6 Music Industry Tricks That Must Die


If the music industry really wants to save itself, it could start by doing away with all the bullshit. What bullshit, you ask? Here are six underhanded tricks that we could live without, and that our kids probably will.


Worst Offenders:

Kid Rock, Cher, Uncle Kracker, T-Pain

How it Caught On:

Frequently mistaken for a vocoder and more commonly known as "That Fucking Weird Computer Voice Thing," Auto-Tune is actually a brilliant piece of software. All you have to do is tell it which notes you're trying to hit while you're singing. When you fuck up, Auto-Tune makes the necessary adjustments so that you can pretend to be a good singer and a weird sounding robot at the same time. Obviously this has made it invaluable in the world of music.

Singers used to spend days trying to get their songs recorded perfectly, and studios charge by the hour. Some would record late at night when their vocal chords were more relaxed. Some (Rod Stewart) even gargled crew-members' love gravy to get that smooth, even tone (allegedly, but the kid who told us about it in high school also had the best weed, so it has to be true, right?). Auto-Tune has made it possible for performers to lower their recording budgets, get some rest, and sidestep such unfortunate homeopathic remedies.

Why it Must be Stopped:

Unfortunately, Auto-Tune has become the HGH of the recording industry. While we doubt that Kid Rock will be facing a grand jury for his blatant abuse of the software in the steaming turd of a song "Only God Knows Why," we can only hope that any future Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees who've received such a heaping dose of simulated talent will get an asterisk next to their names. Also, we hope that in the future, an asterisk will resemble a middle finger.

"That Fucking Weird Computer Voice Thing" has made it possible for every paparazzi sweetheart, pop culture freak of the week to record an album and assail our eardrums.

For too long, consumers had been duped into thinking that fame had some sort of direct correlation to talent. Auto-Tune provided yet another step down the road towards the inevitable day when Soldja Boi wins the Grammy in rap, R&B, adult contemporary and operatic solo.

Auto-Tune will be around as long as talented musicians and teenage girls who make men want to masturbate continue refusing to be the same person (allow us a moment to shake our fist at evolution). But rest assured that the current trend of making one's voice sound obviously computerized will not last much longer. Our guess is that, in time, That Fucking Weird Computer Thing will sound as dated as Jeopardy's Daily Double laser sound effect.


Worst Offenders:

Scott Weiland, Britney Spears, Amy Winehouse

How it Caught On:

In 2007, Paula Abdul appeared on a morning TV talk show, stoned out of her mind on what we imagine was a combination of oxycontin, absinthe, and Drano. This, of course, got people talking, videos YouTubed, and ratings boosted. In the music industry, there's no such thing as a drug scandal because we expect our musicians to be on drugs. We'd be a little disappointed if we found out they weren't. The downside is that publicists have figured out that checking your client into rehab is actually the cheapest way to drum up publicity, assuming the price of street drugs remains lower than whatever Nickelback's manager pays to get them into Rollingstone.

We are a nation of voyeurs, and there's nothing we like to watch more than celebrity sex tapes. But embarrassing celebrity drug freakouts come in a close second. And since sex tapes require that people actually want to watch you have sex (clearly not the case for two of our three worst offenders) chemical dependency is a much easier go-to. It should be noted that it's not as good an idea to combine drugs and sex tapes, as when a cracked out Tom Sizemore played power bottom to a hooker with an elephant trunk-sized slab of rubber strapped to her pelvis.

Why it Must be Stopped:

Repeat offenders have made going to rehab a joke. While regular-ass people rehabilitate in facilities that are just a step up from county jail, Britney Spears spends an extended weekend in Malibu, then Antigua, then Malibu again. These celebrities are giving real addicts a bad name. We'll start taking their problems seriously as soon as we see Scott Weiland barefoot, hauling ass down Sunset Boulevard, clutching a stolen DVD player.

On the other hand, being a regular person in rehab with a celebrity might not be so bad. If that celebrity is Lindsay Lohan, she'll probably have sex with you if you're a dude with a passably functioning penis. This is preferable to having sex with Lindsay Lohan in the bathroom at a club, because in rehab there will be medical help readily available when you come down with a mean case of Hepatitis F.

Songs About How California is Phony

Worst Offenders:

Red Hot Chili Peppers, Madonna, System of a Down

How it Caught On:

Those who faithfully follow rock stars do so because they feel a genuine, personal connection through the music. "Here is someone who's just like me," they think, "only better looking, rich and more prone to wearing black leather pants."

When you're a struggling musician, your life isn't that far off from other people: you're unsure of yourself, you're hung over, you get dumped for guys with better jobs (when you're a struggling musician, this includes the guy at the mall who paints himself silver and pretends to be a statue for two hours). Thus the rock star is able to write lyrics that almost anyone can relate to. Your girlfriend dumped you? There's a song for that. You're broke? There's a song for that too. You're married and you just realized that you're gay? R. Kelly wrote twenty-two songs for that.

However, it can become difficult for a performer to relate to his fans when he reaches a certain level of success. Those songs of struggle and heartbreak don't come as easily when the swedish bikini team is wiping your ass with hundred dollar bills in the back of a stretch Hummer limo.

That screaming horde of fans still loves their rock star, though. So much so that they'd trade anything to live his life. With that last remaining connection, the rock star pretends to be down to earth one last time with a song (or in the case of the Chili Peppers, three straight albums) about how California ain't all it's cracked up to be.

Why it Must be Stopped:

Ever since the overrated, pretentious, and ponderous "Hotel California," rock bands have tried to duplicate the Eagles' success. They'll sing ironic lyrics about the glamorous life and it's ugly underbelly, completely missing the irony that they've become exactly the sort of asshole their girlfriend used to leave them for. This is inevitable. It is simply very difficult to examine your own existence while spackling a hotel room with evidence for your future paternity suit.

Many of these songs are passed off as some sort of public service. If too many people are exposed to these contrived and cliched cautionary tales though, they may never have their dreams crushed by Hollywood, leading to the greatest restaurant-staffing crisis California has ever seen.

Vince Neil complained that Hollywood "fat cats" were going to "take our money and flush it down the drain" in Motley Crue's "Fake." Five years later he was singing a cover of "If I Die Tomorrow," through a face full of collagen implants. Fake, indeed.

Multiple Producers on One Album

Worst Offenders:

Velvet Revolver, Every rapper ever

How it Caught On:

Hip hop is rarely a one-man show. Generally, someone makes the beats, and someone else delivers the vocals. In old school hip hop, the bringer of beats was designated as the DJ, such as: DJ Jazzy Jeff, DJ for the Fresh Prince; Terminator X, DJ for Public Enemy; or SW1, DJ for In Living Color. These days, we call this person the Producer, because beat creation is no longer limited to turntables and samplers.

Not all producers are created equal though, and as a result of supply and demand, the best producers come with the highest price tags. Not to mention that Dr. Dre and Timbaland just don't have the time to make beats for every up-and-coming MC. In an attempt to spread the wealth, and launch as many careers as possible, record labels spread the talent around.

Why it Must be Stopped:

Ever bought a CD and wondered why the only good songs are the ones you already hear on the radio all the time? Check the credits. Chances are, the two that you like were produced by the same person, and the 13 you hate were produced by the performer's cousin. You can't help but feel betrayed, wondering if you've been the victim of some sort of prank a la whopperfreakout.com.

Too many fans have been swindled by this bait-and-switch tactic, and we've definitely caught on to the grift. Album sales continue to plummet while digital track sales are climbing. Consumers are sending the message that if you can only crank out one or two good songs, we're only going to buy one or two songs from you. When rappers start looking for someone to blame when they're popping Korbel instead of Cristal, they'll have to look no further than the reflection in the chrome wheels on their Chevy Cavaliers.

Featuring ...

Worst Offenders:

T-Pain, Akon, Li'l Jon

How it Caught On:

So how is a new act supposed to get noticed in a music scene that's more crowded than Tokyo? Why, by piggy-backing on an established artist by being "featured" on one of his tracks.

Or, what if you're stuck being a producer, forever in the shadows? You can get yourself "featured" in a track by popping in with an occasional "uh huh" or "yayuh!" If not for this, the world may never have learned the names of producers like Li'l Jon, Timbaland, or Sean John (we're told that's what we're supposed to call him this week).

Why it Must be Stopped:

It has come to a point where songs feature so many artists that the consumer can't figure out whose album to buy. Faced with a stack of CDs that could possibly contain the song in question, often the consumer will opt instead to just steal the song on the internet. This could result in heavy fines, jail time, and the feds looking through all that embarrassing shit on your hard drive, all thanks to the Recording Industry Association of America. So whether you steal 'em or buy 'em, you end up broke. See? Evil.

Established, respected artists have found that lending their name to someone else's song can indeed damage their reputations. Redman's appearance in Christina Aguilera's "Dirty" stripped him of the credibility that even those deodorant commercials couldn't tarnish.

Farewell Tours

Worst Offenders:

KISS, The Rolling Stones, Cher, The Who

How it Caught On:

These days, concert ticket sales are only slightly less abysmal than album sales. It's hardly surprising when you consider that many artists need computers to sound good, other artists to give them credibility, and a team of producers to write their music. If an act is good enough to garner interest from their fans after all of that, there's still the risk that your tickets will become worthless when the lead singer checks into rehab. What's the point of going through all that hassle when you only know two or three of their songs?

There are still some surviving acts that have a universal appeal, but those artists have reached such a level of success that their concert tickets cost an arm, a leg, and whichever reproductive organs you posses (for nosebleed seats). The only way for an artist to guarantee themselves a packed house this time around is to assure their fans that this will be the last time around.

Why it Must be Stopped:

As soon as a band sees the paycheck from their first farewell tour, they apparently rethink that whole retiring business. The Who did a farewell tour in 1983. KISS did theirs in 2000, and it lasted two years. The Rolling Stones' farewell tour started in 2005, lasted two years, and raked in $437,000,000. All three bands are planning tour dates for 2008, and many fans have already refinanced their homes to pay for the tickets (plus service charges).

Nothing rocks less than a farewell tour. When bands break up for real, it's because their pilot was still drunk from the night before and flew their plane into the side of a mountain. Or maybe the band members hate each other so much that they go their separate ways after an attempted murder/suicide and record unlistenable solo albums. Or how about just a near-fatal drug overdose where a band member finds Jesus and starts an Armageddon cult?

Literally anything rocks more than a farewell tour, where they might as well open things up with a little honesty:

"Are you ready to rock? Actually, we got burnt playing the markets in the last recession, so instead of rocking, why don't you give us all of your money for our 401k plans and kindly go home. And please leave quietly, all your shouting is scaring the bassist."

Miles Hlivko attempts to fool you with Auto-Tune in his song "Bedtime Pants (featuring Dick Knuckle)". You can hear it here.

Learn about some singers who have managed to trick themselves into thinking they're sexually desirable in our article on The 6 Singers Who Are Mistaken About Their Raw Sexuality then, find out about how Maxim manages to review albums before they've ever heard them (hint: it's either guessing or magic).

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