An open letter to the "alternative" media

I have been an independent musician for 21 years, and most of that time, it has been a life of steady but rewarding hard work, like being a pro ball player who's not in the major leagues. I still have as little interest in show-biz as I ever had, but it seems show-biz is now interested in invading my world. It might glamorize my world, and it might not. What happened to all the people who invented country music? Many of them are still alive and productive, but they have been pushed off the airwaves. Now we have New Country. Try to find Webb Pierce, Ray Price or Melba Montgomery on the radio. The young, beautiful ones with perfect teeth and voices and expensive haircuts have stolen their gigs. There were strict laws in the 1300's against impersonating Minstrels, and I'm beginning to think we need some now.

As you may suspect or know, the forces of Hollywood, Nashville, Disney, Sony and Madison Avenue maintain an all-out, around-the-clock assault on our culture, and their influence on you is staggering. They have a huge hand in deciding what books are on the shelves, what gets aired on the radio and TV, who is being mentioned or interviewed and reviewed, and they maintain an immense power over what is in a record store, especially the big chain stores. It's no conspiracy or coincidence. It's just big business.

Look around you, and you will see that the 3 kinds of art that can make corporations rich (namely: books, movies and music) are literally taking over the media's arts coverage, and the hundreds of other types of art are getting less & less press. (It all has to do with ownership of copyright: a safe, clean way to essentially print money for about 100 years without fear of theft, natural disasters, wars, politics or environmental problems.) This itself is not new; what is new is that the mainstream seems to no longer content with being mainstream, and they suddenly want to be "alternative", because that is what is cool, and what is cool seems to sell. And what does this do to those of us who are truly alternative and independent?

Even as I am writing this I hear Terry Gross starting up her NPR interview show Fresh Air with guest Boy George. As if he is the interesting and obscure person that used to be the type of person that public radio went looking for. I am remembering how many times this last couple months I have heard Merle Haggard, Linda Ronstadt, Van Morrison, Kathy Mattea, Stephen King, and other major-name entertainers, not on the cover of Parade Magazine where they used to be, but on public radio. As were reviews of Batman, Michael Jackson and Pocahontas and all the mainstream stuff. Folks, public broadcasting is not a backwater anymore, it's not counter-culture, and your chances of encountering something from out of the mainstream are diminishing daily. The big-money publicists and demographers have figured out that people who watch, read and listen to "alternative media" are a major target for marketing. It's the only place guys like me get heard at all, and now we have to compete with the big guys. The immense success of Unplugged, Seattle grunge bands, and the massive appeal among young people for so-called "alternative" bands have made it increasingly important for the products put out by Warner Bros. and Sony to look like alternative products. Like Budweiser's Red Dog beer that's made to imitate a micro-brewery product, the big labels are now making bogus "indie" labels and distributors, made to look like they are independent, because it's what people seem to want. Seems like everybody wants to be called a Troubadour, even if they have 3 tour buses! I was just informed that people on the payroll of major labels pretend to be fans to review albums and concerts and create phony "excitement" and make it look like there is a grass-roots buzz on the Internet. A book publisher recently got caught rigging the New York Times Bestseller's list to make their books look more popular. Same sort of thing.

Does this surprise you? It shouldn't. Should it annoy you? Yes. The amount of money to be made in entertainment is staggering. Where there's money, there is sleaze. And now there is big money in seeming to be an alternative artist, and it is severely impairing the ability of us true independents to survive. We are being shoved off the playing field by wolves in sheep's clothing, and only if you people remain vigilant and support us, and resist the phony marketing attempts of corporate poseurs trying to look like real Minstrels, we may vanish. I feel that it is the job of the alternative media to not just tell their readers and listeners about about the same mega-movies, books and records they already can't avoid hearing about everywhere else. We are in danger of having no counter-culture, (witness Woodstock II) and it will be a far less-interesting world if we allow Time-Warner and Sony and Ted Turner to control all of our entertainment. Be aware that you are being blinded, treasures are being hidden from you. To find a hand-made quilt you have to look somewhere other than Wal-Mart.

Woody Guthrie said it: The radio stations "...belong to some rich guy and he don't want to listen to us poor folks sing." Just buy our records and come to our concerts, and remind yourself of the difference between hand-made and corporate art. How would you like to have those "paintings" they hang on the walls at McDonald's in your living room and have to look at them every day? Do you really want to be entertained only by millionaires? Do you want to spend your concert $ to watch a show in a stadium, where the performer looks like a well-lit ant ? That's where we're headed with mega-mergers and big-business music swallowing the music industry.

So don't forget to support your favorite authentic independent minstrels. Somebody's got to do this music thing, and if we who do it didn't, you might have to quit your job and sleep in those rest areas yourself.


[up to Harvey Reid's 1995 Newsletter]

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This web site concerns the music and life of acoustic musician & music educator Harvey Reid.

If you don't find what you want, or if you have comments or questions, please email to

 

WOODPECKER MULTIMEDIA
PO Box 815 York Maine 03909  USA
phone (207) 363-1886


Lyrics
About Harvey Reid
Concert Schedule
Lyrics
Catalog of Recordings
Buy From Us
Say Hello to Us
Books
Newest Recording
Newsletter
Booking Information
Publicity Info
Publicity Photos
About Joyce Andersen
Say Hello to Us
Listen to Audio
About the Partial Capo
Downloads
Articles & Essays
Harvey's Gear
Out of Print Music
Interviews
Reviews
Guitar Tunings
Lyrics
Listen to Audio
The Song Train
Favorite CD's
Listen to Audio
Hot News
Lyrics

Harvey Reid Concert Schedule |Harvey's Blog | About the Liberty Guitar Method|Catalog of CD's and Tapes|Discography|About this Web Site & What's New Here | Hot News | Woodpecker Home Page | About Harvey Reid |The Song Train | Video | Audio | About Joyce Andersen | Books by Harvey Reid | Get On the Mailing List... | Concert & Record Reviews | Interviews with HR | Lyrics to Harvey Reid Songs | Harvey Reid Annual Newsletters | HR's Guitar Tunings | About the Partial Capo | Articles & Essays by HR | HR's Gear | HR's Favorite CD's | HR's Career History | Booking Info | Publicity Info & Download Files |


This web site concerns the music and life of acoustic musician & music educator Harvey Reid.

If you don't find what you want, or if you have comments or questions, please email to