We often hear about the pivotal role that black musicians like Mahalia Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Sam Cooke, Odetta, Harry Belafonte, and Nina Simone played in the civil rights struggles of the 1950s and 1960s. Less discussed, however, is the role played by black-owned record companies and how savvy black entrepreneurs negotiated the complex relationship between raceharry , politics and commerce.
This discussion will consider the contributions of trailblazing black-owned record companies like Motown and Vee Jay, James Brown’s People Records, Clarence
Avant’s Sussex, Sam Cooke’s SAR, and Gamble and Huff’s Philadelphia International. We will also take a dive into lesser-known record labels like the Isley Brothers’ T-Neck and Curtis Mayfield’s Curtom. As the story of black music industry entrepreneurship did not begin and end with the civil rights era, the history of labels formed in the early part of the 20th ceisntury as well as the rise of companies as far ranging as the Bob
Marley’s Tuff Gong, Sylvia Robinson’s Sugar Hill, Prince’s Paisley Park, LA Reid and Babyface’s LaFace, Sean Combs’ Bad Boy, Dr. Dre’s Death Row, as well as the ascent of today’s ‘hybrid’ record companies like Jay Z’s Roc Nation, Beyoncé’s Parkwood, and Anthony Tiffith’s Top Dawg will also be explored.
Moderated by Jason King, journalist, musician, DJ and Associate Professor and the founding faculty member at New York University’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music.
Carol Cooper: Arts critic, Educator, and Former Record Industry Executive
Michael A. Gonzales: Essayist and Co-author of Bring the Noise: A Guide to Rap Music and Hip-Hop Culture
James Mtume: Composer, Producer, Songwriter, and Activist