Lug Nuts And Goldfish: How The Music Industry Could Save Itself If It Really Wanted To!

"If you'd like to make a call, please hang up and dial again. If this is L.A. Reid.
pretending to talk on the phone for some photo shoot, homie, quit playin."
Imagine an industry that not only loathes with a red hot passion its own creative talent - you know, the artists and songwriters who actually CREATE the very product upon which the entire industry is built, but also the consumers that said industry is reliant upon to fuel their expense accounts and lavish lifestyles.

Of course, it isn't really necessary to imagine the existence of such an industry when you have major label record companies thumbing their noses at the artists and consumers that are their lifeblood all the while running their own industry into the ground with one devastatingly bad decision after another.

Imagine if the commander of the Titanic had steered his ship directly into the path of the biggest iceberg he could find and you'll have some idea of the downright crass and reckless nature of those within the music industry.

When I was a kid growing up in the absolute middle of nowhere (southwest Michigan), not only were there multiple record stores in every shopping mall in the area, but music chains such as Musicland, Camelot, Wherehouse, Sound Warehouse, Tower, Coconuts, Oranges, Peaches, Strawberries were plentiful, to say the least.

Of course, you could also buy the more popular albums and tapes of the day at Woolworth's, Kmart, and even the corner drug store or hardware store. Of course, in the bigger cities regional retailers like Rose Records, Wallich's Music City, Strawberries, and Licorice Pizza maintained a major presence as well. Last but not least, you had the thousands of ma-and-pa retailers all more than happy to sell you as much music as you could buy.

"One of you stole my dildos and until somebody gives them back, no more Beats headphones!!
Sadly, all of those places are gone, every last one of them and still the major label music industry continues chugging along like a runaway train on tracks that were long ago disassembled and sold for scrap.

Keep in mind that this is the same industry that, even as major retailers like Tower Records were fending off the creditors, instructed its own trade organization, the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America), to continue to spend millions and millions of dollars waging a misguided war against Napster and those who utilized the service.

That's not to say that piracy on any level is permissible, but to go after single moms and college students as if they had personally broken into Jimmy Iovine's house and stolen his collection of diamond-studded dildos instead of doing everything in their considerable power to bail out the retailers who were their very lifeblood is one of the more ridiculous decisions ever made in the history of commerce.

Imagine if a Ford or Chevrolet had continued churning out millions of cars like always while allowing their dealerships to go belly-up.

I mean, if you'd have come up to me while I was smiling ear-to-ear in some record store back in, oh I dunno, 1981 and said, "Hey kid, in the future, there will ten times more great music than there is now, but, get this, you can't buy any of it because there won't be a single record chain anywhere. This glorious paradise of vinyl records, posters, tapes, and loud music that you are now standing in will be phone store. Yes, phones, that's all they sell. I'm not kidding." I would probably have driven my saucy Schwinn with the sparkly banana seat and Oscar Gamble "Traded" card "fwupping" the spokes right off the nearest cliff.

Just your average friendly (although slightly judgmental) record store" staff" circa 1978.
Instead, I've had to watch this slow-speed suicide and, let me tell you, it's absolutely criminal how this industry has gone out of its way to continue to fuck the artists and consumers at every turn, all the while those at the top continue to get rich by plundering their own vaults and then unloading it for pennies on the dollar:

"Tower Records wants a helping hand staying afloat while we continue to foist an unrealistic price structure ($19.98 list price for all full-length CD's) upon them while, at the same time, making singles obsolete? Fuck them."

"Spotify wants to give our label part ownership stake in lieu of actual money in exchange for gaining full access to our complete catalog and the right to then pay artists 0.0007 per spin? Sure, where do I sign up?"

"What do you mean our rush order of Van Halen albums hasn't shown up yet?"
Even as a kid, I couldn't help wonder why each major label didn't just run their own chain of record stores and radio stations. I mean, what better way to promote YOUR releases? They already had manufacturing and distribution infrastructure and there certainly wasn't any law against it, but such a concept was deemed as pure idiocy by those bitching about the lack of sales until Richard Branson started opening Virgin Megastores around the United States.

Of course, those have all closed up, too, and I will tell you why: because they acted like normal record stores that sold every label's albums and gave little preferential treatment to their own titles. Imagine me walking into Virgin Megastore for the first time expecting, if nothing else, to get some favorable pricing on Black Rebel Motorcycle Club's debut album. Ah, but they wanted $17.99 for it just like everyone else did. What the funk?

See, even if you DID decide to sell product by all the major labels, at the very fucking least, cut us a deal on the Virgin Records titles, for crying out loud. And while you're at it, you should be paying US to wear your t-shirts if you expect us to walk around with the word "Virgin" on our chests. To expect us to pay $40 for the privilege, no wonder your stores went belly-up, Mr. Billionaire genius.

Former Napster/current Spotify exec Sean Parker is worth $2.7 billion dollars - more than Paul
McCartney and John Lennon put together - despite having never actually made anything."
Well that and putting them in the biggest, priciest retail money pits you could find. And while you're at it, what would have been so bad about keeping things realistic, downsizing the inventory a bit and not playing to the Abercrombie & Fitch crowd so much?

Other than Best Buy or Walmart, where does the average music fan in some fly-over state (i.e., most of the country) go to buy music? Ever tried asking someone on the floor at either of these retailers about a music title? They may as well be selling lug nuts or goldfish, both of which they actually do carry.

Even with the resurgence of vinyl, which indicates that there is still very much a c"cool factor" to buying physical product, the labels will rather write it off as an annoying fad than to actually invest in such interest by opening retail establishments or bending over backwards to help those retailers who still exist sell their music.
Keep in mind that this is a problem the major labels could fix at any time. How could you honestly expect retailers that sell fucking lug nuts and goldfish to give one shit about selling music? Maybe instead of firing the guy or gal who suggests investing in physical retail right before you take a meeting with Spotify's Sean Parker, it's time to show Mr. Parker the door and open some mother-bleeping record stores!

Ah, but that will never happen because guys like Parker are getting absolutely filthy rich by breaking the law. This is the same guy behind Napster, for crying out loud. If piracy was truly a crime, this would be the guy you'd put behind bars first. Compared to the guy who used to sell bootleg Aerosmith tapes out of the back of his car and went to jail for twenty years, Parker should never see the light of day again, but instead he has a net worth of $2.7 billion and was instrumental in coaxing the major labels into playing ball with Spotify and others without needing to pay those pesky labels (or the artists) any actual money for the privilege.

Superior St. Rehearsal Facility


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