Houston Calling

Don’t wanna be an American idiot? Stop listening to the radio.

October 14th, 2004 · No Comments

I recently wasted half an hour of my life. In a moment of weakness, I decided to check out Launch to watch a few videos. I cut my ties to cable so I haven’t seen any music videos in a long time. In a foolish attempt to keep my finger on the pulse of the mainstream, I opted for videos by Good Charlotte, Ashlee Simpson, Avril Lavigne, Green Day, LL Cool J, Hoobastank, Three Days Grace, Christina Aguilera, and something called Chingy. I didn’t completely make it through any of them.

I should have known I’d made a huge mistake when “Hi. This is Rob Thomas from Matchbox 20” was the first thing I heard, but I opted to stick around and see what I’d been “missing.”

It’s worse than I thought. Except for Green Day’s “…not part of your redneck agenda…” (from their new single “American Idiot”), I wanted to jam Q-Tips in my ears and gouge out my eyes. So this is what passes for music today–the mainstream, popular music? They can have it.

Christina Aguilera and her ilk should be silenced forever–it’s seriously horrid stuff. I mean really, people truly like this drivel? It’s just not right. And LL Cool J hasn’t been relevant since 1990–what was I thinking? And now he’s ripping off rappers without a shred of the “talent” he might have once had in his prime. It’s called retirement. Hoobastank, Good Charlotte, Three Days Grace? Let me get this straight. These bands (and dozens like them) sell millions of records while great bands get dropped and are destined for cutout bins and worrying about rent? C’mon. Where’s the justice? Then there’s cute little Ashlee Simpson, singing about growing up in the “shadow” of her big sis (the equally annoying Jessica). You’d be singing in the shadow of the back of the closet if it wasn’t for her, so play nice. And Avril Lavigne? Well, she didn’t even know who David Bowie was. Enough said.

If you want a good laugh, go watch a few of these videos. If you can stomach it, that is.

In keeping with my recent rant about radio and crappy music in general, I thought I’d let you read what Conor Oberst (of the band Bright Eyes) had to say on the subject in a recent article in the latest issue of Magnet magazine. Bright Eyes recently finished playing on the Vote For Change tour. Oberst’s comments to Magnet echo my comments on radio and the music industry that I wrote about a while back and which you can read here.

“Last year, Bright Eyes decided we wouldn’t play any more Clear Channel venues for any reason. The Shortlist Awards seemed like a good spot to say something. Not playing Clear Channel venues has meant missing out on some cool opening spots; we turned down the Cure tour and opening for Morrissey in Los Angeles. We’re trying to play more theaters and sit-down places. A lot of times, you’ve got to go to the more expensive room, which isn’t Clear Channel, and consequently, ticket prices go up. It can be done. You just have to be willing to make alternative plans, and I hope we find ways to play wherever people want to hear it.

Clear Channel’s influence is everywhere, right down to small indie things. My problem with what they’re doing is the amount of radio stations they own. That’s when it gets creepy: when one company controls all of the information being provided to a town. Some places don’t even have local DJs anymore. It makes for horrible music and no diversity at all. Owning 1,200 stations seems pretty dangerous. If radio can’t belong to the people, it could at least be an extension of the community. We run into decisions with Saddle Creek Records, where we’re trying to promote a big record like the new Faint album, and we think there are songs kids would like on commercial radio. But in order for them to be considered, it’s an amazing amount of money up front. It can cost a quarter of a million dollars to hire an independent promoter to possibly get the song played.

The FCC allowed the regulations to disappear. I find Clear Channel’s zero tolerance policy with its DJs amazing because people like Rush Limbaugh spit gross, hateful, racist, sexist, homophobic bile out of their mouths. To be offended that I say “fuck” in one of my pop songs…I can’t resolve that in my mind.

There are certain things I want the government to regulate. I want the government to regulate the ownership of the media. I wants the government to regulate health care. But there’s such an intense fear of anything socialist. It should be completely obvious that it’s inappropriate for the same company to own all the radio stations and all the venues.

Clear Channel will offer to coordinate your whole tour so you don’t have to do anything. They’ll set it up, promote you, and play you on all their radio stations. It’s so easy and streamlined. Of course, the music suffers, as well as the people who really like it. I have friends on major labels who have to play these weenie roasts and shit like that–or else they stop playing your single. It happens all the time.

In Omaha, we have one college/commercial station, broadcast from a nearby Iowa campus. But that’s about it: our NPR station and a bunch of shitty FM stations. The best we can hope for is Clear Channel to grossly control the market, then the government will intervene. It would be great if more artists did their part until that intervention, but Clear Channel is too huge for another competitor to even the playing field. Even then, what do we need? Two Clear Channels? It’s sad. They couldn’t give a shit about any individual artists, even the ones they promote the most. That’s the saddest thing: what little part the music plays in the music industry. It’s endless greed.”

(taken from the October/November 2004 issue of Magnet–if you don’t get this magazine, you should.)

Visit the Saddle Creek Records website for more information on Conor Oberst and his band Bright Eyes.

Discuss in the message board here.

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Tags: Music