If this was 1985 this would be all over MTV, a Top Ten record. As it is, it’s number one in the radio backwater known as Active Rock. Now we’ve heard forever there’s no more artist development, but what do we say about Three Days Grace topping the chart on its sixth album fifteen years in?
Now I’m not gonna sit here and say this is an advancement of the form, something brand new, but if you like this music at all, it’s more than palatable, hear it twice and you could listen to it all day, as you sit in your car mashing the gas pedal, angry at the world, feeling powerful, wasn’t that the essence of hard rock?
Now Active Rock is not as bad as AAA, where the Decemberists are triumphing with the synth-heavy and not quite as magic “Severed,” with almost zero impact outside the format, meanwhile all we can read about in the mainstream media are endless articles about the mediocre Elton John tribute LPs that no one cares about…you know how I know, no one is streaming them, even though if you wade through the LPs you’ll discover the rendition of “Border Song” by Willie Nelson is quite good.
But our entire method of music distribution/exposure is broken and the industry ain’t doing a single thing about it.
This is how it works, tracks break first on streaming services, as a result of online buzz. And then radio comes later, but radio is easier to manipulate, so the majors focus all their effort there, even though it’s oftentimes MONTHS behind streaming services and leaves so much out, there’s really no such thing as Top Forty, just an urban/hip-hop/rap format and country and a bunch of niches, there’s no cross-pollination, and unless you’re deep into a specific format you’re overwhelmed and tuning out, going to see the aged acts in the amphitheatre or enduring the endless smorgasbord at the festival, where it’s more about you than anybody on stage. Radio is fading, but very slowly. Meanwhile, the only format with real penetration online is urban/hip-hop/rap, giving one the impression that’s the only one that counts, but the rest are victims of abuse, of underpromotion, of lack of recognition.
“Every day I’m just surviving
Keep climbing the mountain”
Ain’t that modern life. Whilst the “artists” in the Spotify Top 50 get TMZ play, we know all about their shenanigans, if you’re not privileged to be in the spotlight you’re just hunkering down and working, like your audience.
“Even when I feel like dying
Keep climbing the mountain”
And certainly these are not revolutionary lyrics, but they’re new to the audience, which keeps replenishing itself.
But then, nearly sotto voce, we get the lyrics…
“The higher I go the harder I fall
So I don’t look down, I don’t look back at all And when I wish it all would turn black I try to see the light and push the darkness back”
This is akin to the message Katy Perry sells, but to a dedicated audience, hard rock acts are not flavor of the moment, their fans are invested.
And then they modulate up and..
“Every time I think I’m over it
I wake up in the bottom of it all again
I’m still surviving
I keep climbing, I keep climbing
And now it feels like sex, when you’re in the moment, when you can feel orgasm coming, when everything else in your mind, all the detritus, is swept away and you can only focus on the destination, the momentary nirvana, ain’t that what life is all about, the little peaks, that keep you going?
Like your favorite song, played over and over again. Assuming you can find it.
Enough about Pandora, enough about playlists, those are for background listeners, those not needing the injection of music to stay alive. But the truly passionate, who remember when music drove the culture, they want to be exposed.
Now “The Mountain” has got some traction on Spotify, it’s got five and a half million streams, the official video on YouTube has got 12+ million views, whereas the #1 Top Forty cut, the Zedd/Maren Morris/Grey track “The Middle,” has got 206+ MILLION streams on Spotify and the lyric video has 58+ million views on YouTube and the official video 25 million! Is the Zedd/Maren Morris/Grey track TEN times better than “The Mountain”? NO! It might be a more modern song, but it’s even more of a trifle, something you can enjoy and instantly forget. My point being that more people would like “The Mountain” if they just heard it. As for the Decemberists’ “Severed,” even though it’s number one in its format, it doesn’t even have 2 million streams on Spotify, and the video has a paltry 683,140 views on YouTube.
This problem cannot be solved by mainstream media, it keeps promoting the usual suspects to less and less success, as well as nobodies going nowhere, which just muddies the water.
And you can’t blame Spotify, the fact that their charts are not manipulated is great, why Apple won’t be transparent is beyond me, we live in a fact-based society, at least online if not in D.C.
And radio is like your aged uncle living in a bygone era never coming back.
“When I’m lost and want to fade away”
I used to listen to records to get me through, they spoke to my soul, but now hit music is shooting for something else, it’s not playing to the audience so much as navigating some gauntlet with riches at the end that few can identify with, meanwhile the riches get other nitwits to follow in their steps when the truth is music is the elixir of life, it’s what keeps you living to die another day.
We’ve got to climb the mountain. It’s like we fought piracy and argued over progress so long that we can’t clean up our own house now that we’ve arrived at the destination, where streaming has won and if you’re played you get paid.
If only the powers-that-be made it all just a bit more comprehensible.