Apology for Defending the Music Industry, or How to Lose Support and Negatively Influence People

I originally intended this post to be a light, fun post highlighting the new web series from Jonathan Ian Mathers, founder of Ill Will Press and creator of Neurotically Yours, but then I got pulled into the vortex of mediocrity and lowered expectations known as the MTV Video Music Awards.

Normally there are a few moments that really showcase some talent, leaving you wondering how they got through the door at MTV to begin with. Taylor Swift had a fun performance with her third (!) country cross-over hit You Belong With Me, taking advantage of the NYC subway system and underground performance culture. Pink scared the crap out of me recreating her acrobatic/daredevil tour performances, all done with live vocals, to a heartbreaking rendition of Sober. Lady Gaga finished her transformation from sexual cocoon to full blown performance artist butterfly with a live performance of Paparazzi that ended with her having been killed by the relentless media, hanging above the stage drenched in blood. And Madonna had the best performance of the night, giving a heartfelt tribute to the memory of Michael Jackson and lamenting the fact that the man lived his entire life under the scrutiny of the cameras.

So why, if I had a decent time at moments, have I given up on the music industry? Because they never learn. Aside from fighting against every new technological development for fear of losing money and running musical trends into the ground before they ever have the chance to develop into something worthwhile, they are far too trusting of their personalities.

Can anyone name an awards show Kanye West attended and did not cause a scene at? Anyone? One awards show where he didn't flip out because he didn't win or his favorite didn't win? No? Good. He's the prime example.

Here's the set-up: Taylor Swift is a country artist having an inordinate amount of success in contemporary hit radio and country music. A crossover hit once in a while is not out of the question. Swift, as a teenager, has managed three in her first two albums: Teardrops on My Guitar, Love Story, and You Belong With Me. She's very likely to squeeze out another hit because her second album has no shortage of potential. However, the shelf-life of a country crossover artist is notoriously short because both pop and country communities will accuse the artist of catering too much to one or the other.

There's a very good chance that Taylor Swift will never be nominated for another popular music award, like a VMA. That means the fact that she won Best Female Video could be the only lasting evidence that she ever had a hit on the Top 100, not the Country Top 40. Was You Belong With Me a particularly great video? It's cute, it's fun, and it fits the song. It's a perfect marketing vehicle. It also doesn't hurt that Swift writes all of her songs, is a total sweetheart, has a brain, and just happens to be a tall thin blond artist. Music is a business based in an art form and it has to sell to be made and known. Swift is as close as the industry gets to a sure thing nowadays.

Taylor Swift is already overwhelmed, even acknowledging that she's a country artist and never thought she'd be on MTV, let alone win an award there. Country isn't pop and she's not naive enough to believe everyone will love her music. The audience is eating this up.

Enter Kanye West. He grabs the mic from Taylor Swift, acts like he has no idea who this girl is, then basically says "No offense, little girl, but Beyonce had the best video ever made [by an artist not named Kanye West] and she should be standing here, not you. How dare you people screw this up for Beyonce? Here you go, little girl, now go finish your speech." Taylor, in shock, can't say a word, and the whole production is thrown off. Suddenly, instead of performing live at the VMAs, MTV is forced to use a prerecorded performance of You Belong With Me while Taylor Swift and her mother are crying uncontrollably backstage. The rest of the night, whenever Kanye's name is mentioned, the audience boos.

I'm not exaggerating what happened, either. Take a look:

Disgusting. Thanks for proving how awful the recorded music industry is, Kanye West. If they had any sense, they would stop egomaniacs like you from getting one foot in the door. You do this at every single awards show. You wonder why people have a problem with your attitude and swear up and down you're going to work on humility, yet you think appropriate behavior is stomping on a young woman's success because you didn't get your way. I'm actually shaking after watching that again.

Enter Jonathan Ian Mathers. A few weeks ago, he launched a new web series called 4y-Records. It's about a record store owner dealing with the worst of the worst possible customers at the store. Here's the second episode, about record labels re-releasing the same music over and over with pretty new packaging:

I get the humor isn't for everyone and absolutely respect that. It's a loud, crass style prone to rants and vary the same message until everyone gets it tactics that I believe works quite well. I think Mathers is onto something special with his new show and hopefully it finds a fan base to justify it's continued existence.

Now declaring a personal moratorium on coverage of the following topics: Kanye West, MTV.

Phew! I shall release myself to the cleansing power of Mad Men to remove that bad case of the stupids brought on by 3.5 hours of MTV.

Dubliners On My Mind...And a Minor Breakdown

Sketchy Recs: What to Do This Weekend: 11-13 September 2009