Rock is dead? Bitch, please.
If this post resonates, I am in no way responsible. Thank a Facebook friend of mine who inspired it with our talk of music (and his meme) and thank those who have repeatedly announced the immanent death of Rock. You may also thank fifteen year old girls everywhere.
Where to begin?
Ah yes, Facebook. More precisely, (or, if you wish to be technical, LESS precisely), social media.
For some time now social media has been a go to source for all things music.
From pages dedicated to chatting about anything Rush (while listening to the band’s music streaming 24/7)
to places for discussing the lyrics, albums, and bands of the era which gave us rockers known for their genre busting sound along with their makeup and Aqua Net
to former print legends in the world of music news and review who, alas, now spend less time printing make or break music reviews and more time concocting fake rape narratives and piss poor political commentary.
Social Media IS where we go to learn about, listen to, talk about or write about music.
On a friend’s social media feed today I once again ran into this gem
Sure, it’s easy to laugh at alleged fans of music (and alleged musicians) unable to identify a band that pioneered a genre. It’s easy to dismiss the naiveté of young people with no awareness of a band whose members individually performed in some of the greatest Rock/metal bands of all time. It’s easy to laugh at people who fail to recognize a band which garnered numerous Grammy nominations and whose co-founder’s solo on one of the band’s songs ranked 15th on Guitar World’s list of the “100 Greatest Guitar Solos” of all-time..
It is easy to laugh, but we laugh because if we did not laugh we’d have to cry. We know this musical ignorance is no laughing matter.
There are plenty of folks who have never heard of Pantera. There are so many people who have never heard a single song by Black Sabbath or by Violent Femmes.
There are young people who could not tell you who Peter Gabriel or Billy Joel is. There are many who could not tell you the import of a Patsy Cline or of a Gene Simmons or Elton John.
There are many who could not identify the voice or the value of Johnny Cash or Joan Baez or any number of performers and writers in a multitude of genres.
Now, if these were run of the mill, non musically inclined folks, I’d give them a free pass, but no. I speak instead of music illiterates who nonetheless claim to be music fans.
Among us there are ‘fans’ who may put the final nail in the coffin of music as an art form through their sheer arrogance and ignorance,. That nail comes in the form of profoundly stupid statements like: “Why should I care who ‘so and so is’? They’re old and are old news”. “Such and such is a great band. That singer third from the right is so cute”.
I say ‘may’ because there is hope. Music has been steadily devolving from art down to commodity/social & entertainment snack for some time. Fewer and fewer individuals recognize quality music, yet there is hope.
Hope comes in the steady drum beat of “Rock is dead” and in the audacity of folks who would post the above meme.
One does not sadly announce the death of a music genre unless one is hoping and expecting that someone will revive that genre. One does not post wickedly funny, thought-provoking memes on social media unless one hopes beyond hope that someone, somewhere, will take seriously the meme’s message.
Some of us take this whole thing very seriously. A few of us think we know who the culprit is who dared to kill music.
I for one blame 15 year old girls – specifically stupid, hormonal and musically illiterate 15 year old girls.
Cue the outrage: “He said a mean thing about girls – teenage girls – horror of horrors, he’s a pig.”
Screw whoever feels outraged. I don’t have time for your precious feelings, music is dying. Take your butthurt to someone who cares.
First, let’s be clear, if you are NOT musically illiterate, but are 15 and female, I am NOT speaking about you.
If you have the sense to know that music did not start with the CD you have in your hands and that all things music do not end there either, I am not speaking of you. Go enjoy the tunes.
If you are 15 and female and do not pick your favourite band based on how hot the singers look when they peer into your eyes from the cover of some magazine, but rather based on the rocking bass, the guitar riffs, the pound of the drums and the personal message of the lyrics, congratulations…I’m not speaking to you. You are free to go. Live life and enjoy the music with my compliments.
If you know that music is more than a momentary enjoyment to be forgotten thanks to the ‘next big thing’, and if you know that as a fan of your favourite band you owe a giant debt to those bands who came before and inspired it, you are not to blame.
Unlike your idiot peers, you know that music is life.
Fans and musicians everywhere owe you a silent ‘thank you’. You have chosen to learn what matters. You have chosen to ignore the hype. You have chosen to not be coerced by media conglomerates who tell you in ways subtle and large how ‘important’ you are while trying to sell you crap that you, rightly, have no interest in.
If you are that 15 year old girl you – along with your older cohorts (male and female) – hold the fate of music in your hands.
Be strong, little lady. Be strong. Carry on, my friend.
Relax, oh offended one. I’m not speaking to her. I am speaking instead to the idiots to whom much of today’s schlock posing as music owes its financial ‘success’.
My message is for the musically challenged, hormone driven pubescent who drives the music industry’s decisions. You are the audience every LA, Boston or NY Music Executive targets with his five boy blowout band, carefully triangulated threesome or single, cute crooner. He targets you not because of your good tastes – you have none – but rather thanks to your parent’s willingness to fork over the cash it costs for the latest CD or download of the latest, hottest, sexiest and baddest boy wonder you currently weep over.
My message is for the adolescent idiots happily seeking out bands and singers whose only talent is to warble the vapid words of lyric writing co-conspirators, blink their mascaraed eyes at the camera, toss their coiffed hair and pretend that they are ‘bad’ because they throw eggs and get drunk at parties at the age of 17.
You are the reason music is dying. Your inability to discern between genuine talent and your heated loins is a poison in the blood of the music industry. Your unwillingness to understand that music is more than a few crafty phrases and a finely tuned, fake bio is the repeated stab in the heart of music causing it to bleed out.
You swoon over the latest plastic creation, and yet so few of these write their own music, play any instruments, or have a single clue how to cut a record or book a venue. They have no skill and no talent, and you love them all the more for it.
You are deliberately killing music.
Your lack of anything resembling taste, discernment, understanding, respect, self-respect, or wisdom is why music is on its last legs.
You have done what mountains of drugs & alcohol, vanity, arrogance, envy, piss poor money management, delusions of grandeur, messy legal entanglements and showers of criticism and hate from the press and from rival performers could not. Perhaps, in a way, you ought to feel proud. Rarely does something as small as yourself have such a large and lasting effect.
Now, I cannot blame JUST these ignorant and vapid 15 year old girls. That would be generalizing and very unfair. I blame also the teenage boys so desperate to get in those girls pants or under their bras that they’d agree to anything, including ‘this band is so cool’ pronouncements from their would be conquests. These horny morons – male and female – would not know a chord progression from a cucumber, and yet hold the fate of music in their sweaty fingers.
The slide into the abyss continues.
These young people become older, and they later bleat on at the water cooler and the coffee shop about the alleged talent of the latest top 40 radio play wonder the industry has vomited out.
Let’s be clear. The music industry IS an industry and as an industry it cares less for talent or creativity as it does for WHAT SELLS. Thanks to the symbiotic relationship between horny 15 year olds, profit seeking Executives, and no talent hacks that look good posing on a poster, what sells today is style rather than substance.
Music is hard. Music is challenging. Good music is time-consuming and relationship building. Great music is life savings spent on the best equipment available, many, many tears of frustration and accomplishment and a lifetime spent building a base of fans so dedicated that even when dead broke they will spend their last sixty bucks to fill the tank and drive forty miles to hear you play some low rent, backwater club they’d not step foot in were it not for “The guys (or girls) are playing”.
Alas, profits are not necessarily made on a great story, great effort, or dedication to a craft.
It is no accident that the biggest ‘stars’ in music today have not a drop of recognizable, measurable talent nor a discernible fan base one can point to having had existed prior to their ‘success’. They are not musicians, they are a product.
That product sells and it makes a boatload of profits for its creators.
Good music takes time. Good music takes money. Good music takes dedication. Great music takes all three.
Much of what is passed off as music is not great music, it is not even good music. It is a product, no different from the trendiest new beverage or the latest ‘special new formula’ laundry detergent.
Many executives and producers have little interest in dedicating the time and resources necessary to find and develop good music. God knows they won’t dedicate the enormous energy and considerable money needed to produce great music. They will, however, happily spend some cash and a few months or years on a ‘band’ or ‘performer’ who will undoubtedly sell to fifteen year old girls and their lascivious would-be male cohorts.
These producers and executives will happily create a product which, with little upfront costs and via a contract designed to limit the performer’s ability to cash in, all but guarantees them a shit load of profit.
There is a reason these shiny success stories shill for infomercials ten years after they have their second number one hit.
There is a reason also why for each of these hacks you have ten or twelve talented bands who never see the same financial ‘success’ yet perform steadily, earn a living doing what they love, and have decades long careers and tens of thousands of loyal fans. The financial awards and the respect due them as artists have been stolen, and I for one believe we should take them back.
We fans and musicians have within our grasp the means to reinvigorate, reinvent, and take back music from talentless hacks and profit aware, yet music indifferent Suits – IF we are willing and determined.
From weekend garage bands to four decade old Rock Gods, musicians great and small bemoan the fact that money drives decisions and that few bands ever have the financial success surely due them given their talent and hard work. Many complain that new technologies, as they are currently used, further limit a band’s ability to make a living on their creative effort.
These new technologies, and the reality of the competition between underfunded but genuine talent and fully funded, corporate creations need not be the death knell for music.
By capitalizing on sharing and meet up technologies and on the innate and natural relationship between musician and fan, there are opportunities – both financial and creative – to level the playing field and disrupt the game. Tech, social media and business savvy musicians and their fans have tools at their disposal with which to re-imagine the music scene.
Music is not dead. Hardly. Like Atlantis, it is waiting to rise again.
As for the idiot (corporate as well as within fandom) who scratches his head in confusion, having no idea what music is because he has never truly heard it (you know who you are – “Who’s Pantera?”), all I want to say is “Walk on home, boy.”
Tags: album, alcohol, alt rock, alternative, Billy Joel, Black Sabbath, drugs, Elton John, Facebook, Gene Simmons, genre, heavy metal, Johnny Cash, metal, music, music executive, music fan, music industry, music news, musician, musicians, Pantera, Patsy Cline, Peter Gabriel, producer, Rock Is Dead, rock music, social media, Violent Femmes