Regardless of what you think of country music, if you haven’t already done so listen to the Hank Williams III “Straight to Hell” CD (Hank Williams III).
The best way to describe it would be his grandfather, twangy, nasal Hank Williams (Hank Williams), on drugs, either just released from or about to go to prison having committed every crime HW III sings about on the CD. Not just in country music’s face, it eats the face with a central theme best summed up with one line off the CD (“pop country really sucks!”) Hardly the stuff that endears him to the country music industry hierarchy of which he cares little about.
In the not too distant past a guy like that would not get much beyond the bars and clubs frequented by fans who like him, do not always like whatever happens to be the music flavor of the day. In the case of country music the “hat acts” as Hank III calls the tight-jean, cowboy-hat wearing, cowboy wanna-be’s. He would be locked out of the industry; no contract, no distribution and as a result no sales beyond what he could generate by appealing directly to those who see him live.
But there is a new way beginning, one that allows performers like him in all music genres to reach consumers who might not otherwise hear their music. It’s not currently as organized as was the previous structure. Back then your label got your song played on AM and/or FM which hopefully sent consumers into record stores to buy your latest album. Now it’s difficult to penetrate the formula play lists of radio and most of the record stores are gone. Today we wait for the winner of this season’s “Idol” to know who our next “superstar” will be only to one day very soon thereafter realize we no longer remember who that was. Maybe we are in the day of the “(not so) superstar”. So how does an artist make it big today?
Too many ways to discuss in this post but let me mention one that should be but is not on the list. By connection with consumer electronic hardware manufacturers and retailers. Other than an occasional obscure short-term tour sponsorship and the fact that some retailers do sell CDs, it’s as if the equipment and music industries do not know the other exists. Like restaurants not talking about food, pharmaceutical companies about doctors, politicians about, well let’s see, how about “fertilizer”.
I wrote a TWICE column (We Do What We Do Because The Music (And Video) Matters) wherein the primary message was that the CE industry needs to reconnect with its reason for being, which is: the music and now video that is played upon its equipment. And by the same reasoning so should the music and video industries rediscover the audio/video equipment “hand” that “feeds” them. Separately, great and wonderful industries, both but together? I think it would bring about a new golden age for AV product equipment sales as well for the artists whose images and music we view and listen to upon that equipment.