As anyone who follows the music industry should know, the history of record labels, artists, and exploitation is long and a bit dirty. K.J. Greene has argued that the problems of race and music business practices should be part of the reparations debate. Today, however, it appears that a pioneer of hip-hop, Dr. Roxanne Shante, has her PhD from Cornell because of her recording contract. Now before one thinks that all was close and loving, know that Dr. Shante had to fight with the record label for quite some time before it honored the clause which stated that the label would fund her education for life. Luckily the Dean at Maymount Manhattan College allowed then Ms. Shante to attend the college while the bills were still sent to Warner Music and being debated by the company. Although there is a silver lining of sorts here, it is sad that Dr. Shante sold more than 250,000 records, saw little of the money she generated for the label, and left the business because “‘Everybody was cheating with the contracts, stealing and telling lies,’ …And to find out that I was just a commodity was heartbreaking.'”
As general take away, it seems that any corporate entity that is taking on a young talent in sports, music, or any other field, ought to consider such a clause as a good thing. Agents should at least insist on it. The odds are already stacked against many of these talents. In some cases they are giving up education time to help a sports program. In others, like Dr. Shante’s, the talent may “be a teenage mom, come from the projects, and be raised by a single parent, so as the article about her put it, the clause may be “a throwaway” because no thought it would come to anything. In other words, I hope these clauses persist and even appear more often. It seems quite fair and an oddly (or really unfortunately) low-risk bet for labels and other industry players in these deals.
You can go here to hear the entire song “Roxanne’s Revenge.” (imeem only had the 30 second clip for embedding).