Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Rock Stars Have Killed The Music Industry
I was at a show last week and I ran into one of those lamentable excuses for music journalists, or even human beings, that most people know as Channel V presenters. This guy was a real fuckwit. I can't remember what boring and bland conversation led us to discussing The Rolling Stones, but when we got to that point I informed him calmly that they were not only one of the most irrelevant bands to ever walk the earth, but they are also nothing more than a bunch of white English kids who got rich and famous while the black musicians they stole all their ideas from suffered in relative obscurity and objective poverty.
He went on to dismiss this claim, offering a series of stories that ran along the lines, "so 'member x' was real fucked up and 'committed selfish and ego driven act,' I mean how rock is that?" Not once did he mention their music, understandably considering how fucking un-inventive it all is and how seemingly uneducated he was, but for him the reason why The Stones are such important figures in the history of music is that they were a bunch of drunk and drug fucked assholes who treated the rest of the world like they owed them something.
I disengaged myself from this scruffy haired waste of life that would have been better placed as a period or miscarriage but I couldn't help shake the notion that it's this very attitude that has ruined the music industry.
Back when being a musician was more blue collar, when being in a band meant a life of constant touring, struggling to get by and a general lack of recognition most musicians went into the business not expecting to be paid large amounts of money to act like a bunch of fuckwits, but instead to be paid a modest amount of money for the chance to express themselves and to pursue their love of music.
Nowadays though every side fringe wearing douche bag, or Television t-shirt sporting cunt wants to be a musician, and the few of them that do end up forming bands of any note feel they somehow all deserve to be rock stars.
What this has set up is a dangerous precedent where the mythology of rock and roll is valued more than the actual craft of music, where as long as you fit the right template and have all the right talismans people with often consider you a musician. Circle Pit, case in point. I mean how often to you see people with a Debussy or Mozart poster on their wall? The truly great figures in the history of music have been pushed into obscurity in favour of facile totems of fashion and trends who strut upon the stage like peacocks desperate to be fucked because it's not seen as cool and because we as a people no longer have the education to understand the craft and theory of music. This ignorance is what has led to the rampant proliferation of crap, as well as generally robbing music of any value because we no longer posses the skills with which to evaluate it's worth, with music essentially becoming homogenous in it's lack of meaning or relevance. Each band is a product no different to the next other than how's it's packaged and how it's marketed. Kisschassy or Birds Of Tokyo? Coke or Pepsi?
There are of course exception to this, bands who have wandered out of the barren wastelend that is the trend driven world of popular music into the shining citadel of true artistic expression, but nevertheless this rampant commodification of music has saturated the market to the point where for the most part people music no longer really matters to anyone.
'Oh I love music, it's my life!' you might say. But think about it, when was the last time you put on a record and listened to it without doing anything else? Music today is often becoming background noise to other activities, more often than not listened to on an iPod as we travel between whatever meaningless tasks occupy our bland and dreary lives.
To the younger generations the music video has surpassed the CD as the dominant medium, just as Television superseded radio, with image and the mythology a band erects around themselves serving to form the foundation of their appeal much more so than their music does.
Now image has been a factor ever since the days of Elvis and even before that with artists like Mozart or Wagner, but nowadays it seems to eclipse almost everything else. No cares what these artists have to say, which in a lot of cases is a good thing as they really have nothing to say that is of any importance. Look at a band like Animal Collective for instance, can you think of one meaningful sentiment expressed in their songs other than 'go out and buy a sampler.'They trade off an image of being out there creatives, their recent moving into film a fitting direction to take their pointlessly fashionable music in.
Music, and by music I mean notes on a page no longer matters to the large part of the populace, and it's no wonder the record industry has taken so long to collapse in on itself. You can blame downloading and the rise of dance music and hip hop as much you want, but it's this obsession with rock stardom that has done it. The idea that an industry can be maintained by rampant ego worship, devoid of any real cause or feeling has led to this current ambivalence as people can no longer hear the music for all the bullshit noise going on around them.
The music industry died when Elvis first swiveled his hips. He is the archetype that led to Lady Gaga, stealing the music of others and wrapping it up in a sexy little bow, and it is those of us who worshiped such false idols that led to heart, soul and meaning of music being ripped out of it by the hands of this adolescent urge toward hedonism, and even that model has collapsed as people have tired of idolising rock stars and now just try to live like them, living vacuous lives and appearing as sad parodies of the equally vacant stars they look to as gods.