THE MUSIC INDUSTRY AS I SEE IT
In a world where everyone knows the price of everything, and the value of nothing, the accountant is king. Here everything is for sale, and maximizing profits is an axiom which none dare, and most don’t think, to gainsay: witness the commercial-infested media, sponsor-ridden sports business, corner-cutting manufacturing and building industries, shoddy goods, and the fairy at the top of the tree, the music industry.
I use the latter as an example because after 25 years as a career musician/composer, it is all quite plain to me: the suits with ponytails (accountants and lawyers) who once counted the beans in the record companies decided that they wanted a (much) larger slice of the pie. They set about usurping control of the companies, waded into the fast-lane lifestyle of the entertainment world (drugs, parties, lavish living, etc.) and began strangling the geese that laid the golden eggs.
A prominent figure heading up a Record company is quoted thus, “we are in the business of making money, not making music”, which pretty much sums up the bottom-line mentality of those in control.
Your article about Murray Thom (Weekend Business, Nov. 9 – 10) illustrates my point perfectly; what does he care whether he is selling records, number plates or toothpaste? His passion is clearly for the money that his cheesy compilation makes him. And the president of Sony describes it as “creativity at its best”. Jesus wept…
As a result of this unfettered greed, short-sightedness and ignorance of the substance of their stock-in-trade (music), these plunderers have largely relegated musicians and songwriters from any position of importance in the record-making equation to the status of beggars, who will often sell their very souls for an opportunity to live off their art.
The advent of CD and music videos in the early 80’s further removed the creative force from the music equation: CD afforded the record companies a new format in which to re-issue back-catalogue (well, those they deemed worthy of re-release, i.e. those that would shift units). Music video removed our attention from the music itself and focused it on the performer or other visuals – as often as not a gratuitous T&A show.
The next step in removing the creator from the creation process was to re-record old hits (play it safe – if it was a hit once, it will hit again). The way was now clear for the advent of the DJ cult.These parasitic Dr. Frankensteins of music, who mix together ‘samples’ (snippets stolen from real artistes) and robotic drum-boxes, have conned a whole generation into believing that the DJ is a creative genius who deserves adulation and obscene amounts of money. These emperors-with-no-clothes would have us believe music comes from CDs in the same way milk comes from cartons.
Digital technology has been a mixed blessing: far beyond being a useful tool in the hands of a creative artiste, it has allowed mediocrity to flourish in the guise of music. In the eyes of an accountant, it makes no sense to seek out raw talent, spend money, time and effort nurturing and developing it to produce career artistes. Much cheaper to pay a few mediocre talents to produce bland hit songs on computers, put fresh-faced ego-intoxicated wannabees on video miming to them, and sit back while the money rolls in; when their flavour fades, get fresh new ones.
And so we find ourselves in the early 21st century with popular music dominated by the vacuous cardboard cut-outs whose success owes more to the video-maker’s art than the music producer’s. Never in history has musical creativity seen such a nadir, and it’s been going down for almost 20 years. The odious Robbie Williams’ work stands out like a tree in the desert only because of the almost complete lack of any worthwhile alternative.
There has been the odd flash of brilliance, quickly swamped by rapping pimps and criminal convicts with whole chorus lines of prostitutes, vapid youths singing mournful dirges of self-pity, thrashing and menacing but clueless metal/punk jackasses and strutting, pouting princesses selling sex-to-a-beat, and very little else of any musical import.
I trust my own instincts as to what is genuine, honest and from the heart and, frankly, I don’t give a damn if it is ‘uncool’ to denounce most modern musical offerings for the shallow drivel that they are. Not all youngsters are fooled either.
Thank God for the richly-endowed artistes of past eras, whose works still provide sustenance in these barren days.
Somewhere out there, no doubt some real songwriters and artistes are honing their craft, totally ignored by the Record Industry. I hope one day we will get to hear their works. And I hope the record company executives get to spend eternity in musical Hades with only their diabolical protégés and DJs for musical company. They have earned it.
This post is used with the permission of the author, Colin MacDonald, whose insight and views are chronologically aligned with the owner of this blog. To say I feel the contempt and sorrow in each and every word is an understatement. MacDonald expresses eloquently the jagged edge corporate conglomerates use to pierce divine and noble efforts true musicians lay their souls down to express; only for the pillage of corporate monsters.