Wednesday, September 24, 2014

It's a Weird, Weird World

I almost wish these kinds of articles didn't keep appearing, but they do. Reuters reports on Forbes' estimates of the highest-earning musicians over the last year. Dr. Dre, largely because of the sale of his Beats headphone company to Apple for three billion dollars, earned $620 million. The rest of the top five eked out modest earnings of between $32 million and $60 million. Some of this money actually came from selling music, but it appears that most of it was from business ventures in sports endorsements, alcoholic beverages, clothing, television and related ventures. I really don't know the details of how this works, but it seems to be all about becoming a celebrity and leveraging that into a brand name. Just what some consultants suggest classical musicians do. Lang Lang for one seems to be listening.

I suppose the Beatles started all this with their ultimately clumsy ventures into business with their Apple company. That started out as an attempt to support worthwhile artists and causes with some of the embarrassing amounts of money they were earning from record sales. What seems to be going on now is using your name recognition from putting out recordings and doing live concerts to start various kinds of highly lucrative merchandising. I suppose it was George Lucas and Star Wars that blazed that path. Could anything other than naked greed explain the Ewoks and Jar-Jar Binks?

I say it is a weird, weird world because this world seems so alien to the musical world I know. In fact, I can't even see the two kinds of musical worlds as even existing in the same quantum reality. Beethoven and bling don't seem to go together in any way. But this water flowed under the bridge long ago. If you aren't too embarrassed to purchase products labeled "Dr. Dre" then nothing I can say will matter!

This is the same cultural context as the Fast and Furious movie franchise which I also find incomprehensible. Oh sure, I understand what is going on: adrenaline, sex and crudely-written plots enacted by people whose main schtick is a calculated sneer. I just don't understand why anyone over the age of fourteen would actually be interested. But they have made six sequels and it is a huge franchise for Universal. I guess what I can't comprehend is how all these fourteen and under kids have so much money to spend that hip hop artists can be earning eight and nine figure incomes. How it should work is mature adults, with mature tastes, are the ones with all the money and instead of listening to Dr. Dre and watching Fast and Furious movies they should be buying CDs of Beethoven and attending symphony concerts. Isn't that how it works? But no. It's a weird, weird world...

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