Rhythm & Business
Jazz, Blues, Rhythm and Blues, Rock 'n' Roll, Soul, Funk and Hip-Hop; there's no question African American musical creativity has fuelled the modern music industry. But faced with racism and cultural theft for decades, African-American musicians, DJs, businessmen and women have struggled to have any real control or ownership in the business. Even though millionaire music moguls like P Diddy and 50 Cent today give the impression blacks have real industry power, aren't they just a few very visible exceptions? Exceptions whose companies are actually distributed by white-owned conglomerates? In this three part series financial educator, broadcaster and music obsessive Alvin Hall examines the political economy of African American music, from jazz to Jay Z.
Our series begins with Alvin travelling back to the turn of the 20th century. Just 50 years after the American Civil War, the emerging jazz and blues music was gaining popularity but blacks were still very much second class citizens. America was segregated, Jim Crow laws were in full effect and lynching was prevalent. The nascent recording industry was simply a reflection of America at that time. Alvin examines the early history of blacks in the recording industry in blues, jazz, rhythm and blues and rock 'n' roll. From the first black-owned record label to white record companies re-recording black music it seems that blacks created new music while whites exploited it. But was there more than racism at work? Did middle class blacks ignore the music of working-class blacks, allowing whites to take control?