More from the musicians

By Susan Whitall – From her Blog at
I’ve gotten more than a few calls from angry musicians this week, in the wake of publicity about the radio protests going on against Rep. John Conyers’ proposed fee for performers that AM and FM radio would have to pay.

Conyers’ Performance Rights Act passed through the Judiciary Committee and now faces a vote by Congress. The Senate has a similar bill it’s considering.

Radio One CEO Cathy Hughes has been particularly vocal about opposing the Act, running ads on her stations here in Detroit in which she argues against it.

Many Radio One personalities, including Mildred Gaddis, were at a Wednesday protest in front of Conyers office in downtown Detroit. Spike from 95.5’s Mojo in the Morning Show, a Clear Channel employee, was there as well and tells me there were at least 10 other Clear Channel employees taking part.

On the other side of the debate, most musicians seem to fall. Duke Fakir of the Four Tops spoke strongly for the Act, and I got a call from bassist Ralphe Armstrong today.

Ralphe was fit to be tied.

“I am so pissed off at Mildred Gaddis for turning this into a race issue,” Armstrong ranted. Like Gaddis, and Radio One CEO Hughes, he is African-American.

He’s talking about the “It will kill black radio” argument being put forth by Gaddis and others at Radio One, a black-owned chain.

“I’m not a billionaire like Cathy Hughes,” Armstong says. “I want people to know about this. We work hard. We have families too. I have a son going to college.

“How dare Mildred Gaddis say this is going to hurt black radio stations when right now hundreds of thousands of black musicians and artists are hurting. We’ve been fighting for years, and finally we have John Conyers, who’s man enough to represent the little people, not the multi- billion dollar industries.”

This isn’t the end of the story, of course. I expect Gaddis will continue to vigorously speak against the bill on her morning show, and I’m curious to know what some of my more independent-minded radio friends are thinking.

Susan Whitall writes about music, books, pop culture, radio and more for The Detroit News. You can reach her at

May 19th, 2009 | Posted in Keener
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