Music Industry Says, “Is Not!”

Perhaps in response to my assertion, the music industry asserts that its trouble is all a result of piracy.
As evidence, the music industry does not cite the trouble the software industry has found itself in from d00dz cracking video games from the 1980s to the years beyond their biologically-sanctioned adolescence, nor on businesses exceeding their licenses with Microsoft Office.

Of course, the software industry offers more than Sticky Bear Teaches the Alphabet and Street Sports Baseball, but that is merely coincidence (or lack of foresight), music industry insiders might assert.

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Music: Not For Grown-Ups Any More

So, I told Shawn, at least Avril is not half our age

I just turned thirty-one, and although I no longer smell post-college fresh, I am not a CBS viewer, either. So consider that throughout the rest of what follows: although I am an acolyte curmudgeon, I haven’t passed the physical yet, so this complaint is not the rambling of someone who chases the damn kids from his lawn. With that dash of pepper, I have some advice to Big Music: get those damn kids offa the charts.

“Doom, doom!” the music industry shrieks. CD sales in the year 2002 declined from the year before, which also declined from some idyllic moment when the music industry assumed its growth would continue, unfettered by reality, at ten percent a year. By 2102, CD sales would reach a dizzying 10,792,975,584,549 or so units, or 100 CDs a day for each person currently in the United States. However, Big Music’s plans have gone awry or amok, or maybe both, and the number of CDs sold has dropped.

Pop music, for one genre, is dying. Britney, Eminem, Christina, and Ludacris aren’t selling the albums they used to, and certainly not the number of albums their predecessors did. Rockers like Creed and Nickelback fell 8.7%. Alternative hype bands with soon-to-be-forgotten names didn’t ring the platinum bell enough times for Big Music’s taste. So Big Music keeps looking for the Next Big Thing, or more appropriately, the Next Young Thing. Therein lays its fallacy.

As I review the music news these days, I notice the artists keep getting younger, and not just relative to my advancing age. Avril Lavigne, the new Canadian big thing now that Alanis Morrisette has retired, is almost ready for college. Singers who hit the big time before drinking age were a novelty in previous decades–remember Tiffany and Debbie Gibson? In 1998, 1999, and 2000, Destiny’s Child, Brandy, Monica, Mya, Dru Hill, Tatyana Ali, Usher, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Jessica Simpson, 702, Samantha Mumba, Blaque, Aailyah, and Pink all charted hits at age 21 or younger.

As the average age of the top 40 singers has declined, so has their music’s content. Avril only worries about her sk8er boi and her high school consort’s preppy clothes. Destiny’s children want only satisfactory bed partners. Britney wants her baby to hit her with a big sloppy kiss one more time. Even Vitamin C is promising to be best friends forever after graduation, and she’s thirty years old, which is either a commentary on to whom you have to target your music to be heard or a commentary on public schooling.

I know pop music has always been weighted to the young, but contrast the current musical scene with the top 40 charts of the 1980s, when I was busy walking a mile to the school bus stop across the street. Huey Lewis and the News sang about working for a living. Bruce Springsteen feared for his job and his family. Dionne and her friends reveled in long-term friendships. Although the chart had its share of skirt chasing, the overall content tempered youthful exuberance with adult concerns.

Big Music should correct this oversight, this overhype of youth at the expense of providing music for those of us with mortgages but with disposable income. Without recognizing life after 25, Big Music will watch its pop and other CD sales decline as adults migrate to songs with adult content. One genre continues to address these concerns: country music’s sales increased 12% last year. I suspect Big Music doesn’t know why, but probably assumes a nineteen-year-old navel-baring singer could make next year the best yet.

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Reinforcing Gender Stereotypes?

I am not a misogynist, but…. Of course, if I say that, immediately you think either the next words out of my keyboard will be, or that I am learning the proper obsequiescence of a Sensitive Nineties Man (SNM) too late for it to do any good for the nineties, but I am not a misogynist; I think women are one of the top two genders in the world. So with that waiver aside….

The Girl Scouts’ annual April Showers drive is this month. They left their little yellow bags hanging from our door knob last weekend, and they will return this Saturday to collect whatever HABA effluvia we care to cast off.

So while the Boy Scouts go scouting for food every year, blocking subdivision streets with their herds of minivanned mothers trailing so Junior doesn’t collapse from exhaustion walking down one too many driveways, the Girl Scouts collect shampoo, soap, lotion, and brushes? The male hunter gatherer refills the larder while the female of the species lies around the house, eating Thin Mints, and occasionally collecting hair care products for the impoverished.

I would not be against giving out a second helping of food in April, as the Christmas charity supply dwindles, so why don’t the Girl Scouts collect food, too? I mean, with the vast masses starving while the Republicans allegedly burn Baghdad for light to better read their violin scores, is there nothing more we can do than to make sure our hungry people smell better? Soap, shampoo, and lotions are the first corners whacked off to appease the budgetary gods of the hungry belly. Have we, the charitable Americans, so sated this hunger that we’re now onto putting free ribbons in their hair?

Oh, but no. Instead, we have the opportunity to give soap and feminine products. I’m not saying there won’t be a bag on the big red SG doors this weekend; we [the artist formerly known as hli and now Mrs. Brian J.] get enough bath baskets for Christmas that we can certainly provide some Jasmine Jetsam of some sort or another. I guess I’d rather see the opportunity for effortless giving of necessities, not self-esteem boosters. And certainly not posed as the main concern of the futre women of America.

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Bad Hair Day Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Here in beautiful St. Louis, a woman is suing her hairdresser for unspecified damages after the hair treatments she received led her to feel unhappy. No kidding.

After the bad hair appointment, er, “treatment” (for her “aesthetical follicle arrangement system,” no doubt) on August 9, 2001, the plantiff became distraught at her appearance, took an early retirement from her job, and morphed into a despondent recluse who probably no longer travels abroad.

Because her hair was different in the autumn of 2001. By the second week of September, no doubt it was a total loss.

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The Plucky Little Mother Who Could [Alter Copyrighted Works Without Permission]

The Ladies Home Journal, in their May 2003 issue, presents a story in their “Life Stories: Controversy” section called “Screen Saviours” that depicts the story of one Marlo Garrett, a plucky, inspirational woman not afraid to take on Big Hollywood.

You see, Ms. Garrett runs something called Clean Cut Cinemas. Clean Cut Cinemas is one of those houses that takes whole movies and cuts out the naughty bits, whether swearing or nudity or sexual situations, and then redistributes the bowdlerized work. Unlike the online stories covering the story of the lawsuits in Colorado filed by CleanFlicks to enable this gross violation of copyright, the Ladies Home Journal definitely favors the triumph of this family’s values over the property rights inherent in intellectual and creative works protected by copyright.

This is the other side’s story. A woman and mother wants to provide family-ready hit entertainment. Of course, the artists and big Hollywood are lining up against her, and copyright holders everywhere are cringing. Although her motives are purer than a thirst to be slaked by a quick buck, she and related companies and actions would reduce any author or moviemaker to the role of one of n monkeys with typewriters, eligible for revision by whatever gorilla comes along with a red pen.

Hopefully, the movie studios and directors will come to their senses and start seeing the opportunity for additional bonus features on DVDs that include a family-friendly release of popular movies, maybe even for five bucks more a disc. Undoubtedly this will bring Aggressive Agitator Parents (AAPs) to their lawmakers with lawn rakes and Citronella torches, protesting a “family tax” dictated by the market, but it would represent the market, and not the government, at work.

Our world would be a better place if these super parents, who have time on their hands to have a career AND run a successful Internet business, can turn the ample attention they spend while their children sit stupified before a Disney version of Reservoir Dogs to better things, such as revising James Joyce’s Ulysses so it’s readable and suitable for families. In that better world, I’ll broaden my mind with whatever paragraph is left of formerly great literature.

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Book Review and Gratuitous Slap at President

Pages magazine is a buzz book for the publishing industry, with many of the ads directly related to the content of the editorial copy. I got the March/April 2003 magazine as a part of my ongoing “market” (pleasepublishme) research.

So I came to “Trouble Man,” Heather L. Hughes’ review for Robert Young Pelton’s The World’s Most Dangerous Places. The book sounds like a slightly more serious treatment of the subject covered in P.J. O’Rourke’s Holidays In Hell–going to dangerous places and writing about what it’s like traveling there. I might pick a book like that up–after all, I did read Holidays in Hell.

I liked the review and had a favorable impression of the book until I got to the Typical Sanctimonious Condescension Digression (TSCD) about George W. Bush:

“The reason I wrote it funny and as a travel guide was I wanted to make it cool to care about things. To present politicians with their clothes off, rebel leaders without their dogma, to find the human motivations behind these people,” explains Pelton. “So when you see George [W.] Bush on TV making a speech about the axis of evil, you can flip to my book and go, ‘George, you don’t get out much, do you?’ George really needs my book. If he did get it and go out there, I’m sure he’d have a very different view on the world.”

Remarkable–hence, I remark. Examine the snobbish inconsistency in knowing others’ hearts: George W. Bush cannot know the hearts of evil men remotely, but Pelton can fathom Bush’s heart and worldliness from a speech on television. The quote comes out of nowhere to bash Bush, a throw made from left field when the recipient didn’t have eye contact. Scoring cheap points among People Who Love Books (for whom Pages publishes).

The review’s not available online, but I would recommend it for a browse if you’re in the coffeeshop of the local megabookstore. Just remember to leave a coffee ring around Robert Pelton’s intensely serious visage.

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Porn Spam At Work Can Be Sexual Harrassment

Thank goodness lawyers are chasing parked ambulances on our behalf!

Carrying this to its logical conclusions, businesses will become reponsible not only for their workplaces, but any external communication within those workplaces. Unsolicited e-mail, obscene phone calls, billboards that employees can see from their windows….The sooner we’re working in sensory depravation tanks, the better for our employers’ legal departments.

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Reading All The Print

My life was simpler before I started reading the details nestled among the ubiquitous service contracts I am suddenly expected to sign, apparently without reading or forethought. Previous generations’ advice tells us people once entered contracts after negotiation and attorney consultation, or at least deliberation. Now, however, corporations and other groups have decided consumers don’t need to pay attention since we’re getting such a deal! Initial here and sign by the checkmark.

For example, when I explored Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) options available for high-speed Internet access, a provider wanted me to sign and fax back a contract, ASAP. He could immediately connect me, THE SAP, and give me the full benefit of that day’s special pricing. His pressing need smacked of an unmet quota and a touch of unbridled hucksterism. I read the contract from paragraph 1 to paragraph 14, and I encountered paragraph 13. After some empathetic text about the company’s certain costs associated with business, I would “agree that [I] will reimburse [them] for any and all direct costs, fees and charges that [they] may incur from other providers as a result of [my] installation….”

Although I recognize the business difficulty the DSL provider might have pacing customer demand with its existing equipment, this paragraph makes me responsible for any equipment or services the company needs to honor its end of the contract. A new router for several thousand dollars? That’s my responsibility, since I was one customer who put the provider over its current equipment capacity.

I pointed this out to the DSL salesman. Of course, he assured me, that’s not what they meant. However, contracts are not supposed to be open to interpretation. Between what the DSL provider meant and what the contract said, the court would rule against the fleeting meaning every time. When I pursued the matter, the DSL company decided it no longer sold residential DSL.

When my wife and I wanted to adopt a rescue dog, we had a hound visit our house, mainly to see if it wanted to eat our cats. The rescue volunteer provided a packet of information about dogs and a contract we would have to sign to take possession of the pooch. The contract included house inspections at will of the rescue group. It could also take the dog back at any time if it found our conditions “unsuitable, which includes but not limited to…” a non-exclusive litany. If we lost the dog; we’d pay the rescue group a thousand dollars, even if we “lost” the dog ten years hence when it died and we did not notify the rescue group in 1 (one) week.

Of course, that’s not what the contract meant. Contracts don’t mean, they say explicitly. I’d rather not subject myself to the next generation of dog rescuers and their intents, which might differ from the people who wrote the contract in the first place and what they meant in the contract. So our cats are safe today.

As contracts become more ubiquitous, we consumers are becoming conditioned to sign and accept them at face value. As a result, organizations use them more and stack them more against the unquestioning signer. I question the contracts, and argue with adamant, unthinking organizational organisms. These people never negotiate, and if I don’t like the contract, they challenge me to find a better deal. As a result, I’m happily on a month-to-month dial-up connection and without a dog or cell phone. However, I’m also not dependent on fickle intentions and interpretations of my service providers and their boilerplate, cut and paste contracts.

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