Monday, February 27, 2006

More MySpace News

I'm making friends left and right on MySpace. I hadn't even been a member twenty-four hours before getting a message from someone with the enigmatic name of "." Ugh. . wants to be my friend, but I think I'll demur. Honestly, I've spent enough of my life not getting into clubs with names like (*) and Glottal Stop and other crap that screams, "How dare you mere mortals try to pronounce our name!" It's called the alphabet. Look into it.

Turns out that . is the alias of some band named Coppermine that's just trying to expand its six degrees of separation circle of acquaintances. I am disillusioned; they said they wanted to be my friend, but it turns out they're just looking for some free airplay. How could they toy with me like that?! And they're in the music business, no less, which is traditionally known for its upstanding and socially conscious corporate practices.

So I'm really more bothered by the whole period for a name thing than by Coppermine begging everyone on MySpace to listen to their music. (I do think it would be nice if people with music on their MySpace accounts could have the thing wait until I press play before it starts blaring music, though.) I appreciate that it's a bitch to break into the music biz, and from someone with a daily readership of about eight people to a band with around 130,000 "friends," I say whatever works. Pirate radio, holding Bertlesmann executives hostage at gunpoint, streaking across the American Idol stage — I don't care.

I was watching a report on CBS Sunday Morning, the news magazine that doesn't try to scare the crap out of you, about this debate in the music industry over whether it's ethical for musicians to license their work for commercials. I don't take sides over the issue per se; what thoroughly offends me is the idea that there's some sort of moral high ground in the music industry in the first place. Rock stars are pre-programmed to wrap the dilemma in terms like creative control, integrity, and exposure, like Hollywood is the land of euphemism. I'm not a huge fan of hip-hop or urban materialism, but at least I can respect Nelly for proudly admitting that he's just in it for the money and the tasteless pussy. Bruce Springsteen, for example, won't license his music for commercials, but has no problem making a quick buck off of putting "Growin' Up" in Adam Sandler's cinematic masterpiece Big Daddy. So, selling running shoes is bad, selling copies of the Big Daddy soudtrack is okay. I see how that works.

My favorite quote from the news report is about Tom Waits, who "has successfully sued to stop ad agencies from hiring Tom Waits sound-alikes. He's made a lot of money in settlements and set some new case law by being so dogged." This begs the question: what the hell are they trying to sell to a Tom Waits soundtrack?

And then there's U2 and that ubiquitous iPod commercial. When Bruce inducted Bono and those three guys who follow him around into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, he made a little joke about how surprised he was at that commercial and how he thought U2 was selling out — until he discovered that U2 did that commercial for free. You heard right: they participated in a million-dollar ad campaign out of the goodness of their magnanimous little hearts. That, and having Apple pay to put another one of their unnecessary songs reminding us that nuclear war is bad on national television. And getting their own iPod line. And earning royalties every time some dork 80's memorabilia collector bought a U2 iPod. (But I'm sure a percentage of those royalties goes to support Angelina Jolie's random Ethiopian children, so it's cool.)

The thing is that I would totally give Bono the green light to pimp out his music — well, not Bono, because he's irritating — but I'd give many musicians license to sell out if only the idiotic public wasn't so eager to buy. I can kind of see the iPod and U2's latest pseudo-soulful yuppiefied tripe filling the same cultural niche. But I'm at a complete loss as to who's going to buy a Dirt Devil just because they saw one on TV dancing with Fred Astaire. And just because they played Sting's "Desert Rose" on that Jaguar commercial doesn't mean we have to hear it eight million times on the radio. Now I don't want to buy Sting's album or a Jaguar. Actually, I didn't want to buy Sting's album in the first place.