....LMB: "Disintegration"....

August 03, 2004

After the big prehistoric killer asteroid hit the Earth, I imagine those first mammals said to themselves "it's getting pretty cold out. Good thing I've got this warm fur coat and a hibernation instinct." And the last dinosaurs were saying "it's getting pretty cold out. I'm... going to eat some leaves." Had they the brain pan, opposable digits, or tool-making skills, that same dinosaur might've said "I've got to make a shelter or a winter coat or something," and survived.

I feel that today's big media industries are like those dinosaurs. I'm not trying to pull some kind of hipper-than-thou, techno-manic attitude, that these businesses don't understand "the digital revolution" or some shit. I'm saying that these industries are working on business models that're decades old, and due to changes in society and technology, might not be viable any more.

I've written several articles where I talk about the music industry's violently stubborn refusal to accept change. Since probably the 1950s, the recording industry has depended upon the fact that mass-producing recorded music is so expensive that all musicians needed a corporate sugar daddy to survive. But now you can record an album on a friend's computer for cheap, burn CD copies for cheaper, and transfer the songs over the internet for free. As we know, the record industry has made little-to-no effort to adapt to its new circumstances; instead, it has tried to sue and intimidate people into pretending that it's 1950 again.

I found an odd example of both the changing music enviroment and the effects of the RIAA's backlash in this article. Brothers Alan and Andy Berry opened up a record store in Indianapolis, selling hip-hop music. As an interesting aside, the Berrys admit that they would "break the streetdate" for new albums. "Streetdate" is a collusion between record label and record store to refuse to sell an album until a certain day, even if the store has the records sitting in plain view for a week. In exchange for honoring the streetdate, the record companies give advertising money to the stores. But since they really only give this money to big stores, Berry's Music didn't see why they should bother.

But the main part of the article is about mixtapes. A local DJ will put together a number of exclusive tracks, by well-known and unsigned artists alike and sell copies of the compilation. They are quite popular. Berry's regularly sold mixtapes for several years. Then, *BAM*, the RIAA shows up with the cops, confiscates $10,000 worth of mixtape CDs, and arrests the brothers on 13 counts of royalty theft and fraud. Responds Alan Berry:

"We never really questioned the legalities of them. We never did. Because, one, we were getting some of the mix-CDs through our regular vendors that we bought our quote-unquote 'legit' product from. The same place I would get the Interscope record from, I would get mix-CDs from, from national distributors. Two, the artists are on there endorsing the mixes. I mean, Eminem's on the mix-CD saying, 'Yo, this is Eminem. You're listening to DJ Green Lantern.' Then he drops three or four exclusive free-styles and heís talking within the mix, about the mix itself, saying Lantern's his man. You would kind of assume that Eminem's fine with it."

Which sounds pretty damn reasonable to me.

Unfortunately, the brothers Berry decided that they had to sell their store and all their records to pay for their legal defense. They managed to plea bargain down to a misdemeanor, but that carried a heavy fine. The only upside is that Alan plans to open up another record store, Naptown Music. If anyone hears about that place opening, please drop me a line so I can announce it. The fella could probably use a little publicity.

Was this a case of the RIAA trying to destroy the mixtape, which is effectively an alternative to a record label? I'm not sure, because I have not seen any other stories of stores closed for selling mixtapes. Was this a case of the RIAA cracking down on the violation of streetdate? That seems a little more likely to me.

My next example is the newspaper industry, by way of the comic strip. Scott Kurtz, of the internet comic PvP wants to get his comic in the newspapers. He explains that many comics are part of a syndicate. The syndicates pay the cartoonist, own all the rights to the cartoons, and sell bundles of cartoons to the newspapers. Kurtz claims that comic strips were originally a way for one local newspaper to draw readers away from another. But nearly every city in America is a one-paper-town these days, so there is no competition. Kurtz quotes a fellow cartoonist who says

"If any one newspaper would get the balls to just 86 their comics page, and suffer through the months of letters they would receive, we'd be done for. Once the papers realize they can survive dropping the comics page, everyone will do it."

And s/he's right. If comics are an expense, and newspaper publishers find out that they can keep selling as many papers without paying for that expense, the comics will vanish. Which leads to Kurtz's plan to give his cartoon away to newspapers for free. He figures that it would be free publicity, and that he (and other cartoonists, if they followed suit) could make their livings selling books of their cartoons, advertising on their websites, and cartoon-related merchandise.

Very strange, the modern newspaper. Almost none of them have any competition locally. I guess each local paper competes with the nearest regional paper and with the nearest "paper of record" (NY Times, LA Times, Washington Post). The local has the advantage that it'll say what's going on in your very city, the others have the advantage of real news.

And finally, we have the television. The TV business model is way fucked up. TV has made its profits by selling time to advertisers for decades. But advertisers want to get the most for their money, so TV stations started getting their audiences measured by the Nielsen company back in the 1940s. And today, TVs sell time to advertisers, based upon audience measurement by Nielsen. 60 fucking years later, not much change.

The biggest change has been what audience the advertisers want. Originally, advertisers wanted as many people as possible to see their ad. But since they were paying per person, they later decided that as much as possible, they only wanted to reach audiences likely to buy the advertised product (in the advertiser's wildest dreams, a network would air a program about toothpaste, watched by millions of toothpaste enthusiasts, on which they could advertise their own particular brand of toothpaste).

The shift in advertiser desires led to a shift in programming strategy. Instead of creating shows that would appeal to everyone, the networks began creating shows aimed at specific consumer-oriented audience segments. Advertisers want to reach a wealthier audience, because they have more money to spend, which makes sense. But they also want to reach a young male audience, almost to the exclusion of most other audience segments (no one has explained that to me very well. Wouldn't you want everyone's money?)

Anyhow. This article is about television's hunt for the 18-34 year old male audience... and how they're losing it. Guys this age (my age) resent advertising, don't watch advertising, and "hunger for authenticity", so how are advertisers responding? With advertising styles that either don't promote their products or that will incur Gen X wrath (I don't know how much "experimental" fake real life advertising the public will take before someone gets his ass whupped).

All I'm saying is that they times, they are a'changing, and the media giants, they are a'stupid.

Posted by Jake at 09:47 PM | TrackBack (0)
Comments

Hear hear! I get really upset with mealy-mouthed well-meaning people who buy the line that file-swapping is "stealing"--how can you steal music? It's temporal....
The RIAA's bullshit becomes even less believable when you realize the industry tried to crack down on the radio for the exact same reason eons ago. They adapted that time.
I'm sick and tired of the corporate overlords singing the praises of the free market and competition and then turning into thumb-sucking babies wanting government interference when the market decides to take their business elsewhere.

Posted by: Amanda at August 4, 2004 09:56 AM

"Ad-vertising Nauseum"

Having lived the dream of becoming a Radio Dj for a few years in the 90's, I realized very shortly how the real world of Media operates. Jake you have hit the nail on the head with all of your points.

I will spread this article to all of my friends because it carries the message thoroughly. After I had WASTED my time looking into the light of spreading the "gospel" of Music and News to the masses, it became apparent to me that we as a society are acting like a bunch of dumb-asses.

Even though I am much wiser from my experiences, I am still an optimist. I do see the generation of 20-30's realizing with the advent of new technology that we have a great opportunity at our fingertips. The majority of us are becoming educated enough to see that we are being spoon fed the same crap as designed by the Clear Channels and Time-Warners of the world.

It is almost an undergournd rumble that is becoming trendy amongs the Lost generation. What people begin to realize is that this sterilization of Media has a very dark destination if we don't boycott them as the ONLY form of communicating new ideas. Hence the reason burning CD's and trading music online became so popular. Local bands are becoming more favorable because the recording to broadcasting industry machine can't get away from the rut of cookie cutter bands.

If I hear another "over processed guitar riff meets the same sounding lead singers" song I will rip the radio out of my dashboard, pour gasoline on it and set it on fire in front of my local corporate Recording Label office in protest of their communist enforced propaganda!

It isn't because people want to Steal the right to a song. It's because the format of music and written/spoken word is based upon sharing an idea with others. In the history of Humankind, this has been and always will be the way we communicate to each other and celebrate our living experiences.

You can't stop it .. at least until someone figures out how to become telepathic. And by then probably that same person will have figured out how to completely control our minds, too. Until then these behemoths of the Information Age will just have to suffer with trying to brain wash us with the undigestable regurgitation we hear over and over today.

Time will tell what may become of the media giants. All I can do is teach my children what they see and hear isn't really free on TV or radio. Let them learn how to be creative on their own and know when to "unplug" . If everyone can do that it may even revolutiuonize the media machines so that we all will have the opportunity to share these ideas without getting hurt in the process..

Coz

Posted by: CozMcfly at August 6, 2004 09:31 AM

"Ad-vertising Nauseum"

Having lived the dream of becoming a Radio Dj for a few years in the 90's, I realized very shortly how the real world of Media operates. Jake you have hit the nail on the head with all of your points.

I will spread this article to all of my friends because it carries the message thoroughly. After I had WASTED my time looking into the light of spreading the "gospel" of Music and News to the masses, it became apparent to me that we as a society are acting like a bunch of dumb-asses.

Even though I am much wiser from my experiences, I am still an optimist. I do see the generation of 20-30's realizing with the advent of new technology that we have a great opportunity at our fingertips. The majority of us are becoming educated enough to see that we are being spoon fed the same crap as designed by the Clear Channels and Time-Warners of the world.

It is almost an undergournd rumble that is becoming trendy amongs the Lost generation. What people begin to realize is that this sterilization of Media has a very dark destination if we don't boycott them as the ONLY form of communicating new ideas. Hence the reason burning CD's and trading music online became so popular. Local bands are becoming more favorable because the recording to broadcasting industry machine can't get away from the rut of cookie cutter bands.

If I hear another "over processed guitar riff meets the same sounding lead singers" song I will rip the radio out of my dashboard, pour gasoline on it and set it on fire in front of my local corporate Recording Label office in protest of their communist enforced propaganda!

It isn't because people want to Steal the right to a song. It's because the format of music and written/spoken word is based upon sharing an idea with others. In the history of Humankind, this has been and always will be the way we communicate to each other and celebrate our living experiences.

You can't stop it .. at least until someone figures out how to become telepathic. And by then probably that same person will have figured out how to completely control our minds, too. Until then these behemoths of the Information Age will just have to suffer with trying to brain wash us with the undigestable regurgitation we hear over and over today.

Time will tell what may become of the media giants. All I can do is teach my children what they see and hear isn't really free on TV or radio. Let them learn how to be creative on their own and know when to "unplug" . If everyone can do that it may even revolutiuonize the media machines so that we all will have the opportunity to share these ideas without getting hurt in the process..

Coz

Posted by: CozMcfly at August 6, 2004 09:32 AM
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Lying Media Bastards is both a radio show and website. The show airs Mondays 2-4pm PST on KillRadio.org, and couples excellent music with angry news commentary. And the website, well, you're looking at it.

Both projects focus on our media-marinated world, political lies, corporate tyranny, and the folks fighting the good fight against these monsters.

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Media News

December 01, 2004

Media Mambo

The Great Indecency Hoax- last week, we wrote about how the "massive outcry" to the FCC about a racy Fox TV segment amounted to letters from 20 people. This week, we look at the newest media scandal, the infamous "naked back" commercial. On Monday Night Football, last week, ABC aired an ad for it's popular "Desperate Housewives" TV show, in which one of the actresses from the show attempted to seduce a football player by removing the towel she was wearing to bare her body to him. All the audience saw, however, was her back. No tits, no ass, no crotch, just her back.

No one complained.

The next Wednesday, Rush Limbaugh told his shocked viewers how the woman had appeard in the commercial "buck naked".

Then, the FCC received 50,000 complaints. How many of them actually saw this commercial is anyone's guess.

The article also shows the amazing statistics that although the Right is pretending that the "22% of Americans voted based on 'moral values'" statistic shows the return of the Moral Majority, this is actually a huge drop from the 35% who said that in the 2000 election or the 40% who said that in 1996 (when alleged pervert Bill Clinton was re-elected). This fact is so important I'm going to mention it over in the main news section too.

Brian Williams may surprise America- Tom Brokaw's replacement anchor, Brian Williams, dismissed the impact of blogs by saying that bloggers are "on an equal footing with someone in a bathroom with a modem." Which is really funny, coming out of the mouth of a dude who's idea of journalism is to read words out loud off a teleprompter. Seriously, if parrots were literate, Brian Williams would be reporting live from the line outside the soup kitchen.

In related news, Tom Brokaw has quit NBC Nightly News, and it appears that unlike his predecessor, the new guy can speak without slurring words like a drunk.

PR Meets Psy-Ops in War on Terror- in February of 2002, Donald Rumsfeld announced the creation of the Office of Strategic Influence, a new department that would fight the war on terror through misinformation, especially by lying to journalists. Journalists were so up in arms about this that the Pentagon agreed to scrap the program.

Don't you think that an agency designed to lie to the public might lie about being shut down, too?

This article gives some examples about the US military lying to the press for propaganda and disinformation purposes.

Tavis Smiley leaving NPR in December- African-American talk show host Tavis Smiley is opting to not renew his daily talk show on National Public Radio. He criticized his former employers for failing to: "meaningfully reach out to a broad spectrum of Americans who would benefit from public radio but simply donít know it exists or what it offers ... In the most multicultural, multi-ethnic and multiracial America ever, I believe that NPR can and must do better in the future." He's 100% correct. NPR is white. Polar bear eating a marshmallow at the mayonaise factory white. And the reason it's so white is that it is trying to maintain an affluent listener base (premoniantly older white folks) who will donate money to their stations. This is a great paradox of American public broadcasting, that they have a mandate to express neglected viewpoints and serve marginalized communities, but those folks can't donate money in the amounts that the stations would like to see.

U.S. Muslim Cable TV Channel Aims to Build Bridges- it sounds more positive than it is "Bridges TV" seems to simultaneously be a cable channel pursuing an affluent American Muslim demographic, and a way of building understanding and tolerance among American non-Muslims who might happen to watch the channel's programming. I was hoping it would be aimed more at Muslim's worldwide, but it ain't. Still, I'd be interested in seeing how their news programs cover the issues.

Every Damned Weblog Post Ever- it's funny cuz it's true.

Wikipedia Creators Move Into News- Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia, created collectively by thousands of contributors. It's one of those non-profit, decentralized, collective, public projects that show how good the internet can be. Now, the Wikipedia founders are working on a similar project to create a collaborative news portal, with original content. Honestly, it's quite similar to IndyMedia sites (which reminds me, happy 5th birthday, IndyMedia!). I'll admit, I'm a bit skeptical about the Wikinews project, though. IndyMedia sites work because they're local, focused on certain lefty issues, and they're run by activists invested in their beliefs. I'm not sure what would drive Wikinews or how it would hang together.

CBS, NBC ban church ad inviting gays- the United Church of Christ created a TV ad which touts the church's inclusion, even implying that they accept homosexuals into their congregation. Both CBS and NBC are refusing to air the ad. This is not too surprising, as many Americans are uncomfortable about homosexuality, and because TV networks are utter cowards. But CBS' explanation for the ban was odd:

"Because this commercial touches on the exclusion of gay couples...and the fact that the executive branch has recently proposed a Constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, this spot is unacceptable for broadcast."

Whoa, what? First of all, the ad does not mention marriage at all. Second, since when do positions opposite of the Executive Branch constitute "unacceptable"? This doesn't sound like "we're not airing this because it's controversial", this sounds like "we're afraid of what the President might say."

Posted by Jake at 10:09 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
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