Thursday, July 07, 2005

Live rap and techno on the skids?; Embracing the music you hate

Way behind on posts- so many topics, so little time to spiel. For now, I just wanted to note three interesting articles.

- Will Rap Fans Pay More and Fill the Arenas? A Tour Bets They Will
I've always wondered why many rap acts that top the charts can't fill arenas like say rock or country. Two theories floated here are that the lack of dazzling FX ("pyrotechnics") and "tour development" (building a fan base by touring) work against live rap, not to mention parents being squeamish about stories of violence they hear at shows. For this last point, we're obviously familiar with all these stories but I have to wonder how much this gets played up by the media. I wonder if there are actually any studies about how much violence happens in rock shows as opposed to rap shows in recent years. Going back to reasons for poor rap show attendance, overall declines in ticket sales definitely don't help.

I don't know why but I have this feeling that there's some other factor that's not easy to pin down, as if these shows aren't necessarily the way that the audience expects or wants to experience this music as opposed to hearing it at home or seeing the videos. This may go back to the pyro argument where there's the perception that these shows don't provide enough visuals. I remember reading an interview A Tribe Called Quest circa 1990 where they addressed this problem though they still didn't put on a really compelling show when I saw them around the same time. That this is still an issue 15 years later points out how chronic this problem may still be.

- What Goes ON- After the Stall
I don't always agree with Washington City Paper's Mark Jenkins (in fact, I've written him several angry letters about wrong-headed comments in his columns) but I always find his writing to be at least thought-provoking, which is a lot more than you can say about most music columnists nowadays. This one (with the cute Moby cartoon) is about techno's failure to take over the American airwaves and charts. Two points I'd add to his arguments: 1) instrumental music usually doesn't reign on the pop charts, 2) techno is all over commercials nowadays, which obviously counts for something since Madison Avenue likes to keep its finger on the consumer pulse.

What's even more fascinating is Jenkins' side note about the Billboard Charts and how they 'bump' off records more than two years old. This means that warhorses by Pink Floyd and Queen don't make the cut though they're always steady sellers. It also means that Norah Jones and Postal Service get cut out too. All in the name of making our the music industry look hipper and more current than it actually is...?

- I Don't Know What I Don't Like
Frank Oteri is an especially perceptive and thoughtful editor as he proves month after month in New Music Box. I also cherish his columns there and here's one of his best. Though most peoples' budgets make the idea prohibitive, he dares to suggest to the reader that they start to invest in some of the music that they hate. Seems kind of insane, doesn't it? But it's not that crazy when you consider his argument that unless you want to cocoon yourself in your favorite genre (or just with a handful of your favorite bands), you owe it to yourself to explore some things that you don't think you like. Who knows? You might change your mind. Or maybe you won't. Oteri's comments are particularly salient for the classical world that he's addressing in NMB as the genre has been in long-term crisis with regards to its insular nature.

For anyone who's a music nut, his words ring true also. Maybe the most important thing I've learned from Ann Powers' work is that it's OK to not like everything you hear but it's not OK to outright dismiss everything, especially if it's seeped into or dominated pop culture. At the very least, the healthiest thing is to at least UNDERSTAND the phenom, even if you're ultimately going to decide that it ain't for you. You can get good deals on used CD's (and sell 'em back if you're not happy) and some online music services like Napster let you stream thousands of albums for a monthly fee (I use them a lot). Admittedly, embracing music that you don't like isn't not easy to do (takes up a lot of time, which you probably don't have to spare) but if you're a real music nut (or a music scribe), it's worth it to invest your ears and brain in such an undertaking at least now and then.

1 Comments:

Blogger blackmail is my life said...

That last paragraph is appropriate not only for music fans overall, but music writers as well. In fact, I think that perspective is the secular answer to the fake ideology behind "rockism".

I wouldn't have believed it myself, but having heard more music this year than I have since probably high school, I'd say that the best show I've been to all year was Autechre - this from a reformed techno guy gone to indie rawk college! An ecumenical outlook really is the best, and that doesn't necessarily translate into greenlighting everything, an important distinction to make.

5:10 PM  

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