by Tom Hallett
SCANDALS!! LAWSUITS!! PLEA BARGAINS!! SETTLEMENTS!! Sheesh, you’d think it was the deep, dark Fifties all over again, what with all the stink risin’ from SONY/BMG’s recent scrape with New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer over their long-running “Pay To Play” practices. What, you ask, is Pay To Play? Well, it’s a nice, safe, sanitized way of saying PAYOLA. Payola, of course, being the act of giving gifts, cash, vacation packages, cars and other bling-y incentives to radio stations in exchange for airplay.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “Never listen to your old stuff. If you
do that, then you're not a musician anymore, you're just a self-satisfied nostalgic
idiot who's not interested in inventing anything.” — Lou Reed
SONG OF THE WEEK: “Pay to Play” — Nirvana
And just who do ya think benefits from all that extra airplay on the radio?
Could it be the hard-working, integrity-laden, original music artist struggling
to hold down two day jobs so he/she can afford to take their art to the public?
Nawwww. Could it be the down-trodden, cult singer/songwriter who’s flat
broke and drowning in health care and living expenses? Nawwww. Hell, it’s
not even the marginally-talented, one-or-two-hit wonder upper level indie artists
who are benefitting from this practice. Sigh. It’s the people who least
deserve it, and who we least deserve to be exposed to on any level, let alone
on an in-rotation-four-times-an-hour level.
That’s right folks—if you’ve ever wondered just who in the
hell out there in radio-land was requesting non-stop airplay of CELINE DION,
AUDIOSLAVE, GOOD CHARLOTTE, or GRETCHEN WILSON, well, the answer is NOBODY.
Or nearly nobody, anyway. The truth is, representatives from the record companies
called “Promotion Executives” beg, plead, cajole and yes, BRIBE
radio station programmers (DJs are pretty much bypassed these days, as these
suit-wearing, mealy-mouthed, fartin’-thru-silk-shorts motherfuckers called
programmers are in charge of choosing the music we the public should hear) to
play the crappy, uninspired, soulless twats whose over-emoted, processed plastic
pipes populate today’s airwaves. These are the people comedian Bill Hicks
once called, “... fevered egos that are tainting our collective unconscious
and making us pay a higher psychic price than we imagined.”
it’s nothin’ most of us didn’t suspect all along, but it’s
nice to finally hear someone in a position of legal power take a solid stand
on the issue and DO something about it. Here’s a quote from a press release
Mr. Spitzer’s office sent out recently (caps mine): “Our suit shows
that, contrary to listener expectations that songs are selected for airplay
based on ARTISTIC MERIT AND POPULARITY, airtime is often determined by UNDISCLOSED
PAYOFFS to radio stations and their employees.”
The press release goes on to say, “SONY ... has agreed to corporate-wide
reforms, including hiring a compliance officer responsible for monitoring promotion
practices and developing and implementing an internal accounting system designed
to detect future abuses. This is the first time an entertainment company has
agreed to such sweeping reforms.”
these “sweeping reforms” will also affect the other two or three
gigantic media conglomerations filling our airwaves and record store bins with
this atrocious, vapid, bile-inducing claptrap they call “music.”
But hell, the record companies are probably too damn busy taking your 19-year-old
niece or nephew to court for downloading a couple of Coldplay tunes to even
notice what’s going on around ‘em.
As for me, I’m not surprised by any of it, but it still doesn’t
explain how vinyl copies of Michael Jackson’s Thriller album are somehow
breeding and multiplying by themselves in dark closets, attics, and garages
all over America. A covert, unapproved record company project conceived in conjunction
with the U.S. Army that went horribly wrong? Payback for not buying Jermaine’s
solo albums? A subversive plot undertaken by seditionists and hidden Al Qaeda
operatives? Only time will tell ... and now back to our regularly scheduled
The Shout Out Louds
Howl Howl Gaff Gaff
Howl? Gaff Gaff? Don’t worry, it’s not secret code written by some
wanker corporate record company exec. It’s just Shout Out Louds’
singer/guitarist Adam Olenius’ own definition of the sound his band makes—the
howl of Russian dogs and the bark of Swedish wolves—and a great, silly,
fun album title. And that’s OK, considering that HHGG is a delish
mish-mash of pop silliness, post-everything heartbreak and hip-swivelin’,
head-bobbin’ rock ‘n’ roll.
Though his voice is eerily reminiscent of that crazy kid from The Kings Of Leon,
and the music isn’t really saying anything that band, the Go-Betweens,
or even local outfits like The Hangups or The Honeydogs haven’t already
said, Olenius and his four fellow travelers (Carl von Arbin on guitar, Ted Malmros
on bass, Eric Edman on drums, and fab keyboardist Bebban Stenborg) manage to
mold and shape familiar pop-scapes into something fresh and curious. Throwing
in elements of ‘80s underground pop, ‘90s shoe-gazer vibes, and
low-key, 21st century arrangements, the band comes off like a less-angsty Bright
Eyes, or maybe a slightly more elevated Interpol.
again, all comparison bullshit aside, they’re really probably just one
of the dozen or so young bands out there nowadays who seem to be so adept at
pressing some undefinable, soul-stirring button inside this blackened old heart.
Either way, a quintet worth keepin’ an ear on, and a disc indie pop fans
(yes, I know Warner put the record out, but this is one case where they actually
co-opted a band from a decent indie label—Sweden’s Bud Fox—and
gave ‘em a straight shot. Honest! Wink.) would do well to seek it out
That’s all the room I’ve got this week, ya radioheads. Tune in again
next time for more of the same. Until then—make yer own damn news.
If you have local music news/gigs/events/CD’s you’d like to see
mentioned in this column, or if you’re just wondering why I’m driving
a new Beamer with THNX WB license plates, send queries to: Tmygunn777@peoplepc.com.