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Heck, everyone needs to make a living. I don’t look down on it. However, I think the 1970s were the heyday of music, before MTV and punk rock ruined it all. It’s hard to believe that bands like Yes, Genesis, Van Der Graaf Generator, and lots of far-out music from Europe (Zeuhl, Krautrock, Rock Progressivo Italiano) were both profitable and had artistic integrity. Only superstars like Michael Jackson could have a 10+ minute song on MTV. Bands either had to adapt, go underground, or quit altogether. I absolutely hate the Yes album “90125”. (Yes did not play one song from this album when I saw them.) It is indicative of the compromises that artists had to make in order to get MTV airplay. As the Rush song “Spirit of Radio” points out:
“One likes to believe in the freedom of music,
But glittering prizes and endless compromises
Shatter the illusion of integrity (yeah)”
Corporate America has managed to squeeze the life out of music. For example, I loved the first Nirvana album, Bleach. I even saw them when they were the opening act. Then they signed to DGC, had the soul crushed out of their music, and were creating “unplugged” tracks destined for Starbucks. I have no problem with artists making money. I have a huge problem with corporate hacks making artists conform to a standard such that everything sounds the same. One thing I love about Rush is that, after the immense success of 2112 (which the label hated), the “suits” left them alone. After that point, they could do whatever they wanted. They went on to create masterpieces such as A Farewell to Kings, Hemispheres, Permanent Waves, and Moving Pictures. All of these were profitable, without sacrificing artistic integrity. Indeed, next to the Beatles and Rolling Stones, Rush are the third most profitable rock act in history. They did it all without corporate hacks telling them how they need to sound. Bands that do this today are destined to keep their day jobs. There are plenty of great bands, much more talented than “successful artists” of today, who have day jobs. Echolyn comes to mind, immediately.
While I do own a fair share of concert DVDs and watch plenty of YouTube clips, there’s nothing like being at a live show. Even with my retro tastes in music, I frequent venues and festivals. No broadcast can match the tremendous energy of a live show. If you have the means, time and interest, I strongly recommend trying to obtain tickets and going to the live iTunes Festival. You won’t regret it.
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