Music convention touches on politics

July 22, 1994|By Kevin Zimmerman | Kevin Zimmerman,The Hollywood Reporter

The 15th annual New Music Seminar got off to a slow start this week in New York with sparse attendance at most events and an overall sense of ennui.

The opening session was highlighted by Atlantic Records President Danny Goldberg's keynote address, exhorting conventioneers to continue fighting for freedom of speech without tilting over into bigotry.

"I know the New Music Seminar is driven by business," Mr. Goldberg said, "but it also contains a pulse-beat of politics."

Simply being for free expression is not enough, he said; "you must also criticize evil, and bigotry is evil."

Mr. Goldberg also got off the first shot in what has become a perennial NMS topic of debate: racism. "I think white people have to realize that we continue as a group to have unfair #F advantages over African-Americans," he said to loud applause. "We do have a moral and political responsibility to work to rectify the racial imbalance in this country."

Mr. Goldberg was followed by MTV's Tabitha Soren, who gave some details of a 24-hour global benefit concert, World Aid Relief! (WAR!). The July 15, 1995, event will feature 18 concerts broadcast live from 17 countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Argentina, Italy, France, Germany, Japan, Australia, Mexico, Brazil, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and South Africa.

Twenty-five percent or less of each dollar raised is to go to administrative costs, according to WAR! organizer Colin Medlock, who worked on Live Aid's Philadelphia portion. Money raised at each show will go to a number of charities within that show's country of origin. Ms. Soren said WAR!'s goal is to raise at least $200 million in the United States and $500 million worldwide.

No names or venues have been set yet, she said, adding that plans call for film, TV, theater and sports figures to be hosts of the concerts.

Earlier, the annual Joel Webber Prizes for Excellence in Music and Business were presented to Uptown Records founder Andre Harrell and CBGB founder Hilly Kristal. Mr. Harrell, citing Motown founder Berry Gordy and Rush Communications founder Russell Simmons, told the crowd, "It's important that the spirit that brought you to the music business remains intact."

He added that commitment and enthusiasm must extend beyond a label's musicians to include its younger executives.

CBGB's Kristal took about 30 seconds to thank the crowd, adding: "I really have no desire to bore you with some of my love -- or hate -- for the music industry. If anybody wants to hear more, they know where to find me."

NMS executive director Mark Josephson said attendance is "already over 7,000," though most were apparently seeking refuge from New York's heat wave elsewhere. Spottily attended panels on "Hip-Hop: Culture in Crisis" revealed that the genre's artists feel underappreciated and underempowered, while "Rock Independent Labels" noted that most indie labels must have mainstream distribution to survive.

The NMS runs through tomorrow at the Sheraton New York.

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