THE world music industry is no place where you simply choose to go and become somebody.
Most of the music market falls under three global corporate labels, and what the controllers there say goes.
This means that world level dreams should be very sober to avoid burnout caused by the chronic and harmful waste of talent, finances, time and energy that many Zambians, let alone Africans, suffer because of unattainable aspirations.
The point is that the rulers of music labels call the shots and decide who becomes who and when, all for maximum profits.
Until December 1998 there were six dominant forces in world music: Sony Music, BMG, Polygram, Universal Music Group, EMI and the Warner Music Group. In 2004 Sony and BMG merged which left four superpowers in control of 71.7 per cent of retail music sales.
Today, the music market is controlled by these three: Universal Music Groups which is French-owned, Sony Music Entertainment which is Japanese-owned, and Warner Music Group which is US-owned.
EMI was absorbed by Sony Music Entertainment and Universal Music Group in December 2011. European regulators forced Universal Music to spin off EMI assets which became the Parlophone Label Group and was acquired by Warner Music Group.
Nielson SoundScan in 2012 reported that these labels controlled 88.5 per cent of the market.
To best comprehend this scenario, we should digest how it ties-in with the complete dominance of world media by a handful of corporations.
World media provide the vehicle for world music, which is why this aspect is critical. Writing in the Business Insider online on June 14, 2012, Ashley Lutz wrote an article, These 6 Corporations Control 90 per cent of the media in America.
She explained that today, almost all information comes from only six sources in the US. And if you understand the global influence of top US media, you can see that no one escapes the mind control they exercise as they decide what millions, even billions elsewhere, of information consumers should believe, think and do.
In 1983 there were 58 companies which owned 90 per cent of American media. As of 2012 that had boiled down to six, thanks to corporate mergers, buy-outs and other such transactions. She reported that 232 media executives controlled the information diet of 277 million Americans.
The following six corporations control these American global media: General Electric (GE) who own Comcast, National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC), Universal Pictures, and Focus Features; News-Corp who own Fox, Wall Street Journal and New York Post; Disney who own American Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), ESPN, Pixar, Miramax and Marvel Studios; and Viacon who own MTV, Nick Jr, BET, CMT and Paramount Pictures.
Others are: Time Warner who own CNN, HBO, Time and Warner Brothers; and CBS who own Showtime, Smithsonian Channel, NFL.COM, Jeopardy and 60 Minutes. The tabulated companies are only notable ones among many that each corporation owns.
In 2010, the total revenue for the Big Six was US$275.6 billion which was US$36 billion more than Finland’s GDP. The Big Six controlled as of 2012 about 70 per cent of cable television with 3,672 other businesses contributing the remaining 30 per cent.
As Time Warner owns CNN, Time and Huffington Post, Time Warner News reached and influenced 178 million unique users per month. Google’s whole clientele fell into that number three times. News Corp owns the top newspaper on three continents, Wall Street Journal in the US, The Sun in Britain and The Australian.
Clear Channel alone owns 1,200 radio stations. Zambian singers and musicians will want to note that 80 per cent of radio music playlists match—which says something about Top 200 to Top 10 charts being engineered by commercial interests and not necessarily star power by itself.
But in 1995, Lutz says, US companies were not allowed to own 40 radio stations. Talk about movies, the Big Six box office sales peaked at US$7 billion in 2010. And the tally stretches on and on.
What if you form a music distribution company that can compete across continents? They will buy you off.
All this means that if a poor music group or soloist should be noticed, their sound has to package that unique and peculiar zing!
Sounding like everyone else, which the majority of young artists are doing here, will not swing those heavy corporate doors open.
But because it is not the music’s supply and demand that controls your prospects as an artist out there, since everything is controlled and predetermined by three all-powerful corporations, it is best to plan to excel at home. There is an audience at home still waiting for music of respectable, polished quality.
A number of boy bands have their origins not in residential areas where friends can agree, but in corporate boardrooms.
Business planners map out commercial strategies all for the money, and the boy band has been a popular bait since The Backstreet Boys from Orlando, Florida hit the scene with a blockbuster album in 1996 and went on to become the world’s best-selling boy band in history, with 130 million albums sold.
Out of a boardroom decision to form a new teenybopper outfit, a music company announces auditions for a music recording project. As many as 600 boys turn up, confident that they meet the physical looks, voice, poise, demeanour, comportment and all else that is required for them to qualify.
Such a group will be backed up by the bottomless pit of resources available through the mega-company; and also by a team of song composers. Notably, the Jackson Five spent their first ten years recording albums under Jerry Gordy’s Motown label with songs penned by a team of songwriters. The rock group Sweet is among many whose songs were written for them.
In keeping with investment motifs, the new boy band will be assigned songwriters, producers and the best recording studios. The global marketing machinery will be lying in wait to unleash the wares on the market which steered be hyped by radio, television and publications which are owned and instructed by people of the same ilk.
The word ‘wares’ is more appropriate in this case than the word ‘music’ because for many corporate bigwigs the songs are only commodities. Many music corporation seniors do not even listen to the songs produced under their organisation’s ambit, preferring to monitor only sales graphs.
And since music is a commodity, artists are part of a mechanised production line who must not fail to produce. This throws top artists into endless stress.
Drug abuse among popular singers and musicians has many causes, but pressure arising from corporate contracts sees world level artists lose privacy and any form of personal freedom.
Under progressively volcanic conditions of frequent studio recordings, media interviews, public shows, marketing stints, stage-managed celebrity relationships and other activities, they fall prey to drugs that only seem to help them cope.
At certain high levels it is necessary to cultivate a bad boy image—therefore some world class artists have been to rehab and come out even bigger than before.
The trouble is that the music industry enlists artists of extraordinary talent into death contracts. As soon as the performer attains legendary or megastar status, and as soon as it is established that no one in that genre can get anywhere near, the singer commits suicide or dies in a road accident or plane crash. All this is planned and controlled.
Possibilities of Third Worlders breaking the glass ceiling in world music have dwindled with the emergence of music downloading practices on the World Wide Web.
The impact of online sales on album unit sales has turned out to be so severe that total album sales have declined in the early 21st century. Influential music critics have on this basis announced the death of the album.
Their argument is that in 2013 several artists produced albums that went platinum (sold one million copies) while in 2014 only two albums in the US went platinum: the soundtrack to the film Frozen and Taylor Swift’s 1989.
Live music has assumed major importance as a result.
Live Nation, is the largest promoter in the live music arena and music venue owner. Live Nation is a former subsidiary of iHeartMedia INC, which is the largest owner of radio stations in the United States. The largest music retailer in the world is now digital: iTunes Store which is owned by Apple Inc.
If we should speak of live music, the majority of Zambia’s current crop of singers and musicians would not break any ground in the US or Europe, let alone Africa where few have ventured to carve a niche market since the days of Nashil Pichen Kazembe, Benson Simbeye, Peter Tsotsi Juma and the Mosi-O-Tunya Band who made their mark in East Africa in the 1970s.
Few of today’s singers and musicians are able to play any music instrument. This is where computer-based music, after saving many poor Zambian artists since the turn of the millennium, now threatens to swallow many music careers.
The bigger problem, nonetheless, is laziness. If there are 500 songs on the local market, only 50 are originals. Both artists and recording technicians are to blame because rather than explore new ideas, they simply fall back on recordings of a recent artiste, copy and paste one or two instrumental tracks and manipulate that. Put in a voice and process it: voila, a new CD!
Entertainment writers and radio deejays are also to blame for dishonestly singing high praises of artists’ releases where that is not due. Artists themselves say nasty things about Top 20 radio charts and other lists contrived to give a friend some advantage on radio—and they usually have a point.
Most of the works do not get a second and third opinion before their release: after all you can now record at no cost even in your kitchen and be your own boss. That sort of arrangement will not stand up to any scrutiny on any serious music platform—and should not be carelessly glorified on radio.
But then, to enter into music at those dizzy heights you have to lose your soul and become something that you can no longer recognise. Mark de Nicola on October 8, 2013 wrote an article, Another Side of The Music Industry: Monarch Mind Control in which he argues that techniques used by Nazi Germans to get people to develop ‘two selves’ so that they can without inhibition do unthinkable things to others, are now popular among top celebrities.
He observes that celebrities have created an alter ego, a second personality, who does things that are totally different from the ‘primary self.’ The second person even has different beliefs and has different characteristics. The ‘primary self’ can even send the second self out in the world if there is a disagreement.
Singers who have ventured into alter ego include Beyonce with her Sasha Fierce; Eminem and his Slim Shady, Nicki Minaj and her Roman Zolanski and Lady Gaga with her Jo Calderon.
Nicola compares this to MMC which means Monarch Mind Control. This is a mind control technique using occult rituals, psychology and neuroscience to create an alter ego in a desired subject.
MMC involves the causing of extreme pain which causes a person to separate himself or herself from reality, creating a separate persona which ‘the handler’ can exploit and manipulate.
The subject is referred to as ‘the slave,’ while those applying and activating the technique are known as ‘the handlers.’ Once fully programmed, monarch slaves are used on demand by an elite group to carry out rituals, performance and deliver messages all tuned towards a certain outcome.
This is how public performers will perform wild sex antics on stage and feel nothing. Many people involved in child smuggling, child porn, drug trafficking, arms smuggling and prostitution are said to have undergone MMC which is a highly effective brain-washing technique brought into Nazi concentration camps by physician Josep Mengele in the 1930s.
Few international class artists are still their normal selves, all because of being manipulated by certain occultic figures in music industry who record greater inflows of banknotes as their slaves debase themselves.
David Noebbel’s 1974 book The Marxist Minstrels: How Communists Subverted Music describes how in the 1940s and 1950s Russian scientists developed musical patterns which were exported into the American music industry to become a part of music culture. The goal of the laboratory engineered patterns was to turn American youths into neurotics.
Today, popular world music is at war with society, hence all the abnormalities now saturating lyrics and music styles. The Bible records in Exodus 24:18 that Moses was 40 days and 40 nights up Mount Sinai with God. By the time he came down the Israelites had resorted to worship of a golden calf which they had moulded out of all their gold jewelry.
Joshua told Moses in Exodus 32:17, “There is a sound of war in the camp.” It turned out the sound was not of war but of singing. Today’s music by and large brings no peace but war to the spirit.
A clear sense of purpose in art and in life is what today’s Zambian artist needs most, far more than copying insanity to try and impress.
Ecclesiastes 7:5 counsels that “It is better to listen to the rebuke of a wise man than to listen to the song of fools.”