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Big-T & the Bada-Bings


G'nite Whitey
by Big Rude Jake

This is a story about a good friend of mine. We used to call him Big Whitey, mostly because he smokes too much and never goes out in to the sun, leaving his complexion a rather ashen shade of pale. Whitey has been my business manager for several years now. He's a hard-headed survivor of the harrowing, coke-addled '80s. He used to brag that he had weathered his way through the toughest of times and that there was nothing he couldn't handle. He was one of these old-timers who had more crazy tales to tell of life on the road than anyone I have ever known. But things have changed for my pal Whitey, and I am concerned for him.

He called me up the other day and, with a lump in his throat that he could barely hold down, he explained to me that he's tired of this crazy business and he wants out. If I am ever to release another album on an international label, I'm going to have to do it without him. Whitey says he just doesn't understand the music industry anymore and doesn't know he can make a go of it in a world where it's all about belly buttons and billion-dollar budgets. As far as he can tell, the music industry has been commandeered by huge transnational corporations who are only interested in making enormous profits overnight. Select markets (like retrophiles) and smaller artists have no place in the bland world corporate Pop, where the radio stations, television networks, newspapers, Internet service providers, oil companies, movie studios and record labels are all owned by the same faceless corporate blob.

Rest assured, my friends, I have every intention of staying in the music biz and doing whatever I have to do to survive. Big Rude Jake will continue to make music, even if I have to return to being an independent artist selling CDs out the back of a pick-up. But as for Big Whitey, well, after three decades in the business, he's packing it in. The thing that really pains me is that it was people like Whitey who made the music industry a viable concern in the first place. Men like him were frontiersmen, blazing a trail and taking risks back when Gulf Oil and Coca-Cola had no interest in the music industry. Now the trailblazers have been squeezed out, and Wall Street has moved in to captain the ship.

But this is not the end of the story. Although it is true that, in the battle to seize control of the music industry, the casuality rate has been high, it is also true that, despite every effort on the part of the big boys to maximize profits, record sales have been in a slump for years. You see, the problem with these corporations is that, when they kill off guys like Whitey, they also kill off the creative force that keeps the industry vital and interesting. The modern corporate environment does not reward creativity. It rewards banality and conformity. They take over an industry because it is exciting and profitable, and then they turn it into something that is boring and unprofitable. Once a product stops turning a profit, the corporations drop it and move on. Imagine a swarm of locusts descending on a Kansas cornfield and you get an idea about how the modern corporate environment works.

I believe that, eventually, the corporations will drop their holdings in the music industry, and in other sectors of the entertainment field because they themselves will have made them unprofitable. This will be a good thing, because, in doing so, they will make room for small-timers like Big Whitey again; people who don't need to make record-breaking profits every single fiscal quarter in order to feel successful. That means that there will be room for people to do what Berry Gordy did, when he started Motown Records and Hitsville USA. Gordy started small and grew slowly, combining a love of music and solid business acumen to create one of the most important record labels of all time. There will be room for men like Sam Phillips, who made small records that were played on local radio stations, and in doing so, helped to launch the careers of Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins and many others who are now legends in American Pop Culture. Both Gordy and Phillips became rich, but not overnight, and they never needed to bend to the wishes or the greed of stockholders and corporate overlords.

Unfortunately, the predictable collapse of the Corporate Pop Machine will not happen anytime soon. Those Wall Street guys are pretty good at finding new ways of re-packaging the same old crap to maintain the status quo. They will hang in there for as long as they can. As such, I think we are in for an extended wait before Babylon falls. But I don't mind. It's going to be quite a light show when the whole system collapses with a loud boom, and you can bet I'll be there in the front row to watch. I just hope Whitey is still around to see it happen too.

Behind in your reading?
Check out past ATOMIC features.

Dear Dottie
1999 Articles List
2000 Articles List
2001 Articles List
2002 Articles List
2003 Articles List
2004 Article List
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