As the Backstreet Boys or Britney Spears or 'N Sync move through their manager-choreographed movements -- singing the songs created by their manager -- it all makes sense to me.
People want their music gift wrapped.
They want to look at something pretty while they listen. They want the image of a pop star or a rock star -- someone better looking, in better shape, with more (apparent) talent.
In America, good looks equal talent. If you're ugly... well, you're fucked. Capitalism is just an extension of Darwinism, and the beautiful people are always the fittest to survive.
But this doesn't just apply to the Billboard charts, the heart monitor of the average chump. Or to MTV or the End, the easiest of slutty bandwagoneers. Your favorite band is no different. You may love that sensitive mopey songwriter (Elliott Smith). You may love that witty, over-educated alt/rock group (Pavement). Christ, you may even like country. But just think....
What if Elliott Smith looked like Ricky Martin?
What if Pavement looked like the Backstreet Boys?
What if country music wasn't country music?
All of us ironic music lovers in Seattle, who don't dance at shows, don't cheer -- we like to scoff at the masses. We turn our noses up at Billboard. We crack jokes about the Goo Goo Dolls. We demolish groups we once liked because some idiot in Nebraska picked up their record at Wal-Mart.
Once MTV or the End gets a hold of it... fuck it, let's find someone else to like.
Packaging. You put a band in a pretty box and wrap them in a bow, and all of a sudden they're "common" music and not worth my time.
But in America, success is packaging. And why be in a band if you don't want to be successful? All that bullshit about needing to express yourself... well, just choke on it, Jimmy, because everybody knows the truth. Christ, even Elliott Smith had to be as giddy as a schoolgirl when he was on the Oscars. How long can you play the same dinky clubs? How many non-selling records before you call the whole thing off? There's no nobility in failure. Not in music. Not anymore.
Don't be afraid of selling out. It's only natural.
Every touring band does it. Every band on a label, whether major or indie, has done it. Every band self-releasing their own records wants to do it.
Even Ani DiFranco has done it, and she owns her own label.
Every day a dozen new CDs arrive at The Stranger office. Each comes in a little envelope (a package) with an easy-to-open tab. Inside are a bio and photo and press clippings (packaging, packaging, packaging), along with the record itself (the base packaging).
And when bands play a show there are fliers (packaging), opening acts (packaging), and headliners (the packaging from which all packaging that evening originates from).
Shows, tours, videos... packaging.
Even the band is packaging. Elvis was a stud. Kurt Cobain spoke to a generation (and he had beautiful blue eyes).
Music itself is a package -- a bundle of ideas and melodies and catchy beats all packaged together.
Every journey begins with a first step. Every band begins with a first song. Every corporation begins with a single dollar.
Every band's first step is a step toward "selling out."
The CDs come in to the office just soaking in packaging, and there on the cover is a photo or drawing or computer-generated design. The cover image is there to tell you about the band, to sell the band, to make the record leap off the shelves.
The cover is still more packaging.
Each band is more than the music they create. There is the way they dress, the way they style their hair, how they move on stage. There is the energy they create when they perform. All this exists for one reason: so you'll listen to their songs.
If a tree falls in the woods....
If a band plays a song and no one ever listens to it, what was the point of playing?
Bands need to sell out. Otherwise they die. From their first song, their first show, their first CD cover, the means of survival are always the same: People need to hear you play. The more people hear you, the longer you have to live.
Capitalism = Darwinism.
Bands never sell out; they just survive. No matter how much money they make.
Survival of the fittest. Adapt and overcome.
Limp Bizkit (because he's the senior vice president of Interscope Records)
Josh Wink (The Profound Sounds of)
G. Love & Special Sauce (because of pretentious name-dropping throughout the press kit)
Bif Naked (because her last name is Naked)
Julio Iglesias Jr. (because he refuses to admit his father is Julio Iglesias Sr.)
Madder Rose (the bass player knows why)