| Hey fancy pants, looking good with those new earlids of yours!|
Marshall McLuhan stated ³The ear favors no particular point of view.ı We are enveloped by sound. It forms a seamless web around us. We say, Music shall fill the air.ı We never say, Music shall fill a particular segment of the air.ı We hear sounds from everywhere, without ever having to focus.² McLuhan was well aware of the power of advancing mediums as well as the implications of these medium on our society as a whole.
Music has always been a part of our culture whether it be the sound of thumping wood, the 10th century minstrel or orchestrated versions of songs by the Bee Gees. Music has also been a large part of the passing of information and knowledge in society. At one time, the news from one village was made available to other villages by the traveling minstrels and gypsies through song. Considering music as a source of information, one must consider the implications of the constant barrage of music in our contemporary society: muzak, the backdrop for commercials, soundtracks to movies, radios in malls, buses, cars, homes, offices, on the Internet, or pumped into the streets. Whether you are conscious of it or not, there is scarcely a minute of the day when you are not somehow exposed to music. It is not then surprising that soundtracks are as popular as they are. We literally have a perpetual soundtrack in our lives. Music truly has created a ³seamless web² around us.
If we are surrounded by music all the time, how is it affecting us? Considering the fact that music can strongly affect us on a subconscious level, are you happy with the information that your brain is receiving on a daily basis? Granted there are many people who would like to forget all the implications of the information they are receiving and strictly enjoy the music for its own sake. Enjoying music for its own sake is more than fair.
At one time radio stations played whatever music came through their doors. If people liked it, they played it again. As Dave Bidini (of the Rheostatics) makes clear in his new book On a Cold Road, ³Radio should always be like that, but now the majors control radio stations. Itıs bad. Itıs wrong. Itıs done.² No more is the quality of radio stations controlled by the listening public. The public is tightly controlled by the radio, who is thereby controlled by the large record companies, who are controlled by those with large sums of money: the major business corporations. How many times have you said, ³How did this song make it to the radio? Itıs crap.² Truth is...it probably is crap. Quality doesnıt matter but money does. I talked with the head of one of Canadaıs top management companies who claimed that a ³good song² will always make it. That is promotional BS. A good song can make it only if huge sums of money are backing it. The modern chart system is entirely capitalist-based. Record companies buy their spots on the charts. The listening audiences think that it is controlled through their input, so they become complacent. Even if they donıt like a song, the listeners think that someone out there must like it, so they accept it. Eventually, the song gets trapped in their heads whether they like it or not. Itıs called brainwashing. Iım truly surprised no one ever seems to question the albums and songs that enter the charts at number one. The song hasnıt been released yet. No one has heard it. And the first time it hits the radio, it enters the chart at number one. How can that be if no one has heard it? The record company if pressed will tell you it is the anticipation of the record that creates its pre-release popularity. The truth is that it is the estimations of the company that determine the first week sales and chart position. If the company has enough money and promo behind them, they can ship an album in excess of a million copies to stores nationwide. This automatically places the record high on the charts, and not a single soul has purchased or heard it yet. That is why a band like the Pepsi-sponsored Spice Girls (what is the name of that song they were performing live... ³Generation Next²?), and the Madonna-backed Alanis Morissette can ship albums in excess of millions without a peep from their mouths. Now in no way am I trying to say that no quality comes out of this type of business, but they are the anomalies that have the talent and are successful (see Dave Matthews for an example). Those with any message we might consciously appreciate are even more rare.
In a place like Canada, where the record companies have substantially less money than that of our Southern neighbours, it is even a more important issue. The music that crosses the border despite the efforts of CanCon (the 30% Canadian content ruling) is disconcerting. In no way am I elitist in terms of musical borders, but when we are surrounded by great music yet we import the majority of it from our Southern neighbours, it seems silly. For the uninformed, Canada has only a few talented musicians: Brian Adams, Celine Dion, Alanis and Shania Twain.
All of which have the backing of huge American companies. For the more aware listener, Canada is bursting at the seams with talent that canıt seem to get a song on the charts. You have to search this music out. Although there are definitely Spice Girl quality bands in Canada, there is also a plethora of talent which can speak to us in terms that we can relate to as Canadians with definite identities. It doesnıt matter whether it is the Celtic movement of the east, the amazing numbers of great aboriginal acts, the French stars from Quebec, our few remaining Polka players, the talented jazz and classical musicians or a wide variety of other artists. Due to Canadaıs lack of large money-oriented music corporations, the cream of the crop from a grass roots level still separates and rises to the top. The Canadian music scene is still primarily listener based due to the fact that you must look beyond the radio to find it.
Therefore you are often more conscious of what it is youıre listening to.
I realize that I have primarily blamed the radio as the main culprit for this problem. It is only because it is the breeding ground for our societyıs backdrop of sound. A radio hit will surely become muzak, be on a soundtrack, or be thumping in the car next to you at traffic light.
Music has truly become the one of the most invisible forms of propaganda in our society. ³The environment as a processor of information is propaganda. Propaganda ends where dialogue begins. You must talk to the media, not the programmer. To talk to the programmer is like complaining to a hot dog vendor at a ballpark about how badly your favourite team is playing.²
The problem canıt be solved by calling the DJ at your local radio station. Look at the mediums that music are presented to you through. Be conscious of the ways you hear music.
Consider independent radio, the temporary freedoms of the Internet, live shows, independent products, the busker on the street. There is far more to music than mainstream radio.
Mainstream radio is primarily propaganda. Be conscious of your ³earlids.² Think about and filter the sounds you are hearing. Your brain will thank you.