Bullshit and The Brits

March 9, 2008 at 10:24 am (Concepts, music industry) ()

I recently had the misfortunate to watch a little of the 2008 Brit Awards on TV – the annual back-patting/collective-snorting where the mainly major labels in UK get all self-congratulatory about how great British music is (despite year-on-year plummeting of sales and declining market share of British artists in international territories). The mechanism for the ‘awards’ is that mostly the industry vote for each other based on their own share of the market, thus the only artists ever likely to win are signed to mega-daddy Universal Music.

This year was particularly grotesque and was, for me, the final nail in the music-industry coffin. God know what they’d put in the pre-awards wine, but every artist performing, presenting or collecting an award was totally trollied, in particular Vic Reeves who forgot what award he was presented and was lambasted by Sharon Osbourne who hit him shouting ‘You Pissed Bastard’, or words to that affect. Who says standards are declining on TV? The most sober beneficiary was, ironically, Amy Winehouse, who has more experience than most of holding her ale, muddling through a dreary tuneless rendition of one of her tedious songs.

The icing on the amphetamine cake was Paul McCartloads, anguish on his face from the High Court divorce trial, nodding his way through sabotaging Hey Jude while the session musos in his band have smug looks on their faces as if to say, ‘yeah even I know this is shite but I’m earning loads!’

Watching pissed people when you’re stone-cold sober is never nice, but when they’re supposed to be the successful ones in the ‘industry’ who are ‘living the dream’ it’s even more painful. It reminded me of my own Cinderella Brits story: in 2000 I worked for Big Daddy Universal Music on an agency contract. Not being staff, I was the only one out of 100s in the company who didn’t get a comp ticket to the awards and after-show party. By 4 O’Clock, I was still chained to my desk while all the others got dressed up and left. The next day they all rolled in late, hungover, full of stories of meeting Bono and Gail Porter at the Universal after-show.

What these stories illustrate is that now the life of a musician who considers themselves an artist is further removed than ever from those who are celebrities, and perhaps whose original passion for voice, melody and words has been squeezed to a limp-lifelessness through the sausage machine of the music industry. I have no loyalty to my former paymasters: I welcome the demise of the formal music industry and the rise of the artist as plethora stars in the diverse, ginormous musical galaxy.

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