[Marxism] Payola; also, music trading

Jeff Rubard jeffrubard at fusemail.com
Thu Feb 19 01:07:06 MST 2004

> Message: 9
> Date: Thu, 19 Feb 2004 00:32:52 -0500 (EST)
> From: Douglas Nesbitt <djnesbit at connect.carleton.ca>
> Subject: Re: [Marxism] Brilliant analysis from a soft rock icon
> To: Marxism at lists.econ.utah.edu
> Message-ID:
> 	<3668296.1077168772588.JavaMail.djnesbit at connect.carleton.ca>
> Content-Type: text/plain
> Thank you for posting the article. I found Henley to be somewhat
> ignorant of the business history of rock and roll. This is evident when
> he poses the question, "Would a major label sign Johnny Cash today?"
> and answers "I doubt it." It should be noted that Johnny Cash was first
> signed to the independent label Sun Records (which gave Elvis his
> start) and was then bought up (like Elvis) by a major label after
> having commercial success on Sun (like Elvis). This pattern is
> constant, at least in what could be generally described as "rock" music.

Well, since the Don Henley issue was already tabled let's discuss this.
You romanticize independent labels, which is not to be done if you are
aware of the realities of independent release: difficulties are legion, if
not unbearable, when artists choose to release on independents and there
is no reason to privilege the "authenticity" of such releases.  There are
records you would want to have which were not released on major labels,
and although there are some specialties ("old soul" being one of them)
which are handled primarily by independents many "indie" labels are
not-so-secretly involved in major-label distribution deals.  But really,
indies run on razor-thin margins of profit and this comes from somewhere.

The payola question you raise is interesting: not so much for the
"build" you present (Alan Freed being a recognizable face for an
organizationally-driven-and-extremely-so music business) but because
popular music did not noticeably improve following the payola scandal
(several popular artists, as legend has it, such as Chuck Berry and Elvis
dropping out of sight).  But, although the proprieties of "music-trading"
are indeed to be considered, I am not convinced that they permit of
quote-unquote rational reconstruction as per the wishes of recording
artists, some of which would be okay with the thought of their
out-of-print records being widely available (as they once were on
radio) and some of whom would be extremely discomfitted by the thought
of a vital 'revenue' source drying up.  Really, I'm not sure there are sides
to take on "this particular question".

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