Who gets to decide?

Music and the music business is a damn complex thing. Trying to rule over it is never going to be easy, no matter who you are. And it sure as hell is never going to be good.

I picked up this article from Washington Post-owned The Root, and you just have to marvel at just how naïve it is. Whatever you think of the central issue involved, and I'm really in no position to judge in my privileged, distant cocoon, handing over power to consumer groups is clearly a big mistake. Consumer groups are profoundly evil. They're the kind of philistines who vandalise modern art, support ridiculous, small-minded censorship, bowdlerise movies and start racist campaigns against hip-hop. She's jawdroppingly arguing for this group rather than against it.
But, I mean, who else could you possibly give power to? Well, she's also arguing for the positive influence of corporations. Corporations! You want GM's marketing department to decide over your music? Media strategists at corporations can't think beyond statistical groups and established patterns, and are never going to want music to be edgy or interesting or forward-thinking because of the risk involved. Plus of course they're hegemonistically ideology-establishing, or whatever.

On the other hand, you wouldn't want the TV channel itself to be in power. TV channels are just as conservative and statistically oriented, really, plus usually very short-sighted (fifteen-second judgements of tracks are not unusual) and sacrifice every thought of a unified profile at the altar of whatever song happens to be popular a given moment.

But what about the critics? We couldn't possibly have us ruling over the music business either. We're way too trend-oriented and anxious to please, or else we're just controversial for controversy's sake. Can you imagine music TV filled with ghastly critic-genres like post-rock? The kids are another no-no. If we let high school kids decide over their own entertainment then pretty soon they'll be setting fire to the homeless. Then there's the artists themselves who're conceited and run off to do vanity projects as soon as they don't have to worry about money.

Then of course there's neolib reliance on "the market". Which, if I understand the idea correctly, is what the music department at BET thinks the marketing department at GM believes the nasty vagrant-burning teenagers would want to listen to in such a way as to want to buy more cars. Which is just an ungodly mess of out-of-the-arse statistical second-guessing.

It'd be tempting to replace it all by some organically growing anarchy, but the truth is that all of these groups are probably influencing music a little bit. It's a wonder anything good makes it through at all.


Mike said...

Organically growing anarchy FTW!

At least these days something doesn't have to be commercially successful for us to hear it.

quan said...

i get that same feeling of powerlessness regarding the music industry too. there doesn't seem to be any answers. sometimes, i get the sense that the industry was just fortunate to come up fortunate for as long as it did.