I've just been scooting around a well known music business discussion board, as you do. And I stumbled across someone - hiding behind a fake name, obviously - moaning about rock kidz (TM) not being happy when one of 'their bands' gets to numero uno in the UK's official singles chart, like Evanescence just did...
Just think about it in business terms for a minute. There's a machine spitting out so few great records, plodding along, sticking to the formula and it's starting to drive me insane, especially the coke-snorting automatons that keep bemoaning downloads killing the industry. They're the very same people who claimed for a few seconds, before going all cherry-cheek, that 'Pop Idol' would save everything and anything.
Any band in the world can buy themselves a number 1 and shove themselves in everyone's faces [not to mention single-buying teams. Please don't kid the world and say they don't exist 'cus they blatantly do!]. And the most important question of all is: is being number one in the singles chart really much of an accolade anymore?
Hits are NOT what the "alternative music" scene is about. Sales don't equate with quality, if anything, based on the logic of Dubya being elected world leader, the fewer sales, the less mass appeal, the better. But that doesn't add up and bands don't get paid. Did Nirvana/U2/Smashing Pumpkins go straight in at number one? Would they be as credible if they did rattle the top of the charts? And surely there needs to be something credible, interesting and exciting to keep people buying records? Why are there hundreds of bands signed every year, barely developed, with promos bagged and posted out to press, yet so little in the past 5 years that's been inspiring, let alone exceptional examples of pop?
Seems almost too easy a scapegoat but maybe corporations are to blame with their lack of knowledge of the scene, and "the market". You only need look at Evanescence, an "alternative rock band", and ask yourself, where's the organic backbone? Where's the reality of a band working their tits off to get to the top? And some dipshit in the industry asks "Why don't the kids respect this?"
The key thing here is that the industry doesn't appear to understand (in some sectors, lest we forget the joys of Saddle Creek, Sub Pop, Domino, Beggars, Fat Cat, Visible Noise, Pias et al) it that the very appeal of the alternative (i.e. not the mainstream) is about struggle, alienation, being able to relate to a bunch of humans creating 'art'. It's about having something to push against. It's about bands and fans, not products and customers. It's about a culture. And all cultures are by definition, classifiably different.
All some major corporations are doing, it seems, is wandering in, treating one default template that works for one genre of music as the one for all. They're putting flags up, trying to colonise and take the power, the steam and magic out of "alternative music". What happens when kids get turned off and stop buying records? Oh yeah, you can blame downloading, because all the value and respect has been eaten away. But why are people downloading music? Because most of the £15.99 albums are a crock of shit, that wouldn't be fit to wipe the feet of any of the acts' idols. There are exceptions, but very few.
So yeah, all these bought number 1s, with heavy marketing (costs), might translate into record sales now, but like, say, One True Voice, who's gonna go out and buy the next 5 albums? And where's the back catalogue to keep labels afloat in 20 years time (like it's doing now)? Where's the value of blowing your load on a band's first album and then the next record being a flop, band dropped, lots of money pissed in the wind? (see also: Toploader, New Radicals, Terris, etc.) This kind of peak, trough, production line business structure isn't sustainable. The Music Industry is more than just bits of plastic. STOP BLAMING DOWNLOADING!
I don't want to see the music world die. And I do believe the resistance is getting stronger. Bands don't wanna sign their souls away, only to fade to away behind the counter in a superstore, rather than embarassingly to grey in their mansions. Fans are sick of their favourite bands - sitting on label rosters that number in the hundreds - never amounting to what they should be. Labels are starting. Things are moving.. S'all happenin'!