Once upon a time, watching the Oscars was a ritual, as they say in the "Style" section of the "New York Times", the Women’s Super Bowl. Watching Al Pacino win an Emmy, I thought of his role in the "Godfather" trilogy, of all those years parked in front of the television watching the glitz and glamour of the Academy Awards. I thought about watching them this coming year. Then I asked myself, why? I hadn’t seen any of the movies.
I no longer go to the movies. There’s nothing there for me.
Oh, there are indie flicks. But they go straight to video almost instantly, and they barely play on the big screen anyway. And the production values are good enough on the real big screen, inside the home.
But the big Hollywood movies, which dominate mainstream media discourse, which are marketed to high heaven, they’re giant pinball games, made to play throughout the world, and, as a result, they’ve become to a great degree meaningless in the U.S. Just like the music business. Wherein major labels hype bland, manufactured product in print and on radio and TV and expect that we should care. We don’t.
Oh, some people still go to the movies. And some still buy the Top Forty wonders. But neither drive the culture. The true fans have gone elsewhere. In other words, in pursuit of all the money, the movie and music industries are left with less money.
Yes, both are struggling. Music blames file-trading. But how to explain the drop in DVD sales? I could trot out a few explanations, but moviegoing, the supposed American religion, is in decline.
If you want truth, you turn on TV. All the big stars are working on the small screen. And the small screen tackles subjects deemed too tiny for the big screen. If it involves human emotions, if it’s complicated drama, it’s on the small screen. The big screen is reserved for special effects. Oh, of course they trot out drama in the theatres, but the focus is on production values, the story is secondary to the presentation. That’s like thinking a record’s production is more important than the songs, than the playing. Just like recording stars of yore spend a fortune to buff their product to a sheen that is impenetrable, using auto-tune and effects to achieve perfection, which no one can relate to. We’re attracted to humanity. And that’s gone from the big screen and major label music. In search of all the profits, with the goal of making a ton of money, the core audience has been turned off.
I love going to the movies. But I’ve been too disappointed to go back.
I love a great record. Which is why I ignore the Top Forty. Katy Perry works with Dr. Luke and Snoop Dogg and shows her tits and I’m supposed to care? What’s that got to do with humanity? A great singer used to be able to touch your heart, Katy seems to only want to touch your wallet, she wants to rob you of your money. And when we stop paying, the business bigwigs blame us, as if it’s our fault we don’t care.
If you truly want to succeed in the entertainment industry today, if you want to have a long career, you’ve got to think small. You’ve got to do exactly what you want, appealing at first to only those inside, who get it. Ratings/sales might start slow, but you’ve got longevity. Jay Leno reaches more people, but Jon Stewart means more. You believe in Jon Stewart, you tell your friends about "The Daily Show". "The Tonight Show" is something you watch between your toes before you fall asleep and forget about as soon as you shut off the TV. Like the radio hits. Who wants to hear them once their time in the spotlight is done?
I can’t say that I watch a lot of TV. But I find it more satisfying than going to the movies.
The small records, released independently, are the ones that touch my heart, that I testify about.
Used to be you couldn’t reach everybody easily. Now, thinking you can, big time movie producers and record labels utilize modern marketing methods to hawk product with no heart, that’s made to appeal to everybody and appeals to almost nobody. We’re at a tipping point. The old institutions cannot survive, cannot maintain their dominance, because they refuse to stop, look in the mirror, admit their own humanity and change course. They might need to be smaller at first, but in an era where, especially in music, you can no longer wield distribution to your advantage, you’ve got to face facts and focus on the product, in order to survive.
The companies, the talent, they’ve all got to go smaller. It’s not about trying to reach everybody, but creating something good enough to survive, that inspires people to support you, to see you live and buy your merch.
Ever wonder why so many of the Top Forty wonders can barely play clubs? And acts most people have never heard of can work year after year on the road in theatres and arenas?
We don’t live in the mainstream world the mainstream news outlets tell us we do. We live in an alternative universe. And we don’t feel bad about rejecting the monolith. After all, there’s barely anything there, not even any nougat on the inside. Movies and Top Forty records are just a momentary, oftentimes unsatisfying concoction that we consume and discard. Whereas we save and treasure our ticket stubs to live shows by our favorite bands, we’re addicted to TV shows on cable that few people watch, but mean everything to us.