music, news/current affairs, social media

RATM Christmas Follow-up: Was It A Fix?

12.22.09 | 19 Comments

I’ve started mentally drafting this a few times, but almost all of them just ended up with me reiterating everything I said in my ‘Futility Of Fighting Fire With Fire‘ post over on stevelawson.net.

However, this evening, someone linked on Twitter to This blog post claiming that it was a campaign masterminded by Sony. And now the process of saying ‘is it?’ and ‘if it is, how dare they!‘ has started. I’ve been asked my opinion on it, both the veracity and the meaning of it, so I thought I’d scribble down some thoughts.

I don’t, truth be told, think the blog post sets out a particularly convincing case for it being a fix. It’s all good conspiracy stuff, but a bit thrown together. Not particularly good journalism, for sure, and at worst is just a piece of willfully opportunistic nonsense drummed up as link-bait for the blogger concerned.

But, the weird thing is how many people seem to be really bothered by the implication that it’s a fix.

If this is a set up, a Sony campaign, it changes nothing. Whether it is or it isn’t, a bunch of internet nerds hyped back into the charts an 18 year old massive rock hit (it’s on Rock Band) – the biggest hit by one of the world’s biggest rock bands, a band known to millions as rock’s voice of discontent – as a ‘protest’ at X-Factor songs getting to the Christmas number 1 position in the UK singles chart. Both songs were released on record labels that were part of the Sony group, so either way Sony win, no one in the whole world chose between the two when deciding what to buy, so all it did was add more sales to the charts, not actively dissuade anyone from buying music deemed ‘unacceptable’.

No, it was an act of lazy cultural snobbery targeted at an institution (the UK singles chart) that ceased to mean anything years ago. As an act of musical defiance it was lazy – ‘yeah, let’s pick a massive selling rock classic that everyone knows that has swearing in it!’ As an attempt to prove that the internet is a force for good in changing the world of music it did exactly the opposite and proved that even on the internet, people resort to the same tired old bullshit of thinking that meaning comes from volume, and the vehicle for mass action is stuff-that’s-already-massively-successful-via-the-old-model.

It was still one song picked as the lottery winner, it was one act – already rich beyond our imagining – who got the golden ticket, the wave of support of indignant web-users, angry that kids and old people could possibly watch XFactor and then want to buy the single that the entire story had led up to over the last few weeks. No-one thinks it’s great – the people who bought it are the same ones who made Pure And Simple by Hear’Say the fastest selling single of all time, but now can’t even remember the name of the band, just that one of them looked like Shrek and that other one debased herself in the jungle… It’s not about music. It’s not about culture, or convincing people that shouty sweary rock music is somehow intrisically better than manufactured pop.

500,000 sales of one song says that the people on the internet are still more interested in being involved in something big than they are in something good.

  • Thank your mum for dinner,
  • smile at a Big Issue vendor as you buy a copy,
  • volunteer for Crisis,
  • buy fairtrade,
  • recycle,
  • and yes, buy indie music from artists whose lives are impacted by every single sale, then thank them and tell your friends.

But do it cos you love it, because it’s good, not because you need to be in mass-opposition to something for it to have meaning.

If Sony fixed this or if it really was grass-roots, the outcome is the same and nothing has changed. Joe will be number one next week, the charts will still never be a reflection of music that I – or anyone else for that matter – really loves. They’ll still be the 40 least offensive, most expensively marketed, best hyped tracks that are around today, and they’ll have nothing to do with what any of us actually listen to.

And I’ll keep telling everyone about the great music I come across on the web – not because I want to start a movement, but because it’s good. Because it soundtracks my life, it’s my music, my story, and I don’t need to hate some X-Factor kid whose surname I don’t even know and whose music I’ve never knowingly listened to for it to be important. It’s important because it’s good, because it’s a sustainable practice that helps the music I love to keep existing, and it’s an act of gratitude to the people who keep making music that makes me feel like the world is a good place to be.

Fix or no fix, nothing has changed.

So for now, have a listen to Miriam Jones – she’s great, relatively unknown, lovely, and waiting to hear from you about how much you love what she does:

<a href="http://miriamjones.bandcamp.com/album/being-here" onclick="javascript:_gaq.push(['_trackEvent','outbound-article','http://miriamjones.bandcamp.com']);">Always Been Between by Miriam Jones</a>

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