Sunday, October 31, 2004

Image over Substance


I finally had a chance to see the Ashlee Simpson debacle on Saturday Night Live (we get the show a week late in Korea). Pretty damn funny. Here’s a link to the video.

Here’s a summary of the story if you haven’t heard about this yet (and give a rat’s ass). Basically, due to a computer glitch or a drummer pushing the wrong button, it was revealed that she had a “guide vocal” recording that she either sang along with or just simply lip-synced to. The wrong song came up and the vocals started while the microphone was nowhere near her mouth.

What makes this great is that not long ago she made the following quote, as noted in an article in

Apart from the fact that the Simpson girls, being massively hyped, are hugely obvious targets, the greatest source of Schadenfreude was a remark Ashlee Simpson made to Lucky magazine, in which she insisted that she would "never" lip-synch. "I'm going out to let my real talent show, not to just stand there and dance around," she said.

Well, “just stand there and dance around” is about all she did before fleeing from the stage (here's a good video of what happened after she left the stage).

This is all yet more proof that the music industry in general is less and less about the music and more and more about pretty faces and image.

Here's Ashlee and her true "talents."

Nowhere is this more true than in Korea (well, could be worse in Japan). As I have mentioned before, mainstream music in Korea is pure image and zero talent. Almost all the big acts were manufactured by recording executives. There are precious few bands and singers that write their own music and were signed based on proven talent after struggling and developing their craft over the years.

And now it is biting them in the ass.

With more and more artists sounding exactly alike and putting out music that gets old in about 2 weeks, fewer and fewer people are buying their CDs. Most just download the music for free from the Internet and their cell phones.

CD sales have continually dropped over the past few years. Sales dropped 7.7 percent in 2001, another 31.4 percent in 2002, and further dropped 31.2 percent in 2003. Those are extremely alarming numbers.

More from a joongang daily article.

The total cost of releasing an album, including production and marketing, runs from 300 to 400 million won, according to Mr. Kang. These days, he says, it's hard to get a return of even 100 million won, even for albums made by established musicians.
"We're about to be standing on heaps of debt," Mr. Kang said.

According to Reuters, 95% of all music retail shops in South Korea have failed over the past 5 years.

Noticed any music retailers go out of business lately? In my case, 3 out of the 4 shops that I pass going to work each day have closed in the last year.

I have listened to music over the internet before. Perhaps I am just the “old generation” now, but when I hear something I like, I go out and buy the CD, even though I know I could download it for free on the Net. I want money to go into the pocket of performers and musicians that “rock my world.” I don’t think I’m the only one who thinks and acts this way.

Koreans, though, are just ensuring that the next generation of “musicians” are worse than they are now. For musicians in Korea to make money, they need to get on TV shows and commercials. This requires good looks more than anything else, so now the music industry is even more image conscious than they were before (which was already pretty god-damned bad).

So, flush the future of Korean music down the toilet. I’ll keep my old Seo Tae Ji and Kim Hyun Sik CDs as a reminder that Korea at least used to be capable of producing talented musicians and song writers before bands like H.O.T and the Korean music industry fucked things up.

Meanwhile, back in the West, when poseurs like Milli Vanili and Ashlee Simpson are exposed, it is our job as concerned world citizens to hound them into oblivion and send the music industry a strong message to keep talentless performers to a minimum. “Pop” music has always been a parasite that threatens to infect the music industry in general, I know. But there needs to be strong pressure on the music industry to “keep it real” as much as possible or otherwise it all becomes a beauty contest.

You know me. I like my musicians and performers good and ugly.

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