Editorial: September 1996
I've spent far too much time in front of the television within the last month for my own good. So I decided to put some of that wasted time in front of the idiot box to good use by using it as a portion of my social commentary for the month.
As I was channel surfing the miasma of misery otherwise known as MTV I hit upon a profoundly pitiful conclusion. A quick check of each and every video revealed that a large majority of popular artists not only don't write their own music, but they don't even write their own lyrics. After the initial shock subsided, I flipped to VH-1, CMT & TNN and noticed the exact same circumstances. This left me partially paralyzed with the notion that the majority of the music people purchase in the stores today isn't even remotely authored by the individual who performs it.
Armed with this new concept, new to me at least, I decided to suffer through a few hours of programming on each of these channels to acquire some type of statistical data. Much to my surprise, it appeared that over 60% of the artist's video shows during prime time on the aforementioned video channels had nothing to do with writing the vocals or the music on the same song on which they performed.
Was it more or had the media been responsible for pulling the wool over on the eyes of the unsuspecting consumer? After rooting around in a record store for several hours, I decided that record labels as a whole did print the original lyrics & song writters names inside of an album. So the media hadn't been lying to us, but rather the consumer had become content to purchase and view art that was never written by the artist who performed it.
Then I took a long step backwards and looked at the entire underground music scene with the same critical eye. After some more leg work, I determined that around 95% of the underground music scene either wrote their own lyrics, wrote their own music, or both. Was this the integral piece of data that was keeping the scene so underground? Was this simple fact the ultimate separation between sales popularity and the struggling independent artist?
After slapping myself in the face for my stupidity at coming up with such an idiotic concept, I took another step back. I looked at sales figures, distribution, marketing, advertising, as they related to a band's popularity. With those pieces of data, I tried to put together some common set of tenets that might be a simple way to become insanely popular without sacrificing your personal integrity for the sake of record label executive.
After a few more wasted hours, I realized that I still had too small of a set of data, and not enough knowledge about the music scene to effectively draw up such a proof and that I might as well go back to the drawing board. However, in order to not have wasted my time in vain, I at least tried to draw some observational opinions based up in bias rather than fact, since in this the facts were not something I could acquire cheaply, and my opinion is something I give away for free.
It appears that artists who don't mind sacrificing the ability to compose their own music for the sake of popularity become popular much quicker than those artists who value integrity above the almighty dollar. So it is the poor struggling artists who speak their own minds and end up having no one listen, but the artists who speak other peoples ideas have millions hanging on their every word. Hrm, kind of makes you think that this capitolism concept isn't all it's cracked up to be eh?
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