Los Angeles, CA
Coffeshop. Santa Monica. 10am. Two guys sat in a booth. One, former A&R guy at a major record label, is loosely wearing a suit. The other one, an actor, looks like he just woke up.
"I was up early," said the actor as he shoveled a ham and cheese omelet into his face. "I had an early audition. Crack of dawn. Fast food commercial."
"Was it for breakfast or something like McMuffins?"
"Nah, flatbread sandwiches. National campaign. If I land that, I can finally pay off my credit cards and I can go home and visit family for Christmas. But right now, all I care about is getting the call back. The next few days are going to be torture. Hey, I'm in the wrong biz. The music industry. That's where it's at. I should have been more serious when I was nine and took piano lessons."
"The music industry? No way. Just as bad if not worse than acting. It's like the worst wrung of show business."
"Even worse than reality TV?"
"Reality TV brings in more dough than scripted TV. Nah, music biz is up there with infomercials and politics. I should say, it's down there with infos and those talking heads."
"Really? Music biz that bad? Worse than infomercials?"
"At least people, albeit stupid people, will buy something they see on an infomercial. Whether its a Snuggie or Ginsu knives... doesn't matter... it's a real, physical product that you can't steal from the internet. They ship products that kids can't steal via the internet."
"You can buy knives and slankets on the net."
"Sure, you can. Maybe it's cheaper too. Maybe not. But you still have to pay for it in a traditional business transaction. It's not like kids today stealing 99.9% of their music. When was the last time you went to a record shop and bought a CD?"
"God. I don't know. I think I bought a Beatles Greatest Hits once at a gas station when I was on a road trip up to Maine and the rental car at Logan had a CD player but no AUX ports or satellite radio."
"When was the last time you paid for a full album on iTunes?"
"I think I bought The Strokes new album Angels
a couple summers ago."
"That was two albums ago. Why didn't you get the last one? Because you streamed it on Pitchfork, like everyone else, right?"
"Yeah, I did... it was free. I got to listen to it for free."
"But you didn't pay a cent to the band, or the record company. Sure, you boosted the traffic to Pitchfork, and they probably cut a deal with the band to stream it exclusively, but for the most part the majority of people listening to the new Strokes album are not paying for it. How much of your iPod is filled with pirated music? 50%? 90%? Kids today in highschool? They never paid a dime for music in their lives."
"I'm starting to sound like one of those old farts. When I was a kid, blah blah blah. But it's true, when I was in college, we still had dial up so I couldn't download music. In high school I blew money on music and movies. CDs. DVDs. Movie tickets. Concert tickets. Gas money. A little grass and cheap six packs. That's why I worked at the fucking Blockbuster in Nashua. I fucking hated it, but I got free rentals and it paid for music I really wanted badly."
"You worked hard to earn money and then spent it on music. Nowadays, kids just go online and download that shit for free. They have no semblance of what it means to pay for art."
"What ever happened to 'You get what you pay for?'"
"In this case, kids have access to an entire encyclopedia of music -- the entire history of music from Bach to the Beatles, from Beethoven to Beiber. And with access to all that rich history, what kinda of music is selling now? Fucking dubstep. Robots fucking. Douchey, uncircumcised Swedish dorks with laptops. That's today's 'rock' stars. No more Ziggy Stardust. No more Robert Plant. No more long haired dudes drinking whiskey, toking grass, and lighting up the garage with the loudest music they could. It was happening in the 60s. In the 70s. Event in the 80s and then the 90s, and then just stopped at the start of the 00s. Now, no one is trying to form bands with their friends. Instead, it's solo solitary dudes with their laptops. Sitting in the dark in their mommy's basement. Alone. Mixing. Mashing. Cuisinarting all these hooks and drops that these dopey fucking kids with zero taste think is straight up dope. It's dope. Dope for dopes. And they're blowing tons of cash on this dope. Electric Daisy and shit like that. Sure, I fucking hate the Eagles and it's the epitome of corporate rock and roll, but at least there's some bit of art in it. Albeit watered down, there's still a bit of soul in there. This glitch hop is soulless. I cannot believe what's going on."
"The drugs are getting stronger and the music is getting worse."
"Zombies shoving Ecstasy up their asses and in their coochies.No wonder we're doomed. All this new shit lacks any sort of edge. It's too narcissistic. Totally lacks a sociopolitical edge. Punk was political. It was about the have-nots rallying together to fight the man. Dylan was inspired by protest singers from the first half of the 20th Century. The earliest days of hip hop were all political. Jay Z said hip hop was like CNN for black communities. It's how they got their news. Then it all became about material pursuits. Bling. Dealing drugs. Hoochie mamas. And this electronic dance music craze? Where's the politics in that? Sounds more like static. Loud static. Feed kids enough drugs and they'll dance to anything."