Influenced possibly by piracy or just giving the customer a better product, many artists have started to include more than just music with their releases. A variety of new releases come with extras such as computer enhanced content, DVD videos, artwork, bonus CDs, and even the chance to win a contest. In the mainstream 50 Cent’s album came with an entry into a contest and The Game came with a bonus DVD. The underground has also added additional content to many of the releases. The latest Aesop Rock collector CD came with an illustrated lyric book containing the lyrics for his full discography. The “Felt” release this summer from Slug and Murs will have a comic book as a bonus. Slug’s re-release of “Headshots: Seven” included a bonus “Best of Headshots” CD as well as two previously unreleased records (“Sad Clown 5&6”). For their release this fall the CunninLynguists have a new concept. They will release a DVD video after the album that uses the CD as the audio track to sync with the DVD. Although these bonuses are sometimes gimmicky and unwanted, they are often enticing to fans of the groups. They definitely offer another reason to purchase the albums with content that is not as easy to obtain on the internet.
Underground fans seem to be very concerned with their favorite artists “selling out”. What exactly is selling out? Some fans say someone has sold out as soon as others are familiar with the artist. This is just an elitist mentality that some fans like to have. They aren’t as concerned with the music as they are with knowing something that nobody else does. Other fans say that they have sold out as soon as they get a deal with a large record company. This is very often a sad reality, but it does not necessarily require selling out. This is only the case if the artist is willing to sacrifice their artistic integrity to make themselves more marketable for the label. This happens often in the music industry, and many times shows the lack of integrity the artist had to begin with. Selling out is about changing who you are to get money or fame. If an underground artist stays true to themselves and gets money and fame fans should be happy that they knew them first and that good music is being heard by others.
Music piracy has been around since before the internet. People selling bootlegs on the street were only able to reach a small audience, but the internet has huge distribution and hence greater need for policing. There is a great debate about the legality and morality of pirating music. Many people make the case that they would not buy the music that they download. Others would argue that they use it to sample music before purchase or to find new artists. Another point that downloaders make is that the artists do not really loose that much money from downloads. This is all very difficult to prove. Piracy has much greater potential to do damage to underground artists. Many of these artists rely on their sales numbers to allow them to gain larger distribution and make a better living for themselves. The important thing to remember is that when you download an album from an artist on an independent label that you would otherwise purchase, you are actually taking money from that artist. Sharing music can definitely help spread the artist’s work, and this should be seen by the artists with limited distribution as an important aspect of marketing. If you do enjoy the album, I would recommend buying it or at least attending a show to show support. Support the music that you would like to see more of.
The television can be entertaining, but with the way programming is leaning I'd have to argue that for most people it is a huge burdon. The content on most channels is aimed at the lowest common denominator, but it is hard not to get stuck in front of it once it is on. These shows attempt to feed into human curiousity or to exploit human desires. The artist Aesop Rock from New York has a song called "Basic Cable" that I really identify with. He is an amazing lyricist:
"television, all hail grand pixelated god of
fantasy, murder scape and perspective
fuck a sore channel changed digit
I sit with a nasty network intervenes plan
with a stable diet of my cable pirate
yo, the doctor is in, the doctor is on
born the bastard son of static radiance cloned to welcome in every home
lead a blue screen, bruised dream canope
victim of the cursed nursed Technicolor drunk support team"
The television really sucks people in and before you know it you've been there for hours.
"turn my stilt into my guilt and have a chatter box blame frame adjacent station
make reality scrambled and suck the life out of a hidden vandal
and loving every minute of the gimmick, change the channel"
Television also changes reality and confuses people into believing some alternate life that the programmers present.
"make me a star, I wanna touch gold
hold me suspended in a dream, mearly inches from the screen
deleted passions sacrificed to one electron monster
crucify my little future to the monitor
damn it feels good, turn on, tune in"
Just like a good ficitonal book, television can be an escape for people. It can be a huge problem when people don't use it to enhance their lives, but rather to tune out and let it dictate them.
"plug it in, turn it on, let my little eyes glaze
twenty screens lined up along the borders of the maze
I wanna see the five day forecast, fourteen days in advance
so I can get my two weeks notice every time the sun dance
plug it in, turn it on, silent fix better than nothing
let a once divine soul feel the functions of the hypnotist
the viciousness, ridiculous, peaking a dummy's interest
touch the power button meet your maker, ain't that something?
plug it in, turn it on, say goodbye to Sunday afternoon
fix the antenna, sit back and let disaster bloom
it's a beautiful sight, with a most ugly intention
but I taste it everyday and bathe inside the consequences
plug it in, turn it on, never once have you talked back to me
your majesty, I love you, I despise you
my everyday is sitcom, soaps, news, bad dramatization
come along with me, my friend for the most glorious sensation"
Have you ever wondered how the large radio stations determine which songs get played and which don't? There are huge stars that will always have their new singles played, but what about everyone else? Just like in any other industry, money talks. It is well known that radio stations take payoffs from promoters to play their singles. The fees per “spin” are paid to program directors (or whoever controls the station’s programming) in cash or money orders. The promoter will ask the person at the station how many CDs they need. Obviously, the station would only need one CD to play the song, but in this case a CD is a one hundred dollar fee. The money can also be transferred through a promotion company (called a quarterback) to make it more difficult to follow the cash trail. A person taking payments can make up to $300,000 in untaxed income. This is extremely unethical and keeps independent music from having an opportunity to be on the radio. This illegal behavior allows big labels to easily promote their new artists to the public and continue to be a dominant force in the music industry.
RSE (Rhymesayers Entertainment) Radio is a weekly program that airs on Saturday nights. According to their website the show is composed of the "best in new and old school hip hop". The host and DJ is Saddiq from the Rhymesayers crew. He does a superb job of picking songs as well as mixing them together. The show also has on air guests on occasion and when they are running the pledge drive they usually have a freestyle show. This special edition has local emcees in studio freestyle rapping. The show is on KFAI Saturday night from 9-11, but the latest two shows are available in realplayer format on the KFAI archive site.
"At some point, won't Minnesotans come to believe that giving money to MPR is a little like making a charitable contribution to the New York Yankees or Wal-Mart?" -Doug Grow, Star Tribune
My last post was about Minnesota Public Radio’s new station 89.3 The Current. I have a very positive opinion about the station, however many people are threatened by it. MPR (91.1) is primarily a news and informational station that is funded through taxes and donations. This is actually a huge company and one of the best public radio stations in the country. Many people feel that they are too powerful and their new acquisition just makes them even more frightening of an entity. I agree with this argument in part. It is tough for other local stations to exist because of the funds that MPR can pool. KFAI is a station that will be hurt by the newcomer. Both stations are targeting a similar station and provide some content that crosses over. I don’t feel that they are some huge monster that we should fear. If they offer a better service they deserve to have more listeners. In cases of service companies it is most often the people’s choice that becomes the largest entity, whether or not you agree with the majority is your personal opinion. I feel this is true in most cases, up until you have a company taking advantage of people to continue their dominance. If you provide content that is quality, healthy, and entertaining people will be attracted to it. The news can take information that is shocking and enticing to people and get viewers, but the job of the news is to take what is important and worthwhile and make it interesting. This way of thinking fits into many different aspects of life including music. Why take the immediate gratification when you can have much more?
PS: I hope you've been enlightened =)
Recently, Minnesota Public Radio purchased a radio station from St. Olaf College. This station has become 89.3 The Current (why they have to name radio stations with some goofy name like the current, the point, the score, the fan, and the patriot I have no idea; it bothers me). This is a station I can actually tolerate listening to. They play lots of local music in a wide variety of genres, including hip hop. The best thing about the station is that you don't have to listen to the same songs over and over (in fact Iï¿½ve rarely heard the same song twice). The station plays local hip hop group Atmosphere and Heiruspecs as well as other underground hip hop (Sage Francis and Gift of Gab). Although the majority of the music isnï¿½t hip hop, if you want something fresh and new on the radio Iï¿½d recommend tuning in 89.3.