Where The Music Matters
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Women are regularly portrayed badly in all aspects of popular culture, but rap lyrics stand to be one of the major problems, especially pertinent in the last couple of weeks. An article from Time Magazine posted on Proquest points out that we also live in a culture in which racially and sexually edgy material is often--legitimately--considered brilliant comment, even art. Last year's most critically praised comedy, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, even won Sacha Baron Cohen a Golden Globe, when he played a Kazakh journalist who calls Alan Keyes a "genuine chocolate face" and asks a gun-shop owner to suggest a good piece for killing a Jew.
"That's some rough girls from Rutgers," Don Imus said on his radio show. "Man, they got tattoos ... That's some nappy-headed hos there." The "joke" was taken badly by every community, raising memories of beauty bias (against darker skin and kinkier hair) that dates back to slavery. Times have changed, when older generations used to care more about race, and nowadays people are either friends or not, but don't see color as much. But then they care more about things like this, judging from the existence of this x-rated CD from 1974 that must have been acceptable, judging by him still having his job until this year. Back in the day, Imus called a Washington Post writer a "boner-nosed, beanie-wearing Jewboy."
"Those impressive young women on the Rutgers basketball team took the first step to parlay the outrage over the racist and sexist attack on them into a movement against the degradation of women. All women," wrote Brenda Payton in her article, One misogynist down. She recalls a two year period of the mid 1970's when women were not objectified in advertising, "Because businesses were afraid of women's libbers and boycotts of their products, they didn't exploit women in advertising." Oh, how the tables have turned. Now radio stations seem afraid to boycott the degrading rap lyrics because they are afraid of losing listeners because of it.
Then again, not all of them!
Program Director of Power 105 in New York Helen Little told the NY Daily News, "what we're doing is holding labels and artists accountable for what they say and how they say it. " They want their listeners to know that they have thought about everything they're playing. What a fantastic idea, except for the fact that when radio is already in decline, how smart is it to take a chance on not playing something the masses want? In time we will see if principle pays off over popularity, but I do give Power 105 a pat on the back for being the EMI of radio and being the first to take a stand. Maybe everyone will follow suit, then they will all lose the few listeners they have at the moment.
Or maybe these little events will barely have an impact? In 2004 Spelman College canceled Nelly's appearance because of the song "Tip Drill" with the controversial credit card scene. It seemed like a big deal at the time, but then in 2007 you can find hundreds of videos on YouTube of women simply shaking their butts to the song, for minutes on end.
Russell Simmons made a public statement "We recommend that the recording and broadcast industries voluntarily remove/bleep/delete the misogynistic words 'bitch' and 'ho' and the racially offensive word 'nigger,'" Simmons said via the statement. "These three words should be considered with the same objections to obscenity as 'extreme curse words.'"
Simmons and the Hip-hop Summit Action Network also called for the formation of a Coalition on Broadcast Standards that would consist of leading executives from music, radio, and television. It would be a nice addition, but would it catch on?
Snoop Dogg defended himself and his fellow rappers on MTV.com, saying "we ain't no old-ass white men that sit up on MSNBC going hard on black girls. We are rappers that have these songs coming from our minds and our souls that are relevant to what we feel." Snoop defends the position that because they are not talking about successful collegiate athletes in their songs, that it makes it better. Some hip-hop fans will see it that way, but others won't.
A New Jersey Senator, Shirley Turner, was quoted in a US Federal News Service Release on Proquest, saying "As an African-American parent, grandparent, educator and state Senator, I think we should now send word to those in the rap music industry who continue to degrade women that, "It's over for you too,'" Senator Turner said.
The Rutgers women stood strong at a press conference defending themselves. "I'm a woman, and I'm someone's child," said Kia Vaughn. "I achieve a lot. And unless they've given this name, a 'ho,' a new definition, then that is not what I am."
With women of all backgrounds and careers taking stands, radio stations beginning to refuse to play certain rap songs, colleges and venues canceling group appearances, the formation of a Hip-hop Summit Action Network with goals to clean up hip-hop culture, and more overall respect and conscientiousness about the degradation of women in pop culture, the future is brighter than ever.
Will it all happen?
I believe that the Imus incident opened a can of worms that will probably blow over and be less of a focus in the future and that rap lyrics will not see much change, but that women will begin to take stands and not be as okay with it as they are right now. And that is what matters.
Perhaps Winston Churchill was right on when he came up with the quote, "This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."
Sunday, April 15, 2007
It's going to happen. It is. Sooner or later. So get used to the idea, maybe even start loving the idea, maybe start wanting one, because it will be soon.
MP3 players makers are rushing to add new features into their products because of the competition from mobile phones. The analysts predict music-enabled mobiles will outnumber standalone MP3 devices by five to one come 2012.
Universal Scientific Industrial (USI) has been named as a supplier for the WiFi technology, while Foxconn is expected to produce the finished units.
Adding WiFi to an iPod could allow communicating with iTunes without the need for a USB cable to transfer music to the device and perhaps streaming audio and video content. Of course, these rumors are often completely wrong too, but it would make sense for Apple to try to improve upon Zune's wireless support.
Apple should be able to release the product by the third quarter of this year just in time for the holiday season in the United States.
Market analysts believe that Apple would have to improve upon the battery capacity of the iPod if they are indeed going to launch a Wi-Fi version. Zune users are mostly disappointed with the backup provided by their players when used in Wi-Fi enabled mode. Though adding WiFi might just turn the iPod into too similar of a relative of the iPhone...which is a phone at the same time but with less storage space, whereas the WiFi iPod would be more space but no phone. These choices would be nice because they could appeal to different audiences.
Who would have thought that anyone could dupe a huge company like YouTube into believing they were the head of ABC threatening to sue over copyrights if they didn't pull videos immediately?
Especially a 15 year old? When you were 15, were you even thinking about stuff like that?
True this did happen in Australia, but I believe it can be a lesson for everyone in the world, especially at a time like this when copyright issues are so pertinent and important.
A 15 year old from Perth tricked YouTube into thinking he was the head of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. YouTube then took down the videos and started sending out notices to people who had uploaded videos, threatening them if they were to do it anymore.
It ended fine, everyone involved agreed that 15 year olds do dumb things, and he apologized, but really. What if a 15 year old from the US decides to start sending out RIAA notices, just for fun? Or if you get a fake letter from American Express wondering why your $10K bill hasn't yet been paid? Or identity theft that cannot be repaired?
Practical jokes are one thing, but things like this that could affect hundreds if not thousands of people? Let's hope this doesn't become a fad, especially considering the boy hasn't yet been punished at all, and they just seem relieved that ABC doesn't actually want to prosecute.
It seems as though it would be pretty worthwhile to have a system where you make some attempt to verify the authenticity of a claim of ownership when a takedown is issued.
A 2 year payola case finally settled between the FCC and Clear Channel, CBS Radio, Entercom Communications, and Citadel Broadcasting Corp...for a cool $12.5 million. FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein called the settlement, "A breakthrough and a milestone" in the war on payola".
But the result that comes from it, The FCC's longstanding regulations don't actually prohibit the pay-for-play system, they merely require its disclosure at the time of broadcast. Said Adelstein, "These rules are based on the basic principle that listeners and viewers are entitled to know who is seeking to persuade them so they can make up their own minds about the content."
Wait, what? How will that work? Will DJs introduce each song with the artist, song name, and the sponsor of the song?
The settlement includes voluntary payments by the broadcasters; agreements to establish staff positions charged with overseeing compliance with the settlement; and the establishment of a database that tracks all money and other contributions from labels.
Under a separate agreement, the broadcasters have also volunteered to collectively air 4,200 hours per year of music by local and independent musicians.
So basically, they could get through their commitment with only 90 minutes a day...anyone have the feeling that might be from 4-5am AND still have some sort of payola going on, with competition like that? Actually the segments must take place between 6am and midnight, but I can still see them picking 11:30pm so as to not give up any prime time playing time.
It will be interesting to see what happens considering $12 million combined for the top four companies is basically nothing. Taking 3 bones from a dog named Clear Channel is nothing when they have a whole kitchen full of dog food.
Payola has always been around and it always will be in some form or another. They are planning to regulate compliance but without invading privacy I just can't see that fully working.
Have people stopped downloading music just because there is a possibility of getting in trouble? No. So will payola stop just because Clear Channel got fined $3.5 million? No, probably not.
Monday, April 9, 2007
In fact, they are using the website www.google.com/trends/music to do so. Users of Google Talk have the option of connecting their iTunes, Winamp, Windows Media Player, or Yahoo Music Engine.
The way it works is that when you're using Google Talk, usually you have a status message, that shows whether you are available or busy and then also the message you have typed in. If you opt to "share your music status" instead, it will show to other users the artist and song you are listening to at the time, and when you turn your music off it will show your original status message.
When you go to Google's music trends website, you are able to view the top 20 songs for that day, for each of the genres listed in the drop down menu, for 10 different countries at that. These include punk, gospel, soundtrack, hard rock, and everything in between. The results are updated nightly to stay up to date, and you can see whether songs have gone up or down on the list in the past 24 hours. Each of the songs links to a Google search of the song or the artist, respectively.
It's kind of amazing that Google is finding success in so many aspects of the internet. What will they think of next?
Sunday, April 8, 2007
The report blames the industry's ills on the continuing effects of digital technology, which allows consumers to store large quantities of music on computers, and to cherry-pick tracks, rather than buying albums. Rising broadband penetration has also made legal and illegal music downloading easier.
Industry experts says that CD sales have already declined 20% in the first seven weeks of the year, so the forecast of a steeper drop seem plausible.
I can only imagine what effects these actual numbers will have on the industry. The amount of jobs that will be lost, the number of artists who will have problems getting signed because the company just cannot afford to take risks, as well as artists who will not get their contracts renewed because they cannot afford it.
A good thing this will bring though is perhaps the quality of the music. They will need to deliver the best possible music because that is what they will need if they have any hope of staying alive. Because really, if a lot of the music isn't selling already but some definitely is, they will need to focus on the music that "definitely is".
Will they just come to terms with the fact that singles are the new thing, because our generation loves to pick and choose as they please, forming mix CD after mix CD. And when I say mix CD I mean an iPod playlist.
Come on, music industry! I can't wait to see what you come up with.