Finding Health Coverage for R&B Artists
ED GORDON, host:
Singer Angela Bofill, best known for her soul classic, I Try, suffered a stroke last week that has left her partially paralyzed and with daunting hospital bills and in need of physical and speech therapy. Bofill, like many working actors, musicians, and other performers, in fact, like a growing number of everyday Americans, was living without basic health insurance.
David Nathan is the Chairman of the R&B Foundation. He dispels the myth that all artists, Bofill included, have made it.
Mr. DAVID NATHAN (Chairman, R&B Foundation): You know, she does not receive royalties on a regular basis, believe it or not, from her recordings. I'm sure that hasn't helped her financial situation. And as you correctly point out, I mean, you know, for artists and for many of the rest of us, you know, insurance costs are high.
And I guess we've probably assumed that recording artists, performing artists, have some huge amount of money that they generate and therefore they shouldn't be amongst that group. But that's just not the case.
GORDON: One of the interesting things here is so well-loved in the industry, there are a lot of people who are trying to come to her aid right now. Tell us about that, if you would.
Mr. NATHAN: We're waiting for the Rhythm and Blues Foundation, which is an organization that I am on the board of, we are waiting, actually, to get an application from her family. Unfortunately, we regularly receive requests like this from artists from the '40s, '50s, '60s, and '70s who find themselves in situations like this. In fact, it's almost like one of the reasons that Rhythm and Blues Foundation exists is to actually assist artists in these kind of predicaments.
Unless you reach mega-superstar status, you really don't see any record launches because, you know, of course, it ends up being, essentially, alone. I mean, what happens is when you make a record, there's a budget, and that budget is charged against your future earnings. And, you know, unless you get a very large advance up front, then you're not going to see any broaches on the back end.
And when they receive that advance, instead of thinking of that as an amount of money that they need to use over a period of years, they end up spending it pretty quickly and then they're stuck because there's no more money coming until the records sell in the millions and millions.
So, it is endemic. It's kind of part of the system of the music industry, which is why I think a lot of artists now are turning to making their own records and putting them out on their own labels and through independent means rather than depending on the system that has existed for, really, since the beginning of the recording industry.
GORDON: David Nathan, thank you for not only giving us the inside on where she is but also the industry and what we need to look for for these artists. We appreciate it.
NATHAN: Thank you.
(Soundbite of music)
GORDON: Benefit concerts in the New York area for singer Angela Bofill are being planned to assist her with her medical expenses.