I’ve seen a number of references to this Bum Rush the Charts deal. Tomorrow is the day, and they want you to buy the song “Mine Again” by Black Lab from iTunes. The first most basic reason is that I’ve never put a cent of my money into the iTunes system and there is no way I’m going to start for this. I don’t even have my own iTunes account, I use my wife’s. I’m not giving them my credit card, I’m not purchasing any music inside a DRM envelope regardless of the point trying to be made. To me, that’s the more important point than the one the BRTC project is trying to prove.
The other reason is that I think the ultimate goal is a stupid one. From their manifesto:
Podcasting gets little respect from traditional media. To them we’re little more than a joke, than amateurs. What they don’t understand is that podcasting is more than just a delivery mechanism – it’s a social movement. People are sick of the watered-down, cookie-cutter content that networks and record companies expect us to enjoy. People are tired of watching friends and loved ones get sued by record labels who only care about profits and nothing else, not even the artists they supposedly represent.
The track we’ve chosen is “Mine Again” by the band Black Lab. A band that was dropped from not just one, but two major record labels (Geffen and Sony/Epic) and in the process forced them to fight to get their own music back. We picked them because making them number one, even for just one day, will remind the RIAA record labels of what they turned their backs on – and who they ignore at their peril.
I personally don’t care if the traditional media gives me little respect. I give them little respect, so why not? Let’s keep the relationship symmetric. The whole endeavor smacks of high school power dynamics to me, of trying hard to impress people who don’t care about you in order to validate yourself. I don’t need the validation of incumbent media, I don’t need the respect of the music industry. Fuck them. Why should I care what the RIAA thinks? They are a corrupt and immoral organization, so I’d rather have their contempt than their respect any day. You don’t prove that new media matters by trying to out RIAA the big media. You prove it matters by mattering, by doing good work that you care about and stand behind. Artificially manipulating the charts for a single day, even if it actually works, does nothing of lasting value for anyone.
What’s the best case outcome the organizers want? Suppose it does catch big media’s attention. What happens differently Friday than it would have? Black Lab gets signed again to Geffen? I’d argue that you do new media a better favor by ignoring the incumbents and doing business your own way, not trying to play their game by their standards. It’s an absurd and ineffectual exercise in misplaced activism and misallocated priorities.
If you believe in the power of new media, on March 22nd, 2007, take 99 cents and 2 minutes of your time to join the revolution and make iTunes “Mine Again”.
I believe in the power of new media, and on March 22nd, 2007 I’ll be listening to it, watching it, having a phone interview with another podcaster and writer (she’s interviewing me for a change), and who knows, I might even create a little of it. Hell, I might even buy merch from a few of my favorite shows. What I won’t be doing is trying to search for external validation from organizations I don’t even like. Instead, I’ll work on being strong enough not to need it.
If you are willing to dump one dollar into that cause, might I suggest you PayPal a couple dollars to the Reverend Magdalen legal fund. The email address email@example.com is the one. That’s where my money went and for a much better cause.
Update: I checked the charts just now (7:30 PM EDT) and didn’t see Black Lab in the top 10. I did see Gym Class Heroes at #5 though, a band I only know about because my brother played them in his podcast. So it goes.