“World Series of Pop Culture” accidentally sums up everything wrong with music industry

by Eric Melin on August 15, 2007

in Blogs

That’s the title of a blog post from EatSleepDrinkMusic, or ESDmusic.com. I had pretty much the same thought when I watched one of the more infamous sequences on this year’s World Series of Pop Culture on VH1, so it’s nice to see someone else noticed how funny it was and how it makes a big statement. Here’s the blog in its entirety:

“World Series of Pop Culture” accidentally sums up everything wrong with music industry

Posted on 07.19.07 by David Medsker @ 8:44 pm

A funny thing happened a couple days ago on VH1’s World Series of Pop Culture, and every record label in the world should be scared to death because of it.

warrenIn a match-up between Almost Perfect Strangers 2.0 and Remo-Leen-Teen-Teen, the last two contestants, Almost Perfect Strangers’ Lucien and Remo-Leen’s Warren, faced off to decide which team would advance to the semifinals. The category was “Party Like It’s 2006,” and host Pat Kiernan would read a couple lyrics to a pop song, and Lucien and Warren had to name the artist. The songs were by artists like Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera, Shakira and Paris Hilton, all pretty big names.

They didn’t get a single one right.

Think about that for a second. Those songs are only a year old, and these guys, both very knowledgeable trivia buffs, had already forgotten every single one of them. And to drive the point home further, neither one of them was even embarrassed about it. In fact, after the third or fourth missed answer, Lucien laid it out on the table. “I don’t mean to sound like an old fogey, but today’s songs are terrible!”

The audience erupted with applause.

This, to me, is the most awesome thing that possibly could have happened.

Blame illegal downloading all you want, music industry goons, but the real reason you’re losing so much money has less to do with downloading – after all, sales were never higher than when Napster was at its peak – and more to do with the fact that you’re not releasing music worth owning. A few other questionable business decisions also contributed to the decay, such as:

lucien- Allowing your product to be used as a loss leader in order to lure people into stores that don’t specialize in, and therefore place no real emphasis on, music
- Raising the price of your product to nearly $20 per CD, despite the fact that manufacturing costs have gone down
- Completely forsaking artist development, focusing instead on short-term gains

Record labels survived the tough times in the past by having strong back catalogs that could pull in some extra coin when the current crop doesn’t pan out. If the labels think they’re hurting now, what do they think things will be like five or ten years from now, when the back catalog is Paris Hilton, R. Kelly and Fall Out Boy? By missing every question in that category, Lucien and Warren inadvertently summed up everything that is wrong with music today: simply put, the music industry lost respect for its own product, and eventually, so did everyone else.

As you probably know, J.D. and I were contestants on the show this year on the Westerburg High team. We spent a lot of time getting to know all the other contestants in the green room. The author is right that Warren and Lucien knew their stuff. Everybody did. We all had to pass a nearly impossible written test and play in a mock tournament before even being cast. Here’s the thing–

While having vast knowledge in movies, TV, older music and pop culture in general, very few of the people cast on the show bother to keep up with the new hitmakers of today. And we’re not alone.

I don’t listen to the radio.

gnr coverThat doesn’t mean that I’ve stopped listening to music; quite the contrary. Everybody I talked to on the show were huge music fans and had big music collections. I remember being semi-astonished to find a bunch of Elliott Smith fans among the contestants. Sure, everybody had their own genres that they dug the most, but the point is that the stuff that’s on the radio and TV is just not doing it anymore.

For further proof, just look at the cover of the August 9, 2007 issue of Rolling Stone. What hot new band that’s ‘ripping up the charts’ these days is featured on the cover?

Guns n’ Roses. It’s a photo from 20 freakin’ years ago!

In the article, David Medsker blames the music industry. I’ll be more specific. I blame radio. They cater to the lowest common demoninator and by trying to please everybody, they end up pleasing very few.

It’s like a politician. Al Gore was staid and boring and covered all the mainstream bases running for president in 2000. As soon as the election was over and he lost (a whole ‘nother ball of wax I won’t get into), he was freed up to actually say what he wanted and not have to worry about catering to the massses. All of a sudden, he was the only person speaking out against invading Iraq (he did so from the beginning), and it was because he wasn’t trying to please everyone anymore.

On the original blog, one user’s comment suggested satellite radio. This is something I haven’t explored, although it probably seems like a good option. Right now, I’m fine with my 20,000 song iPod and the Shuffle function. It’s the best radio station I’ve ever heard because I’m the one who programmed it.

There’s plenty of great music being made today. It just isn’t getting played on the radio. With mp3s becoming more accessible, more and more smaller label artists will get heard via word-of-mouth (Ever traded mp3s with someone?), even if they don’t get paid what they should.

In that case, go see ‘em live and buy a T-shirt– they could use the cash. Seriously.

Eric is the Editor-in-Chief of Scene-Stealers.com and writes the Screen Stealers column for The Pitch. He’s President of the KCFCC, and drummer for The Dead Girls and Ultimate Fakebook. He is also Air Guitar World Champion Mean Melin. Eric goes to 11. Follow him at:

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Rich Mcpherson August 15, 2007 at 6:04 pm

http://WWW.kexp.org

Learn it.
Live it.
Stream it.
Thank me later!

-Rich

Reply

2 Rich Mcpherson August 15, 2007 at 6:04 pm

http://WWW.kexp.org

Learn it.
Live it.
Stream it.
Thank me later!

-Rich

Reply

3 Lizzie T. August 15, 2007 at 6:29 pm

Fuck yeah, man. To all of it.

Reply

4 Lizzie T. August 15, 2007 at 6:29 pm

Fuck yeah, man. To all of it.

Reply

5 Mason Spencer August 16, 2007 at 8:13 am

Radio BLOWS in Atlanta. My favorite station in my hometown of Nashville, TN is WRLT – Lightning 100. It pissed me because they didn’t stream online…well, now they do. Try them out at http://www.wrlt.com.

Reply

6 Mason Spencer August 16, 2007 at 8:13 am

Radio BLOWS in Atlanta. My favorite station in my hometown of Nashville, TN is WRLT – Lightning 100. It pissed me because they didn’t stream online…well, now they do. Try them out at http://www.wrlt.com.

Reply

7 Randall August 16, 2007 at 4:59 pm

Radio totally blows, but don’t let labels off the hook–they’re the ones marketing all that crap to radio instead of nurturing artists to have lengthy careers as they used to. They also failed to realize the potential of legal downloading, and they bought themselves all kinds of ill will by suing music fans. And Medsker is right that CD prices are artificially high. Why on earth can they charge about the same price for multiple-disc DVD collections that they charge for CDs?

There’s plenty of new music worth owning. But it’s not on the radio, and it’s not coming from major labels.

Reply

8 Randall August 16, 2007 at 4:59 pm

Radio totally blows, but don’t let labels off the hook–they’re the ones marketing all that crap to radio instead of nurturing artists to have lengthy careers as they used to. They also failed to realize the potential of legal downloading, and they bought themselves all kinds of ill will by suing music fans. And Medsker is right that CD prices are artificially high. Why on earth can they charge about the same price for multiple-disc DVD collections that they charge for CDs?

There’s plenty of new music worth owning. But it’s not on the radio, and it’s not coming from major labels.

Reply

9 Travis August 17, 2007 at 4:13 pm

Here’s my opinion on this nuanced topic. Radio is, as Eric pointed out, the bane of existence. It relies to heavily on ‘hit’ songs. I’ve heard the Plain White T’s ballad about Sampson on 3 different stations at once, with each station patterned after one type of music, or listener. It’s also a chore to listen to the radio when stations break for commercials ALL AT ONCE. It also hurts radio that everything is essentially the same. Take for example ‘hit’ maker Timbaland he has produced songs for Nelly Furtado, Justin Timberlake, himself and countless others and they all take up radio time.

The only bright light i’ve seen in radio is when they do local/new stuff and it’s always on a Sunday at 3 am or for about 15 minutes around 8 o’clock. This is not enough time, or the right time frame, for people to get out there and experience NEW music. I mean new as in novel not new as in just released. The movie “the invasion” is new but it’s definitely not novel…

Reply

10 Travis August 17, 2007 at 4:13 pm

Here’s my opinion on this nuanced topic. Radio is, as Eric pointed out, the bane of existence. It relies to heavily on ‘hit’ songs. I’ve heard the Plain White T’s ballad about Sampson on 3 different stations at once, with each station patterned after one type of music, or listener. It’s also a chore to listen to the radio when stations break for commercials ALL AT ONCE. It also hurts radio that everything is essentially the same. Take for example ‘hit’ maker Timbaland he has produced songs for Nelly Furtado, Justin Timberlake, himself and countless others and they all take up radio time.

The only bright light i’ve seen in radio is when they do local/new stuff and it’s always on a Sunday at 3 am or for about 15 minutes around 8 o’clock. This is not enough time, or the right time frame, for people to get out there and experience NEW music. I mean new as in novel not new as in just released. The movie “the invasion” is new but it’s definitely not novel…

Reply

11 Jadyn August 18, 2007 at 6:44 pm

hi i enjoyed the read

Reply

12 Jadyn August 18, 2007 at 6:44 pm

hi i enjoyed the read

Reply

13 Keith August 20, 2007 at 1:54 am

Best moment of the whole series for me…makes me proud of our nations nerds…given with the highest respect possible for I would consider myself one as well.

In that article the mentioning of companies catalogs is a terrifying thought. I wonder if there will be countless repackaging in the form of “greatest hits” collections for the current artists nowadays let alone if people will still be listening to the popular music of today.

There’s a hell of a lot of good music out today but you have to look for it. That same effort should also go into looking for good “old music” because finding out a new “classic” band to enjoy is like finding buried treasure if I must state a tired comparison.

P.S. I’m sorry but I never come across CD’s that are near 20 bucks unless they have special packaging or are multi disc. Most CD’s have pretty good price points nowadays…especially older releases.

Reply

14 Keith August 20, 2007 at 1:54 am

Best moment of the whole series for me…makes me proud of our nations nerds…given with the highest respect possible for I would consider myself one as well.

In that article the mentioning of companies catalogs is a terrifying thought. I wonder if there will be countless repackaging in the form of “greatest hits” collections for the current artists nowadays let alone if people will still be listening to the popular music of today.

There’s a hell of a lot of good music out today but you have to look for it. That same effort should also go into looking for good “old music” because finding out a new “classic” band to enjoy is like finding buried treasure if I must state a tired comparison.

P.S. I’m sorry but I never come across CD’s that are near 20 bucks unless they have special packaging or are multi disc. Most CD’s have pretty good price points nowadays…especially older releases.

Reply

15 ChrisKnudsen August 21, 2007 at 8:45 am

We could talk about how much commercial radio blows but in reality, it doesn’t. Lou Bega will always be better than the Replacements. Lou Bega should be president and have my babies.

Reply

16 ChrisKnudsen August 21, 2007 at 8:45 am

We could talk about how much commercial radio blows but in reality, it doesn’t. Lou Bega will always be better than the Replacements. Lou Bega should be president and have my babies.

Reply

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