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The Merchants of Cool

Slashdot pointed to a Frontline documentary called “The Way the Music Died“. I went to go watch it but it wasn’t up at the time so I looked over the list of stuff they have online and ended up watching “The Merchants of Cool“, a very good program about how nearly everything kids are into today is manufactured or promoted by big business.

It ended on a fairly disturbing note about how much the media influences kids behavior. The companies claim they are only promoting what kids are already doing but the reporter was basically claiming that less than 1% of the kids did the outragous thing and that the companies promote that as what all kids are doing so then more kids do it in a positive feedback loop.

It’s a little bit scary. I suspect kids and people in general didn’t change much for the last several thousand years and then just in the last 100-200 years things changed rapidly and that change is accelerating. It’s hard to imagine what my kids might find normal when they are teens. I just hope it’s something not too dangerous.

The other episode, “The Way the Music Died“, was also interesting but I also felt kind of a *what-evar* type of feeling because I don’t believe music is dead. It’s not about what gets promoted, it’s about what you personally perform or listen too. If radio and MTV died tomorrow there would still be music so it seems to me like people complaining about the industry are complaining because they want fame and fortune, they want the industry to pay attention to them. If all they really care about is music nothing is stopping them from playing in their garage or local pub/bar/club/park. They don’t need industry approval.

In fact my own family is a perfect example of that. Most of my dad’s side of my family are musicians. My grandfather was in the Harry Owens band and is in the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame. But, as far as I know they never did it for fame and fortune. My grandfather has been part of many famous projects but mostly he just played for fun. He played at talent shows on cruises he went on for example. He made up still lyrics to Christmas songs and would sing them for us at our family Christmas party. My Dad also plays and though he did try to make a few commerical songs, mostly it seems like he made stuff just to do it. Love songs for his wife for example. Making up songs for a private show he would put on at his New Years Parties. A hobby just like me and this webpage, not something done for money.

Think of it more like cooking for a party. You do it because it’s fun, to make people happy and because entertaining them makes you happy.

I don’t begrudge anybody for wanting to be a rockstar but complaining about the industry changing seems to me to suggest you want to be part of the industry instead of just make music.

Anyway, what was really interesting in that episode was the stuff about Velvet Revolver and Sarah Hudson since at the time of filming both groups had not come out yet.

  • bluhbluh

    When Nirvana were at the peak of their popularity they complained about the music industry, and they weren’t really looking for fame.

  • anonnanana
    Pop Culture via Disney Channel

    It’s funny, I don’t let my oldest daughter (she’s 5) watch The Disney Channel unsupervised because all of the commercials and promotions feature kids that try to be “way cool” by wearing expensive clothers, lots of make-up, and talking urban/hiphop/ebonics (get the “411″ on the new happenings!).  Forget it!  Luckily, we’ve taught her the power of TIVO and commercial skipping…

    - anonnanana

  • http://truebums.keenspace.com Jimbo

    heh

    as a matter of fact, im using the Frontline special as a source for my final paper on teen history. Kinda funny to see what adults think I am