23.8.08

The Devil Owns a Flat in Leeds.

A little pre-face here: I'm drunk. So lets do this shit.

So, as some of you may or may not know, I also moonlight over at an online magazine called Racket Magazine. I don't get paid, because I barely do anything as it is. In fact, to be quite honest, theres about five to ten things I could be doing right now. But, instead of having any semblance of professionalism in my lazy body, I'd rather sit on the Punk News boards all night, while drinking piss-warm wine, and proclaiming: "I want to throw a wine bottle at Thom Yorke's fucking face. Radiohead sounds like a retarded wolf howling over the back drop of synthesizers and late 1980's Macintosh computer blips."

If someone reads this, and has connections to that smash-faced fuck, Thom Yorke, please inform him that Aaron Hale of Racket Magazine/Piss and Vinegar fame would like to challenge him to a knife fight.

Something about him just gets my blood a'boilin. Maybe it's the simple fact that they haven't ever made anything that didn't immediately make me search for something sharp to shove into my larynx. What gets me further is that people continuously claim to give a shit about them. Seriously, I think it's okay to stop pretending now. If you wanna latch onto the teats of something "cool", and "different, man" why not go scope out Broken Social Scene? Shit, maybe they'd come to Arizona for once.

But thats entirely whats wrong with the music industry as a whole today, anyways. It's the same reason why a band can't even afford gas while on tour.

Last year Radiohead made a big splash by announcing a "label-free, pay what you want album", titled "In Rainbows". However, a month later announced the project was a "success" and would be releasing the album on a major label.

They play both sides of the fence, and you can't do that with life. Try working your desk job, right? Say you work at a company that sells insurance. Say you have a falling out with your boss, and you decide to take on some people and "insure them" on your own.

All these major insurance companies catch wind, when people, customers, start signing up with Joe Schlomo's "Protectitall". His catch is, pay what you want.

It becomes a big success, Schlomo's venture. People sign up. Some pay a penny, because their wisenheimers, and some pay a legit amount of 20, or so a month.

But you begin to trust Schlomo. He's a good dude, and all. He used to work for the man, now he knows how it all works. In his commercials, he even talks about how he got tired of seeing people so easily denied. "We all need health care" says Schlomo, "after all, this is America."

After a year, Schlomo sells your deal to a bigger HMO.

So while the context and it's presentation to you may be the same, the principle of the whole matter is ruined.

See, this is whats wrong with music. While the labels themselves, the "Big Four" are the face of Evil, whats behind the mask is a little bit more disgusting. Because it's me. It's you. It's the consumer.

Let me back up. Let's break it down. "Consumer". The base word is "consume". We all know what that means (unless you somehow don't. Then I'd advise you to find a tree, some rope, and play reverse neck-tie.) But the Western Civilization, we're not creatures of necessity. Necessity meaning eat, drink, shit, sleep.

We need the big screens, fancy cars, nice houses. Thats what we think we need. We WANT those things, truth be told. I don't know anyone who needed a Mazarati, or their lungs would collapse.

So we throw so much money into the music business, the entertainment industry. Everything. And look, art IS important, but it shouldn't be on the level of being sold to you as a Pepsi product. It just shouldn't. It's about expression, passion, and everything else. I'm not against a person making money from their craft, not at all. I'm against someone making money off someone else's craft.

James Brown died while still being an active performer. "The Hardest Working Man in Show Business." Working, business...a singular individual, in essence.

The populous doesn't give three shits about the "industry". They buy what makes them dance, laugh, or get away from home. Thats about the extent that people really care. Theres money to be made, and somewhere along the lines, 20 dollars for CD seemed okay. Somewhere along the line, 50 dollars was alright for a concert ticket price. Somewhere along the line, someone decided that people would pay these prices if there was a nice sheen to everything.

People just don't look into the depth of structure. Why? Circular logic. The same reason you pay 20 for a CD, or 99 cents for a singular track on iTunes, or 50 dollars to see U2 at Madison Square Garden: Bills to pay, jobs to work, families to support. Who has time for something so petty.

But we no longer have time for anything that doesn't fit in those food groups. We're too involved with the gays getting hitched. Those goddamned illegals taking our jobs. Gas prices sky rocketing. Push-button issues that distract us from things that, you know, maybe we should pay attention too.

Then along comes Radiohead. The savvy band, the "intellectuals favorite." They do something, like, totally different, man. They drop their label. One of the biggest bands in the world is label-less, and decide, "You know what? Fuck the man!" and lo and behold, heres an album that you can pay whatever money for. We don't care. It's about the ART, not the imprint on the back.

A month later they turn around, and release it on a major because, "In Rainbows is a classic album, and deserves to be delivered to the masses."

Mass consumption.

So what happened? They pulled the biggest publicity stunt that went unrecognized, because they dared to fight the evils of corporate rock structure. They gained credibility, and they garnered a pretense of authenticity with the rock critics and music nerds. The thing is, the credibility they gained was from critics who write for Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, Spin, etc. Each, and every one of those publications are sponsored by corporate funding. So who are they appealing too? A bunch of people that talk the talk, and cash the checks of those whom allow them to diverge from the beaten path long enough.

Rolling Stone gave "In Rainbows" four and half stars out of a possible five. But where I call bullshit shenanigans is that Radiohead got people talking again. They pulled a two part ploy, and made a bundle of money doing so.

By releasing an album "label-less", they made that money directly. In doing so, they got people talking about a band thats shelf life seems to never go away. 22 years they've been making shitty music, and people have been engrossed by it forever. Whatever, I might not be meant to get it. But getting people to talk again gets people interested in buying your product once again. That many people buying an album without this image of a label backing them, well that just means the attention is grabbed by a label again. Big sign on bonus.

For years, all I've ever known is that a band doesn't make money off an album. They make it off of touring. It's why some bands never come off the road. It's why the Rolling Stones have been on a farewell tour ever since Brian Jones croaked. The money is in the merch, and ticket prices. With a rejuvenated interest in your band again, you basically sell tickets to your show to people who might not know that much about your band outside of, well...your Radiohead.

So the consumers bought into it. Consume, consume, consume.

Consume: A verb used with object - 1. To destroy or expend by use; use up.

We're using up the music industry. With each torrent download, with each burned CD, with each ringtone and Mp3.

Radiohead's ploy was successful in pushing units. Selling tickets. There wasn't any art there to speak of. Avant-garde and abstract can only go so far before it becomes apparent that it's just covering up lack of tangible ideas.

It'd be like me using emoticons every other sentence to display my emotions properly. I'm angry now, grrr, >:|. Now, I'm like, happy, yay! :). Oh man, I'm so coy, like whoa, :P. Now I'm sad :'(. And now I'm on par with Radiohead's output.

Radiohead aren't alone in this, either. I mean, I wound up covering the Warped Tour in Carson, California. The final date of the 2008 tour, August 17th. Angels and Airwaves, fucking Katy Perry, Say Anything (and I wound up meeting Mr. Max Bemis. Read "What To Wear While Swimming With Sharks.") and all these other bands that just map out their "chaos" prior to them stepping on stage. Image is so fucking important to everybody, and it's fucking disgusting. It's fucking disgusting when a band tries to do it non-nonchalantly, and present this image of creativity and spontaneity.

How much longer do we have to re-live the fucking 80's? I was alive in the 80's. Guess what, it sucked then and it sure as fuck sucks now. We have bands wearing make up and, hair coiffed so perfectly askew. Girls jeans, white belts, sing/scream falsetto's. I can't fucking take that anymore. Aren't there just average fucking people anymore? At all? What happened to t-shirt, jeans, and just living in the moment. I know for a FACT most of these bands spend hours putting their faces on before they step out on stage.

And whats the difference? I know it's about what the music is, not what they wear. I know that, inherently, but the thing is...I know most of the youth today don't. And yeah, punks are just as guilty with their mohawks, and safety pins. Sid Vicious is dead, mother fuckers. Let it fucking go. For God's sake.

But it should be about what they play. The thing is, they all play the same fucking song. Whats the difference between Bullet For My Valentine, and As I Lay Dying? The only obvious answer is that one of the members from As I Lay Dying should be the drummer for Bullet For My Valentines actual Valentine, and bullet should have been delivered. And that person should be laying there, dying. How dare they disgrace William Faulkner's classic like that.

But what's the fucking difference? They all sound the fucking same. I cannot tell the difference between Panic! At The Disco's first album, and ANYTHING that Fall Out Boy have done. I can't. I only know the one defining thing is that Pete Wentz is tagging Ashley Simpson. Thats all. And I shouldn't even fucking know that.

But we buy into it, and instead of over-indulging, we gorge and gorge. We consume until there is nothing left. Against Me once said in their song, "Don't Lose Touch":

"Constant entertainment for our restless minds, constant stimulation for epic appetites. Is there something wrong with these songs? Maybe theres something wrong with the audience. Manipulation in rock music; fucking nausea."

With every wrong, there are some rights. Being on the big stage, a major label isn't a bad thing, necessarily. You have to have your integrity intact, and there are bands like that. Against Me! being one of them. Rise Against, etc. The Clash, Ramones...they were on major labels. They changed the landscape of music all together, and so will those former bands when it's all said and done. I have no doubt one day, if I'm lucky enough to find a girl thats willing to procreate with me, that when that kid is 20, he or she will reference those bands like my generation references the Clash, and the Ramones.

If the music industry, the "Big Four" collapsed tomorrow, I don't think many bands would exist. I doubt we'd see a Radiohead anymore, I doubt we'd see a Linkin Park or even 99.9999 percent of mainstream rap/hip-hop. But I do know that if it did, we'd still see Against Me, Rise Against, Alkaline Trio out on the road 280 days out of the year. They'd still make music, regardless of who puts it out. Because thats all a major label is: A company with distribution capabilities. It's own distribution capabilities. By that standard popular "indie" labels likes Epitaph, Vagrant and Saddle Creek (to name a select few) all qualify as major labels. Epitaph, especially. As much as it pains me to say this, Brett Gurewitz may in fact be the anti-Christ.

But if the industry collapsed, I think Radiohead would "gracefully bow out. Citing 22 years, countless platinum albums, world tours and throngs of fans as reason enough to say, "there isn't anything else left to accomplish". I.E = No one signing us royalty checks anymore, we don't care.

Maybe they did try to revolutionize things, though. Radiohead, I mean. After all, Nine Inch Nails set the gold standard for releasing albums on their own. Trent Reznor has made MILLIONS in doing so. But Trent is also disgruntled with the musical landscape as well, and actually has credibility. He's pretty much done what he's wanted too since day one.

But maybe Radiohead got scared, when people weren't paying for their product. Maybe Thom Yorke had to switch to wiping his ass with 50 dollar bills, instead of 100's. Maybe the money fights starting seeing casualties when quarters got thrown in the mix (I know they are British, and their money probably is too, but I don't know the money structure across the pond. I Americanized it. Suck it.) Maybe they looked at their bank statements, and saw that their great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grand children may have to work at McDonald's while going to college. Who knows. But the tact isn't there with them. They crumbled in less than a month when the money was right.

We totally bought in, too.

2 comments:

Matt Ramone said...

I don't know if you saw this, but when they announced some band that was signing to Epitaph and one of the editors mentioned that they were, in fact, not shitty shit shitty shit, Steve remarked "it's sad that have to take your word over a founding member of Bad Religion." That's everything in anutshell.

Bonus Cupped said...

The shittest thing about the attention Radiohead got was the suggestion that putting out a record for free was at all risky, or for that matter original. They've already got their mansions in Surrey so who cares if no one pays for their latest piece self indulgent tripe? They didn't deserve the plaudits and you're right, releasing it on a major made the whole thing redundant anyway. Have you read his amateur political rants? They're fucking worse than mine.