Of late, I've noticed several older artists, entertainers, producers, writers, and other music industry professionals have come out publicly to denounce the apparent disarray and dilapidated state of the business. Notable individuals such as Quincy Jones, Tony Bennett, Reverend Run, Rick Rubin, and even former industry guru Clive Davis have all, in some way, shape, or fashion, taken a moment to note what they have decided is the lowest point in Popular Music history. Out of respect for their body of work and influence over said industry, I have, to a degree, kept generally mum about my feelings regarding these statements. However, after reading some very recent (and very scathing) blanket remarks about the business - a business of which I am, for lack of better assessment, a part, and hope to someday be a more active participant - the Gemini rebel in me could no longer stand by without offering my 2 cents, for whatever it's worth.
My problem with these kinds of statements when they're made, is a twofold caveat. The first fold occurs when one takes into account the wealth and notoriety of the individuals in question. I cannot take seriously the ranting and gnashing of teeth on the part of industry professionals who have not only made their bones, but invested them, gathered them up, stored them away, and have no problem living comfortably off of said pile for the rest of their ageing lives. To add insult to injury, it would hardly be disputed that this wealth and notoriety came from said individuals' dealings with the music business. In other words, these gripers are griping about the very same situations that helped get them their sack of gold. But, oh, I guess now, apparently, it's okay to be mad at everybody else trying to do the same thing.
You'll pardon the blankest of blank stares that I am now emitting as I type this.
The second fold of this issue takes into account the fact that the folks who are complaining about the state of the industry now have very much played a part in its apparent "demise." Members of the legendary Hip-Hop group, Run DMC, have said, for example, that they are fed up with the blatant, payola-style radio rotation happening today. I find their complaints humorous, since it was this very same style of playlist-based music rotation that allowed for groups like Run DMC to generate a radio listener fan base. I see way too many flaws in older producers whining about how the genre of Hip-Hop has lost its way in becoming a profit-based industry, when its innovators can't deny that, even in the genre's infancy, all some of them wanted to do was be able to make some quick money off of some rap songs. I also find it difficult to take seriously a statement about how music creators now are focused too much on profit and making quick money, when it was the revenue and bottom lines of these older creators and their brands that eventually - coupled with the advent of downloadable music and instant gratification technology - ran the coffers of the business virtually dry. Let's not forget that one of the main reasons Clive Davis was asked to step down from his lofty position at Sony/BMG was simply because Barry Weiss of Zomba Records was willing to accept a much more reasonable paycheck. Because Clive Davis the legend could no longer be financially supported by the industry he helped facilitate over the past several decades, via an economic lifestyle to which he had become quite accustomed.
I mean, really.
But I do think what is most troubling, and what hurts the most about these kinds of dismissive, virulent statements, is that they don't take into account the full scope of what's actually going on in the Popular Music industry today. It's obvious that these guys are just reading (probably skimming) the headlines of popular editorials like Billboard, Rolling Stone, or Spin. This - coupled with what I'm sure is a toxic mix of rumors, insider information, and some bitterness from their own experiences - is helping to fuel the flames of resentment for what is only a portion of the landscape in pop culture at this time. To be fair, no one individual could possibly take the time to really survey the entirety of the moves being made by different artists, writers, producers, and the like. However, when legends like Tony Bennett come out and say that music today is "terrible," with no addendum as to which music he's referring or why, I, by virtue of my profession and resume, have a right to be offended by such a blanket assessment. And to an extent, I am.
As a matter of fact, I'm pretty pissed off, if I think about it too much. And I believe the appropriate response to a most of this is, how dare you?
How DARE you.
For me, in the end, all I wanna do is make some great music, have people hear it, tour the world with it, spread love, and have a great time with the work that I do. What I wish these older individuals would do is stop seeing what they want to see about the music industry, and maybe take a deeper look into what's actually happening. There is some amazing music making going on right under their noses, that's also being shared and filtered throughout the business, but because they're so busy refusing to see past the end of their noses, they're completely missing out. What new music makers need right now from veterans like the above mentioned is positive support, encouragement, education, and solidarity. Stick to that formula, and it's almost inevitable that they, and all of us, are bound to see the kinds of paradigm shifts in popular music & culture that we so desire to see.
But if you're just going to go around and ki ki about all the things you don't like that are happening in the business right now, I have three choice words for you: