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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Bum Rush The Charts (Not)

Today is Bum Rush The Charts Day.

"Podcasting gets little respect from traditional media. To them we're little more than a joke, than amateurs. What they don't understand is that podcasting is more than just a delivery mechanism - it's a social movement. People are sick of the watered-down, cookie-cutter content that networks and record companies expect us to enjoy. People are tired of watching friends and loved ones get sued by record labels who only care about profits and nothing else, not even the artists they supposedly represent.

We want and deserve more. On March 22, 2007, we're going to change that with your help.

We can do better. We can match and exceed the reach of big media, corporate media, labels, and the entrenched interests. On March 22nd, we are going to take an indie podsafe music artist to number one on the iTunes singles charts as a demonstration of our reach to Main Street and our purchasing power to Wall Street. The track we've chosen is "Mine Again" by the band Black Lab. A band that was dropped from not just one, but two major record labels (Geffen and Sony/Epic) and in the process forced them to fight to get their own music back. We picked them because making them number one, even for just one day, will remind the RIAA record labels of what they turned their backs on - and who they ignore at their peril."

Okay. I'm a podcaster. I want more respect. And Lord knows I despise the RIAAA.

But I'm sitting this one out.

It's certainly a good idea, and supposedly the organizers picked Black Lab; this isn't a promo stunt by the band. My question is, why them?

Bands that sell up to expectations don't get dropped by major labels; bands get dropped because they willingly enter into a contract, and then fail to live up to their end of the deal. A major label signs a band, sometimes gives them a cash bonus or more often, provides a cash advance, and expects the band to pay it back by creating a product that sells. Nobody forces a band to sign to a major; it's their choice. Black Lab made that choice twice, and failed both times. And now they're whining about it. To quote someone who actually knows a thing or two about independent music, "Boo fucking hoo."

If podcasters want us to bum rush the charts, why not pick someone like Ted Leo? His new album Living With The Living was just released Tuesday. He is an outspoken supporter of independent music; and from his days as a NJ hardcore kid hanging out at basement shows and ABC No Rio through his twenties as a mod popster in Chisel to his successful solo career, he has only recorded for independent labels. There are plenty of Ted Leo's in the world, but probably not enough; there are even more Black Labs, bands who are willing to compromise their ideals for a big paycheck, and then whine when they're forced to "fight to get their own music back." They wouldn't have had to fight if they hadn't signed their music away in the first place.

If you want to download something from iTunes today, be my guest. Let me suggest Ted Leo; or Illinois, or the Black Angels, or the Milwaukees, or any of the hundreds of other truly independent bands that I've written about in my zine and played on my podcast. But don't waste your 99 cents making Black Lab a cause celebre; they'll probably just use the publicity to sign with another major label.

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