If you are even remotely interested in pop music today you will know that Rage Against The Machine, an American rock band, have stormed the charts this week after a viral campaign on Facebook pitched them against Joe Mcelderry, the X Factor winner.
Following people’s comments online it would appear that there is much cynicism from camp Mcelderry who feel that RATM’s success is undermined because they are on the same record label as Mcelderry. They have, I feel, rather drastically missed the point. The big, giant, screaming point being that music is categorically not about money. Yes, the music industry is about money, but music itself is not. I wonder if these sore losers know how the industry works. Maybe they think that Simon Cowell’s are behind every band/musician on the planet. Maybe they think that all it takes is a few weeks training and performing on telly before you’re made. Maybe they don’t know that most jobbing bands, the ones lucky enough to be signed to and supported by a label, are in hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of debt to their label for years before they make any money, if they ever do. Maybe they think song writing takes place in a glamorous studio by a guy that lives on Butler’s Wharf. Maybe they don’t know that most of it takes place in someone’s bedroom that they can barely afford to light or heat. Maybe they don’t know that an artist has only him/herself and if they are lucky a supportive friend, partner or family member, to help the keep the dream alive. Why do they keep the dream alive? Because a true artist has no choice, it’s in them and they have to get it out. It’s certainly not for the money. But maybe hundreds of thousands of people across the country don’t know that.
One Facebook comment said: “There’s no such thing as a free lunch, they’re (RATM) doing it for the money.” Well, actually it doesn’t work like that. Most bands are working for minus nothing for the larger part of their career. Rage Against The Machine were certainly not picked out of oblivion and thrust into fame and fortune, they worked as hard as most lawyers, doctors, teachers etc to get there but the difference is, they had no guarantee of a job at the end of it. They gambled with their livelihood and that’s brave. Now, in the case of RATM it paid off, but for thousands of musicians, the gamble doesn’t pay off. Ever. They get dropped, they get shelved, they get messed around by their label, they get the soul pummelled out of them by men in suits, most never get signed at all. And it’s the fault of the British public for not exploring the wonderful range of music that’s out there and instead filling their Christmas stockings with whatever has the budget behind it to be advertised the most. It’s laziness in part, but mostly it’s just ignorance, we just don’t know what a wonderful world is out there, musically speaking or politically speaking. It’s a shame because we’re the ones missing out on some truly spectacular music and the music industry suffers, jobs are lost, creativity is crushed and Simon Cowell and his cabinet of X Factor winners will rule the world unless we get out there and have a look around at what else is available.
I’m not a hater, all congratulations to Cowell, Burke, Boyle, Lewis and Mcelderry, they play the game well, but it’s up to us to give them someone to play against. Joe Mcelderry has been gifted with a beautiful voice, but he’s not put in the hard graft that RATM have and he never will. He’s not even put in the hard graft that Simon Cowell himself has, who started from very meagre beginnings in the post room at EMI. This is why it’s so vital to support the music industry, like the British public did last week. Yes, RATM got some money, but they worked jolly hard for it and therefore deserve it more than Joe. And while I’m sure Joe worked hard too, it just doesn’t compare.
Simon Cowell spoon-feeds us music in the same way that our government spoon-feeds us our lives. It’s shiny, bland and PR’d. We are told what to like, so we like it. We get fleeting glimpses of a world beyond, where exciting bands like Mumford and Sons are operating on a different plane, where we are not followed, watched and tagged by government officials, where we feel like our vote counts, but there is so much Joe Mcelderry and Alexandra Burke in the way that we can’t see for trying. I’ve come to the conclusion that those in camp X Factor can’t be blamed for their lack of knowledge about real music, because they just don’t hear it. (Radio 1, I’m onto you too, you have a lot to answer for, but that’s another article.) Yes, X Factor is good entertainment for the dark winter months, but it can’t be allowed to drown our once great and groundbreaking music industry..
Music has always mirrored politics, but over the last ten years it’s seemed that people just can’t be bothered. With this years number one I predict a change in the mood of the generation that politics forgot, the millions who marched against an illegal war, remember them? The ones that have been ignored and who don’t even bother to vote any more because they feel like their voice is not heard. The ones that are so desperate that they have voted BNP because they just don’t know where else to turn. ‘Horrific’ is the only appropriate word for that particular state of affairs. The reason this Christmas’s number one is so exciting is that it shows a depressed, suppressed and repressed nation flexing their combined muscle in a small but significant act of independence which we have been stripped of by New Labour. Yes, it’s a drop in the ocean against it all; the recession, global warming, the war, the unbearable and suffocating bureaucracy, the bland, PR’dness of it all, but you’ve got to start somewhere.