Music

Check It Out: Mellencamp Lament About the Music Biz Gets Torched, Like Paper In Fire

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John Mellencamp on Huffington Post earlier this week strummed out an oldest-living-music-biz-veteran-tells-all lament about how it wouldn't be so easy to top the charts with a song like "I Need A Lover" nowadays–among lots of random complaints about the diminishing importance of "local markets" in driving the biz in a SoundScanned age when men who are waiting there to sell plastic ware decide the fate of poor guitar men from Amsterdam to Paris, how we need more compassion and fairness, and a general inchoate dislike of, combined with a yearning dependence on, big biz interests to help steer the industry.

Music biz insider gadfly Bob Lefsetz calls straw man on the author of "Rain on the Scarecrow," noting that music goes on, long after Mr. Mellencamp's thrill of selling records is gone. The real difference between the then Mellencamp misses and now, Lefsetz argues, is real consumer and performer choice, and power. Some highlights from Lefsetz:

The major label hegemony has been broken.  No longer is the musical landscape dominated by fat cat gatekeepers who get to control what America hears.  You can write and record your own music, and release it too.  Will anybody buy it?  Probably not if it's bad, but you no longer have to get permission to play, and that's great!

And you can get paid!  Make a deal with TuneCore, and you won't get any lying on your statements.  I've never met a musician who's audited a record label and found out he's been overpaid….

You can choose your own business model!  You don't have to be beholden to the major label game of selling physical product!  If you want to give away your music online to drive concert attendance, great! Furthermore, at least you've got a chance of being heard, unlike in the days where you had to pay off the radio programmer to play your record…..

The tools available to the musician are staggering.  From the production to the exhibition of music.  Yes, you can use eventful.com and tour where people want to see you, and you can make money.

The act has more power than ever before and this is a problem?…..

Well, aspects of the new system of increased autonomy, tools, and choice do seem to hurt Mr. Mellencamp, and not so good, as Lefsetz notes:

No, the problem for John seems to be that you can't plug into a giant machine that will spit out a million dollar lifestyle.  The problem is not record companies or radio, but America in the twenty first century.  In today's world, where people use Google to search for exactly what they want, where ads are targeted to their exact desires, do you truly expect everyone to listen to the same damn music?….

The old systems have broken down.  Because they don't comport with the new reality.  Are we at the final destination yet?  Not even close. But to lament the loss of the past is to miss the point.

Sure, if you want to make a lot of money overnight, you can sell out to a major corporation.  But even they don't have that much money or reach anymore.  And playing the Super Bowl didn't make Bruce's new album a hit.  No, in today's world, first and foremost you're a musician, not a star…..

Hey Mellencamp!  You're talented, you've written some great songs, but you're not entitled to live your life and guide your career the same way you did twenty years ago.  There's no longer guaranteed employment at the corporation and you have to go through career changes, just like the rest of the American population.  Why should you be different, just because you're a musician?

I wrote back in Reason magazine's March 2004 issue about the eternal survival of music even as the technologies and business models of selling it shift and mutate.

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  1. No matter what, I have to appreciate Mr. Mellencamp for being an SCTV musical guest. 😉

  2. You’re talented, you’ve written some great songs, but you’re not entitled to live your life and guide your career the same way you did twenty years ago.

    One of these assertions is true.

    I thought he changed his stage name to John Cougar during the 90s anyway?

  3. Music has opened up and been decentralized to a degree no one in the 20th century would have thought possible. Yet one thing I think we are going to see vanish: the musical star. If everyone is an indie there’s no room for a brand. And without that the casual music listener has nothing to grab onto.

    Not only won’t there be no more Beatles, there will be no more Mozarts. At least not as we knew them. Is that good or bad? I don’t know.

  4. La, la la la la laaaaaaaaa, la la.
    Can’t keep a good man down.

  5. Brian,

    I liked the obscure reference to the Byrds “So you want to be a rock & roll star” in the article. That was always one of favorite songs by them.

  6. For the love of God, will someone please get Mellencamp some bailout money???

  7. Let’s see those iTunes punks put together a Farm Aid benefit on youtube. They probably won’t even clear overhead. Roadies ain’t cheap.

  8. Or the old prick could just change his name again to see if it will drum up a few CD sales.
    Judging from his recent dogshit work, I doubt it.

  9. “I thought he changed his stage name to John Cougar during the 90s anyway?”

    Unless you’re just joshing, you have it backward. He was “John Cougar” at the outset, in the 1980s, and returned to Mellencamp after his first few hits. I was spinning the hits back in those days, and remember well the transition and the minor controversy surrounding it — during the interim, we introduced him as “John ‘Cougar’ Mellencamp,” just so the casual music listener wouldn’t be confused. This was before Farm Aid and before “Cougar” acquired a different meaning. Ahhh … good times.

  10. Mr. Merritt, I too worked as a radio DJ in the early 80’s in a tiny market in rural Idaho. I remember that they were rotation nazis. I wound up playing back to back one night, Mel McDaniel, baby’s got her blue jeans on, followed by, The Tubes, she’s a beauty.

  11. NWA’s first album sold 12 million units without (almost) ANY radio play and no major label muscle. It was done through street promotion, bootlegging and word of mouth. Very low tech marketing but easily replicated today. Unfortunately the music actually has to be good to move that quickly…

  12. For the love of God, will someone please get Mellencamp some bailout money???

    I’m not so sure John is too big to fail.

  13. The technology and the marketing being so independent now just puts the hustle back in the artist’s corner. Bands that make it now, as then, usually have been workin their asses off for years to build chops and following.

  14. If everyone is an indie there’s no room for a brand. And without that the casual music listener has nothing to grab onto.

    I agree with this. The problem is that past a certain number of choices, mass-customized music is like having no music at all.

    I rarely connect to music the first time I hear it. I hear a song four or five times, or parts of a song, pick up a line or two of lyrics, and then find myself looking forward to hearing it. After I hear it five or ten times more, MAYBE I remember the name of the band, and after another ten times, MAYBE I buy it.

    The critical part of that cycle is being subjected to the song the first four or five times.

    Without a music “machine” to push music at me, all music is equally undifferentiated within its genre and there’s no reason for me to listen to any particular piece of music at all. I’m not going to wade through 10000 indie self-produced tracks on MySpace to decide if I like a new song or group. Without a playlist narrow enough to ease me into liking a song, almost all songs are instantly forgettable and meaningless.

  15. Maybe I’m missing something here. Mellelcamp says the music charts used to be compiled by calling (a dozen? a hundred?) music store managers and asking them how much of what they sold in the past week.

    Now, SoundScan automatically records every CD sold in a retail store and logs it.

    But Mellencamp says the old system was more accurate.

    Huh?

  16. fluffy,
    That’s why you get all your friends to Twitter new and good music to you!

  17. As a musician, honestly I kind of agree with Mellencamp, whose music mostly hurts so bad. I’ll play the devil’s advocate to this article.

    Frankly, the technology and expansion of the audiences are blessings and curses for musicians. Mainstream music sucks worse than ever. In fact, we are arguably at the artistic nadir of music history. Clear Channel and MTV still controls what the vast majority of people hear, because people still assume that radio = best. Have you even listened to the top 30 hit stations? They play the same 12-15 songs on rotation, and they all sound the same. At least back in the day there was more talent in the mainstream than the fifth-wave of filth grunge and the brain-dead rap the radio waves currently subject us to. Are the Jonas Brothers/Hannah Montana/American Idol stuff any different than 1910 Fruitgum Company/Monkees, disco and the Backstreet Boys? And I ought to sue Nickelback for inflicting upon me cruel and unusual punishment. Hell, I miss Sugar Ray and Third Eye Blind – and that’s something I never thought I would say back in the day. John Mellencamp, as shitty as he is, is still exponentially better than today’s tide of filth.

    Even indie music has become sadly generic and purely based upon joining a hot trend. The reality is that back in the 70s through the 90s, indie musicians relied on originality and innovation to distinguish themselves and get themselves noticed. Now, every indie band tries to sound as close as they can to the Arcade Fire or Animal Collective because it guarantees them an 8.5 on Pitchfork. Honestly, I have yet to hear an album this century that knocked me out of my chair and said “instant classic” like any number of albums from the 90s, 80s, 70s and 60s. And that’s sad – quality has gone down, while quantity has exploded.

    While it would seem from the outset that the expanded means of promotion would make it easier for bands to get their music heard, in reality, it has just created a glut. You have to dig through a hundred shitty bands on Myspace (or even on Pitchfork, which acts as a sort of aesthetic filter) to find that one good one. There nothing wrong with saying “ugh, we have to swim through an ocean of shit to find a couple of rubies”. We’ve always had to do that, but today, the ocean of shit is just a whole lot bigger.

    And yes, it is easier than ever to make your own records – at the same time, we have actually lost many classic technologies in the name of modernization. As digital technologies have expanded and become more affordable, more people can make records but quality has cheapened. Digital recordings don’t have the same natural warmth as analog recordings, and you can’t even buy a new analog multitrack on the market these days.

    Some may compare it to the death of newspapers: while everyone can now have their own blog, in many ways, we’ve had a cheapening of fact-based reporting into tabloid journalism and opinion-based segmentation. Sure, the newspapers shouldn’t be overglamorized (like the old major label-payola dominated system) but you can’t deny that there is something more aesthetically substantial about them – perhaps just the effort taken and the basic standards of quality that now ranges all over the map from atrocious to pretty good. Politico is arguably the best political news site and even that is prone to stories about Michelle Obama’s arms and which representative was spotted hanging out with which celebrity. Likewise, music is less about creating works of art and maintaining basic standards of quality than it ever was, in my opinion.

    There are many reasons why the digital boom has created such aesthetic cheapening. I should be the first person to applaud the DIY-everywhere approach – under the old regime, this was incredibly refreshing and groundbreaking but now it has descended into a steaming pile of drivel. Not only this, but the few that make it to stardom down the road are still completely dependent upon as tightly-controlled an industry as ever. Some aspects are more decentralized and some are centralized worse than ever. Furthermore, there were always ways to find out about new underground music – from zines to college radio – and in many ways, those communities were stronger than they are today.

    I fear the concept of urban sprawl and McMansions has crossed over into every aspect of society – and thus we have a zillion ugly Myspace pages, thousands of shitty bands who don’t deserve a fraction of the publicity they are getting, and a bajillion bad Youtube butcherings of our favorite songs.

    I understand and agree with Reason’s political reasons for cheerleading technology and consumer choice, but come on – just because there’s more of it and it’s easier to access and create than ever is not automatically a good thing. The choice between a thousand toothpastes with varying flavors of fecal matter still sucks more than the choice between a handful of brands with a nice, minty flavor. If everyone built their own cars, guitars and operating systems from scratch and replaced Corvette, Fender and Microsoft, we would see a marked decline in overall craftsmanship. It would be a fun and cool novelty for a while, but at some point we realize that we’ve compromised more than we got back. It’s the same thing with music.

    Perhaps most people aren’t aesthetes – and perhaps I’m just a big snob – but one can support the right of millions of people to listen to Nickelback (shudder) while criticizing their horrid taste and exclaiming “man, I wish modern music didn’t suck so fucking badly. I wish there were something to slow this barrage of 95% vomit, 5% regurgitated ice cream.”

  18. By the way, if one needs any more evidence of aesthetic cheapening, the last Radiohead album sucked ass – and just because they gave it away for free did not make it suck any less from a musical perspective. Perhaps they aren’t trying as hard as when they needed to make a huge artistic statement with a mind-melting classic album?

    Sadly, that’s still one of the better albums of last year…

  19. Hobo, I agree with pretty much everything you said. My 9:36 didn’t make the major point I wanted to make.

    In the 60s 70s, the heyday of popular music in my opinion, all that musicians had was their gear, there ears and their passion. If they wanted to practice with others, they had to go to them. The collaborative efforts back then are astounding. With all this jamming, they developed chops. Serious improvisation played a part with a lot of players coming out of jazz bands in the 60s. You can’t learn that from noodling along with the Jonas bros or Miley (the next brittany style flame out)Cyrus.

    I read an interview a few years ago with a guitar player from a big name band I can’t remember talking about soloing. He said he went in the studio at home, wanked out a few shitty notes and then he “crafted it into a solo with pro-tools.”

    The technology is a godsend for serious players. That same technology has allowed an insatiable need that talentless fucksticks have for getting out “their music.”

    The question pertaining to the article is whether this allows the big labels to see more profit as it allows them to cherry pick from a veritable sea of marketable talent.

  20. Hobo, “OK Computer” is the only Radiohead I’ve listened to. I love it. Can you suggest others by them that I may like?

  21. brotherben,
    OK Computer is my favorite, although The Bends is a classic, too. Kid A is, in my opinion, the best album of the millenium so far, and I’d still put it far behind those two albums. I’m not even a huge Radiohead fan, so don’t even weigh that too heavily.

    There’s been a bunch of albums I “like” but hardly any at all that I love. Nine years in and no automatically classic albums is a very sad thing indeed. I could list at least 20 albums from each of the previous four decades worthy of that title…

  22. Hobo, thanks for the suggestions. As I get older and more jaded about new music, I find myself digging deeper into the old stuff. There is something alive about a group going into the studio with 4 tracks of analog and they had to all get it right at the same time. That’s where you really find the magic.

  23. Mellencamp is pretty much a dickless fuck and his songs bear that out.

    Too bad he got old and became a loser. He and Neil Young should have listened to Neil Young: it’s better to burn out than fade away.

  24. I’m still in the early half of my twenties and I’m already jaded about modern music and digging deep into the golden oldies, nostalgic for better days I hardly knew! Hahaha…I doubt it has anything to do with your age and everything to do with the mediocre to despicable quality of modern music.

  25. Whaaah.

    There is absolutely no way that the decentralization of the music industry is not a good thing. Those of you that need Dick Clark in a labcoat or Kurt Loder in a purple robe to come down from on high and tell you what good music is can just keep going to walmart and get the new releases.

    To anyone else get out and find some live local music, better yet pick up a bass and start a band. The demystification of the music industry is nothing but good.

    Rock globally, play locally.

    Stop this stupid thread.

  26. If you believe this shit you are worse than the guy who just fell off the turnip truck. No one makes money in music without the backing of a label, and that’s not going to change. But now the label is going to be able to make you do your own test-marketing. Some revolution.

  27. I’m still in the early half of my twenties and I’m already jaded about modern music and digging deep into the golden oldies, nostalgic for better days I hardly knew! Hahaha…I doubt it has anything to do with your age and everything to do with the mediocre to despicable quality of modern music.

    Maybe you just have shitty taste in music. Do you define the quality of music by the quality of the trad “rock” style music?

  28. I decide which new musical acts are good by seeing how they perform on American Idol.

  29. “Without a playlist narrow enough to ease me into liking a song, almost all songs are instantly forgettable and meaningless.”

    I couldn’t help it.

    Other than Hank 3.0, I haven’t heard anything newly issued which caused me to give a shit *in years*.

  30. Other than Hank 3.0, I haven’t heard anything newly issued which caused me to give a shit *in years*.

    Also a Hank III fan, though I’ve only listened Straight to Hell and a few songs from Rebel Proud though. “Country Heroes” is one of my favorite songs and it definitely speaks to me more than 99.9% of that new country BS.

  31. Let me get this straight: when SoundScan replaced phone or mail surveys, the tastes of hoi polloi in OKC displaced the biased reporting of hipster record store clerks in “selected stores?” You bet it did. I can remember a coworker of mine in the bookstore trade, who had been a record retailer, regaling me of how untruthful he and his cohorts would be when filling out the Billboard surveys, championing their favorite bands and downplaying the sales of the uncool. There was a similar bias to the old New York Times bestseller lists, and Nielsen introduced the same technology to bookselling as BookScan.

    New way: as much data as Nielsen can get its hands on, crunched honestly.

    Old way: depending on biased human beings to honestly report sales, with such reports coming from a selected sample of stores.

    I think the new way wins.

    As for BDS, I’ve got no clue if its fair or not. Declaring a song popular based, not on sales, but on radio play has always been a dicey enterprise, going back to the days of the payola scandals.

    Today I rarely listen to commercial broadcast radio for music. I hear New York’s WFUV broadcast signal or webstream often, along with Bridgeport’s WPKN and Danbury’s WXCI. That’s 2 college stations and one independent non-profit. I still listen to AM for baseball games, news and talk, and 94.3 WMJC from Smithtown has the New York Islanders. WEHM/WEHN from eastern Long Island is OK, if the wind is right. Most commercial pop and rock stations suck hard. Their playlists are tremendously rigid, and should they ever play anything you don’t recognize, they rarely, if ever, announce the title and artist. If I’m at all intrigued I have to check the station’s playlist on the web, if they keep one, or googol up the info based on what I can remember of the lyrics. WNTA. It could be they assume I’m listening in a car, with the song’s digital tag displaying title and artist on my receiver, but I listen on a 10-year-old Walkman without such capabilities, or on an anolog-tuning clock radio, so I must not be in the target demo.

    WXRK, 92.3 Mhz in NYC just gave up and switched to a CHR/Top40 “Now FM” format. They will continue to “rock” on their HD subchannel, but I haven’t bought an HD receiver yet, and would probably choose `FUV’s Alternate Side anyway.

    If you squint your ears hard, doesn’t Cougar sound like Mitch Miller bitching about The Plague of Rock n’ Roll? I can remember listening to pop/rock radio circa 1979, when one of the rock stations in Milwaukee played 1 hour a week of punk and new wave, on Sunday nights. Until WMSE powered up, I used to bitch about “crap like John Cougar” clogging up the airwaves.

    Kevin

  32. If you squint your ears hard, doesn’t Cougar sound like Mitch Miller bitching about The Plague of Rock n’ Roll?

    Why, yes. Yes, he does.

    I *never* listen to commercial radio anymore.

    I get XM channels from Directv which I listen to in the house/shop, and once I found an mp3 player which could play my .ogg files, I stopped listening in the car. Now, if the battery dies in my .ogg player, I just leave the damned thing off.

  33. Hobo,

    I’m a professional musician… and granted I may be in sort of a different category since I don’t primarily work in pop-music and I have a masters degree… but I haven’t listened to current pop radio virtually my entire life.

    My reasoning has always been that about 95% of the music that’s on the air when it first comes out is shit, but over time, whatever people are still talking about 5 years after the fact will be worth getting into.

    Not that I’m oblivious to current trends, but I don’t see how the internet has really changed that rule of thumb for me. On the other hand, there’s a ton of great jazz artists I’d have never heard of, a few classical players and generally some awesome bands.

    As a parable actually, I started perusing YouTube last night based on a Facebook post of this horrendous(ly funny) sing-ger. But after a while passing it and other links back and forth from some of my other musician friends, I eventually discovered this girl.

    Frankly, I see it all as a huge net gain – I got to laugh at the horrendous Miranda, then I got to discover a young Ukulele singer Julia Nunes (who’s been playing with Ben Folds some as it turns out) who is really good – and really fun. Any way you look at it it’s a win.

    ….and this is speaking as a trained film composer who finds himself regularly “competing” for gigs with people who learned how to use garage band yesterday and have all day to respond to ads on craigslist & mandy.

  34. Oh… also – more to Mellencamp/Lefsetz positions:

    I’m 100% with Lefsetz and really don’t get anyone who wants to be in music who agrees with Mellencamp. The reality of getting the “big record contract” for probably 99% of bands is nil.

    So the whole idea that you have to do the promotional work yourself… well guess what, you always did. The only way you’d be picked up by a major label is if you already have a big name.

    The myth of “being discovered” by a scout has been dead for ages. If it was ever really true.

  35. Raivo Pommer-estonia-www.google.ee

    raimo1@hot.ee

    Google

    Nach jahrelangem Wachstum streicht der erfolgsverw?hnte Internetkonzern Google in der Krise zunehmend Stellen. In den Bereichen Verkauf und Marketing sollen weltweit 200 Jobs wegfallen, k?ndigte Google in seinem Internetblog an. Das Unternehmen hat insgesamt 20 200 Mitarbeiter. Google habe in seiner raschen Expansion einige ?berkapazit?ten geschaffen, schrieb der unter anderem f?r den Vertrieb zust?ndige Vizepr?sident Omid Kordestani im Internet. Seit Anfang des Jahres hat der Konzern bereits 100 Stellen im Personalbereich gestrichen sowie einige weitere in kleineren eingestellten Gesch?ftsfeldern.

    Dennoch sieht das Unternehmen trotz der weltweiten Wirtschaftskrise gro?es Potenzial f?r ein weiteres Wachstum. “Es gibt keine fundamentale Kraft, die uns vom Wachsen abhalten k?nnte”, sagte Google-Mitgr?nder Larry Page dem Schweizer Wirtschaftsmagazin “Bilanz”. “Ich bin noch immer sehr optimistisch, was unsere Produkte und unsere Marktposition angeht.” Google habe heute mehr M?glichkeiten im Kerngesch?ft als je zuvor. Wie lange die Rezession auch noch dauern werde, “wir werden immer mit vollem Dampf vorw?rts fahren”, sagte Page. Derzeit arbeite Google an einer Technologie, die das Anzeigengesch?ft f?r TV-Werbung mit Werbeplatzierungen auf der Videoplattform YouTube verbinden solle, berichtet das “Wall Street J.”

  36. Little ditty about John and SoundScan
    John, self-annointed protector of the heartland
    Johnie used to a music star
    SoundScan came along and made him an old fart

    Writin half the songs that played on KFRC,
    SoundScan remaking the charts
    Redistributing the monies
    Johnie, say hey SoundScan your
    just a bad idea
    All you do is feed into
    vicious corporate greed.
    And SoundScan says

    Oh yeah music plays on
    Long after old farts like Mellencamp are gone
    Oh yeah music plays on
    Long after old farts like Mellencamp are gone

  37. # brotherben | March 27, 2009, 9:00pm | #

    # Mr. Merritt, I too worked as a radio DJ
    # in the early 80’s in a tiny market in
    # rural Idaho. I remember that they were
    # rotation nazis.

    By then, “rotation” had become a finely tuned machine. Even markets as small as Merced CA, where I worked at my first commercial gig in 1975, rotated their music according to sophisticated formulae. Stations that were too small to have their own rotation experts on staff would buy canned libraries of music and rotation systems from any of a number of consultants or “music services.”

    Although I was able to come up with my own music sequencing, I was never allowed to actually do so as a commercial DJ, because the stations I worked for already had their own, and had no qualms about firing those who violated the rotation rules. I was embarrassed to take compliments from listeners on the request lines; some people would, on occasion, call me to congratulate me on my music mix, when I knew I had little or nothing to do with it.

    When I wanted to sequence tunes my way, I would sign up for a live appearance gig, or a college radio show. Those were the venues where a DJ could still be a DJ, in an industry that was already fairly robotized by the early 1970s.

    I agree with Kevrob that John Mellencamp’s bitching in 2009 sounds very much like Mitch Miller’s in 1959.

    I also agree with Fluffy that the repetitive, “jukebox aspect” of music radio was important to establishing new(er) music in the public consciousness, and I acknowledge the central role that the record labels’ “starmaking machinery” and radio stations’ robotic music rotation schemes played in fulfilling the jukebox function.

    In my time in “the biz,” I also met an astounding number of high-living jerks and bastards, parasites who had all managed to gravitate to the radio or record companies, like flies to a pile of “Stars On” discs. So, although I’m not especially pleased that decentralization has finished the job of turning the broadcast radio spectrum and the traditional pop music industry into near-total crap, I must still confess getting quite the warm feeling from the knowledge that many of those jerks and bastards finally got kicked off of the gravy train. I can only hope that, however meager the return may be for some, today’s musical artists are now getting something closer to their full financial due.

  38. I remember when a little ditty about “Jack and Diane” was a big hit… I rather liked it. Mainly because I was 10 and I had very little taste in music (to my credit I was stuck pretty deep into stuff like “Wabash connonball” at the time.)

    But it’s 2000-and-fricking-9 now. All the little pink houses have been repossessed, and the only time I recall “Hurts so Good” these days is when my private Swedish masseuse gives me my weekly high colonic. John Mellencamp should really just shut up.

    Yeah, the internet has cdestoryed the music business.. so what? If all it had to offer was little ditties about J Sub D, well…

  39. But- the labels _do_ still suck, and the internet makes it easier for them to do so. I don’t really want to get into a long bitter discussion of my own fucked up record deal (signed at a time when John Cougar was probably still playing moderate-sized gigs), but… the record companies do suck. And I’m guessing it is still hard to make much money withiout them.

  40. Or with them, for that matter ;).

  41. It’s the simple man who pays the bills, the bills that kill.

  42. I think the problem is more that you can’t be a millionare superstar by being a musician anymore. It’s back to the days of starving artists, when you earned your living on the road, playing live in bars and pubs.

  43. Not only won’t there be no more Beatles, there will be no more Mozarts.

    No there will still be Mozarts, and they’ll still have to wait until they are dead to be “discovered”.

  44. Yeah, I hear you Hazel, and I can buy into that sort of Romanticism easily enough… I never made a lot of money as a musician, but I sure did bang some hot women, and at the end of the day that’s really what it’s all about, isn’t it? So I like me some gigs.

    The problem is that the paying gig is also going out of fashion these days. I mean- I believe that markets do, in the end, reveal preferences. I’m just kind of sad about the preferences they reveal, every so once in a while…

  45. Sean, thanks for that Julia Nunes link. Great stuff. The ‘End of the World As We Know It’ cracked me up.

  46. No problem JB.

    That’s all really how I feel about the changes – the good people aren’t really struggling any more than they ever have been. I make a reasonably good living in Los Angeles in music, and I’m only going to do better over time. I didn’t go into the music business expecting to be a rock-star or get famous though… that’s never been my goal and as such, I think I can fairly say that I make an ok living and produce high quality music which gets heard by a lot of people (though I’m mostly uncredited).

    Anyway, that’s not really the point… the point, for me anyway, is that you *ALWAYS* had to rise above all the crappy bands and bad musicians out there, it’s just more widely viewed now.

  47. One of my favorite punk band names of all time is “Jon Cougar Concentration Camp.” Unfortunately I didn’t think much of them as a band, but it’s a great name.

  48. Oh – and Hazel – you *CAN* still get a million dollar record deal as well. That’s just not the *only* thing you can do.

    And Mozart was widely appreciated in his own time, so he’s maybe not the best example 😛

  49. Sean W. Malone,

    Wasn’t Mo Zart murdered by an ex cop named Practice?

  50. “Are the Jonas Brothers/Hannah Montana/American Idol stuff any different than 1910 Fruitgum Company/Monkees”

    grrrrrr!

    eek eek eek

    grrrrrr!!!!!?!?!?!!!!

  51. VEEP’S DAUGHTER IS A DUMB SKANKY COKE WHORE

    A friend of the daughter of Vice President Joseph Biden is attempting to hawk a videotape that he claims shows Ashley Biden snorting cocaine at a house party this month in Delaware.

    An anonymous male “friend” of Biden took the video, said Thomas Dunlap, a lawyer representing the seller. Dunlap and another man claiming to be a lawyer showed The Post about 90 seconds of 43-minute tape, saying it was legally obtained and that Biden was aware she was being filmed. The Post refused to pay for the video.

    The video shows a 20-something woman with light skin and long brown hair taking a red straw from her mouth and bending over a desk, inserting the straw into her nostril and snorting from lines of white powder.

    She then stands up and begins talking with other people in the room. A young man looks on from behind her, facing the camera. The lawyers said he was Biden’s boyfriend of some years.

    The camera follows the woman from a few feet away, focusing on her as she moves around the room. It appears not to be concealed. At one point she shouts, “Shut the f— up!”

    The woman appears to resemble the 27-year-old Biden, a social worker who was a visible presence during her father’s campaign for the White House.

    The dialogue is difficult to discern, but the woman makes repeated references to the drugs, said the lawyers, who said they viewed the tape about 15 times.

    “At one point she pretty much complains that the line isn’t big enough,” said the second lawyer, who declined to identify himself. “And she talks about her dad.”

    Vice President Biden has been an outspoken crusader against drugs, coining the term “Drug Czar” while campaigning for a more forceful “war on drugs” in 1982.

    The lawyers declined to name the person who shot the video, but said he knew Ashley Biden well and had attended other parties with her at which there were illegal drugs. The lawyers said the shooter used a camera with a hard-drive that he later destroyed, drilling into the device and tossing it into a lake.

    The woman in the video acknowledges the camera in a way that makes it clear she knows she’s being taped, the lawyers said, waving at it during a part of the video not shown to The Post.

    No one else in the video is seen using the drugs. The portion of the tape shown to The Post ends shortly after the woman’s alleged ingestion.

    The shooter claims that he previously tape-recorded Biden at a party in August but was unsuccessful in his attempts to sell that video, they said.

    A US media company offered $250,000 for the footage and access to the person who shot the tape, according to the lawyers. Another company, based overseas, offered $225,000, they said. The video shooter was hoping to get $2 million for the footage, then lowered his expectation to $400,000, they said.

    The unnamed lawyer hinted that his client had additional information that could embarrass the vice president’s daughter.

    “The higher the price, the more he’ll reveal,” said the lawyer.

    The lawyers said the video shooter was afraid of being identified and prosecuted for his role in the alleged drug use. “He’s got a criminal defense attorney,” said Dunlap.

    The other lawyer said Biden didn’t have secret service protection at the time of the party because she complained about agents blocking her driveway.

    “She complained to her dad about it and he got rid of them,” he said.

  52. Anyhoo…

    In Bloomington, he was referred to as John Cutter Menstrualcramp.

    And I hope that’s the last word on the subject.

  53. I disagree. I’m hardcore music fan, and I came of age in the 90’s. I thought that music in the 90’s was completely dull, with the exception of a few favorites. Why? Well, there were few other ways to be exposed to music than through tightly controlled, corporate advertising.

    As someone already stated, the ability to record and produce your own music at home is nothing but a good thing. The hustle is back. Dick Dale advocated this route long before the digital age. Of course, large advances aren’t a part of that formula, and clearly many artists just want to be famous, and wealthy.

    There are so many more choices when it comes to music these days. Grunge dominated most of the 90’s, and that pretty much led to the modern rock sound that took over for the rest of the decade.

    Also, who the hell was going on about jazz improvisation, and it s relation to the decline of music? You need an education. Talk about a square. Pop music has had little to do with virtuosity throughout its reign. Obsession with virtuosity is generally for people who lack imagination, and well, for people who miss the point of popular music entirely.

    I have listened to more music since obtaining a broadband connection, than ever before, and that has been a truly rewarding advancement. It’s sad to see people shifting into old fart mode. It’s yet another reason why I feel that adulthood is terminal.

    Every generation complains about the state music, and it’s sad to watch it happen to people you know. Your respect for them diminishes a bit.

    Overall, the negative attitude toward modern music is likely derived from someone being overwhelmed with new choices, and the idea that they might have to reconsider their established tastes.

    In other words: Your standard aversion to change.

  54. Also, of course, it’s always the session musicians who seemed bitter about the fact that anyone can make music, and publish it. Apparently, they actually believed that you had to be taught how to play, in order to actually play. Above all, one person’s crappy musician is another person’s favorite artist.

    Also “high quality music” usually means over produced crap. Tastes vary. Just because your tastes are not being delivered to your doorstep does not mean that there is some crisis in music.

    With the Internet, there’s no reason to lament the state of music.

  55. I see a lot of rappers living The Life, but you wonder how much of that is done on borrowed money from their label. Million dollar record deals still happen but these “deals” aren’t performance fees like a book deal advance; the million bucks goes to cover production, distribution, video and marketing. And if the artist doesnt earn it back, they become indentured servants until they do. ANYWAY, I think the future lies in internet radio that focuses on particular cities. Indie 103 in Los Angeles went from traditional radio to internet, and does a great job of promoting good local bands. Hope they can stay alive…

  56. The really bad news for Mellencamp is that Van Morrison and John Fogarty do this bit much, much better.

  57. Mellencamp doesn’t give a damn whether he was right or not, he just wanted another chance to write more loony nonsense about Ronald Reagan.

  58. When I Was A Kid:
    I also like a little hardcore punk, and it used to be refreshing the fact that some bands said f— you to the music machine and made everything themselves – starting a label, a zine, self-promotion via a community of fans, putting out their own record. You need a machine in order to rebel against it – but now everyone is part of the same machine: Myspace, iTunes, etc. The most rebellious thing you can do these days is forsake the internet for promotion altogether. Of course, some would say that’s career suicide, so now we’re all subject to group-think.

    The fact is that underground music used to be good, in large part because it was a reaction to the tight controls of the music industry and was focused on creating an artistic statement without worrying about the distractions of massive commercial success or catering to a crowd with pre-existing expectations of what “indie” is supposed to sound like. Now that the line between underground and mainstream has been breached, indie is just another marketing trend and has become gentrified, uninspiring and conformist.

    I guarantee you every person making music today, myself included, is thinking about how we should cater to the trend-riding Internet tastemaker lords. I feel like the indie mentality used to be either “the only way Rolling Stone will ever notice me is if I knock the shit out of them with a left-field classic” or “I don’t give a fuck what Rolling Stone thinks, I’m going to do my own thing regardless of commercial success.” So indie bands were either forced to make really great albums in pursuit of success or they were kissing off the notion of success entirely and doing their own thing. Now everyone holds delusions of grandeur that they could write a song tonight and be famous tomorrow if they stroke the right people the right way. 99% percent of this stroking is about sounding like some other trendy band that the reviewer likes and crafting a song with all the right indie signifiers. So we have tons of 5-minute flashes in the pan, and hardly anyone working to create a timeless work of art.

    Also, without the investments of major labels (or even the bigger indies), we wouldn’t have had many of the classic albums they have produced. Not that they’ve produced any since “OK Computer” or “Odelay”, and thus in many ways they are deserving of their current fate…

    Again, I repeat my analogy about the guitars when we talk about the decentralized means of production. If everyone in the world had the time and materials to build their own electric guitar, 75% of the guitars would be completely non-functional (as most people don’t know what the hell they’re doing) and 24% would work but still be inferior to the companies that have been making guitars for 50, 60 years now and have the investment in the best parts and resources. 1% might actually make a guitar as good or better than these companies. But if everyone is making their own guitars, the guitar companies could go out of business or be forced to drive down quality to compete with the glut – thus we have a ton of shitty or non-functional guitars and no Fender anymore. Oh, it’s a cool novelty that everyone built their own, but if they suck as guitars, I’d still rather have a classic Fender Telecaster any day.

    Indie rock used to be like custom shops, producing specialized, high quality guitars – but now everyone is their own custom shop, and most of them don’t even know what the fuck they are doing and never should have been making guitars in the first place.

    The internet is certainly been a good thing when it comes to finding the music of the past that was worthwhile. I have been able to find bands I never would have found before. I can’t say the same thing for modern music – the commercialization of indie rock via the internet has diminished the genre and the mainstream has only gotten worse as the major labels have utilized the internet to force-feed their shitty pre-packaged turds to people moreso than ever before, in addition to continuing control of traditional radio and video formats that 90% of people still rely on to determine their tastes.

  59. On another note, I feel the same way about personal communication: the fact that we now have more access to each other than ever before, but the itching feeling that I actually keep in touch with old friends worse than I would have otherwise – knowing that they are my friend on Facebook and I can read their wall to catch up with whatever has been going on with them lately really dissuades me from feeling any need to call them up and talk for a few hours. Does technological progress make us more shallow?

    I guess that despite my deep core political belief in free market capitalism and technological progress, I am at heart an anti-consumerist and Luddite. Haha…

  60. dbcooper:
    Not at all, I love tons of genres from free jazz to 70s proto-electronica to gagaku (Japanese classical music) to Minor Threat, De La Soul and late-era Talk Talk. I’m very openminded about music and genres, but nobody is doing anything unique or groundbreaking anymore as they chase cheap internet stardom.

  61. I was the one that mentioned jazz. What I was saying was that the jazz players that came over to Rock and R&B had a positive effect on music as it was evolving in the 60s.

  62. The sound of flatulence > John Mellencamp > fingernails on a chalkboard > Jonas Brothers > Pussycat Dolls, Rihanna and most of the idiotic modern rap music > sticking your head inside a jet engine > the sound of your balls getting cut off with rusty scissors > Nickelback

  63. the last Radiohead album sucked ass

    I respectfully disagree. Maybe not their best work, but “All I Need” is one of my favorite Radiohead songs ever.

    As far as good music these days, I rely on friends, Wikipedia and iTunes to help me out.

    I agree, Top 40 is truly awful and the popularity of Nickelback is distressing. It can’t just be me, but do they sound like a third-rate blues-grunge knock-off?

  64. The last (overground) hip-hop album I really enjoyed was Lupe Fiasco’s “The Cool”. Not quite classic, but still quite good…interestingly it repeatedly sends up hip-hop convention while still being original and “serious”.

    Also, The Roots’ “Rising Down” had some good songs and I look forward to Big Boi’s solo album. Aesop Rock, Atmosphere, Busdriver and Murs are definitely worth a listen, too.

    “Rock” isn’t doing much better, but I’ve enjoyed The Damned, The Dears, The Arcade Fire and some other artists quite a bit lately.

    And the old stuff. The synth-pop and the prog, of course.

  65. no, no, the real problem is that being a musician is way too cool.
    If it went back to being a despised lower-class profession, like it was in the time of Shakespeare, than all the stupid poser teens would just play Rock Band instead of trying to make one, and only people with actual talent would even bother attempting to perform for money.

    Therefore, I declare a moritorum on hot chicks banging musicians. Nobody would then be encouraged to pick up a guitar in the hopes of getting laid. Which would solve a lot of problems.

  66. I partially agree Hazel, with the caveat that we make one little change.

    There should be a moratorium on hot chicks banging musicians guitarists.

    And also… there should be more hot chicks banging composers & vibraphonists… c’mon!

  67. I never understood this from my peers. Some of my most down to earth, non-wild (as opposed to Conservative, well them too) acquaintences turn into sex crazed, um, you know, around guys/people in bands.

    Maybe I am the wierd one?

    Guys, if you are interested in numbers (with someone besides me) just tell every woman you meet in a bar that you are in a band. Make up a good name for the band too.

  68. Maybe I am the wierd one?

    That’s the typically the case with us libertarians.

  69. That’s the typically the case with us libertarians.

    LOL, thank you, but I am not sure that I am there yet. The more I read the closer I get, I think.

  70. For those who want a way to discover new music, the music blog is replacing the radio station. Search for your favorite artist with the tag “blog” and you’ll find someone with similar taste to you talking about the music they like…usually with a way to listen.

    For artists, this system is much easier to break into.

    I have been making music for a long time. There is more good music, more readily available now than at any point I can remember.

    Most of the “back in the day” stories do more to tell us about the writer (now old) and their nostalgia for youth than they do to educate us about the changes in the industry.

  71. With all the talk about “choice” it’s interesting to note the proposed merger between Ticketmaster and Live Event. Combining these two companies gives them a near stranglehold on the live music (selling tickets and booking venues) end of the business. Since musicians have to rely more on live gigs to earn a living (downloading has screwed them at the other end)this is definetly bad news. Music has always been a tough business, but if even fewer musicians can earn a bare-bones living at it, don’t expect it stay healthy forever.

  72. As a punk kid in the 80’s I saw Mellencamp as the worst sell-out corporate crap. Now he considers himself some hero of the underground? The options today for underground music is unbelievable. I’ve been listening to indie music since listening to college radio punk shows in the 70’s and I’ve seen the potential success and influence of the music I like grow over the past few decades. Now I learn about and purchase indie music from all over the world using myspace and lastfm, and even become friends with indie musicians on the other side of the world. But of course Mellencamp from his clueless perspective wouldn’t know anything about this any more than he represented “real” music in 80’s.

  73. Most of the “back in the day” stories do more to tell us about the writer (now old) and their nostalgia for youth than they do to educate us about the changes in the industry.

    a.) I’m not at all old and I don’t even remember the pre-Internet music age.

    b.) The core point I’m trying to make is that when success was hard to come by, bands had to actually try harder (artistically) to get noticed. Hardly anyone is trying anymore, and it shows in the decreased quality of output. The internet, while it might have killed rock stardom, also killed the soul of indie.

  74. One thing that I don’t think anyone has mentioned yet is just how much easier it is to market/distribute back catalogs in the Internet age–not just in terms of digital downloads, but also in terms of, say, folks posting old music videos on YouTube. Therefore, you could argue that today’s artists really have to compete not just against their contemporaries, but also, more and more, against similar acts who may not be active anymore.

    Also, even though I haven’t actually bought music for quite some time, I do concur with the use of MySpace, PureVolume, and Wikipedia to dig up both truly new music and music that I may have missed over the past several years. (I’m in my late 30s and haven’t followed music very closely for roughly the past decade.)

  75. “The core point I’m trying to make is that when success was hard to come by, bands had to actually try harder (artistically) to get noticed.”

    Speaking as someone deeply involved in the music industry as a professional in Los Angeles, I think the fundamental flaw of your point (which does smack of crotchety old man) is the idea that success is any easier to come-by now than it ever was… Frankly, being barely old enough to remember the pre-internet days and certainly being old enough to have had dozens of mentors who were – I think that if anything, it’s even harder now to get noticed than it used to be in the music.

    The *difference* between then and now was that then the best means of success was nepotistic connections and sucking up to the mob. Now you can actually obtain success through hard work in ways that were never possible before.

    …Or do I need to start talking about the Newman family?

  76. Hobo Chang Ba,

    I was aiming my comment at Mellencamp, but I disagree strongly with your claim about the quality of music in recent years.

  77. Hobo,

    To elaborate a bit.

    Music is no different than anything else. Increased competition (read more bands putting out more music) makes it HARDER now to get noticed by the masses.

    So the idea that the current situation decreases the motivation to put out quality music just seems to fly in the face of reality to me.

    Of course, it is now easier for musicians who are not interested in mass appeal to find a small targeted market. It seems those making the music targeted at your taste have failed to find you.

  78. I didn’t overtly mention it before (and it shouldn’t really be surprising), but don’t forget that there are a ton of genre-specific sites out there–such as SmartPunk, PowerPop Overdose, Jesus Freak Hideout, and rockero.com. (Those are just most of the ones that I can think of off the top of my head, even if I don’t necessarily visit them all the time.)

  79. I’m also confused by the term Hobo used:

    “Internet taste makers”… as if the internet, the most open market that has ever existed somehow works as a top-down, controlled critic-run strainer.

    People in my experience are performing and recording more of the music *they* want to do and maybe actually being able to get it heard by a wide audience… if not actually making a real living at it.

  80. Since musicians have to rely more on live gigs to earn a living (downloading has screwed them at the other end)this is definetly bad news.

    No, downloading has screw labels, but not the underground bands. One used to need a major record label to distribute music, but now with downloading, all you need is a tax ID and access to the internet…

  81. Mellencamp is full of it. This just sounds to me like another old man whining about how things aren’t as cool today as when I was kid kind of crap.

    There is a lot of interesting music out there now. You just have to look in the right places. I’ve been going to local undeground hardcore punk shows lately. Some of those kids are really talented & sound a hell of a lot better than anything you would hear on MTV or the radio.

  82. I’m also confused by the term Hobo used:

    “Internet taste makers”… as if the internet, the most open market that has ever existed somehow works as a top-down, controlled critic-run strainer.

    I’m not sure, but since he did single out Pitchfork Media earlier in the thread, he may have used that term specifically to refer to them again–which, actually, I’m not disagreeing with. In other words, the issue may not be with “the Internet”, but instead with at least one particular outlet–like earlier generations may have had with, say, Rolling Stone, Spin, or CMJ.

  83. “Internet tastemakers?” Huh? If Big Music could manipulate the internet the way they once did radio, they wouldn’t be gasping for air right now.

  84. Whatever….who’s got some blow?

  85. Isn’t this just a textbook case of an established Oligopoly trying to raise barriers to entry? In the days where you had to be on a record label, only a few made it, but those who did lived large. Of course the flip side to that was that those who weren’t good enough/lucky enough/in the right place at the right time/knew someone who knew someone didn’t get to be musicians. Johnny Cougar has his, so now the door should be closed. Riches for me but not for thee.
    It’s a shame that they just let anyone sing songs these days; as opposed to just the great artistes like him. I blame Reagan. Maybe Obama can establish a Music Commission that decides what music the people NEED, and then it can be paid for exclusively from tax money, which will make it pure somehow. To quote Rand, “The aristocracy of money shall be replaced with the aristocracy of pull”.

  86. And if he’s bitching about his own hard times, then fuck him. The guy has all of the advantages he can possibly have: Big-time name recognition, a 25 year string of records, an established fanbase, classic rock stations that play his music to death, and media outlets that let him get on his soapbox with a frequency way out of proportion to his level of fame. If he can’t make enough money, cry me a river.

  87. One of the Daves,

    I think you nailed it.

  88. Who’s John Mellencamp?

  89. Sorry if I’m not making my case very well. Let me try again:

    1.) The fact that we have the internet does not change the fact that we still have a lot of gatekeepers who still control access to the vast majority of audiences. The major labels may be hurting due to digital downloads, but at the same time they still have more or less a monopoly over radio and MTV and are still automatically granted access to almost every publication, either print or on the internet. While the internet has wounded the major labels financially, I don’t think it has actually diminished their monopoly power significantly. In many ways it has strengthened it. Ringtones and blanket internet promotions have just been new ways to market their shitty products. Now gentrified, crappy indie rock is in every commercial and played in every clothing store. Is this a good thing? For the bands commercially maybe, but for the state of underground art…?

    2.) There has always been ways to access underground music – from college radio to zines to building loyalty to a great independent label. These means have been around for a long time – if you were into indie music, you always had ways to find out about it.

    3.) Much of the boom of indie music of the past 5 or so years has been the fact that the major labels saw what started out as very promising trends back around the late 90s and the turn of the century, via indie promotion on the internet. Suddenly, indie rock became a marketable product with a rapidly-growing niche audience, and the major labels wanted in on that action, adding a new level of sheen and slick studio bombast on top of increasingly cliche indie signifiers. Instead of rebelling against this gentrification, most of the indie labels jumped on the bandwagon, now realizing that they, too, can get rich if their artists impress Pitchfork or some other trendy blog. In the end, we’ve just created a glut of clone bands that all sound more or less the same – trendy music for hipsters as opposed to timeless works of art. At best, the modern bands are either imitating some awesome influence from the past well – or they are some great artist from the past still trying to mimic their glory days – Beck, I’m looking at you… At worst, they are regurgitations of tired cliches seeking a few seconds in the internet indie spotlight, as commercial-success-chasing as the rock stars they are supposed to be a reaction against.

    4.) Whatever your political, economic or technological views, it is more than easy to see how success can often have huge negative effects on art. When artists compromise their sound simply to reach a bigger audience, it used to be called, negatively, “selling out.” Today, unless you sell out, you are largely seen as unworthy of the attention of either the mainstream or the indie tastemakers.

    5.) I don’t really want to take this thread (any more than I already have) down the road of debates of taste. Nobody wins that argument because it is a matter of opinion. Admittedly, I don’t give many modern bands a chance. I try a few times a year to catch up, and am almost always disappointed. As much as I usually don’t like the things I hear Pitchfork and others declare the best albums of the year, I also don’t really care to dig through the zillions of shitty Myspace bands to find the band I’ve been looking for either. The glut is a huge problem for me, and I usually tune out when bands try to get my attention because the fact that they are promoting themselves does not mean they are any good. Accumulating Myspace friends is easy – being worth remembering 15 years after the fact is not. Maybe 15 years later, after the hype over the current bands in the sun has washed away, some awesome long-lost bands will funnel to the top and I will regret that I missed them in the wash of shit from whence they came.

  90. Dude… are you kidding?

    “I don’t think it has actually diminished their monopoly power significantly.”

    and…

    “Today, unless you sell out, you are largely seen as unworthy of the attention of either the mainstream or the indie tastemakers.”

    Man, I think it’s possible you simply aren’t using the internet properly. It’s also possible that your consideration of the “music industry” is narrowly focused to only those looking to break into the national scene in the genre you define as “indie rock”.

    You’re missing the forest for the blades of grass at the root of the trees my friend.

    MySpace has been a wasteland for 5 years. I haven’t updated my own myspace page in at least 3… And I’ve not suffered a whit for it. Who gives a shit about MySpace anymore? If you do, you’re behind the times dude!

    At any rate, I haven’t encountered all that many people I’ve ever felt were “selling out”. Perhaps this is because I have a graduate degree in music composition from a fancy ivy league school and half of my composer friends are in Film & Pop music and the other half are doing esoteric tributes to Karlheinz Stockhausen – very few, possibly none, of them seem to be doing what they’re doing for any other reason than it’s what they want to do. If selling out is trying to create art with an audience’s appreciation as a central concern – and wanting to make a living out of it (as opposed to working at McDonald’s and toiling away with your free-jam reggae rock collective on weekends), then I’m the biggest sell-out there is.

    But here’s the mystery… I like what I do, and I thought the point of selling out was that you were doing things you *didn’t* want to do for money? 😛

    Anyway – here’s some suggestions on better internet usage:

    Pandora
    YouTube
    Hulu!

    Oh, and quit reading Rolling Stone, quit watching MTV, and immediately feel better about the state of music in the world.

  91. SWM,

    Here, here.
    I agree completely.

    Another good source…aggregation sites like

    http://www.jamendo.com/en/

  92. I love this quote:

    Sound quality was supposed to be one of the big selling points for CDs but, as we know, it wasn’t very good at all.

    I suppose if you light the sound of cassette tapes that have been in the sun too long and listen to music that is so loud you can never hear the HISSSSSSS anyway …he might have a point. Actually, no, he doesn’t. I used to think this guy was intelligent.

  93. Mellencamp doesn’t even have the old days right.

    Charts weren’t compiled from record store SALES much, they were compiled mostly from record store PURCHASES. It was generally distributors and one-stops that were polled for sales, with a few very large retailers thrown in. And these were generally a couple weeks behind.

    Labels manipulated this to extremes. The cut-out bins of the early 80’s sometimes comprised 30% of some independent shops – the wiser buyers at some stores knew how to get first in line for cut-out inventory and got pretty decent product that way. The first couple Stevie Ray Vaughan albums I bought as cutouts because Epic Records promoted him heavily but it took a few years before he got sustained rock radio airplay so his actual end-consumer sales lagged behind the label’s retail push.

    You’d see Tower with hundreds of copies of a new release, two months later most of them are gone – returned to the label who then drilled holes in the corners and sold them to liquidators, a couple months later the indie shops would have all those same copies still sealed with the cut-out holes. Prior to American Fool, you could find Mellencamp’s albums in the cut out bins rather easily.

  94. Can someone reimburse me for the time i spent reading this thread???

    At least I learned what a “cutout” was. Those damn things are half my CD collection, purchased usually for less than 5 bucks and decided upon by the time-tested honor of judging cover art!

    One last thing: XM/Sirius is a price worth paying if you can get strong reception, because the programming makes good on “the spirit of the radio”.

  95. Good to see that the young’uns like Ed are getting an edumacation.

    The SAT ought to have had

    Cutout is to record as
    Remainder is to ______

    a.) Dress Shirt
    b.) Pastry
    c.) Book
    d.) Theatre Ticket

    The answer, is, of course, c.

    You better shut up or get cut out/They don’t wanna hear about it/It’s only inches on the reel-to-reel, as Declan used to say.

    Thirty years on, and the radio is still in the hands of such a lot of fools, tryin’ to anesthetize the way that we feel.

    Kevin

  96. Boy, there’s so much to wade through here, from Mellencamp’s post to those of Bob and Brian. As an indie artist I’ll be posting myself on the subject(s) for some time.

    Briefly, I get the points made here about both Mellencamp and the biz, yet some overreach. And Mellencamp’s rangy account actually claims some reasonable ground along the way. For one, artists used to spend more time on their art and less on marketing.

    I know I’ll be weighing in on all this for the rest of the year.

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