The 7 Deadly Sins: A Musical Perspective – Editorial Series – Part 2 of 7: Greed

I want it all, and I want it now. Welcome to part 2 of our 7-part musical sinfest. Hopefully we’ve all shed a few pounds after last week’s gluttonous binge. I have. I got rid of the new Dragonforce and Jason Mraz after but a few small bites. I spit out the few small bites too. Yucky.

This week’s all about Greed. We all know what it is. The vast majority of us feel it creep in now and again. We’re only human after all. Some of us revel in it. Some of us can’t live without it. Greed, greed, greed; it’s the capitalist creed. Now I’m a rapper. I wish.

More on that soon, but before we get down to it, check out Amy Sparrow’s original work at the top of the page. We’ll have a new one of her originals – inspired by and specially created for this very series – featured on the site every week. You can check out her work by clicking on her name.

Part 2 of 7: Greed

It’s going to be tough to wax philosophic about greed in the music industry. There isn’t much there. Too much respect, equality and ethics in this business.

HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHAAA!!!

Am I kidding? But of course. It’s all over the place – everywhere in our world, sadly, but let’s stay within the confines of music, shall we?

The Labels

When it comes to money, no other music industry figurehead is as loathed by the little ant of an artist or fan as the classic fat cat who won’t take his eye off the bottom line. Some would argue that he can’t help it – his job is to make money, and that’s it. You can’t blame those people.

Wait a minute, why can’t we blame them? Let’s give it a shot – “HEY! I blame you, all of you! For creating (I soil the word in this context… ugh, sorry “creating”, I owe you one…) the thin, mindless garbage that pollutes humanity’s ears!” And it’s all in the name of the almighty dollar. Sure, once in a while, there are acts that come along that are marketable as hell and fantastic artists (e.g., The Black Keys), but man, such acts are too few and far between.

I tend to be on the side of the fence that thinks shitty music is so prevalent because savvy businessmen who’ve done their market research have created an infrastructure that has allowed them to not only spread horrible music to their alligator wallet’s content, but actually create the demand for said horrible music by implementing strict radio formats whose sole aim is to promote soulless filth and sell advertising.

Another part of me, the slightly more misanthropic side, looks at the consuming masses and shakes its head in disgust. “God, what are we doing? Why do we let this happen? Why did we let Nickelback happen? How is it that I find ten Nickelback haters for every lover, yet they’re still so goddamn huge? It doesn’t add up…” It’s our own damn fault. I guess we like the thoughtless little diddies. Maybe we don’t want to blow open the doors of perception every, single, time we spin an album. Maybe we need some fast-food-snack-music on our lunch hour or after a long day’s work to just… decompress. But damn it, can’t we unwind with better music? “Better than what?” Ugh, this again. I’m getting off-topic.

What’s really at the root of my distaste for a lot of popular music is the financial motive behind sugary, disposable music (of all genres, notez bien). That’s what pisses me off. Music for money. I’m not saying music is only good if the artist is broke and can barely scrape a meal together, that’s not it. I applaud and I’m damn proud of my favourite fledgling bands when I see things fall into place for them – they can buy a new van; they can treat themselves to some vegetables; they get picked up for a tour that will expose them to hundreds, hopefully thousands of new fans (I’m lookin’ at you, Black Sheep Wall). Good for them. Make a living doing what you love to do. Isn’t that the dream?

What turns my stomach is the American Idol culture (sorry “culture”, I owe you one too…), the desperate attempts at scoring a hit. Screw Simon Cowell. Screw Lou Pearlman. And screw Gene Simmons, while we’re at it. Filling the world with garbage and bile. Wait, can you hear that? It’s… it’s… IT IS! It’s Reverend Bill Hicks spinning in his grave. Damn it, Bill, we need you now more than ever. Rest in peace, dear sir.

The “Fans”

“Yeah, big labels suck! Boooo!” I’m with you, buddy. I’m right there with you. “Boooo! We don’t need you! You ruined music! You were greedy! You made your bed, now lie in it, you greedy bastards!”

Stupid big labels. It’s their fault the industry’s dying, not yours, don’t worry about it. They were only focused on making cash. It wasn’t about the music. They’d support one marketable act and ignore, if not crush hundreds of others in the process.

At least you support the music you love. You don’t buy your music? You just download, torrent, whatever? It’s OK, don’t worry about it. Someone buys it. You’re just one person, right? They’ll survive without your ten bucks. But you go see your favourite artists in concert though, right? No? Hm. Well, someone does… they’ll be fine, I’m sure. You must have bought a shirt or something at some point though, right? No, eh? Nothing? Huh. Really? Well… well, they should be alright. I hope so, anyway. Somebody will just… give them money, right? I mean, if you’re not supporting them by purchasing music or going to shows or buying cool merch… someone will step in and save the day so you can keep ripping their music… for free… right?

Yeah, that’s right. Maybe you’re part of the problem too, my friend. Do you (eventually) buy the music you love and/or see their live shows and/or pick up a cool shirt to boot? You do? Well, right on, sibling. You’re off the hook. In both senses. Good for you. What about that friend of yours, though? You know the one – he last bought a bought a CD in 2002 and scoffs at the prospect of paying for downloads – “Why the hell would I pay for it, if I can get it for free?” You know who else says that? People who want something, whatever “it” is, and they get “it” through whatever means necessary, be it the five finger discount, being a sly dog, with a gun, hiding it in their butt, through force… Whatever. “Easy, you self-righteous little punk,” your friend protests, “don’t compare me to some violent thug who steals.” Okay, sorry. You’re not violent.

Truth is, illegal downloading affects artists. There’s no exit from this uncomfortable situation. If the only way you get your music is through illegal downloading, and you don’t go see their shows, and you don’t buy some merch… guess what? That means your favourite artist isn’t seeing a nickel for the hours, days, weeks, months, years (!) of work they’ve put into their craft. But you – you lucky dog – get to reap the benefits of all that hard work. Well done. And you didn’t have to pay a cent! Sweet! “Whatever.” I don’t know what else a 100% illegal download listener can say at this point. “Yeah, I know. I don’t give a honey badger. So sue me. Whatever. Leave me alone while my guilt devours my insides.” Good. I hope it does.

Listen, I know – maybe things are tough right now. You’re broke. I’m there too, man. I don’t spend nearly as much as I did last year, or the year before, on music. I want to, but I can’t. I’m looking for work right now. That’s my excuse. Sure, I could probably divert some party budget funds to my music budget, but I don’t. It’s a shmuck thing to do. Shmuckity shmuck. Guilty. If you’re flat broke, fine, I understand your plight. I’d do it too. I want to hear the new Fear Factory right now. Oh, I’ll buy it later – and I will; it’s on my “To Buy” list… – but I want to hear it right now. I get it. You’re not necessarily the one I’m worried about.

I’m worried about the steady job-holding, decent income-earning, new car-driving, luxury brand name-wearing, eight dollar coffee-drinking slug that can’t drop ten bucks on a new album. This is the same person that has no qualms about ripping hundreds if not thousands of albums online, never once even considering that maybe, someday, maybe he’ll throw some change in the musicians’ cap. Get your priorities straight. Leech.

You like the music? You like the artist? You’d like to hear some new stuff in the future? Throw’em a frikkin’ bone for the entire discography you just torrented in ten minutes, you greedy little troll.

The Bling

Greed’s everywhere. It’s on the balance sheets in the board rooms, it’s on the laptops in our bedrooms. Hell, it’s in the music itself. How disgustingly perfect is that? Greed for greed’s sake. Greed is good. It’s frightening. And we wonder why society is ripping at the seams. No, Dim, I’m not blaming bling for the fall of the American Empire and the death of the American Dream/Nightmare… but it has its place.

The trend of excessive wealth in music has been perfected to a science, namely in rap. I know it happens in rock and pop and other genres but, damn… Some of these… *gag*… artists… have stepped it up. Drowning in pools of greenbacks, expensive “bitches” on the hoods of their sports car collection, lavishly laid out in front of their cribs that could put Mr. Heffner to shame, drinking top-shelf booze, decked out in gaudy jewellery and clunky yet stylish swag that you just know would trip them up in under five strides if they really had to run for it. How did this happen again? This person makes music? Really? About what? About being rich?! No kidding! Well, write what you know, I guess… right? Getting rich by selling product about how rich you are.

Who… is… buying this awful stuff? Ah, I got it – aspiring Blingers, I guess. Makes sense. Sigh. I understand it, but I don’t have to like it.

This… this bling… thing… after such a rich history of innovative, empowering, game-changing hip hop that had carried on the proud legacy of truth and survival found in the earliest blues chords ever strummed. What the hell happened? I don’t have the answer to that. Maybe you do. If so, let me know. In the meantime, this (remember Ma$e?) and this always makes me feel a little better.

To want is one thing – you want, you get, you’re satisfied… hopefully. Greed is something else. Greed doesn’t stop until there’s nothing left on the turntable, and the turntable itself has been sold. It’s all-consuming. Facing what consumes you is the only way to be free. Maybe it’s time to fight back.

Original photography by  Amy Sparrow