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Own Your Masters; Don't Let Your Masters Own You

by Todd A. Smith

 

 

Can’t Hate on Tyler Perry’s Inspiring Journey


Moviegoers can hate Tyler Perry movies and television shows all they want.


However, that does not negate the fact that the brother defines inspiration.


While other Black filmmakers have criticized his art, Perry’s focus on the business aspect of the entertainment industry will change the way Black Hollywood operates forever and he does not need mainstream acceptance for that to become a reality.


During his speech for his recent BET Icon Award, Perry said, “While everybody else is fighting for a seat at the table, talking about ‘OscarsSoWhite,’ “OscarsSoWhite,’ I said, ‘Y’all go ahead and do that.’ 


“While you’re fighting for a seat at the table, I’ll be down in Atlanta building my own. Because what I know for sure is that if I could just build this table, God will prepare it for me in the presence of my enemies.”


And what an exquisite table God prepared for Perry over his career.


His career has almost reached billion-dollar status and he has created an empire that allows him to operate outside of the Hollywood machine, which is crucial for Black artists.


When Black films and television shows are no longer the flavor of the month in Hollywood, we should have our own entertainment business structure to give a voice to up-and-coming Black artists.


For many generations, some Black artists only cared about fame, acceptance and shine when it came to their careers in music.


Many Black artists died broke or died still on the road performing because they let a White or Black executive beat them out of their intellectual property.


But over the past few decades, Black Hollywood has had trailblazers like Perry, Oprah Winfrey and the late Don Cornelius teach us about ownership of intellectual property, and how that provides a revenue stream for you for generations to come.


Hip-hop mogul Master P often tells the story of a big time record executive offering to buy his No Limit Records during its infancy for  $1 million.


For a young man out of the Calliope Projects of New Orleans who never enjoyed real wealth, $1 million probably seemed like a game changer.


Furthermore, $1 million in the early to mid 1990s was worth much more than it is in 2019.


But the rapper born Percy Miller said something significant when turning down that $1 million offer.


He said if that businessperson wanted to buy No Limit Records for $1 million, the record label must be worth $25 million.


By the late 1990s, No Limit Records brought in over $100 million and Master P owned 100 percent of the company.


That type of money allowed him to build generational wealth for the Miller family.


That type of wealth has allowed him to finance his own movies, while retaining ownership of the rights with “I Got the Hook Up 2” coming to theaters soon.


The significance of owning one’s intellectual property cannot be overstated.


Every time a television station or streaming services wants a license to air a movie or a television show, they have to pay a licensing fee to the owner of the intellectual property.


If a company or a person owns a classic movie or a television show that is played in perpetuity, they receive a check practically their entire life.


When I was a child, “The Wizard of Oz” would air once a year on television.


Those television stations had to pay the owner of “The Wizard of Oz” a nice fee to air that movie every year.


Every Saturday morning, my family watches reruns of “Good Times” on TV One.


The owner of “Good Times” gets paid every time someone licenses that show, while the actors probably get pennies 4o years after the sitcom’s heyday.


When a song is played on the radio, club or sporting venue, the person that owns the publishing on that song gets paid for every spin.


Houston rapper Lil Troy had a smash hit song in 1998 with “Wanna Be a Baller.”


That song still gets people crunk in H-Town.


Lil Troy owns his publishing.


Therefore, Troy said that he gets paid around $250,000 a year just off the publishing on “Wanna Be a Baller.”


One hit song and retaining ownership of his intellectual property, in this case publishing, means Lil Troy really does not have to work a day in his life to make a decent living.


That’s the difference between ownership and being owned.


Lil Troy does not have to perform until he dies.


Artists like Bobby Blue Bland had to perform until their dying day even though their day in the limelight had long since passed.


But Black entertainers wanting mainstream acceptance can lead to the Bobby Blue Bland plan.


Or ownership can lead to the Perry plan where you can stop working anytime you want and your great-great-grandchildren will be well taken care of.


Even the Lil Troy plan with just one hit song produces a lifetime of lavish living.


I once had a friend of mine that told me that I needed to put the two seasons of my talk show “Regal Roundtable” on YouTube.


My response to him was that I do not want to share ownership of my talk show, which costs me tens of thousands of dollars with YouTube so that Google can get rich off of my investment.


He told me you had to start somewhere to get where you are going.


However, letting the man screw over me would permanently prevent me from reaching my destination.


The equivalent would be to give away my house that is paid for to my employer or business partner so that he/she could put me out.


As a result, the rest of my days would be spent under the bridge because of homelessness.


Just like people know the importance of homeownership and how that can build generational wealth for one’s family, Black artists have to know the importance of owning their intellectual property.


Just like you would not give away your real property for free, artists should not give up their intellectual property.


You can lease it or rent it out by licensing it to other media companies.


Or you can sell it for a profit like Cornelius’ family did with the “Soul Train” brand.


But as Perry said you should never give up ownership for a seat at someone else’s table, when you can build your own table and charge the powers-that-be for a seat as Perry is doing with Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta.


This article was published on Friday 28 June, 2019.
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