- The Washington Times - Friday, January 26, 2007

“Ain’t no use jokin/ain’t no use jokin’/Everything is broken,” sayeth St. Bob Dylan.

Not least the music industry, as we all have heard at least once a year since the disco era.

New York-based critic David Browne has some suggestions. I agree with most of it, save for the last. Here goes:

Ways To Fix The Music Biz: by David Browne

The CD business is broken, record stores are closing, and superstars just ain’t selling like they used to. It’s time to open up the machine, examine the parts, and offer some advice.

1. Make CDs Cheaper.

After two decades, CDs should not be more expensive than they once were.

2. Stop Indulging Artists.

The prime example of this trend - and one that has even further hammered home the idea that the CD is a bloated, overpriced behemoth that no one should waste money on - is the dreaded double disc. Also, stop releasing upgraded versions of albums released mere months before.

3. Have A TV Network Launch The Songwriting Equivalent Of American Idol.

A walloping beat or a mixture of groove and sample can still be a wonderful thing. But we need good songs and lots of them. Fast.

4. Give Up The Ghost Of The Blockbuster Album.

Look to modest sales of lots of music to sustain the biz, rather than hoping the next Kelly Clarkson moves a gazillion units.

5. Only Release Certain Kinds Of Music On CD.

So if a particular CD is mainly going to appeal to someone below the age of 30, go digital - it’ll be better for the environment, too.

6. Cut Concert Ticket Prices.

Since bands may have to rely on touring for even more of their income, it’s vital that people be able to afford to see them.

7. Stop Making It So Hard To Choose Between Formats.

IPod? Zune? And which file-sharing format should we use? And while we’re at it, Apple: Start making longer-lasting iPods. It’s a genius product, but do we have to buy another one so soon?

8. Fully Embrace The Web.

Instead of making threats when an unauthorized song or video shows up on MySpace or YouTube, majors should welcome the exposure.

9. Reinvent The Record Store.

We’re approaching a time when anyone who walks into a record store will truly be like those obsessives in High Fidelity. So why not cater to them? Sell only indie, alt rock, and hip-hop, not to mention vinyl and every type of iPod and iPod competitor.

10. Stop Releasing Crap.

No more records by celebrities without discernible vocal talent. And, of course, no more Rod Stewart covers collections.

Sorry, David. The music industry won’t stop releasing “crap” unless people stop buying crap! Thus the fatal weakness of these kinds of cultural diagnoses. No critic ever comes out and say what he really thinks: that most people have bad — or at least questionable, uneducated — taste, which is the whole reason for having a critical priesthood in the first place.

And don’t hand me the line about the industry shoving what they want down people’s throats. Please. There’s a lot of good music out there, as ever, and it’s more readily accessible than at any point in the history of humankind. Stop blaming the Men in Suits that more people don’t like, oh, I don’t know — pick your favorite unheralded Savior of Rock of the moment.

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