[Marxism] Payola; also, music trading

Douglas Nesbitt djnesbit at connect.carleton.ca
Thu Feb 19 09:50:54 MST 2004

> "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."

I disagree that I am romanticizing indie labels, but rather giving a 
generally correct picture of how the major labels deal with them. If 
they produce a band that is deemed profitable, they are signed. If the 
independent label itself is profitable, they are purchased or given 
distribution. It is notable that SubPop, Epitaph and Lookout after they 
produced Nirvana, the Offspring and Green Day, respectively, were all 
given distribution and offers to be purchased. The vast majority of 
indies, promoting the vast majority of artists, have no ties with 
majors, many not wanting any ties.

> 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 
> dropping out of sight).

This is an interesting observation, one I'm familiar with. The 
so-called "In Between Years" from 1958-1964 is itself a romanticization 
of early rock music. Rock and Roll allegedly ended with the death of 
Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry's prison sentence, Elvis' army service and 
Little Richard becoming a preacher. It returned with the Beatles. This 
view can and should be deemed "rock history from above" - an incorrect 
historical method. While this was indeed a blow to rock and roll, the 
major labels - by shutting down independent deejays and shutting out 
independent labels - essentially cut off their source of new rock 
talent after the Payola Hearings. The reality is, many new developments 
in rock music occured after 1958 and before the Beatles invasion, 
including surf music, garage rock and the "Stax Sound". With several 
exceptions that made these genres widely recognizable (Beach Boys, The 
Kingsmen, Booker T & The MGs), most of these bands were never signed or 
given wide distribution.

This analysis lends to my prior points on the relationship between 
indies and majors, one which I think is necessarily generalized, but 
not romanticized.

~Doug Nesbitt

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