Cynical Bag of Chips

Companies pump out poor products with the greatest of ease and we just keep on buying away because we think we need it. And it's not just chips and dip; it's every thing. Even music. Especially music.

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by Jeff Julian

April.13th.2002

I can't believe my eyes. I'm almost tempted to grab one of those white phones hanging on the wall and shout over the intercom: Customer Service to Aisle Fourteen. Man confused by plastic bag full of air masquerading as his potato chips. Seriously, what the hell is going on down at the chip factories? They're not even trying to hide the fact that they're screwing me. I can look right through the clear plastic and realize I'm buying nothing more than an airbag sprinkled with potato shavings. And as I clench my fists and grit my teeth, trying not to stare at Brittany's breasts who just happen to be advertising a case of Pepsi to my left, I start to wonder, who's at fault here?

Something which should be considered an art form is quickly becoming nothing more than a commercial tool for promoting any piece of junk a conglomerate wants to sell. Record companies don't even try to make an attempt at covering up their greed for the consumer dollar. Every day they openly market an inferior product to the public and charge a boatload of money for a ship full of shit. Then we get in line, ring up their cash registers, and take home a 15 song CD with two good tracks or buy $45 tickets to sit in awful seats and watch some glitter-covered slut lip synch to dance music. It's mind-boggling.

Maybe I'm preaching to the converted. If you're smart enough to read an on-line ‘zine or browse the internet for innovative listening material, you probably know better than to rush out to get that new Creed record. But for every one of you that's reading this, you know you have ten friends that either purchase wretched albums or bitch about the state of modern music yet have never been to a local rock show in their lives. Here's the problem: a whole slew of folks know nothing of the plethora of musical alternatives awaiting them at a mere fraction of the price. It's time to get these people educated and start putting the big wig shit shoveling record companies out of business.

I may not be able to fix my bag of air..er, chips but I think I can offer a few solutions for getting corporations out of the music business. Call it a prescription for curing a bad case of music dementia:

1. Abstinence. Stay away from anything on the major labels. Don't listen to the opinions of Rolling Stone, MTV or anyone else who's pages or airwaves are full of corporate ad dollars. I know it sounds harsh and they may get a band or two right every now again but for the most part, good music is secondary to these companies' bottom lines. There is no reason to salivate like Pavlov's dogs every time someone on TV or radio says they've found the next big thing. Especially when its so ‘big' its had millions of dollars of marketing pumped into it. And if you must fool around in the sack with any mass marketed product, practice safe shopping. Do your research on-line and hit the listening station before you pour your cash into someone else's coffer.

2. Local and Unknown Music. If you live in a rural town, it may be tough to find a smart record store or a venue that books good indie and local bands. I feel for you but advise you to get in your car and drive like hell to the closest metropolitan area. Fast. If you live in a medium or big city, there is no excuse. Places like Chicago, Kansas City, San Francisco and the like, have amazing music scenes and venues catering to the best in new rock, electronica and hip-hop. A five to ten dollar investment will get you a three band bill of new musicians or veteran indie rockers playing with more passion and vigor than any well paid artist roaming the arena circuit. You will get your money's worth and if you don't, your wallet's only a few bucks lighter than it was when you walked in. Attending smaller shows is also a great way to buy a lot of music and t-shirts on the cheap, while most of the profit goes directly into the hands of the people making the music.

3. Read the ‘zines and trust your instinct. Check out the online mags and the print rags stacked up in record stores. These are usually written for free by music lovers of varying tastes and styles who receive nothing more than a free CD for their trouble. You'll get a more honest opinion and a wider selection of music reviewed. Hell, grab a pen and contribute to the growing dialogue about up and coming bands and singer/songwriters. You are no more or less qualified than I or someone who writes for Spin; it's all just opinions, and yours might help someone pick a great band out of the line-up of the usual suspects.

4. Pick up an instrument. Grab a guitar, a bass, hit the drums or even play the damn didgeridoo. It will teach you how hard it is to make interesting and original songs and you may even end up liking it. Then it will be your band that adds another alternative to the crap being broadcast throughout the land. Often the best artists are those that are dissatisfied with the current state of affairs and are willing to experiment and contribute significant ideas.

Then again, maybe I'm being too cynical. Maybe music is doing just fine and big corporations are doing us a great service by providing lots of cross-promotional, sexy, larger-than-life performers to chronicle our struggles with song while selling us soda and automobiles. Yes! Yes, now I see the light! Thank you corporate America. I will assume the position. Now if only I could find some more vaseline and a soft pillow for my aching head.


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