The Grammies Versus Reality

So tomorrow night is Grammy night. Excuse me while I yawn. We all know what will happen. Mariah Carey’s size-16 body will be jimmied into a size-6 miniskirt showcasing miles and miles of fleshy thigh and breast. Odds are that a Janet Jackson controversy will ensue the moment she starts screeching her dog-howl-ish high notes. After all, there’s only so much tension that any fabric can handle.
We’ll also probably see Kanye West bumrush the stage after he loses an award to somebody he feels is inferior…which in his mind is anyone other than him. At least he has a point, though as his album was one of the best of the past year.
What else will happen? I’m sure the metal awards will continue the Jethro Tull tradition and be handed to somebody who’s connection to metal is questionable. The Best New Artist award will go to somebody who will vanish before the evening is even over, and somehow Bonnie Raitt, Tina Turner, and/or Sheryl Crow will win an award or two even though their careers have been over for more than a few years.
Even if none of those predictions come true, you can bet the farm on the following. Some time during the evening, probably around 9:15 or so, the head of the R.I.A.A. (or some other suit) will come out and give a “State of the Record Industry” speech. After a few minutes of backslapping concerning their response to Hurricane Katrina, Live 8, and other charitable works, there will once again be an impassioned rant about how downloading is killing the record business.
It’s all a bunch of you-know-what. Sure, sales were down once again. Yes, plenty of record stores, both big and small, were forced to close their doors last year. And I’ll also admit that part of the problem is illegal downloading…but a negligible part at best.
I realize that I’ve ranted about this myth in the past, but let’s recap some of the facts. The dollars that previously were spent on CD’s and tapes are now also being spent on DVD’s and video games. Don’t believe me? Just try wandering through those sections at Best Buy on a Saturday afternoon. People who never bought movies in the past are now purchasing deluxe box sets of the most awful television shows. Movie companies are copying the mantra of record companies and reissuing the same movies over and over with just a few extras each time. And there always seems to be a new video game format.
If you’re still not convinced, a new survey provides some startling new data that the record industry would love for you to not hear about.
In a poll commissioned by Rolling Stone Magazine and the Associated Press, the numbers don’t match what you’re going to hear tomorrow night. 92% of those polled have never downloaded music, and 80% say they’ve never done it.
More worrying for the suits, 75% say compact discs are too expensive, and 58% say music in general is getting worse. In other words, the music industry’s approval rate is worse than George Bush’s.
I won’t go so far as to say that music is worse today than in the past. There are plenty of great acts making just as wonderful music today as in any other time in history. It’s just become harder to find, and I blame the Spice Girls.
Why these awful twits, you ask? While they ceased to be a group five or six years ago, their creation, along with the consolidation of the radio and music biz, completely changed the way the record industry works.
Sure, there were created acts in the past. There always has been, from Pat Boone to Fabian to the Monkees (who I actually like) to the Archies to most disco acts to Debbie Gibson to New Kids On the Block. Those acts, however, were never treated as artists, and real artists were not threatened by their chart action.
Since the Spice Girls, though, the entire record industry has been about going after the quick buck with created acts whose “talents” are questionable at best. It’s been more about celebrity than music ability. The songs are as forgettable as their hair styles. Don’t believe me? Quick, recite the lyrics to any hit song from 2002. It’s not easy. All genres, from bubblegum pop to country to hip/hop to even hard rock suffers from the disposable tag. This is how Jamie Fox is able to top the charts, and this is why chart-toppers are selling a fraction of what they did a decade ago.
Again, it’s not like there’s not some great stuff out there. There has actually been a revival of sorts for alternative rock in recent years. Modest Mouse and Franz Ferdinand went platinum; Death Cab For Cutie and Bright Eyes went gold. Arcade Fire, a virtually unknown Canadian act, sold a quarter of a million copies on an indie label with zero publicity outside of word of mouth. This cult-ish scene exists in all genres. True hip-hop fans don’t listen to Nelly or Diddy; true country fans don’t enjoy Faith Hill or Sugarland.
What is the solution to the problems of the record industry? It won’t be easy but here are a few steps. First off, quit signing people based on the potential for People Magazine coverage. Paris Hilton and Kevin Federline don’t deserve a record deal, nor do the stars of any Disney movie or WB drama.
The use of song doctors must also be, at the very least, diminished. I’m not saying that every artist must write every tune they record, but I do have a problem when acts such as Bon Jovi, Liz Phair, and Korn are using the same factories that created the Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears.
More importantly, though, it’s time for broadcasters to actually serve their listeners. The Clear Channels of the world need to tear up their national playlists…or at the very least make them a bit longer and wider. The practice of testing songs by playing snippets in phone polls must end as many great songs cannot be experienced by just a chorus (this is why so many songs are little more than a catchphrase).
Even worse than Clear Channel is the complete disappointment that MTV and VH1 have become. There was a time when both of these channels had a little for everybody. College rock fans had 120 Minutes, metal and rap fans had their own shows, and there was always the possibility of some of these tunes crossing over to the normal rotation.
Now there is no rotation. MTV is nothing more than dating shows, and each new program is exceedingly worse than the last. Does anybody really enjoy Next, Date My Mom, or that silly new one where a person picks the person most like their musical idol? Meanwhile, VH1 has become little more than a copycat of E!, with countdown shows and celebrity myth-making.
I’m not saying that either or both of these channels need to once again become music-only channels. I understand the appeal of some of these shows (particularly those with hot chicks). There just needs to be a better balance, and a lessening of the amount of time devoted to the Lindsay Lohans of the world.


Corey V. said…
apple said…
Yay Scotty!
Melody said…
Hey nice blog...i watched the grammies the other night, they were meh...okay.

If you want some more genuine indie music, come check out my canadian indie blog, u might find something you like.

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