Elton John needs to fall of his high horse and get raped by it.

posted August 1, 2007 by Jer


I wanted to just chuckle at this and then get on with my day, but pissed me off so deeply that it begged the following commentary.

The music industry wants to make money. That's the funny thing about industries, they only serve one purpose. Now, I know you like to imagine that "The Music Industry" is some dark, shadowy Montgomery Burns-esqe figure behind a desk, steepling his fingers as he gleefully watches a digital display that simultaneously reports his current money influx, soul collection and net lives destroyed. Unfortunately, that's not what an industry is. An industry is a whole building full of people with MBAs who have no interest in what good or service they offer, just that said good or service makes money. The money isn't just for them. The money is also for their investors. That's you. Don't answer "no, not me!" too fast. Do you have money in a savings account? Did your parents open a retirement fund for you? If you're making money off of having money, you're an investor. That money comes from industries. Industries are where free money comes from.

So, as a business that wants to make money, the "music" industry wants to do so predictably and efficiently. They had a really good thing going for several decades. For a while, they helped talented white-skinned artists develop careers and become continuous successes. God help you if you were a non-white-skinned artist, though. Most early blues and jazz musicians were given a large up-front sum in exchange for the rights to all their current, and sometimes future work. After racism became passť, the industry started discovering that bureaucracy worked much better. By making music careers more and more complicated, they stood a better chance of exploiting everyone equally. Yes, it was possible to build a career as a talented musician and spend your life producing music, but that wasn't generally encouraged. The most profit comes from grabbing the latest fad, mass producing it, milking it and its moderately skilled creators dry, then moving on to the next fad. This process produces a few jems. It produces a lot more pop.

Elton John comes from the talented white-skinned career building days. He was beloved by the industry like his talented white skinned peers because they could all produce money repeatedly for the industry. The gems of later generations could also do this, but the industry no longer wasted time in seeking such gems out. There would be no Elton John today, nor a Tom Petty, Jonney Cash, The Beatles, etc. Now, more money and promotion goes to the fast-cash stars like Brittany Spears, Justin Timberlake, Clay Aiken.

Along comes the Internet. Low and behold, you can sing a song into your computer and then anyone who wants to hear it can listen. No industry, no labels, no tour dates, no makeup. You sing. They listen. If anyone pays you money for it, it's because you have talent. There's no marketing or board room meetings that decide who makes it and who doesn't in this new system. All voices get their chance, and the talented ones succeed.

Elton John exists because of the industry. That soapbox upon which he stands to shout his technophobia was handed to him by the people who made money off of him. Yes, he had the talent to back it up, but tell me the number of people who have talent and never made it because they weren't "chosen" by the boardroom members. Elton is selfish. He never had to work as hard as these Internet upstarts do to get their names out. Our Ashlee Simpsons and NSyncs were not the Internet's fault, they were the direct doing of the industry. Of course the industry fears the Internet. It's taking away their reason for even existing.

So, Elton John, shut the fuck up. Fall off your high horse and get raped by it. Better yet, try and stop the Internet. Go ahead, try. Napster's not dead, it's frozen, and as soon as the industry falls apart we're going to thaw it out and it's going to be pretty pissed off. Go play "Mad Libs" with Dennis Leary to finish that speech for me. Keep "stealing" music, people, just don't waste your time with industry sanctioned music. Go find something new. Find some kid and his friends singing about life in Kansas with one parent, or a widowed military wife writing songs about not having money to take her kid to the doctor. There's a lot of people in the world singing a lot of songs you never hear, and some of them are bound to be good. And if you've got a sing to song, FUCKING SONG IT! Turn on that microphone built in to your computer and sing. Sound Recorder still comes with windows, last I checked.

Sing. Listen. That's all I ask.