Monday, June 12, 2006

The Thing That Should Not Be

As a person involved in the music and media industry, I've been exposed to many practices that I found detestable on a grand scale. From horrible edits done by radio stations (a la Clear Channel) to make songs fit into their pre-programmed pre-recorded 3 minute 30 second windows, to lyric edits done by record labels in order to make them more of what the record label would want to hear (not necessarily the audience). However what I found to be the most detestable practice was the process of re-arranging done by record labels.

Bands are marketed according to their genre. This genre could be rock, pop, adult contemporary, hard rock, R&B, etc. What re-arranging does is take a band and try to market it to another genre by changing the sound of the song. Electric guitars might be replaced by pianos or a string orchestra etc. It's the pop version of Muzak. Yes, I can see many of you music minded folks are realizing just how idiotic this is.

I remember working at one radio station and hearing all of these adult contemporary arrangements of rock songs. Of course my moronic general manager would deem anything from a major label in the AC genre as "great stuff" and immediately add it to the playlist. (FYI this was another reason I left radio, too many idiots in control.) I would sit there and have to keep myself from vomiting all over the console as these horrible renditions of great songs would play. Fortunately I eventually pissed all the old folks off that would listen to that station and I got kicked off my air shift, only to become full time production manager. I quit a year later, surprise surprise surprise!

I should make a note that more often than not, it is the record label that makes this decision. You see, selling records really doesn't net the artist any income at all. We're talking mere pennies on each one. What really gets the artist money is touring and selling out venues. So, the record label in turning the failing wheels of their dying business model decides to send out as many different versions of the song to as many stations. What they're hoping is that the target audience of the station will hear the song in the format they like and then pick up the CD. However, once Ma and Pa Jones bring the CD home and play it, they are shocked to find out that this is not the song they heard on the radio. This has noisy electric guitars and drums! Where are the soft pianos and easy listening that they liked?! Gone!

Of course the inverse can be true as well, you may hear a song that rocks on the air but once you get it home it sucks. In the con-artist's handbook there's a practice called bait and switch. You bait the mark with something so great it draws them in. Once they pay their hard earned cash, you switch it with garbage that doesn't even come close to the quality of what got their attention in the first place. The recording industry cons people all the time for their own financial gain. Those within the industry are quick to defend this as "effective marketing strategy". I like to call it "being really good at lying".

So the next time you buy a CD that sounds nothing like what you heard on the radio, just take a deep breath and realize that you have been had like millions of other people. Is it any surprise that the RIAA sues 13 year old kids?


Anonymous said...

Wow , great insight into the industry and the manipulation. I don't buy music anymore, but I'm surprised to hear they change songs to fit the station. Terrible. Matchu77

BP said...

I wasn't aware that record labels do that with music either. It certainly makes sense. I have heard Muzac versions of great songs. I just change the station when I hear one of those. I know the sound of the bands I like. If I hear one of their songs butchered then I know they had nothing to do with it. Good info.

BP said...

I'm gonna have to try the "asking why, why, why? through the blubbering" bit. I confess, I do the four letter words in a long string while kicking whatever is available. (Never animals or people though)