Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Color Me Unpersuaded

Jermaine Dupri had this to say to The Huffington Post, arguing that consumers should have to buy whole albums like back in the day rather than the piecemeal song-by-song option provided on iTunes:
Did consumers complain? Maybe so. But at what point does any business care when
a consumer complains about the money? Why do people not care how we - the people who make music - eat? If they just want the single, they gotta get the album.
That was how life was. Today we should at least have that option. Yeah, it's
about the money, but it's also about quality. Creating each album as a body of
work that means something gives the consumer something better to listen to, It's
that simple. Otherwise all anyone would care about is making a bunch of

Where to start? While I do recommend reading the whole piece linked in pink above, this particular little bit of it really caught my eye like a hemorrhoid of ignorance in the midst of the giant butthole that is opinion writing by some members of the "talent" end of the entertainment industry.

At this point, I'm just going to go ahead and break down into itemized bullet points. I figure any writing technique used by my Great Uncle Bob (whom I've long considered to be serious Baker Act material) would probably provide me with a mental airbag of sorts in this situation.

  1. When does any business care when the consumer complains about the money? Probably at the point where it is losing untold sums each year to online piracy and digital file sharing of music and movies. At that point, a business that wants to stay in the black goes about finding a way to deal with the problem, and when the piracy is much too rampant to stop cold in its tracks, then that business finds a way to compete with the illegality and turn a profit anyway.
  2. Complete and utter failure to take into account what happens if something legal that people want (a la carte options on iTunes) is stripped down to basically the lousy product being sold before that people would rather get for free. Sentence fragment, yes. Must picture me pointing at the piece and jabbing it accusatorily with my budding cat lady finger.
  3. The consumer is not your enemy. He is the hand that feeds you.*
  4. You're right. I don't give a flying fuck what the musicians eat. I'm too worried about how I'm going to buy a week's worth of groceries with the little baggy of quarters I've scraped together to do laundry with. How do artists like Jermaine Dupri eat? Probably a lot better and with fewer looming question marks than I do. No one is crying over you, and, if anything, someone might go out of their way to obtain an illegal copy of one of your songs--preferably one of the ones that never sees radio airplay. He may never play it, but it would remain a sort of digital monument in his playlists to your colossal asshattery. I'd do it myself, but, well, I'm broke, thus derailing every level of that plan from the iPod to the earphones.
  5. No, if I want the single I don't "gotta" do anything. At the very bottom of the stack of options for fulfilling my burning desire for a single, I will always have the old middle school standby of recording it from the radio onto a blank tape. In fact, my ability to do that is almost inherent to the fact that it is a single and, by definition, will play on the radio at some point.
  6. I will agree with you, M. Dupri, on one thing: It is about quality. Do you know why Jay-Z can tell iTunes to shove it? Why he can still sell whole albums while I'm really racking my brains to remember the last song I heard of yours or even where I was last made cognizant of your existence without reference to what the latest report is on the size of Janet Jackson's ass? Jay-Z makes damn good music. Period. End of sentence. He consistently delivers quality in spades while you...you just...you write in the Huffington Post which, predictably, is more relevant than your own website if only by dint of not including the warning to "ball at [my] own risk." Remarkably, according to the quotes on your site, you seem to think people really, really want to know you "more as a baller than anything else." This, I feel, only serves to drive home the misgivings creeping over those who want to see rap, hip-hop, and R&B move forward as a genre that finds their roots in the droning redundancy of the subject matter (money, drugs, violence, and misogyny) and heavy, generic sampling it has come to rely on. Kanye and Jay-Z would stand above the crowd anyway, but there's no call for you to be so obliging as to make this any easier for them. I also note that according to Wikipedia, your father is the former president of Columbia Records, a fact that (taken with your being listed among the ten richest people in hip-hop) really adds the gimlet to my eye when reading your pleas for concern over how artists eat and the lack of control over your own music that is implied in the article, especially as your own work is available in the song-by-song arrangement on iTunes that you deplore here.
  7. Apparently, Mr. Screw iTunes is rumored to have had some copyright issues of his own. That's neither here nor there (and, as such, is an admittedly inappropriate as an argument), but I felt that I should drop that somewhere in my PC and poverty-fueled diatribe.

*On top of silver spoons and various investments and Duncan Donut commercials.

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