By Ginger | July 23, 2004
Having just got back from America, I have to admit that I have managed to somehow rub the brilliant sheen of the experience almost completely away.
Reality, and London, have stripped me of all the joy and hope I had for this upsetting little system of power games that we call a ‘business’.
I will not refer to it as the ‘music business’ any more, as the beauty and life enhancing properties of music are the last thing that motivates those bereft of taste, especially those in the position to dictate it.
Before I toured America I imagined that it’s heritage would lift it above the UK in my estimations, and true talent and conviction would conquer all in the land of opportunity.
What utter balls.
They’re as shit fed as we are.
The business over there starves its youth of dreams just as effectively as ours. It forbids ‘the unique’ the luxury to dream of being publicly accepted – special, even. Rewarded for years for being the oddball in school, and a social outcast on leaving.
Where music has been the best friend to the lonely in an unjust, uncaring and unforgiving World, music could be the one thing that may, more than likely, serve as a curse in later life. Musicians may be forced to change their personal style, or be cast into the flotilla of unappreciated talent. But unappreciated by who exactly?
Music is made up of two teams.
Those that will bend, emulate and adapt to whatever is going on around them: Let’s call them ‘Moths’.
And those with a born talent and a reason to live and spread life through music: Let’s call them ‘Rats’.
Now, the Moths are the ones you see on TV. They clog up the radio with song after song after identical song. Strange, yet perfectly fitting with the A&R department, whom we will call the ‘Ticks’, and their current idea of what represents ‘now’.
Whatever the guise of ‘now’ appears to be, at any given time.
The Rats, on the other hand, are the bands and players that people talk about with respect. Those maverick types held in high esteem by people that may later take the torch and carry it to the next Rat, bound yet bonded by talent.
The Ticks are the chess players. The string pullers. The makers of the success stories, and the sworn enemy of the Rat.
The Ticks live on the host known as the ‘Managing Director’, for whom there is no animal or insect worth insulting enough to share its name with.
Without the Ticks there is no business as we know it.
And herein lies the problem.
The Ticks have redesigned the shape of adoration with a loveless generation in mind. Knowing how easily guided this new generation are, the Ticks flood the market with sub standard fodder than can be duplicated with ease. Restricting the Rats from causing unnecessary creative unrest within the game, while moulding the Moths into whatever is needed to obtain the annual business earnings expected of Tick – thus keeping the ‘business’ afloat, year by year. The essential sum is met, and the Ticks survive another annum. The Moths are presumably dropped from their lofty position, only to redesign themselves for future use. And the Rats?
Well, the Rats actually come off better than the Moths and the Ticks.
Okay, so the Rats are forced to scrape a living out of tiny pieces of fortune, awarded them by virtue of their specialist trade. A trade so increasingly rare, that every year it looks more and more in danger of extinction. Fortunately extinction can never happen, as the people who appreciate the Rat’s stimulus can get satisfaction from nowhere else. The Rats have a job for life. It doesn’t pay as well as the Ticks and the Moths, initially, but it is by far the safest position to be in. The business will never kill the Rats, it will just make them more resilient to setbacks, and more determined to survive.
The poor Moths, however, are lost in a strange sea just as soon as the umbilical cord of the ‘business’ deems them unfit for employment, and superfluous to requirements.
The Ticks sit back and gloat, blissfully unaware that they are, in fact, in the most dangerous position of survival of all involved.
For, in years to come, the annual budget will no longer suffice when faced with a more demanding and less patient market, and more revenue is needed. This must come in the form of ‘back catalogue’.
It is at this point where the seemingly indestructible Ticks will panic, as the Moths have left them no back catalogue in which to exploit. They didn’t really get much chance as they were discarded after their first/second album (subject to TV appearance and cheekbones/haircuts). Just as well really, as the Moths didn’t have any more songs in them, having covered every inch of their emotional spectrum in their material to date.
Leaving the Rats as the Ticks only possible best friend.
And then justice is served cold and well past its sell-by date.
This is the day that I pray will not be ruined by greed, desperation and the underlying need to be ‘accepted’.
The Rats will own the world. Potentially.
But will the lure of fame prove too much to resist? After all, there are years of standing on the sidelines, watching the game progress, to take into consideration.
Is it a human trait, buried deep within us all, to turn away from the mine as soon as the gold turns into sterling?
Is the promise of success within the business the most addictive drug known to the musician?
Or will ‘Indie-Man’ arrive, just in the nick of time, and save the world from a fate worse than MTV?
Well, he’d better get his fucking skates on (or rocket powered boots, for better effect), and pronto, as the day is surely coming. And if Indie Man isn’t checking out the richest businessmen that he can possibly come into contact with, and using the might of Universal and Clear Channel as a catalyst – and nothing more – to a brighter, more controllable future (one that favours the artist and the listener), then he may just be a little late arriving at the party of the Century.
If Indie Man does not save the day, then the Rats may be forced to peddle their supreme trade to an unloving audience who feel robbed of the cheekbones/haircuts that they demand as an essential part of the overall package.
Will the Rats be forced to water down their trade, as the majority of their new public will not understand the difference between good art and a bad video?
Maybe the Rat will have to learn how to ‘act’? Say thank you to people who never say please, and shake hands with limp-wristed Ticks. And wear a tutu. Maybe.
They ultimately will not be adored as they had imagined. And then the drug-like cycle will begin, first with loss of confidence then loss of self, until only loss of life is left, appearing like a beacon of escape in a loveless business that promised so much, yet took away much more (Hi, Kurt!).
So, in summary, what do we do?
Well, the Ticks cannot help the way they are made, and actually do not mind the destruction of a once glowing industry, as change in Capitalism is as important as stability.
The Moths (bless ’em) were kind of designed to be meat for the masses. Any species that exists for the adoration of a camera will be more than happy to be locked in a room with only two mirrors. One small to sniff off and one large to look at.
Indie Man? Does he even exist? We have dreamed of his presence saving the dreams of thousands, even millions of kids seeing/hearing something that will steer them into wanting to emulate some grand talent, and inject the existing energy with a shot of their own special sauce. What if these potential influential would have found a reason to believe at the end of a Burger, a Beer or a Bottle of Whiskey? What if they didn’t even need Indie Man? Maybe they had actually invented him, if only as a figure of faith?
Which brings us finally to the Rats. The dreamers. The survivors. The product of not being suppressed nor impressed by the glossy promises dished out by the Ticks. The Rats live in pity of the Moths, knowing their fate is manifest destiny, as handed down by the many history books that Rats have educated themselves on. After all, how can you be a Rat unless you’re smart, and how can you be smart unless you read a book?
The Rats will still be here when the Moths have ran out of support, the Ticks have ran out of ideas and Indie Man was last seen riding the back of the Loch Ness Monster.
The moral of the story, boys and girls?
If it smells of shit, stands to reason that it probably is.
Keep yer nose up, and yer head on.