Friday, August 01, 2003

Response To a Reader email

Today I received the following email:
“ I too, am a performing musician in the NYC area, and just out of curiosity - if you are actually a gigging musician - why does any of this matter to you? I mean we all have lost interest so long ago, so why bother?”

I think in many ways the comment speaks for itself. I think that if this musician expressed his feelings directly to the clients when they were deciding which band to use, he probably wouldn’t be hired very often. I think people want to hire musicians who care about the music they play. The writer seems to be "burned out" and doesn't understand why anyone should care about these things.

I believe that one of the most important values in life is “emes” (honesty).

My posts, About Yidden and More on Plagiarism on plagiarism reflect a disappointment with the fact that dishonesty and theft have become all too common in the music industry.. I know that it’s been this way for a long time, but I think that pointing it out will hopefully have a positive impact.

Similarly, my post What You Hear Isn't What You Get about bands misrepresenting themselves to clients reflects a frustration with the lying that has unfortunately become the paradigm for the way many in the Jewish music field conduct business.

And, my post Shamelessness about artists saying whatever they think will sell a given project, without regard for whether it’s true or not, reflects a feeling of sadness with the current marketing for the Brooklyn/Yeshivish Jewish music.

It has become common practice to advertise new albums in the following way:

1) To hang up posters proclaiming the release of the new “hit” recording on lampposts in Orthodox neighborhoods. This is a violation of local ordinances and, in my opinion, is a huge “Chillul Hashem.”

2) To have a cover story about the album/artist appear in the Country Yossi magazine that is widely distributed in “Heimishe” neighborhoods. This article – in reality a paid advertisement – is disingenuously presented as an objective review of the album.

I have no problems with an artist describing why he thinks his album is the next “big hit”, but I do take issue with articles and interviews pretending to be objective when, in reality, they are designed to push the album.

I think that the frequency of dishonest ads has had a deleterious effect on the community at large and I believe that the music industry, though by no means the sole offenders, bears a large part of the blame for this because it's the only Jewish industry I can think of that consistently markets its products using false pretenses. It’s normal for advertisers to say that their product is “the best”, but there’s a difference between saying it as hyperbole, and putting it out there in a way that is deceitful.

My post On Jewish Music Criticism takes on the distortions often represented by would-be critics of today’s Jewish music. It is equally wrong for critics to distort facts about a recording in order to create a negative impression, even though it is tempting to respond in kind to the propaganda emanating from the music industry.

I hope that being “called” on these unethical practices will hopefully help to effect some positive change.

Is it more than wishful thinking to believe that my blog will have an impact? Perhaps, but as an idealist I need to make the effort.

Ari Goldwag's website includes a good example of an ad that promotes an album --in this case Ari's solo effort -- without being misleading. Ari, like many other singers, paid for an ad/article in the Febuary-March 2003 Issue of Country Yossi magazine. Instead of running the usual "pretend" review written by one of the magazines staff writers where every song is a hit and no aspect of an album is ever criticized, Ari chose to write the article himself. In this case, no misrepresentations are made, the reader knows that the article represents the artist’s perspective, and as a result can form their opinion accordingly.