Where the hell are the musicians?

Eric Garland Culture Trends 5 Comments

We talk all about the problems of the music industry: the decline in sales, the preference toward established artists, how much digital music makes per stream, blah blah blah.

I have another question that might explain why music has been gradually replaced by other entertainment in society: where the hell are all the musicians talking about police brutality tonight?

Where is the epic anthem to describe the revulsion against torture or mass surveillance?

Who is writing the song that exemplifies living on falling wages in a country that has the inequality of the Gilded Age come back to haunt us?

You want me to download your “track” and pay for it? Who’s writing protest songs that actually put their balls on the line?

Where is the modern equivalent of “Strange Fruit,” describing lynchings with perversely beautiful language?

Who is writing the equivalent of “Southern Man” or “For What It’s Worth” or “What’s Going On?” or “We’ve Gotta Get Out of This Place?”

Harry Belafonte and Tony Bennett marched with Martin Luther King Jr. Jay-Z is talking about Tidal, another damn streaming music service nobody needs. Did I miss Jay-Z’s trip to Ferguson?

I mean, the way record companies have been neatly zipped up into corporate conglomerates, apparently nobody has the guts to put out the modern equivalent of Public Enemy and N.W.A. Why the hell doesn’t St. Louis’ Tef Poe have a major label deal? What hip hop could be anymore relevant than his in 2015? Are you listening, Jimmy Iovine? How about you, Dr. Dre?

I have a message for artists out there: you can’t be a cultural figure while hoping desperately for middle class protections. You can’t be an artist who errs on the side of their corporate record deal and expect anything other than sales of the whole enterprise sliding gently downward. And if you’re a record label, you deserve everything you’re not getting and will likely never get again: a hit that matters to people living through a tense moment in history.

The Sex Pistols rented a boat and played “God Save the Queen” behind the royal flotilla on her jubilee. When was the last time you saw a major artist do anything 1/100th as f**king punk as that?

You want to know why global music sales are $20 billion and falling while video game sales are $100 billion and rising? Look no further. Since music traded in its soul, even Angry Birds apparently looks more relevant by comparison.