Saturday, September 29, 2018

Radio Facts Fall 2018 Editorial: R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

RadioFacts Editorial
[NOTE: Check out the entire issue celebrating Women in Media at]

By Janine Coveney

As this issue of Radio Facts arrives in your hands, we are still mourning the passing of the incredible Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin, who left us on August 16, 2018.

As an ambassador of American-bred musical artistry and excellence and as a global emblem of the African American experience to the rest of the world, Aretha Franklin was unrivaled. Her personal life was complicated at times, but always marked by a strong faith in God and an unwavering understanding of the matchless singularity of her vocal prowess. When she sang she was lit from within; her phrasing, ad libs, low trills and sky-high vocal embellishments were entirely unique to her and always thrilling to the ear. Her piano playing, informed by both gospel and jazz, was inventive and skilled. Her recorded repertoire spans gospel, Broadway tunes, ballads, blues, pop reinterpretations, dance-floor jams and straight up funk.

When Luciano Pavarotti – one of the world’s foremost operatic tenors – could not sing at the 1998 Grammy ceremony, Aretha Franklin stepped in and performed one of the best-known arias in opera, conquering the Italian libretto and adapting its key to her contralto-to-soprano range. I’m sure there was no doubt in her mind whatsoever that she could pull it off, and of course the results were jaw-dropping. Aretha was not just a singer. She was a consummate musician.

Aretha did not suffer fools – or those who underestimated her – gladly. Nor should she have. As a Black woman working within the arts since before the gains of the Civil Rights Movement, ultimately sustaining a career lasting more than six decades, she was a witness to the best and worst not only within the entertainment industry but within America as a whole. She was crowned the Queen of Soul by her fans, and it was a title she earned by the sweat of her brow. In her manner and how she conducted her affairs, she was regal in every regard. It is no wonder that the song most associated with her is the one in which she demands “R.E.S.P.E.C.T.” Aretha Franklin commanded respect as a woman, as a African American, as an artist, and as a professional.

Respect for the professional abilities and accomplishments of women of color at all levels of the entertainment industry is what the Radio Facts 2018 Women In Media issue celebrates. Women of color have made significant inroads as top executives, business managers, and arts creators, becoming in the process the influencers, taste makers and thought leaders who help drive the in fast-paced, ever-changing marketplace. That they do so in a business still primarily dominated by men is noteworthy.
This year’s slate of 2018 Women In Media honorees include some ladies you know and perhaps some that you don’t. They represent radio broadcasting, label A&R, promotion, distribution, publishing, publicity, performance rights, artist development, and television production. Their expertise spans hip-hop, R&B, Latin, gospel, and both television and film.
Included are industry veterans like radio programming exec Kathy Brown of WWWZ Charleston, SC; entrepreneur Sheila Eldridge, CEO of syndicated radio company Café Mocha; New York radio personality Angie Martinez of Power 105 New York; and Atlantic promotion VP Juliette Jones. These ladies have paid their dues and risen to the top of their fields by doing what they do best. Also in this mold is Tamar Rand, VP of Promotions & Strategy for RCA Inspiration, who is key to keeping gospel music on the cutting edge. And Tina Davis, VP of A&R for Empire Distribution, represents the new age of hybrid executive whose projects span both music and screen projects; she serves as producer for a new reality show airing on BET this season.

As more of our stories are being told on the screen – many by women of color, including Ava DuVernay, Dee Rees, Amma Assante, Lena Waithe, Shonda Rhimes, and others – the door has opened wider, shedding light on those who have long worked behind the scenes and creating opportunities for newcomers. Included among the new vanguard within film and television are writer, director and producer Felicia D. Henderson, who just inked a deal with Twentieth Century Fox TV; Imani Ellis, Senior Communications Manager at Bravo and Oxygen Media, NBCUniversal; and Dionne Harmon, VP Development at Jesse Collins Entertainment.

The cross-cultural vitality of Latin music and culture cannot be denied (the success of “Despacito” is only the latest indicator). The 2018 Women in Media issue celebrates two of the women making a difference from the performance rights side: honorees Delia Orjuela, VP Latin Music, BMI, and Gabriella Gonzalez, VP Latin, ASCAP, are diligently developing songwriters and performers who are innovating new sounds not only within the Latin market but within hip-hop and pop music worldwide.

This is a critical time to recognize and support the ascendancy of women. The past year has seen the establishment of the #Me Too and #Times Up movements, uncovering the sexism and harassment many women – and men -- have been subjected to in the corridors of power. Uncovering these truths in the service of fair and safe working conditions for everyone is a positive step. We are seeing some long-established arts institutions – including The Recording Academy (Grammys) and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences (Oscars) -- working to institute more diversity and inclusion among their ranks, addressing both gender and race. While more issues remain – hiring more women as top executives at major corporations and achieving pay parity between men and women – some progress is visible.

By celebrating the myriad ways women of color are making a difference across a broad spectrum of entertainment paradigms, Radio Facts looks to give them their “propers,” as Aretha would say. Congratulations to all of the 2018 Women In Media honorees.

Janine Coveney is a freelance editorial consultant. She has previously been advocacy content & communications manager for The Recording Academy; smooth jazz/urban AC format manager for United Stations Radio Networks; Managing Editor of Billboard R&B Airplay Monitor; editor at Gavin, editor at Impact, R&B Music Editor at Billboard, and careers editor at Essence.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Writing Basics: How To Write A Review

I've worked with students and fledgling writers and I've read a lot of blog posts over the years. While the style and content of arts writing continues to evolve and break new ground, I think some basic conventions need to be observed. I came up with the following to help a client.


As with ANY ESSAY, start with a THESIS STATEMENT. This will encapsulate your MAIN IDEA about the play, book, movie, piece of music you are reviewing: It is good, it is bad, it is problematic, it has great performances, it should do well, I wish it was longer/shorter– whatever. Say it up front.

The opening paragraph should incorporate BASIC DETAILS about the thing being reviewed: full title, author, artist, producer, date, location, etc. If there are other specifics, they can be woven into subsequent paragraphs.

KEEP YOUR AUDIENCE IN MIND when you write. Are they older, younger, male, female, avid fans of the artist or genre, or a general audience? You may employ a different thesis and/or different details when writing for a more specific audience.

• For example: If you are writing about Magic Johnson, don’t just use his name and go on from there. On first mention, tell us he is Earvin “Magic” Johnson, an ENTREPRENEUR, RETIRED NBA CHAMPION, and PRESIDENT of OPERATIONS for the LOS ANGELES LAKERS.
• Be as specific as possible. No one knows everything. And even if they once knew, they need to be reminded of the details.

IDENTIFY THE GENRE in first or second paragraph. Is it a musical, a comedy, a thriller, a mystery, a drama, a buddy flick, a romantic comedy, a sci-fi fantasy? Say so up front. Music should also be identified as rock, pop, hip-hop, country, etcetera. If it combines genres, or twists them into something new, note that as well. Many artists today don't like to be typed within a genre, so it's up to you to give the reader a sense of where the art falls on the spectrum.

Keep your verb tenses in the PRESENT. Art comes into existence and remains in existence forever, even if the performance in real time is over.

Try NOT TO TELL THE WHOLE STORY. This is important in a review of a film or play. It is best to share the premise, the main characters, and the details of the main character’s struggle. This gets tricky, though; some reviews do contain an entire synopsis of the story in order to assess the success of the story and the production.

DON’T CONFUSE ACTORS WITH THEIR CHARACTERS in your description of the action. You may like an actor personally, but that doesn’t mean he/she is perfectly cast, or that they give a great performance in that role -- you must decide that as a reviewer. In my opinion, there are several actors who simply play themselves over and over, which doesn’t stretch them as actors. Similarly, not all recording artists write their own music.

ANALYZE ALL THE MOVING PARTS of what you are reviewing. A film and a play consist of acting, costuming, script/storyline, set design, locations, pacing/timing, editing, soundtrack/score/ incidental music, lighting, stunts. Which of these factors made the film stand out? Which were less than stellar? Acknowledge the work of production members where possible and by name. The same goes for music: There may be distinctions between the song and the production/arrangement/performance of said song.

It is OK to COMPARE & CONTRAST with other works in the genre. By mentioning other works with similar themes, or by the same creators, you help readers understand a bit more about the piece you are reviewing. Make sure that your reference is detailed, and your comparison is descriptive.

Even if you hate it, find at least ONE POSITIVE thing to say about it. Art represents an investment of time and effort, and art should always be encouraged even when we don’t like the outcome. By the same token, if you have a positive review, it’s OK to mention things that could have been better.

FOR YOUR CONCLUSION, CIRCLE BACK TO YOUR THESIS. It’s smart to repeat the overall main point of your thesis at the end, then add more confirmation or opinion. The whole piece should have been spelling out just why you think that main thesis is true and why what you’re reviewing is bad, good, or otherwise.

Some outlets require you to end with the specifics of how/where/when the reader can access the work, so be aware of that.

Now certainly, there are variations on how a review can be written, and sometimes your word count will affect how well a writer can hit all of these marks. But these are the basics.