It’s one of the Big Lies, along with “music is subjective”, “we’ll fix it in the mix”, and “I support single-payer but we’re just not there yet”. One of the main reasons we have these big lies is that shit-talkers are not particularly intelligent. It’s kinda like the crafty guy who made the bronze Kokopelli in your backyard identical to the one your neighbor bought from him at the street fair, the difference between that guy and a real sculptor. Frank Zappa shares in The Real Frank Zappa Book his theory that, once upon a time, people who were good at making money stayed out of the creative side of the music business because they accepted that they didn’t know jack about creativity. So they basically threw money at just about anything in a shotgun investment strategy which not only paid off ludicrously some of the time, making up for the failures, but had the side-effect of introducing the public to artists they might have otherwise never heard of.
The problem, FZ observed, was when they let some “hippie bastards” start making decisions because they had “the same hair” as the artists. The new boss didn’t have the business instinct of the old boss, nor the ear for music of the creators whose hairstyle he shared. This all happened at a tipping point when being involved in any way with music, even the boring business side, came to be perceived as cool. If I may be so presumptuous as to expand Zappa’s ideas into the present, these guys came to rely on their gift for shittalkery and built the industry into the clay-footed idol we know today for suing their most devoted customers.
Have you noticed the generation of talent-fluid people emerging for the last decade or so? It would be amazing that so many young, attractive children from wealthy families seem to have the artistic range of David Bowie, slipping as easily from acting to music as they do into their limos, if it weren’t so transparent that the 1996 Telecom Act made one industry out of two that were already rive with payola and nepotism. And ripe for the Age of the Shit-Talker.
They just renewed Scorpion for a 4th season. You must have seen it. It’s chillarious™ for its, I believe, unmatched success at cramming implausible story lines and dialog down the throat of the network’s viewership (I’m including the CSI franchise and Bones in my assessment). The show is based on the life of executive producer Walter O’Brien, a certifiable Irish Lunatic™ who claims to have the 4th highest IQ in the world and his almost as fanciful company of genius consultants. At some point, this guy managed to get Scooter Braun, the NYC-born/Connecticut-schooled mastermind with the ear to hear what the artistry of Bieber and Hilary Duff could contribute to American culture, to shop his idea for the series to CBS.
And, by Godforsaken Nation™, they bought it.
Doesn’t this sound familiar today? Walter and Rob Goldstone (Wikipedia article being considered for deletion in accordance with Wikipedia’s deletion policy I’m not kidding) are birds of a feather. Rob had perhaps even more “acumen” and guts than Walt when he tried to turn what must be an already absurdly profitable career managing a Russian billionaire kid into a position among global power. While I’m sure his good looks were a contributing factor, that’s not enough when you’re standing next to a dreamboat like Aras Agalarov. You have to be a world class master of shittalkery. And have a sociopathically small conscience.
What I don’t know about sports, you could just about squeeze into the Rose Bowl, but I know that it would be beyond absurd for the NFL Commissioner to try and push his 90-pound kid into the league and onto the field. The whole country would go fucking ballistic. Because we still have some sense of national reverence for this – for games! Music fans don’t trash their own city when their favorite artist plays a third asskicking tour in row, or send them death threats when they release a shitty single. Not even “Children of Destiny“.
Do you see it yet (My point, not the Neil Young video)? It’s the fabricated rivalry. THAT is encouraged. Backed with resources far, far beyond that of the two major labels left standing. $70 billion. The movie and music industries come in at around $53 billion combined. I’m just quickly Googling these figures, but I’m confident that they cover ticket sales and merch for the Lord of the Rings trilogy and whatever it is you call what Solange does.
Children are raised, millions and millions of them, with the rules of football and baseball explained to them and the patriotic and civic value of the traditions passed on to them. When they grow up, it doesn’t take any higher education in critical thinking for them to objectively see the ability of the players. But they still might make an argument that Justin Timberlake has all the talent of Hendrix, though they might make it with less passion than the one they make for how bad some guy sucks who NBA scouts fought over and bribed and falsified documents for when he was still in high school. To me, it’s just kind of impressive that you can ever hit that little ball with a stick. That’s before I drift off because I don’t understand the game, and I don’t care.
So, is the thrilling Bond-meets-Mr. Robot premise of Scorpion responsible for its success, transcending the grade school level content? Maybe a little bit. Lots of us entertain the fantasies of another Walter, Mitty, but we just don’t have what it takes to make others believe them. So we reward the vandals for dragging their asses over our shit-streaked culture and ignore the #losers who want to clean it up and make it beautiful and meaningful. “Again”. [Note to self: secure trademark for MABAMA]
Music is not a “tough business” any more than the USA is equally divided between godless childkillers and bible-thumping racists. But it’s what they’d like us to believe.