Stuff I Think and Shouldn't Say 45: The Day The Music Industry Died

The Weekly Music Pulse Stuff I Think and Shouldn’t Say 45

March 21, 2000 is a date that will forever live in infamy. It’s the day the music (industry) died.

Everywhere we turned, there they were. MTV, VH1, ABC, CBS, it didn’t matter…they had a new album, and we needed to know about it. A painfully simplistic cover: 5 marionettes dressed all in black. The million dollar smiles were hidden beneath twisted, smarmy faces. It’s sad that I still remember the cover after all this time, but there is a reason.

This was the last “blockbuster” album of a generation, maybe ever. I wish I could say that I was talking about a rebirth of the Jackson 5 or that Boyz II Men added a member and were takin’ it to the streets (© Doobie Brothers.)

On this dark, dark day, the CD breathed a last gasp, and save for several small diaphragmatic spasms, slowly gave way to the digital age.

N Sync’s No Strings Attached. It was simple marketing: the group had split with an egomaniacal manager, Lou Perlman, whose puppet-mastery had brought the New Kids on the Block around the country as a limosine driver, would create a powerful empire in Orlando. Perlman developed Backstreet Boys and, in turn, handed the ‘N Sync-ers fame, but not the fortunes they were promised. These 5 gentlemen sued to be released from his command, resulting in a subsequent move to Jive Records. As a parting shot, the group decided to craft a “perfect” pop album.

A ridiculous claim, you say? It might not be your cup of tea, but the numbers don’t lie.

1.1 million sales the first day, a record that will never be touched. 2.41 million sales
the first week. No one has come close since.

In fact, the highest grossing album of the past two years, Kelly Clarkson’s Breakaway, has only moved 5,366,933 units in 82 weeks.

82 weeks?

Poke fun at the boy-band fad all you want, but ‘N Sync had sold 9,936,104 CDs in 2000 alone…in the U.S. Yes, Napster existed and people were using it like crazy, but the manufactured goodies offered up by Justin Timberlake & Friends set a sales record that year based on the strength of THREE hit singles: “Bye, Bye, Bye,” “It’s Gonna Be Me,” and “This I Promise You.” Today, there are albums currently on the market with more singles released this year (i.e. Pussycat Dolls) that have barely sold more than No Strings Attached sold in a DAY.

That was only six years ago.

How can you spin this one?

Record labels were greedy and are notorious for pushing “copy cat” acts onto the market based on the success of established artists. These acts flounder, the labels lose money, become reluctant to develop new talent, and after decades of this bullshit, they are stuck holding a money bag that is significantly lighter than it used to be.

Two years ago, if you had told me that an established, albeit, derivative act like Nickelback would sell less than ‘N Sync sold in one week, I would have laughed right in your face. Hard. Established acts with HUGE built-in fanbases should sell albums in the millions, and yet, a group of men who sang and danced their way into 10 million households in the new millennium, will go down as the last great album ever.

Like them or not, ‘N Sync were a product, and they found a way to move units. They weren’t in your face, were all moderately-to-highly talented singers who understood that in order to change their place in history; to not be remembered also-rans to the Backstreet Boys, they needed to bet the house on one last hand. On No Strings Attached, ‘N Sync wove R&B, dance and hip-hop with pop melodies/harmonies. The record was all things to all people, and contrary to popular opinion, the majority of their sales were to college-aged men and women, not just the shrieking pre-teens.

College women bought that album because it was fun and current. It was trendy. The 18-24 male demographic purchased the disc to get laid. Simple as that. Chicks dug ‘N Sync, and owning this meant you were “sensitive” and understood the things that women like, and, in turn, women.

(Ssquared Note: Dudes who like chick flicks are liars. Dudes like chicks and chicks alone. Everything we do is in the hopes of getting laid. We aren’t supposed to be selfless and caring; we need ass. This might be off-topic, but it’s true.)

With the proliferation of person-to-person file-sharing, millions of people started downloading singles. Then they realized that the albums were rushed and disjointed, and felt that one or two good songs for $12-18 dollars wasn’t a steal, when you could do just that with an internet connection and were willing to eat some memory on your hard drive.

These people never went back into a record store ever again, and that is sad. I grew up dying to just set foot in Strawberries or Record Town. I remember that no trip to the mall was complete until I conned my mom into walking into those stores. We couldn’t go grocery shopping, or head to Saratoga, without me coming home with some new purchase.

Is it destined that my kids might never even SEE a record store?

52 people are listed as personnel involved in the recording and engineering of No Strings Attached. That’s just the group, the producers, the composers, and EVERY pop engineer under the sun. The guys knew what they were doing. They might not have seen the proverbial “writing on the wall,” but they knew that in order to sell a copious amount of CDs, they needed to make the songs they had sound perfect. The resulting tour brought in over $20 million for the guys, so the expenses they may have fronted to make the album were quickly recouped.

MTV and TRL changed the landscape of pop music. As terrestrial radion lost its credibility time and time again, the alternative pop authorities pushed new and fresh artists. Sure, a lot of it was cookie cutter and bland. For the most part, the music they played was garbage. Whatever the labels want shoved down the consumers throats is what gets talked about. Where did the rock journalists go?

The web.

They BLOG.

Ironically, me and music ended up in bed together. We both got published and got exposure in the same place; a place I didn’t know existed until my freshman year in college (1996, and we used POPmail to send and receive messages, not IMs and Gmail and broadband wasn’t even a gleam in ANYONE’s eye) the WORLD WIDE WEB.

At the end of the day, 52 people set out to craft a modern-day pop masterpiece and single-handedly brought down the Evil Empire. A bunch of rebels with plucked eyebrows and flat irons.

Pearl Jam’s debut, Ten, has sold 10 times what their latest album, Pearl Jam, will scan by the end of the year…and this might be the second best album they wrote. How sad is that? Why isn’t it on radio?

There is no radio…not anymore?

Does this mean that even if Thriller was released tomorrow, that only 3 million people WORLDWIDE would own the pressed foil and glass? What about Dark Side of the Moon and Frampton Comes Alive, Aqualung and Ok Computer? Raising Hell?

Will we really be passing MP3’s on to our grandkids? Will we hand them dusty old iPods with the extra three buttons and remark that this was high-tech “in our day?”

I hope not.

But it’s too late to stop this machine now. The big-wigs here in NYC and in L.A. are convinced that the machine they’ve been riding doesn’t need an overhaul. That even though it gets -20 miles to the gallon, that it’s still not quite ready to fix.

People always laughed that it would serve the industry right to have it all come undone, for the companies to collapse and fall to bits at the feet of the very men and women who ripped off both the artists they represented and the consumers that lined their collective pockets.

It might only cost 3 dollars to make the album, but let’s retail it at a 500% mark-up!

Maybe it isn’t really ‘N Sync’s fault. I am older and wiser than the 19 year old that purchased No Strings Attached, so I know better than to assign blame where it doesn’t quite belong.

It just feels better to make someone else the scapegoat.

The real problem was me all along. The kid with 20 bucks to spare and a desperate need to hear Kula Shaker. With the advent of listening stations and the proliferation of sites where streaming was possible, we could find out in 30 seconds or less whether or not this album was any good. And today, I wouldn’t buy the CD I had heard so very much about.

More and more, we (the consumers) started to realize we had been had. The A&R folks who had told us about the “new Beatles” and the “new Who” (Oasis and Seven Mary Three, respectively) really didn’t try to give you 12 great songs. You were lucky to get 1 or 2 for $18.

While people like me were still supporting the old school, the tried-and-true, you guys sent the executives in their corner offices a message: a big f*ck you.

Shame on me for taking so long.

When I got myself a computer with some speed, some balls, I downloaded most of the other shit I would have been tricked into buying. The old stuff that my dad had bought on vinyl for two Hamiltons and that the gurus at Warner and Capitol wanted and expected me to do the same for the CD.

Screw that. I ripped it.

I ripped all the classics.

I kept supporting the new guys, the up-and-comers, but if my dad got laid to your tunes, you could suck my ass. I was gonna steal your shit, and there wasn’t a thing you could do about it.

The industry is dead, and I really don’t know how to feel.


.::.Plugging the Bitchin’ $h!t.::.
.:.Columns from the Week that Was!.:.

Greg Wind: Between the Notes #2
Kyle David Paul: Let’s Rave On
Gloomchen: Summertime Blues, News, and Views
Mathan Erhardt: More Reasons Why Being Deaf Sucks/Rocks
Jeffrey R. Fernandez: The Saturday Swindle Sheet presents sKR33d! – Vol. 1, #1
(note to JF2k6: what’s sKR33d?)
Tom D’Errico: The New Classics

.::.Plugging Other $h!t.::.

That Bootleg Guy’s Weekly Sports Pulse
So, Aaron Cameron AND Fernandez return two week’s after I decry, nay, I DEMAND a return? Sweet Jeebus, I have some pull! Thank you, Inside Pulse. You are the greatest! [oh, and Cam proves that Blacks African-Americans love are watching (parts of) the World Cup (when nothing else is on.) If only someone could express the appeal of Ne-Yo, we would be on to something.]

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
Tom Pandich offers his expert analysis of Johnny Depp’s cash cow. This is the kind of movie to build a career around, just ask Keanu (who has the Matrix trilogy to permanently pad his wallet.) It’s all about residuals, baby.

Last time, I plugged Lucard with this spot, and remarked that it was like linking to the front page of this very site. Now, another Executive Board member gets his due, as Murtz Jaffer, IP’s authority on all things Reality TV, gets a mention during Big Brother All-Stars. Lucard gets mentioned at the U.N., Murtz is on the feed for a prominent CBS show, and I get Dan Hevia sending me comments on my MySpace page? If I don’t get a blurb in Page Six on Monday, next PPV, you are ALL getting invited to the Mango. Widro might make the best salsa, but can he make that much salsa for all of my readers?


My readers all tend to go to Widro’s PPV bashes anyhow.


I love Grut.

Moving on.

Ssquared’s Music Pulse Hook-Up!

Bright Eyes – “Easy/Lucky/Free”

I am quite surprised that I never saw this video when the album dropped. I bought it (2005’s Digital Ash in a Digital Urn) the first day it came out, but this video slipped under my radar when I moved to Queens in February.

Let me offer this statement about Bright Eyes: I love Conor Oberst. I won’t say he’s a “modern day Dylan” or “Leonard Cohen with a falsetto.” He is, however, a stand-up guy. He toured with R.E.M. and Bruce Springsteen during’s “Vote for Change” tour and allowed his music to speak for him. He didn’t go out and bash the President on foreign soil (read: Dixie Chicks) and he has a unique sound that sells.

He’s turned down every major label offer that his been pushed his way, a task that shows how committed he is to helping out the label, Saddle Creek Records that launched him. He’s Teflon and, frankly, I would rather listen to every note of his entire catalog than listen to Nickelback for ten minutes. Does this make me a snob, a douche, or an opinionated prick with bizarre taste?

I am too old to be in his target audience, and too fat to be emo.

What’s my deal?

When did I become a whiny bitch?

(Tracy slaps me a few times a day, and I yell ‘ouch’ even when it doesn’t even sting.)

I <3 Bright Eyes. (K-Fed is a douche, though.)

brought to you by

.:.From Justin to Belly.:.

Poor Kelly Clarkson! The New York Post‘s Page Six reports that Clarkson has been offered to join 50 Cent as the only artists to have a custom flavor of Vitamin Water created in their honor, but she can only seal the deal with the water company if she loses some weight first. 50 Cent’s Formula 50 flavor, which debuted in late 2004, came loaded with 50 percent of one’s daily vitamins and 50 went on the record promoting health and fitness around the time of its release.

.:.Tooting Your Horn…with YOURSELF.:.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, ThinkFilm has acquired all North American rights to the film “10th & Wolf”, featuring Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee’s first full-fledged acting role.

Based on a real-life mob war in Philadelphia that took place during the late ’80s and early ’90s, “10th & Wolf” (which was actually shot in Pittsburgh) follows the attempts of one mob family to wrest control of a piece of turf when the head of the another mob family is incarcerated. The cast also includes Giovanni Ribisi, Dennis Hopper, Val Kilmer, Piper Perabo, Dash Mihok, Lesley Ann Warren and Brian Dennehy.

“I just did this role with some amazing actors,” Lee told back in November 2004. “[Ribisi] is amazing. It’s really hard-core, kind of violent. You’ll have to look for it. They’re just about done shooting it.”

.:.It Always Feels Like Somebody’s Watching Me.:.

Call Out: “All those bands, Fall Out Boy, Panic! at the Disco, they [are] only influenced by each other and Blink-182. How can that be a good thing? Emo, whatever you want to call it, is dangerous.” — Killers frontman Brandon Flowers

Response No. 1: “Do I think of myself as dangerous? Not at all! It’s a shame that [Brandon Flowers] feels that way really.” — Panic’s Brendon Urie

Response No. 2: “I think [the Killers] maybe tried to order drinks from us at the MTV Video Music Awards, because they thought we were waiters.” — Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz


The 19th annual Farm Aid benefit will be held Sept. 30 at the Tweeter Center in Camden, N.J., just across the Delaware River from downtown Philadelphia. Farm Aid co-founders Neil Young, Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp will perform, as will Dave Matthews. Tickets go on sale July 14 to members of the FarmYard club and July 22 to the general public.

Young announced the details July 6th during a press conference at Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market. “It is unfortunate that we have to continue doing this,” he said. “I really hope that we don’t have to do Farm Aid forever.”

To date, Farm Aid has raised more than $29 million in support of family farms, locally grown food and fair pricing. The Camden location was chosen due to the high amount of farmers’ markets in the surrounding area.

“Family farmers are our best choice for good, fresh, wholesome foods,” Young said. “When you choose local, sustainable, humanely raised, or organic food from family farms, you are keeping family farmers on the land.”

.:.The BEST Western Would Be Apropos.:.

Manic Street Preachers front man James Dean Bradfield has denied that the band are to split and revealed that he has already begun writing material for their new album.

Bradfield releases his first solo album The Great Western this month and with Nicky Wire also readying his own solo album rumours had been rife that the Welsh trio were about to call it a day.

However, he told the BBC: “It would take a hell of a lot for us to split up at any point in the future. But we have taken a brief hiatus, we committed to not releasing anything for two years because we realised we had been in a band for 21 years.”

“After finishing the tour we felt we deserved to take a break, get some perspective and then make the next Manics album is as good as we can make it.”

Describing the next Manics record he said that the material would be “in your face,” “aggressive” and “rock and roll”. Bradfield releases The Great Western on July 24 and precedes it with the single ‘That’s No Way To Tell A Lie’ on July 10.

.:.Adolescent Large Shiny Knives Was Taken?.:.

Seattle’s Blood Brothers announced an Oct. 10 release date for Young Machetes, their sixth studio album, produced by John Goodmanson and Guy Piccioto of Fugazi fame. The revered masters of mixing synth-pop, hardcore, violence, sex, and catchy choruses have been steadily gaining notoriety since 2004’s viciously danceable Crimes, a record Spin dubbed “savage punk rock that shifts and shakes like the bleachers during a homecoming orgy.”

Known for their sass as well as their high-octane performances, Young Machetes is sure to be packed to the brim with the Blood Brothers staples: raging keyboard riffs, fierce guitar meltdowns, and anthemic versus for the masses to scream along to. Stay tuned in the upcoming weeks for the announcement of their fall tour.

.:. Friends Don’t Waste Wine When There’s Words to Sell.:.

Interpol have broken their silence and revealed that they are hard at work on their third album.
The New Yorkers have been working on the record since the beginning of 2006 and plan a release sometime in 2007.

Writing on their official website they announced: “We’re hard at work on the writing of album three. We’ve been at it for six months – in case you heard we were on hiatus.

“We’re all very excited about it and think that you will be too. Having yet to record, we can only say that Release will come sometime next year.”

Although its early days on the project they did reveal a couple of song titles, saying: “We can’t offer much of a preview at present, but I can tell you we’ve got one gem in the works entitled ‘The Heinrich Maneuver’. And another that was called ‘Pawn Shop’. But that’s called something else now.”

In other Interpol news apparently Carlos has a new dog, an Italian greyhound called Gaius, which looks like him – sounds f*cking scary to us.

.::.Plugging Music Reviews: the Inside Pulse Way.:.

Check out the Archive or you can just click the individual reviews below:

Surfjan Stevens – The Avalanche

The 3Tards – Crystal Balls

They Might Be Giants – Podcast Highlights

Thom Yorke – The Eraser

Rob Zombie – Educated Horses

Johnny Cash – American V: A Hundred Highways

That’s a wrap for this week. Wednesday, I head to another surgeon to get a second opinion about shoulder surgery, so after 9 months of pain and physical therapy, I might finally have an answer other than this:

If I have surgery, it will only be 3 more months of PT before I can raise my arm above my head. Sounds like fun, right?

I have been depressed about my job situation, sad about my body falling apart, but IP’s been a nice reprieve from it all. Thanks for the support and please keep the emails coming.

Keep it real!
Ssquared @ MySpace