Money rules our ears: all business, bad music

RobbieHuffakerIf you’ve been out on the town anytime in the last couple years and have happened to see a talented local band or artist─ maybe you have a favorite you follow─ and wondered why you’ve never heard them on the radio? Their songwriting is strong, they put on a great show, good talent level, seem to have built a name for themselves around town, yet nothing on the radio. The answer to that question is simple: no one cares.

Harsh? Ok, let me clarify. No one that can actually help a local band or artist cares. At least not enough to go out of their way to make a difference for them. Especially if it would mean getting nothing back in return for the gesture. Having spent over a decade in the music business, I have formed some pretty solid opinions and beliefs, all of them from experience and personal stories. Here are a few things that I learned over the years.

DJs typically neither want to help local bands, nor do they realistically have the power too, even if they wanted. There was a time when being a Disc Jockey stood for something—when they did more than just push a few buttons and fill space─ when they were there to bring the listeners the best in whatever their particular brand of music had to offer. Think about that for a minute. The best. Not the most marketed. Not the most hyped by a major label. Not the one being shoved down their throats by corporate executives or the recent release from the same old top 25 artist. The ones that get played no matter how bad their new singles sound. Today’s DJs don’t rock the boat; if anything they are cowering below deck, just hoping not to get wet.

The DJs are just the first layer of disappointment in the onion that the music business has become. I speak mostly on the genre of country music─ which is where I spent the majority of my semi-professional music career─ when I say there’s little chance left for an independent artist to get notice and signed by a major label these days. Unless of course you are able to pay a lot of money for a top-notch studio to record at, or know someone that has connections. Labels today find whatever the kids eat up─ which is closer to hip-hop or alternative rock than to country these days─ then push it relentlessly. The formula that has been working lately has picked up the nickname “bro-country” by the classic country protesters. Many argue this new hybrid of country and hip-hop is knock-off country music, created entirely to make the label money. I would have to agree with these folks on that.

Which brings me to the “Artists” that make it to the radio today. Only a select few write their own songs, and the songs they normally cut are shallow party/drinking songs. Everyone has been jumping on the bandwagon the last couple years in regards to the new bro-country movement, which to a die-hard group of traditional country fans, even fans of 90s to early 2000s country, is becoming harder and harder to swallow. Having grown up with a wide variety of influences from many different genres of music, I can say that the quality of music being played on the country stations these days is embarrassing. I find personal gratification in leaving the music business behind every time I change the station past whatever sell-out “Nash” station pops up, on my way to talk radio.

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