Truthful Music Industry Press Conferences? Welcome To The Machine.
The music industry needs their own Ari Fleischer.
As White House press secretary, Fleischer meets with the national and international press to answer questions, dispel myths, and generally put at ease those inquiring minds that wonder just what the US government is doing behind closed doors. (Besides choking on pretzels, of course). To watch Fleischer’s daily press conference is to witness a study in calm – an incredulous display of stressless communication – wherein the ever-pokerfaced Fleischer counsels, cajoles, and gently scolds members of the press corps as they valiantly field their insanely involved questions toward the perpetually bland face of President Bush’s first line of defense.
In recent days, Fleischer’s pressers have dealt principally with the collapse of Enron Technologies, the Houston-based energy broker that recently and imploded. How does the corporation’s rapid collapse reflect on its observers at accounting giant Arthur Anderson? And what does the dissolution of America’s second-largest company mean for the US Government? (The current issue of the Onion wonders sardonically about W’s trail of destruction with Texas-based companies he had a hand in…)
In its current, sprawling configuration, the music industry resembles the notoriously bloated US government. The Big Five – Universal, Sony Music Entertainment, EMI, Warner Brothers, and BMG Entertainment – probably shop at the same department store that stocks those $4,000 bidets and $850 hammers that government hacks are always getting in hot water for purchasing. And in their backroom machinations and shady decision-making regarding the questionable, ahem, entertainment that they foist on the taxpayer, are these behemoths much different from our intrepid lawmakers on Capitol Hill?
The difference is that Washington has Fleischer. Even if he is the king of Bullshit, the Kreskin of truth-bending, Fleischer is still Press Secretary, and is required to stand at his podium each day, fielding questions from sourpussed political reporters. What if the Big Five was made to employ the same post? What if they were required to hold daily press conferences where bitter music critics could accost their representative with pointed inquiries into just where Lifehouse came from, or how much money is spent daily on Shakira’s ever-widening web of hype? There’s no doubt that this mythical music representative would be every bit as wily as his White House counterpart, deftly spinning incoming questions off on themselves and blithely referring inquisitors to a backalley hell of committee meetings held in endlessly beige office corridors leading inevitably to floor 7 ½.
But watching Fleischer’s daily press conferences, there is a faint glimmer of pride in the roundabout discourse. That it exists at all is at least something, even if no one is really getting to the bottom of anything other than the realization that Fleischer is completely unflappable. This does not exist with the Big Five. Yes, there are publicists. Sure, press releases are, er, released. But no one really knows what’s going on in those smoked glass hallways and private dinners. What are the thought processes behind subjecting Americans to the wretched, G-rated rock of The Calling, a group whose music is so boring and fluffy, it makes Michael W. Smith look like GG Allin? This question would never be answered at our fantasmical music industry presser. But wouldn’t it be nice to have the option to ask it?
Separated at birth?
[Jeff Zucker is president of NBC Television. Perhaps he is also Ari Fleischer. Interesting, isn’t it? – ed.]