John Mellencamp rants about the music biz. I rant about John Cougar's rant (that's right, John COUGAR).
In a recent Huffington Post articel titled "On My Mind: The State of the Music Business," John Cougar Mellencamp proves one thing: nothing.
Before I go on, let me say that I like a lot of JCM's music. In fact, one of his songs, Paper and Fire, is one of my all-time favorites. But just because you can write compelling music doesn't mean you can write about music compellingly.
I'm just going to go through his main points, as I see them, and describe why I disagree.
1. “Had the industry not been decimated by a lack of vision caused by corporate bean counters obsessed with the bottom line, musicians would have been able to stick with creating music rather than trying to market it as well.”
This from the man who first changed his name to Cougar then back to Mellencamp, both for marketing reasons! Anyway, for JCM to suggest that musicians shouldn’t have to concern themselves with marketing is ludicrous. No major musical force I can think of didn’t concern itself with image. Not one. And the reason is clear: image and music go hand in hand in rock.
2, “During the late 80s and early 90s the industry underwent a transformation and restructured, catalyzed by three distinct factors” [consolidation, SoundScan and BDS].
Consolidation: hate to break it to you John, but it’s called the music business because it’s a business and businesses consolidate – always have, always will.
SoundScan: Dude! Before SoundScan, sales were counted as units shipped, not sold, so record companies shipped a shitload of the albums they wanted to promote, and Billboard dutifully posted these “hits” at the top of sales charts. SoundScan is way more fair!
Broadcast Data Systems (BDS): JCM may be right about this one, in saying how it has led to the nation’s musical tastes being driven by big population centers instead of small towns. But what about Clear Channel? Why does he not lambaste them? Afraid to bite the hand that feeds, maybe?
3. “Record companies soon discovered that because of BDS, they only needed to concentrate on about 12 radio stations; there was no longer a business rationale for working secondary markets that were soon forgotten -- despite the fact that these were the very places where rock and roll was born and thrived.”
JCM could be right here, but I’m not ready to concede that the future of rock is going to come from small towns. I think cities are the true cultural catalysts of our time – maybe of all time.
4. Country music is where it’s at!
I just don’t know what to say. Country? Talk about packaged and corporate.
5. “The CD, it should be noted, was born out of greed.”
JCM is officially a Luddite. The CD was a new media storage format, nothing more, and it’s already dying. I mean, to suggest that the CD was foisted on us all by greedy record companies to force us to re-buy all our music is just moronic. Sure, that was part of the plan, but not The Plan.
6. “…the way [music] is presented to [people] ignores their humanity.”
Really, JCM? You’re telling me that the old days of unapproachable rock gods was more human than today’s Internet fueled frenzy of interactivity? Gimme a break.
7. “So let's try to put our best foot forward and remember that anyone can stand in the back of a dark hall and yell obscenities but if you want a better world it starts with you and the things you say and do.”
JCM, go back and read that again, it doesn't make any sense.