"I often fantasize about a young Bob Dylan stepping out into an American Idol audition and watching the substitute bass player for Journey, Laker girl and Mr. Teletubby rip him apart. Springsteen would be singing "She Bang" on You-Tube. Even I can't imagine Hank Williams or Robert Johnson or Woody Guthrie making round one." So says music fan and retailer Mike Felten, on how the music was chased out by the biz.

 

 

Looking back on some of these aborted Weaselworlds there are several that are just one word expletives.

As business continues to tumble, I'm sleeping a couple of hours a night and pacing the rest. Trying to figure out what I should do and how to get rid of these dog CDs that no one wants. I have a huge $1 section that is going to be rotated to the dumpster.

Trying to figure out what to do next with the rest of my life. Trying to figure out what to do with my new CD that doesn't appear to be saleable, but I like it and believe in it. I'm writing new songs and planning on recording a third disc that no one one will want.

I'm listening to artists that are exciting to me but that no one seems to want to listen to. Tom House, Tommy Womack, Eric Taylor, Tom Heinl, Johnny Dowd, Bob Frank, Rod Picott... Sorry guys. I know you all have your little followings, but you all probably sell more of your music directly than any retailer does. Why is this? What can I do to make it happen?

Searching, I keep stumbling onto awful quotes from the record industry…

"The exec who eventually signed Britney Spears, Jive Records' Jeff Fenster, said he based the decision not on a song in particular, but on a picture of the then-teenage Spears. She was sitting on a picnic blanket, wearing cutoffs and cuddling a puppy, Fenster said. ‘She looked like the sweet, All-American girl that you just wanted to defile and do bad things to, and that appealed to me’."

And they did do bad things to her, didn't they? I never liked her Mickey Mouse music, but she went from a cute little kid to a slutty, cocktail waitress in rehab. Don't tell me it is the price of 'fame'...

Greg Kot - Chicago Tribune from SXSW: "Interscope Records, home to U2, Jay-Z and Gwen Stefani, already has signed the Pipettes, but the band's album won't be available in the United States till summer. By then, it might've already exhausted its welcome."

The next big thing, might not have the legs to make it to its release date?

The dwindling disc buying public
is satisfied only momentarily
and then tires. They are off and onto
the next thing. How long is it going
to be before they all quit trying?

Two from the Rolling Stone that arrived on my doorstep yesterday... A caption on a picture showing a beer truck driver stacking up cases of Miller Lite saying that all the beer was necessary to make the bands tolerable.

Ouch.

A feature on the new heroes, The Academy Is, has the lead singer quoted as saying that he hopes that when a kid goes to Target to buy his next disc, they hope to provide an alternative to all the crappy bands.

Target?

So even the reviewers and the people who make their living by promoting popular culture seem to be finding it hard to raise their enthusiasm. Where did it all go?

I'm buying less and less new product. It has no shelf life. The Shins will sell well for a couple of weeks and then die. Arcade Fire will be hot and then trickle to nothing. And then Modest Mouse will be hot for a week or two. It all seems like Chinese food. The dwindling disc buying public is satisfied only momentarily and then tires. They are off and onto the next thing. How long is it going to be before they all quit trying?

What's good, Mike? Hell, I don't know. It looks like rows and rows of shit to me. I've worried about how jaded I've become, but I worry more when I see Rolling Stone and Greg Kot go down the same road.

Paul (M.O.T.O.) looked at the newest, greatest hits from Stevie Nicks and asked me if it was an empty case.

In my bleary, eyed pacing I came up with a solution. Garrison Keilor used to have a pretty good grocery up at Lake Woebegone. The grocery store's motto was "if we don't have it, you probably don't need it". Maybe that is our answer.

If you lived through the ‘60s,
we were supposed to create a
post-revolutionary world that
learned the lessons of Vietnam,
but instead we became investment
bankers and our kids and
grandkids wound up in Iraq.

Instead of following the breathless, hollow hype to stock the store with the latest "hollerbach" crap that is never even going to find it's way to the store player once, we should stock what we believe in, what we have a passion about. Records that we want our customers to hear. It isn't a matter of taste. It is a matter of what is good. Our record of the year was O.B. Buchana - "I'm Gonna Sleep". It is great, old school R&B that we stumbled upon. His record "I Can't Stop Drinkin" had a great cover of O.B. holding a couple quart bottles of whiskey. It made us laugh and put the record on. Other people bought the record just because of that cover AND it was a good record. I discovered the Rolling Stones, much the same way. We played the disc to death. People asked us what it was and we sold it to them. That my friends is what a good record store is supposed to do.

We need to sort through the crap and reject it. I don't care if Gwen Stefani looks good or Beyonce strokes herself into orgasmic seizures on stage. Yes, I must admit there might be a voice behind the melismatic exercises, but it still sounds like Whitney Houston with her hand caught in a toaster. Let the Targets be the lemmings that follow the ringtone.

It doesn't matter about downloading. It does matter if we do our job. The music buying public is lost in an American Idol wilderness. They are being told that this download sold 800,000 ringtones and it is what you should be listening too. A few ringtones later and they get up from the table bored.

Mellencamp is even starting his album by writing a song for a commercial. Bands are starting their careers that way. What happened to writing because you had something to say?

As a writer/performer of stuff people don't want to hear, I know that there is a major difference between fitting yourself into a genre and becoming the guy who sounds just like John Prine or Johnny Cash or the guy who sounds like me. I was thumbing through an old CMJ that helps retailers know what artists sound like by giving a few examples. Amy Rigby had a song about Joey Ramone, so of course, her CD was for fans of the Ramones. The niche didn't fit. Amy Rigby should sound like Amy Rigby and say what she wants to say in her songs. Of course, she isn't selling 800,000 ringtones either.

I often fantasize about a young Bob Dylan stepping out into an American Idol audition and watching the substitute bass player for Journey, Laker girl and Mr. Teletubby rip him apart. Springsteen would be singing "She Bang" on You-Tube. Even I can't imagine Hank Williams or Robert Johnson or Woody Guthrie making round one. Elvis was never going to be another Perry Como and the Beatles sure did show tunes and the Drifters badly.

Sonic Bids and a lot of artist help sites tell you to perfect an elevator pitch. If you have a minute or two to tell someone of importance how and why you are worthy of their attention. (I already blew it, I guess when I told the president of one of the majors that I was a dentist in response to his "I suppose you are involved in the music industry" query.) How about "I'm a human being with thoughts and ideas that are as valid as anyone's. I put some of them up on paper and against chords". Is that good enough?

The music buying public is lost
in an American Idol wilderness.
They are being told that this download
sold 800,000 ringtones and it is
what you should be listening too.

I have a guy who washes my windows and he writes poetry. It is just as worthy of a listen and respect as anything you and I or Fall Out Boy might do. Maybe none of what I do fits into the starmaker machinery. Maybe little record stores don't fit into a Home Depot world or into the business plan of 21st century.

We may be just dealing with a world that is devolving, but rock and roll in the ‘50s was supposed to be the outlaw that turned the conventional on its ear that drew that line in the dirt. Of course, if you lived through the ‘60s, we were supposed to create a post- revolutionary world that learned the lessons of Vietnam, but instead we became investment bankers and our kids and grandkids wound up in Iraq.

The Sex Pistols became the only rock and rollers with the integrity to reject the sham of the "Rock and Roll Hall of Fame".

Maybe Kurt Cobain was the end of it all, at the end of a shotgun. The day that music died?

But I know that I want my last words to be, "You've got to listen to this" and I'm not going to quit singing even if the whole world is deaf.

Note: Besides operating the Record Emporium and running Wealselworld, Mike Felten also has Landfill Records. Visit http://recordemporium.com for a rockin' good time.







For more... email singbigo@singnet.com.sg with the message, "Put me on your mailing list."

 
April 13, 2007