Independence Lost

In a previous post, it was pointed out that Bertelsmann, a.k.a., BMG, is going to end up controlling Zomba Music Group, a so-called “independent” outfit. This whole notion of “independence” in music is somewhat undercut—no, let’s call it what it is: castrated—by the creation of conglomerations of labels under a few corporations. Let’s take another example, this time Universal Music Group. It, incidentally, is part of Vivendi Universal, a still-larger whole: Vivendi Universal is the set; Universal Music is the subset. And contained within that subset are a group of labels that, I suspect, many people would imagine are somehow “authentic,” if not “independent.” To wit: A&M Records (it’s a long way from Herb Alpert), Decca Record Company (the label that brought many of the Brit bands of the ’60s to the awareness of others), Deutsche Grammophon (OK: there is something to be said for classical), Geffen Records (which once really helped define “indie” in a larger sphere), Motown Records (Berry Gordy must have really gotten rich), Interscope Records (as in Eminem and Dr. Dre), Island Def Jam Music Group (purveyors of Ashanti, Ja Rule, Jay Z, and Foxy Brown). . . Lost Highway Records, MCA Nashville, MCA Records, Mercury Nashville, Philips, Polydor, Universal Records, and Verve Music Group.

Back in the 1960s, when Rolling Stone was knocking down the notions of what music coverage was all about, CBS Records would run an ad with a headline that was something along the lines of “The Man Can’t Bust Our Music.” Which, of course, was somewhat absurd (back then, CBS, NBC and ABC were the giants of broadcasting, period). But now it is abundantly clear that no matter how rebellious the sound or the lyrics, The Man Is the Music. At least the Music Industry.

14 thoughts on “Independence Lost”

  1. Not to be a party pooper, but pop music (which I’m defining as ‘catchy’ or ‘similar to music already popular’) has always been about *product*. Which is another reason to check out music made by people who have no chance ever of making $ doing it. I mean, if there was no $ in the picture, how many shitty Pavement/BuiltToSpill/Weezer/Pixies rip-off acts would you seen in your hometown? There are so many here… (and, of course: would Puff Daddy be in it w/o the $?)So look into free jazz, free improvisation, modern composition. When there’s no real lucre you can really feel the love. Trust me.Also: can you believe I got away with popping Bibby in the chops in Game 6 vs. Sacto? Damn I’m so smooth nobody can stop me.Love,Kobe

  2. That’s all well and good, but what if you don’t like free jazz, free improvisation and modern composition? I admit I’m a sucher for a 3 minute rock song with a hook. Can’t help it. It’s what I like. But there are true indies out there still. And there are even some decent acts on the bigger players. You just gotta know where to look, which is pretty much everywhere. You have to listen to a lot of crap to get to the really good stuff, but it’s out there… Built to Spill included.

  3. I really think it will be okay. I mean, true creativity (that which is not “fake” creativity, aka: driven by money) will always (at least most of the time) be realised despite their vision being pushed as a product and not what it is, which is art. (wow, thats only one sentence of drible!) I believe that very recently wilco demonstrated this when they streamed their entire album. Also, with record sales for the likes of creed and godsmack (same difference) falling at a rapid pace, record companies (I.E. major corporations, aka: THE MAN) must come up with a new strategy. Maybe they will grow tired of turning artists into prostitutes and force them to concentrate on the actual quality of their art. (this will probably never happen, but hey, I’m really always talking out of my ass and I may be intoxicated (I’ll have to check this spelling the next time I come here, as I have no idea what I am writing).PS: How could you hit bibby like that? He’s got to make those tres! You, Kobe, are a cocky bastard and in my opinion, A MONSTER. He is half your size!

  4. Come on guys. since when is art separate from $. not ever….not painters or sculptors nor players of of strats. The artist needs to sell his art. The Sistine Chapple was a sellout. At what point does art stop and something else take over anyway? Define something else. So Creed is a mellow PJ without content. They hit their target, others see meaning in it, isn’t that like a soup can?

  5. That’s a good question: when DOES a band sell out? I would love to make enough money to live on playing guitar and writing songs. It’s true. But I wouldn’t be “sponsored” by any car company or cola manufacturer. For one thing, my GLONO membership would be revoked and my friends would tease me to suicide. Is the emotional value of art diminished when it attains some sort of monetary value?

  6. My definition of “selling out” is when a band makes changes to their vision for the sake of being more commercial. I like it when bands change, but not when the reason for the change is to sell more records.I don’t care if a band takes money from Nike, Pepsi or GM as long as they don’t let that interfere with their music. Some would argue that as soon as they start taking money from Nike and Pepsi that it automatically interferes with their music, but I don’t know about that.I don’t like being repeatedly bombarded by songs I like and I don’t like associating a song with a product, but that stuff is the responsibility of the listener, not the artist. Don’t like hearing those WHO songs in ads, then turn off your fucking tv. Right?

  7. What about when an artist who has built their career on “keeping it real” sells his/her songs for a commercial? If Courtney Love wins her suit against Nirvana you can bet you’ll be hearing “Serve the Servants” in Chili’s ads.

  8. Artists can’t eat their art, so there’s gotta be some money in there somewhere, but again, sellouts create a product calculated only to sell units… if Bulgarian folk music were all the rage, Britney Spears and her ilk would be learning to speak Bulgarian. Artists follow their muse and hope it sells.

  9. This really isn’t directed at anyone who has posted on this message board, but in general I have a big problem with people bashing on sell-outs in the music industry. a great many of us sell out every day in our assorted crap ass jobs, so unless it really is your dream to be a soap vendor, i don’t think it is one’s place to get all high and mighty on once meaningful bands who tweak their formula to make a few more bucks. yeah, it sucks when a band we know is capable of so much more settles for less, but is it our right to vilify them for working for the sake of money if we are guilty of the same?

  10. u got a point nate. life is a balancing act Thankfully most of us aren’t that challanged. I do think it’s a lot more complicated. The Dead never even got rich. They just stopped having fun. For intergity Pearl Jam is a good model so far. and i loved their official bootleggs. The whole 2000 tour unedited $10.. per show. The Dead keep their vault locked up and dish it out like misers. WHY that’s a sellout.

  11. 1. The Dead did get rich. Very very rich. I used to know a kid who’s mom was a VP of marketing for Grateful Dead, Inc. Hell, even *she* was rich.

    2. The Dead allow taping at their shows.

    3. I don’t care about them anyway.

    As for “selling out” (a stupid concept, of course) I’ll say this:

    Art and $ don’t go together a fact that most artists intuitively recognize (and a fact that is supported by the general level of poverty experienced by history’s ground-breaking artists). Of course artists have to eat like anybody else, but that’s what jobs are for, eh? With a part-time day job you can play a lot of music in this life, kids. One of the great things about making art is that it’s so compelling, so much better than doing anything else, that it allows many people to live with the drudgery of daily hand-to-mouth in order to subsidize the love. I prefer it this way (just personal choice) – imagine how cool music would be if you took $ out of the equation altogether? I wonder if *anybody* would go through the “boy-band bootcamp” crap if they weren’t gonna get paid? Doing repetitive music is a job, face it. It may be a good job, but it’s a job. When I play music I’d rather *play*…

  12. Hi, well I’m a litle concerned, because I have been searching everyware for new oportunities to be a singer or an actris, but I haven’t found one yet… And I was hopping you guys could help me out, I don’t take this as a joke, I really what to do this. I live in Cancun Mexico, and I dont care what it takes to make this dream come true, but I will do everything it takes. I am willing to go were ever I have to go to make an audition or what ever… I’m really looking forward to this, and I beg you, that you respond as soon as posible, my e-mail is:

    [email protected]

    thank you for listening….

    Jessica L. Biedronski

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