topic.

Jackson's examples might be a little off-base, but you can't deny that the recording industry has always eaten musicians, particularly but not exclusively black musicians, alive.

Just one example that comes to my lazy mind is Jimmy Reed's manager writing all those great songs.
posted by timeistight at 2:39 PM on July 8, 2002

i always thought Mariah Carey was caucasion.

She's definitely less Caucasian than Jackson
Then again, almost everybody is

(Except in Iceland)
posted by matteo at 2:40 PM on July 8, 2002

I was always under the impression that the music industry was an equal-opportunity business, screwing over artists of all races and genders with wanton abandon.

Of course, most artists seem to do a pretty good job themselves of squandering every last dime they earn. Cribs, anyone?
posted by mkultra at 2:41 PM on July 8, 2002

Um, his notion that black artists have been horribly ripped off by the recording industry is not untrue, or something he just pulled out of the air. It's beyond merely well-documented, even. This is not a case of crying wolf, Al Sharpton's appearance here to the contrary notwithstanding. (Hell, he showed up to talk to Enron employees. Did that make the Enron implosion any less of a scandal?)
posted by raysmj at 2:47 PM on July 8, 2002

the music industry bends artists over and rapes them without regard to race, creed or color. the music industry is an equal opportunity rapist. hilary rosen tells me so.
posted by quonsar at 2:54 PM on July 8, 2002

I love Michael, but I'm not gonna fall in line until he writes SLAVE on his face.
posted by anildash at 2:54 PM on July 8, 2002

oops. mkultra tells me too!
posted by quonsar at 2:55 PM on July 8, 2002

Michael Jackson is white -- why should he care about racism?
posted by uftheory at 2:59 PM on July 8, 2002

quonsar: of course you are right that the music industry rapes everyone they can. Historically, black performers have been much easier to rape.
posted by timeistight at 3:02 PM on July 8, 2002

I have two words for Al Sharpton: Tawana Brawley
posted by msacheson at 3:10 PM on July 8, 2002

He's been in the industry a great number of years and he makes a statement about this now!?

Like anyone would believe that this guy was some weird, childlike superstar who never grew... oh.
posted by DaRiLo at 3:23 PM on July 8, 2002

"He's been in the industry a great number of years and he makes a statement about this now!?"

If his last few albums hadn't sold like shit, he'd still be kicking back at the Neverland Ranch and not saying a word about how the man is keeping him down. He's got to create either a) some buzz or b) some sympathy, in order to restore his lifestyle to some semblance of the ridiculous excess to which he's become accustomed.

It's also probably a pre-emptive move to try and keep control of the Beatles catalog, pretty much the only thing he's got left that's worth anything. If he and his new posse harass Mottola and Sony enough, they may forgive the loans against the catalog just to get rid of him and the potential bad publicity of "bankrupting the King of Pop".

posted by mr_crash_davis at 3:38 PM on July 8, 2002

It's a no-win situation. If an artist is big and rich, their complaint will make the headlines but (for good reason) will be ridiculed. If the artist is small and unknown, their complaint will be ignored, even though it's probably pretty strong.
posted by skylar at 4:08 PM on July 8, 2002

Sony spent $25mil to promote "Invincible." How is that lack of promotion? Remember a time when Michael Jackson could belch for 3 minutes, and it would be a hit record? His time has passed, he just refuses to admit it. The younger record buyers that form the most appealing demographic aren't interested in a 40-something of unidentifiable sex/race and his warmed-over dance pop. They want Eminem, Kid Rock, and whatever else is hot at the moment (I'm too old to keep up with most of it.)
posted by Oriole Adams at 4:37 PM on July 8, 2002

What Oriole said.
posted by brucec at 4:45 PM on July 8, 2002

I tend to agree with mr_crash_davis...
posted by XiBe at 4:59 PM on July 8, 2002

Someone noted that Michael Jackson began his career as a poor young black boy and quickly became a rich young white girl.
posted by Postroad at 5:53 PM on July 8, 2002

It's easy to say all that once he's benefited from Columbia/Sony's udder for more than two decades. And I have to agree MJ's 15 minutes of fame are largely over (as if slump sales of Invincible weren't proof enough).

Oh well, thank you MJ, it was good while it lasted.

So who's the new King of Pop now?
posted by betobeto at 6:21 PM on July 8, 2002

I'll just remind people that at one point MTV didn't play any videos by black artists. MJ was one of the first, or possibly the first black artist, that got consistent play on MTV and in order to make that happen he had to have a huge hit AND make some noise about MTV's racism.

You can make a case that becoming (to the culture at least) a non-threatening, sexually ambiguous weirdo instead of a black man made it possible for him to become a mega-star. In any case he's lived his whole life inside the music industry so maybe we should listen to what he has to say about it. We don't have to believe him but we shouldn't dismiss his opinions out of hand. All that said I don't believe very much of what MJ has to say here. There probably is racism in the music industry but racism is not what keeping MJ latest album from selling.
posted by rdr at 6:23 PM on July 8, 2002

"So who's the new King of Pop now?"

The BBC says it's Eminem.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:28 PM on July 8, 2002

crash: It's also probably a pre-emptive move to try and keep control of the Beatles catalog, pretty much the only thing he's got left that's worth anything.

I'm not so sure crash. MJ is a partner in this venture, which involves purchasing the most valuable copyrights in country music. He's not hurting. I have to just chalk this up to his continually increasing freakish behavior.
posted by anathema at 7:02 PM on July 8, 2002

but I'm not gonna fall in line until he writes SLAVE on his face.

Yes, but then it would completely melt.

Al Sharpton is firmly on his way to becoming our next president, yes indeedy - now he just has to hang out with Cardinal Law and Company to complete his new "kid-friendly" image.
posted by owillis at 7:16 PM on July 8, 2002

that make the Enron implosion any less of a scandal

No, that would make Sharpton a media whore
posted by Mick at 7:20 PM on July 8, 2002

For a decidedly more legit look at past racism in the music industry, you could do worse than to read this book. Also, try the Rhythm and Blues Foundation, which most likely (99.9995%) will never be keeping the Gloved One out of debt, but does so for plenty of R&B performers now.
posted by raysmj at 7:21 PM on July 8, 2002

Yeah, Sony and MJ own The Beatles and Hank Williams.That's sick.

It just ain't right.We should light up some torches and storm their castle.
posted by BarneyFifesBullet at 7:23 PM on July 8, 2002

Of course the music industry is racist, and michael is living proof of it: over the years, he's had to change his race right in front of our very faces ... just so that macauley culkin would let him come over and play once in a while.
posted by BoyCaught at 7:26 PM on July 8, 2002

I think ol' Mike J. needs to talk to Steve Albini. If you're on a major label, your fuct......
posted by mkelley at 8:29 PM on July 8, 2002

What a complete and utter load of crap. There are organizations such as The Rhythm & Blues Foundation that are working to help those who have given their lives and careers to making music, and now live out their retirement mostly in poverty. Michael Jackson could lend a little of his star power (fading though it be) if he really cared about such causes. What riles me up is that he has cynically latched onto a legitimate problem to shift blame for his failing career.
posted by chipr at 8:53 PM on July 8, 2002

raysmj - Aw heck ... start posting ... step out for dinner ... return to finish ... and find somebody else made the point I wanted to make. Thanks for pointing out the R&B Foundation.
posted by chipr at 8:56 PM on July 8, 2002

When I saw him on TV I swear to God I thought it was a promo for the new Freddy Kruger/Jason movie.
posted by Mack Twain at 9:29 PM on July 8, 2002

just for the record:

Tommy Mottola lives on the road
he lost his lady two months ago
maybe he'll find her, maybe he won't
oh, oh, never, nooo
he sleeps in the back of his big grey Cadillac,
oh my honey
blowing his mind
on cheap grass and wine
oh, ain't it crazy baby, hey
guess you could say
hey, hey
this man has learned his lesson,
oh hey
now he's alone
he's got no woman and no home
--for misery (my friend)
cherchez la femme

August Darnell
Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band
(RCA, 1976)
posted by y2karl at 12:51 AM on July 9, 2002

With regard to racism in the music industry, it is quite telling that probably the biggest rapper in history is Eminem - a white guy. Eminem is a talented lyricist but a lot of his musical success can be put down to Dr. Dre, a black guy. Would it ever have been possible for someone black to reach Eminem's level of fame?
posted by skylar at 1:06 AM on July 9, 2002

I wonder when NAMBLA is going to hold a press conference to complain that the record industry discriminates against child molesters.
posted by tpoh.org at 7:47 AM on July 9, 2002

I'd like to offer up this quote in support of my previously stated position:

"He's trying to wage this bizarre campaign to rearrange his financial obligations," said the Sony executive, who asked not to be identified. "It's not going to happen."
posted by mr_crash_davis at 1:33 PM on July 9, 2002

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