One of the issues regarding music is the degree to which it is calculated. Calculated in dollars and… more dollars. Let’s not be naïve. The music industry is an industry like any other. It is about selling goods and services with the purpose of making money. At the expense of all else.
Generally, we probably suspect that it’s the recording company executives and promoters who are the most bottom-line oriented, that they are the ones who hire the marketing people—the pollsters, analysts and publicists—and others who make up what has been aptly described at the “star-making machinery.” These are the ones who orchestrate everything, from the signage in record stores to the made-for-TV extravaganzas. They pick the “hits.” They orchestrate the appearances on whatever—from “Regis and Kelly” to “TRL” and everything at either extreme.
What we probably don’t do is perceive the musicians as being incredibly mercenary. Sure, we all know about the Brill Building and the hit-making methodology: Turn the crank and get a pop hit. We all know that musicians have car payments and utility bills. And we’re all aware of the ironic honesty of the Mother’s of Invention’s album title “We’re Only In It For the Money.”
Still, I’m sure that with exceptions—e.g., the evidently manufactured models whose musical talents make the late Milli Vanilli look like the Beatles—we figure that there is a degree of actual belief in artistry of what they are doing that bands have.
A clear differentiator is the music that is written for release as musical products in and of themselves and music that is written for commercials. The latter is often described with the diminutive “jingles,” as though we don’t want to accord them the full status of musical compositions. The commercial music is meant to sell another product; the released recording is fundamentally meant to sell itself. We assume that the motive of the commercial jingle composer to be thoroughly commercial. We give the released musical work our willing suspension of disbelief; we try to avoid thinking about the commercial motive, even as we pull out our wallets to hear the performers, physically or digitally.
And so listen to this from an interview in The New York Times Magazine (12/2/01, free registration required), conducted by John Glassie, with Gene Simmons, co-founder, with Paul Stanley, of Kiss:
“Music was never the point. I believe that music and inspiration and creativity are all way overvalued. Everybody who is in the arts likes to emphasize the romantic because it makes good copy. Well, I have a little bit of advice for all the new rock stars: if you’re queasy about all the money you’ve’ made, sit down and write a check to Gene Simmons for your entire net worth.”
Is that what it is all about? Does knowing that the music of Kiss was as calculated as a McDonald’s commercial make it something less? Are those people who may feel “queasy” knowing that the Kiss anthems that they once rocked to are nothing more than advertisements for selling more and more copies of themselves merely babes in the woods who deserve to be taken?
Simmons goes on to note:
“We have 2,500 licenses—everything from the Kiss coffin, which doubles as a Kiss cooler, to Kiss condoms. I’m starting some stuff outside of Kiss, too. There’s going to be Gene Simmons Tongue magazine. We’ve already got a preorder of a million without a single word written or photo taken.”
There has been some concern among the GloNo team members with regard to the limited reach that this site has vis-à-vis the world at large. Perhaps the real issue is that we’re insufficiently whorish. Henceforth, I think I’ll be looking for a sponsor for my items. I’ll take cash, checks, or money orders. No stamps, please.