Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Advertising and the music industry don't just sell consumerism and the rock & roll lifestyle

Buying more stuff inevitably comes with reinforcing social and cultural prejudices. Advertisers don't want to challenge people too much because if they do it'll turn people off from their product. In fact, they want to make the viewers who their aiming it at as comfortable as they can possibly be, encouraging the feeling of empathy between them, so that there's a kind of trust built up over common understanding. Much of the U.S. is racist, much of the U.S. is sexist, much of the U.S. is homophobic. Nationalism and Patriotism along with Xenophobia have become increasingly enshrined within our country's consciousness. Advertisers play on these things, include them as part of the bargain with whatever strategy they're using to sell stuff, sometimes making the themes prominent in the ad, sometimes just including them in its fabric.

I would say that there's no such thing as neutral advertising that just wants to sell consumption and make people buy and buy more stuff. There's always a social context included, whether intentional or not. If this social context isn't examined and challenged the result can be the amplification of social prejudices through their reinforcement by advertising.

Rock & roll today is a good example of how this works. The music industry is huge, but the general strategy of execs for a long time has seemed to be using the trinity of sex, drugs, and rock and roll as the hook to keep people buying more records. Listen to the records and you'll vicariously be connected. If you smoke a lot of dope and try to get laid any way you can then the music is a pleasant reinforcement of your lifestyle. But while partyin' smokin' and unfulfillingly fuckin' may be good for business, being critical about things like race and racism isn't. Just like in regular advertising, if the music industry wants to reach the maximum amount of people in order to make the maximum amount of money, pseudo racist, homophobic, sexist, bigoted stuff has to be welcome. The thing about the rock & roll lifestyle of sex, drugs, and rock music is that it doesn't require any thought beyond wanting to party, get fucked up, get fucked, and rock out with some good tunes. Since white folks are the biggest consumer of this stuff, bands that include sly or at least non overt references to racism in them, overt anti-gay lyrics, the requisite sexism, and more, no doubt have a better pulling power than bands that are actively against this stuff.

Being anti-racist harshes your buzs, dude, which is why bands that are loved by scum all over the U.S. propser, bands like Korn, Slipknot, and Pantera, who I think fit at least part of the bill in reinforcing prejudices held by their listeners and even playing to them. I'm not saying that they're racist, I'm just saying that they're not exactly responsible citizens, and that the members are probably individually shit bags. I mean, the precursor band to Korn was named L.A.P.D. Korn came from Bakersfield and really started in the L.A. area. Even though some members are Hispanic, naming a band that you're in "L.A.P.D." while performing in and near L.A. post the riots sends a big signal about what side you're on. I'm guessing that L.A.P.D. didn't play manny shows in Watts. But it's an acronym for Love and Peace Division....umm, unless Korn went through a serious musical change I don't think that Love and Peace would be good words to describe their sound, making the acronym business a cop out for associating themselves with racist police officers.

Wittingly or not bands like these reinforce prejudices in society that have real consequences for people, and the record company endorsement of them gives a thumbs up to it.

I'm never for censorship. What I'm saying is that the music industry itself would probably sell a hypothetical pro-Fascist band that conformed to society's prejudices before they sold one that was really critical of the people gettin' high and fuckin' to their music while hating gays and racial minorities.

The same could be extended somewhat to include most of the media, at least the media that's not focussed on selling pure fantasy, like fiction television. It's easier to sell the war on terror than to challenge it. And we have a show focussed on Keifer Sutherland torturing people but no show about folks trying to prevent others from being tortured....

*just wait: there are bots that scan this blog and automatically put the posts on some set of automated message boards somewhere, and so I'm fully expecting this one to get a huge amount of really, really, stupid hate mail from people who are the very sorts that I'm talking about, who don't want no thinking to get in the way of their good time.

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