By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
On Christmas Eve, I had a fever of 103. In a state of half-waking delirium, I was visited by an angel calling itself the Ghost of Music Yet to Come. He chain-smoked and wore white jeans. His wings were beautiful.
In this fever-dream, I was allowed to glimpse what life would be like — what music would be like — if only I were in charge. In this dream, I was the All-Being Master of Rock and the Universe.
When I awoke on Christmas morning, I found the following manifesto — scribbled in my own hand — on the sleeve of a Stylistics record.
?AS ALL-BEING MASTER of Rock and the Universe (AB Master), with unlimited power to reshape the music world, my actions will be swift, sure and brutal.
It may seem cruel and undemocratic, but the first thing I’ll do as AB Master is eliminate 55 percent of all new music currently available (including music on major labels, indies and homemade demos thrown up on MySpace).
I will not force anyone to actually quit making music, recording or playing live. I will merely forbid them from putting it out in accessible, recorded form.
The reason is plain. There are simply too many records being released these days. All of us who love music are overwhelmed by the quantity — and underwhelmed by the quality — of records today.
Only 10 years ago, I was shocked to learn that more than 30,000 albums were released on an annual basis. It seemed outlandishly daunting: How could any single person keep track of even a fraction of it?
Since then, that figure has skyrocketed. What does this mean? Well, it means many things, but partly it means that too many people seem to think their music is worthy of our dollars and ears. At both major and indie labels, too many raw, young talents are being given too much exposure too soon, with too little quality control — and then tossed aside when their albums fail to ignite the planet. Too many undeveloped talents are being forced to compete against one another, and most of ’em end up bloodied and broken. And broke, to boot.
It will benefit artists as much as listeners when 55 percent of all music currently being made is — after thorough quality-control evaluation — denied release. This will be administered by the Council of Twelve, a pop-musical star chamber that will initially include Jesus Christ, Steve Jones, Sarah Vaughan, OutKast, Dick Clark, John Peel, Stevie Wonder, Missy Elliott & Timbaland, Frank Sinatra, and Lennon-McCartney. Note: Production values will not necessarily be a barrier. Four-tracks will qualify, if brilliant.
Say what you will about Motown founder Berry Gordy, but he did know something about quality control from his days at Ford. Gordy forced artists to test their songs against a panel of savvy musical judges every Friday. And the standards were do-or-die shit, like: If you had a dollar, would you buy this record or a sandwich?
Everyone at Motown felt the sting of rejection from their peers at times. Yeah, it sucked. But it sucked a lot less than if they’d been expected to somehow sell a million records on their own, with no real creative support, and were then tossed aside after their first flop (or three) — which is what happens at major labels every day.
Almost as bad is today’s indie-label situation, where, often, labels are hardly more than glorified distributors for bands who are expected to do all their own marketing, promotion and “artist development.” (I have to use quotation marks, because real artist development hardly exists anymore.)
Under this new law, fewer artists will be able to put out records. Then again, we’ll be saving thousands from premature failure, both commercial and artistic.
Of course, even with all the quality control in the world, some perfectly wonderful records just don’t hit, and no one ever knows why. (Just ask the Temptations or the Supremes, who both flopped pretty hard in their early years.) But in such cases, it is spiritually preferable for the artist to be able to move forward with a fine record in hand — if not a gold one. History will absolve them.
?MY SECOND ACT AS AB MASTER will be to call an immediate halt to the use of most pop music in advertising. Artists will be free to write product jingles, of course, as they always have (from Jeff Barry to Mark Mothersbaugh to Jack White). In very rare cases, an older hit song may be reworked for jingle purposes if the results are particularly rad (e.g., “Whip It/Swiff It”). But this too will be subject to thorough evaluation by the Council of Twelve, who will test the proposed ad for sufficient whimsy, charm and That Certain Je Ne Sais Quoi.
Initially, this new ban will hurt up-and-coming bands who can sometimes pay rent for a few months after getting their music placed in a TV ad. Then again, it will level the playing field for those who don’t have such industry connections. And, in the long run, it will shake out to the greater good. Consider the benefits: