The Business of Entertainment: Reflecting on Janet Jackson’s Almost 30-Year Legacy

The year was 1989. Janet Jackson, the youngest member of the multi-platinum selling, globally known, Jackson tribe, was on her way to attaining the legendary status of her brother, and releasing her now-classic fourth album Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814. It was a year ripe with many other albums that would go on to become classics. Madonna’s Like A Prayer album was burning up the charts alongside the likes of George Michael’s Faith, Bobby Brown’s Don’t Be Cruel, Milli Vanilli’s All or Nothing (pre lip-sync scandal), Soul II Soul’s Keep on Moving, and Prince’s contributions to the soundtrack of Tim Burton’s Batman film, among others. But in August of 1989, a month before Rhythm Nation was released, Janet released the lead single to the album, “Miss You Much.” The track quickly ascended the charts, becoming her second No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and sitting at the throne for four weeks—longer than any other single that year. The song also has the distinction of being the second-biggest selling song of 1989. 

In Brooklyn, during 1989, I was a very precocious boy. Though, still a child at the time, I lived and breathed pop culture in all of it 80’s loveliness. I watched the teenagers in my neighborhood dance in the streets to Janet’s music, doing their best to mimic her precise movements; often falling far short of her grace. Nonetheless, there we were, black and brown boys and girls, men and women, dancing to “Miss Jackson, if ya nasty.” We spent so many days trying to emulate her dance moves, and nearly breaking our teeth in the process. At the end of the “Miss You Much” video, when Janet calls “That’s the end?” followed by a deep and throaty collective, “No!” Janet does a chair routine, leading two other male dancers, with the ease and skills of the pro she is. We were riveted by her every move, in awe that she moved as well as Michael; possessing an energy, conviction, and fluidity that was distinctly her own.

The Background

Janet’s “Miss You Much” video was the first of three songs that made up the Rhythm Nation long-form video. The other two were “The Knowledge” and another of Janet’s classic songs and videos, “Rhythm Nation,” the single. With this album, Janet continued to prove to her naysayers— the critics and some of her jealous and insecure rivals who insisted she was a studio star and didn’t have the talents of her brother— they were wrong and that she was a bona fide star here to stay.

Rhythm Nation proved to be an excellent follow up to her breakthrough album, Control. Control is a black “womanist” manifesto that not only put Janet on the map, but it also gave young black women an assertive voice in music that many of Janet’s peers—Anita Baker, Sade, Whitney Houston, to name a few—weren’t doing at the time. She was a tough-talking, streetwise sistah who wasn’t asking for respect from men, she was demanding it. It was early in her career as a songwriter, but the elements of who Janet was showed through perfectly. 

In Billboard’s Hottest Hot 100 Hits (2002), Jimmy Jam explained that the label desperately wanted a Control II. They wanted Janet, Jimmy, and Terry (the creative hive mind) to repeat the same concept a second time while also throwing in some salacious gossip about her family. Jackson vehemently opposed the idea of a direct sequel to Control, stating in a Jet magazine interview in 1989: “That’s what I didn’t want to do. I wanted to do something that I really believed in and that I really felt strong about.” And that’s exactly what she did.

Rhythm Nation took on a slightly different narrative. It was Janet still taking control, but it was her way of also talking about things prevalent at the time like drugs, crime, and violence in the inner city that deeply affected young black and brown youth. However, never once did she forsake her sexuality or the need for a person to have fun. The album cohesively contains it all: The feel-good tracks (“Escapade,” “Alright”), the socio-political songs (“State of the World,” “Living in A World,” “The Knowledge”) and what Janet album would be complete without her sexy songs (“Waiting For Tonight”).

The Stats and Legacy

Rhythm Nation proved to be a global smash, reaching the top five, or top 10 of many worldwide charts. The album reached No. 1 on the Billboard Top 200 in America and stayed there for four weeks. It also reached No. 1 in Australia, the top five in Canada and the UK, and the top 10 in Japan and New Zealand. All seven of the released singles charted in all of the major markets of the world with the massive success in Japan, Australia, and the UK. But it was in America that the singles had their greatest successes. All seven reached the top five of the Billboard charts, with the lowest charting song, “Alright” charting at No. 4. Four of the singles reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100 charts: Miss You Much,” “Escapade,” “Black Cat,” and “Love Will Never Do (Without You).”

The Rhythm Nation tour was a trek for nine months that made stops in North America, Europe, and Asia and is still the highest grossing debut tour of all time. The Telegram and Gazette reported that over 2 million patrons attended the tour with many of the dates becoming instant sell outs. No artist has yet to beat her touring record. It was the only tour from a female artist in 1990 that made the top 10 of Pollstars touring numbers, eclipsing her rival Madonna’s Blond Ambition tour.  When numbers are adjusted for inflation, there is still no debut tour that has toppled Rhythm Nation from this long-standing record

Rhythm Nation stands the test of time. Without Rhythm Nation and what has come forth from it—the songs, videos, choreography, tour—many of today’s artist wouldn’t have anything to inspire them. Watch any music video from male and female artist and you will see how they incorporate moves, rhythms, and even themes into their work that Janet mastered decades before, and in most cases—better. So the next time you want to know why Janet is so lauded, listen to the Rhythm Nation album and find out. Tune into her videos. Watch the precise choreography that she and her dancers expertly execute.




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Lifestyle | Black Enterprise


Small Business Owners Ready to Hit Ballot Box Big Time in Midterm Elections

When it comes to the midterm elections in November, small business owners will be more registered to vote than the overall population.

That, at least, is among the findings of a new survey by Thumbtack, an online service for small businesses. The survey indicated 85% of small business owners surveyed report being registered to vote, versus 70% of all Americans signed up to vote.

Further, 93% of small business owners who are registered to vote say they “definitely” or “probably” will do so, while only 88% of registered voters nationwide say the same, a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll shows.

The survey showed 17.1% of small business owner respondents reported the No. 1 issue in determining their vote this November is the economy and taxes. Some 5.8% named healthcare as their top issue, making those the most important issues for nearly one-third of small business owners. There are roughly 30 million small businesses in the nation.

“Small business owners continue to tell us they want their representatives to focus on the issues that impact their businesses and their families like the economy and healthcare,” said Thumbtack Head of Public Policy, Kellyn Blossom stated in a press release.

“Small business owners are going to be a crucial constituency for every campaign this November. They care deeply about what affects their communities and plan to turn out in large numbers to vote.”

Thumbtack surveyed 980 small business owners from late August and early September nationally in hundreds of categories, including electricians, music teachers, wedding planners, and wellness professionals to name few. Entrepreneurs were asked about their voter registration status, plans to vote in the upcoming election, and the issues guiding their political preferences.

Additionally, Thumbtack and the Small Business Roundtable are partnering to make sure business owners’ voices will be heard this election.

The Small Business Roundtable is a membership-based group comprised of the Small Business Entrepreneurship Council, National Association of Women Business Owners, National Association for the Self Employed, U.S. Black Chambers Inc., National Small Business Association, and Asian / Pacific Islander Chamber of Commerce & Entrepreneurship.


The post Small Business Owners Ready to Hit Ballot Box Big Time in Midterm Elections appeared first on Black Enterprise.

Lifestyle | Black Enterprise


Hungry to Start a Food Truck? Get Your Business Road Ready with This Guide

For food lovers with the Midas Touch in the kitchen and ambitions of being their own boss, opening a restaurant would be a dream.

A really, really expensive dream. But there is an option that is slightly less pricy: running a food truck business.

While operating your own food truck will obviously still be a major investment, they’re typically cheaper than brick-and-mortar restaurants for a couple of reasons, including not having to sign a lease or employ a large staff.

But what exactly does it take to open and maintain your own food truck? I went to a seminar hosted by Tampa Bay Food Trucks to find out.

The company doesn’t actually own or operate any of its own food trucks. Instead, the it serves as a source of information and resources for local food truck owners.

Its network consists of over 170 food trucks and aims to help them generate as much revenue as possible by organizing events and alerting them to locations and catering opportunities. They also assist with the buying, selling and modification of food trucks.

Michael Blasco, TBFT’s chief eating officer and speaker at the seminar, wants to help potential food truck owners avoid making the same mistakes over and over, à la “Groundhog Day.”

While I can’t possibly impart everything I learned during the TBFT seminar, I can share some of the major tips, tricks and information I learned from Blasco.

Startup Costs

Michael Blasco poses for a portrait.
Michael Blasco, Tampa Bay Food Truck’s chief eating officer, teaches a seminar on the food truck business. He is pictured during a dinner break at a seminar in Tampa, Fla., on Sunday, September 23, 2018. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all formula for determining startup costs in the food truck business, but let’s go over some of the major costs and decisions you’ll face in the beginning.

Truck vs. Trailer

Obviously, if you want to start a food truck business, this will be one of your first major startup costs. But do you want to go for a full-blown truck or a trailer? Your budget will play a major role in this decision.

You can find used food trucks with price tags between $ 15,000 and $ 60,000. But remember, you get what you pay for. You might be able to snag a truck on the low end, but if it’s in bad condition you could end up forking out double what you paid for it in repairs.

When shopping for used trucks, consider how much it will have to be modified to fit your needs and meet local health and fire regulations. The food truck is, after all, a vehicle, and your business will suffer if it can’t reliably get you from point A to point B. And if the truck is in the shop, that means your business isn’t making money.

If you’re willing and able to splurge, brand new food trucks will typically cost between $ 80-$ 100K, including equipment. Forking over that kind of money is a hard pill to swallow, but it means you’d be getting a truck that is definitely up to code and customized to fit your needs.

On the other hand, you could spring for a trailer. Trailers are generally more affordable than food trucks, but keep in mind that you’re going to need a vehicle capable of towing them. You have to factor that into costs.

Wraps vs. Paint

People order food at the Lakeland Food Truck Rally.
People order food at the Lakeland Food Truck Rally. Chris Zuppa/The Penny

Regardless of whether you choose a truck or a trailer, you have to brand it. And your design can make or break you. We all know we’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but let’s be honest — a really good design will naturally draw us in.

Painting your food truck will be the cheaper option, probably in the $ 1,000 range.

Your other option is a wrap, which is printed vinyl that will be adhered to your truck. These are considerably more expensive, running between $ 2,500 and $ 5,000.

You might balk at the price, but Blasco insists that wrapping a truck is the way to go. It can impact your sales upwards of 50%, he says.

Wraps are durable and will give your truck a clean design, which looks more professional to the consumer’s eye.

Remember, your food truck is literally a moving advertisement for your business. You have limited space, so carefully consider a design that will get your brand and name across clearly.

Blasco offers a few tips when it comes to placement.

Trailers typically ride pretty low to the ground, so your branding needs to be high enough that cars driving next to you can clearly see who you are. But for trucks, don’t put your name and information too high up, and definitely don’t put it on your serving window.


Brace yourself, because generator prices are a bit shocking: A proper food truck generator can set you back anywhere between $ 3,000 and $ 10,000. Yikes.

“Wraps and generators are like band-aids,” says Blasco. “It’s hard to accept how much they cost, but you just gotta rip it off.”

The type of food you’re serving and the amount of appliances you have will determine how many watts you’ll need to run on a regular basis. Do you need a refrigerator, freezer, fryer, stove, lights and an exhaust system? Oh, and don’t forget air conditioning.

Blasco suggests running propane when possible to avoid using too much electricity.

Don’t just consider the amount of wattage you need when generator shopping — consider also how loud the model is. Blasco warns that loud generators will deter customers and suggests they shouldn’t be louder than 68 decibels.

POS System

Sara Harper and Martin Restrepo order food at the Lakeland Food Truck Rally
Sara Harper and Martin Restrepo order food at the Lakeland Food Truck Rally. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

The whole point of your food truck is to sell your delectables to hungry customers, right? In order to do that, you’re going to need some form of POS, or a point-of-sale system.

Oh, you say you want to run a cash-only food truck? Blasco encourages potential food truck owners to rethink that plan.

Sure, cash-only is the cheapest option — all you need to do is buy a lockbox and you’re ready to go. But we are living in an increasingly paperless world, and people are less likely to be carrying cash. You could be missing out on potential customers by not offering card or mobile payment options.

Plus, a cash-only business means you won’t have anything to track your sales or inventory.  

Luckily for food truck owners, payment processing systems have come a long way, so you don’t have to sacrifice precious space with a clunky cash register. With some services like Square, all you need is an iPad.

This is another cost that can be considered both startup and ongoing. Depending on the service you choose, some costs you may end up paying include a monthly POS fee, card processing fees and mobile data fees.

Initial Product Inventory

Madison Bray eats nachos smothered in cheese sauce, guacamole, pico de Gallo and sour cream.
Madison Bray eats nachos smothered in cheese sauce, guacamole, pico de gallo and sour cream. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

This category goes without saying, but we’re going to say it anyway.

Some of your startup funds will have to go toward food, kitchen utensils, pots, pans, napkins, plates — the works.

Shop for products in bulk to save a penny or two, and consider potential food cost percentage when making purchases. You should aim to keep your food cost between 18% and 25% of overall cost.

A high food cost means low profit. But if your food cost percentage is super low, that probably means your prices are too high.

Operating Costs

Propane powers the Spontaneous Consumption food truck. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

We’ve already touched on a couple of ongoing costs that you’ll be facing as a food truck operator, such as inventory and card processing fees. Let’s go over some more, shall we?

Unless you’re going to be running a one man/woman show, you’ll have to pay for labor, aka employees. And consider some hidden labor fees, like travel time to and from location.

Some cities and states have health codes that prohibit food preparation within a truck, which means you have to use a commissary. A commissary is a licensed, commercial kitchen where you can prepare and store food; maybe you can even park your truck there overnight. But commissary use means paying monthly rent.

Some other recurring costs to keep in mind include:

  • Fuel — both propane and gas
  • Vehicle maintenance
  • Event fees
  • Marketing and advertising

Branding Is Key

Business cards sit at the window for Vanchetta Rolling Rotisserie during a Tampa Bay Food Trucks seminar in Tampa on September 23, 2018. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder
Business cards sit at the window for Vanchetta Rolling Rotisserie during a Tampa Bay Food Trucks seminar in Tampa on September 23, 2018. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

Blasco stresses that in the early process of opening a food truck business, branding is everything. It’s even more important than the food.

“No one knows what or who you are, so presentation is everything,” he says.

One major tip: Don’t pick a name you have to explain.

Sure, you might have your heart set on “The Awesome Possum” as your food truck name, but if a customer sees your truck, what will they think you sell? That’s right. Their brain will automatically think you sell possum. And no one wants that.

On top of picking a clear name, Blasco stresses to all of the seminar attendees that you should pick a food theme and stick to it.

One food type means a smaller menu. A smaller menu means faster output, which results in more customers. As a rule of thumb, food trucks should aim to have about five main menu items.

When Joe Dodd first attended the Tampa Bay Food Trucks seminar, Blasco told him that his food truck would fail. His range of menu items was broad and the name, Taste Buddz, didn’t convey a clear theme.

Eventually, Dodd took the seminar’s advice and rebranded his business as Soul Food Street Kitchen, commiting to a clear name and one type of food. It paid off — his sales went up 30%.

A Day In the Life

Jacquelyn Hayes (right), and her daughter, Miranda Hayes, 14, serve customers
Jacquelyn Hayes (right), and her daughter, Miranda Hayes, 14, serve customers. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

We’ve covered a lot of the technical aspects of running your own food truck business; now let’s talk about the day-to-day life.

Consider yourself warned: Food truckers put in long hours, operate on a sporadic schedule and do it all inside of a sweltering truck full of cooking equipment.

On average, food truckers will shoot for 20 to 25 shifts a month, working double shifts three days a week.

When you’re working doubles, that means being up by 7 or 8 a.m. to get prepped and on site by 11 a.m. for a lunch shift, which will usually end around 3 p.m. Then you have to get everything cleaned and packed up, and head to your next location for a dinner shift. By the end of dinner and cleaning for the night, you probably won’t be home until 10 p.m.

Blasco says that the long hours and the heat are some of the hardest parts of working as a food trucker — that, and securing spots.

You could work with a company like Tampa Bay Food Trucks that helps you find locations and gigs. But if you’re operating solo, finding lucrative spots that you are legally allowed to sell at will be more difficult.

Let’s Wrap It Up

Cheerleaders hang out at a food truck rally.
Kassidy Lehner (center) hangs out with friends. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

Get it? Like a food truck wrap? Please, hold the applause.

We covered a lot of information, but trust me when I say there’s a lot more to be learned about running a food truck business. We didn’t even touch on insurance, permits or any legal costs you might incur! But here’s a pro tip or two: Permits and regulations vary state to state, and your personal car insurance will not cover a food truck.

Hopefully, this information can at least serve as a starting point for any potential food truckers out there.

Ultimately, running a food truck is just like running any other business, even a brick-and-mortar restaurant. Preparing yourself with as much information as possible can only help you.

Kaitlyn Blount is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. If she ran a food truck, it would specialize in grits, and would be called Let’s Talk About Grits, Baby.

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This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

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