If it wasn’t just so sad, it would be funny, but as this is written, Chris Brown has been released after being held hostage in the Philippines for three days for “unpaid bills”, there’s some kinda bad blood between Taylor Swift and Katy Perry over a song called, well, “Bad Blood”, there is absolutely way too much media space given to all those swimming downstream with Spotify and Apple whereas a fractured music industry plods along bereft of, well, music.

Looking around for even a glimmer of light at the end of a very long tunnel with that dead train to Nowhere hurtling our way, one hardly believes that YouTube wunderkind Connor Franta and his plans to launch unsigned acts to his own Heard Well label will go any further than a press release scarily similar to the same hype-filled propaganda “back in the day” when Perez Hilton and Ellen DeGeneres made bold announcements about THEIR new record labels. Perez Hilton? A record label? Why?But like so much to do with an industry that is no longer what it’s claiming to be, people come, people go, hype is heightened beyond recognition, and then allowed to slink away with no questions asked.

Of course, the big question that should be asked is, How has music been allowed to take such a backseat role to technology, to celebritydom disguised as “artistes”, and why so many are meekly accepting mediocrity and downright shamateurisms as Kanye West’s appalling decision to murder “Bohemian Rhapsody” at Glastonbury while not stopping, for example, to question whether Lorde has another song inside of her or if her productivity started and ended with “Royals”. The music world, or what’s left of it, seems far too polite when being sold mediocrity- or a bill of goods where many are not what them seem.

On the subject of productivity, one can’t help but notice the inordinate amount of time between releases by those like Bruno Mars, Radiohead, Coldplay, Sam Smith etc- artists actually capable of making music. Don Henley and Keith Richard have new records out or coming out after well over ten years of silence- hardly the extraordinary creative output of the Beatles which was the impetus and inspiration for so many others to join the charge which became the British Beat Boom that invaded America, and gave the kiss of life to everyone from the Beach Boys, the Byrds, Turtles and the Mamas and Papas to The Lovin’ Spoonful, Vanilla Fudge, Jefferson Airplane and The Monkees.

Apart from the Monkees, these were real musicians playing real instruments and making very real music. Not all captured “the mood of the times” as did the songs of Dylan and Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth”, but here was music by bands- and where are bands in today’s preoccupation with “automated” solo celebrities and the obscene amounts of money paid to DJs?- that inspired many to pick up instruments, learn how to use them, connect with others who had also decided to give this “music thing” a go, and see what developed.

Thankfully, young bands today like The 1975, The Struts and Twenty One Pilots keep the bandwagon rolling along with older statesman such as Blur and various incarnations of Oasis, but progress and clutter has created a very fractured and even false music scene as opposed to any industry.

Like all the money laundering that goes on in the food and beverage industry in many cities in Asia- mainly, Hong Kong, Macau, Shanghai and Singapore- where losing businesses- restaurants and clubs- are propped up to offer a false sense of success and popularity, and because of this, often creating a false demand for entertainment that has seen the rise and rise of vastly overpaid “celebrity” DJs, bands are seen as “too much trouble”.

Bands, no matter how commercial, are relegated to that “Indie” rubble whereas elevated and hyped to death are so many with only packaging going for them and very few asking, why, gawd, why?

Seriously now, listen to recordings by J-Lo, which is really a Pitbull track, and ask yourself if this is music or is it pure entertainment based on nothing else but a beat and a repetitive chorus beaten into submission.

Jennifer Lopez’s singing is as bad as her acting, but no one questions this as her “celebrity” is so enormous. And when someone like Pitbull- an extremely savvy businessman- rides on her coat tails- and wonderful derrière- it’s a shortcut to fame for him and a way for her to remain relevant through smoke and mirrors- a hot video with a Rapper for the Club crowd, and one track that can make it onto all those different Billboard charts that have sprung up like the day of the locusts.

These charts are part of the problem as they have given the great untalented a hook to hang their mediocrity on, and which is then parlayed into “chart success”.

From, once upon a time, having Pop, Classical and Jazz charts, there are now charts for every real and unreal genre with charts for even genres within genres.

It’s more of a business ploy than anything else, and, when it comes to music, all this clutter pushes the mothership even further into the background.

What this does is offer way too many “chart successes” that once had to be earned. These “chart successes” are now so easy to achieve- simply, buy “chart success”- that they are meaningless. They are only meaningful to those responsible for booking acts or wannabe promoters who can show “proof” of an act’s relevance for the books and to an entertainment media often in the pockets of the power brokers.

The payola scandal of the Fifties that brought down disc-jockey Alan Freed, pictured below, is chump change to what’s going on today and the very strong connection between the entertainment world and wherever there are casinos and the usual suspects behind these casinos booking in acts.

As for “chart successes”, these are absolute bullshit. Only an extremely naive Pollyanna will think that this and their various tentacles are not part of various cons where many palms are being greased- in clubs, through sponsors, through agents, through managers- and which is part and parcel of the very rudiments of money laundering.

When coming up with the lines, “I’ve got thundering hooves in my head and I won’t be easily led” for a song written by friend Ben Semmens, they might have been about the end of a relationship, but it was also about how easily led we’ve become- believing all we read, seldom questioning what are obvious cons, and the emergence of very dark forces to kill off music as we knew it.

The wonderful Joni Mitchell might have sung about wishing to get back to the garden, but, these days, we need to get back to the music.

We need to get back to making music, appreciating music, supporting musicians, and revisiting all the great music that has been allowed to get lost in the techno shuffle.

This is music that an entire new generation needs to hear and delve into and understand what was then, what’s missing today, and what needs to be done to make this art form the potent force and soundtrack to our lives that it should be.

Hans Ebert
Founder, Racingb*tch
Chairman and CEO
We-Enhance Inc, Fast Track Global Ltd
www.fasttrack.hk

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