PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) -- I could have attended this year's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in Brooklyn.
I could have come in a few days early and seen the folks in Jersey. I could have met up with my colleagues Rocco Pendola and Carlton Wilkinson in Manhattan to see all the places that have closed since I'd been there last and then headed over to Brooklyn for a pre-ceremony beer or two. I could have gone into the Barclays Center with a pair of binoculars and tried to spot Krist Novocelic.
But no, I'm not doing any of these things, largely because they would involve seeing the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as anything other than music executives' monument to themselves and everything that is wrong with the music industry.
I'd grouse about the arbitrary selection process and the Hall gatekeepers' obsession with iconography, but I've already done it. I'd grumble about how the Hall just picks and chooses which parts of a band's career it like and inducts that portion -- and how even Jann Wenner's Rolling Stone went through more trouble to find reclusive ex-KISS guitarist Vinnie Vincent than Wenner's Hall of Fame induction committee did -- but that's also well-trod ground. I could muse about how real music fans shouldn't care about accolades, how old rockers almost never fade gracefully or why old cranks like myself shouldn't be surprised when music's business overtakes its art, but we've been there, too.
Nope, I'm not going because the whole cynical enterprise leaves me wanting to lurch my lunch into the Gowanus Canal and the pull of nostalgia aimed squarely at me and other members of Generation X just leaves me flat. It all comes at a time when my thirst and enthusiasm for new music is drying up and music itself becomes a smaller corner of my generation's ecosystem. You want to keep up, stay relevant and speak the language you once spoke so much more fluently, but it's a whole lot more difficult to do when music goes through such pains to wring every penny out of the past while having no idea how to handle its future.
It's little surprise that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony comes just a few days before Record Store Day, or the one day a year when fans are actually enthusiastic about purchasing music. At one time -- in the many rock decades before a bunch of executives decided to build their castle by Lake Erie and fill it with all the castoff relics the Hard Rock Cafe wouldn't take -- record sales were themselves proof enough of a performer or band's greatness and legacy. The sold-out shows that followed, the influence on other acts, the occasional shoutouts, callbacks and collaborations with those acts: That was the reward. LCD Soundsystem saying goodbye at Madison Square Garden in front of a crowd full of adoring fans and honored peers after a decade of work was the biggest prize they could ask for, even in the Hall of Fame era.
But even LCD Frontman James Murphy eventually took that route and followed up with the documentary of that concert: Shut Up and Play The Hits. He then followed that up with a full concert boxed set that's being released on Record Store Day. Will there be anniversary releases, reunion shows, screenings at art theaters a la The Last Waltz?
Maybe, but none of that exactly makes me want to participate in the music industry anymore. The knowledge that the same bands I loved viscerally at 15 may still be touring when I'm 55 makes me more horrified than hopeful. The fact that the music industry seems to be actively hoping I'll go to shed shows and see the acts I grew up with 20 years ago instead of seeking out new music or embracing anything other than its chosen formats and genres just makes me not want to play their game at all. There's no reason to be the old guy at the music festival lamenting lost venues while waiting for bands of his youth to headline for acts half their age.
No, I'm not going to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony because it's time to do what Dave Grohl, Krist Novocelic, Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley did: Move the hell on. Find new people to play with, play songs you love with folks you can actually stand or just get off the stage and walk away. If this is how the music industry actively wants to sell to me, should it be surprised when I move to a passive streaming option like Pandora and stop buying digital tracks and albums?
When it takes away the incentive to buy major label CDs or digital files by playing only to the lowest common denominator and whittling the talent pool down to whichever act wins a singing contest or shows up in Vegas that week, is it any surprise that I'd rather pick up vinyl for independent labels? When it keeps trotting out old acts and repackaging their bargain bin recordings of decades ago at full price, should it wail when I pick them up for cents on the dollar?
Overall album sales dropped last year and digital music sales dropped for the first time ever, but vinyl sales soared 33% and streams (not including Pandora) jumped 32%. While the music industry pats itself of the back in Brooklyn and grows more moss inside the borough's new arena, I'm going to be well West of its big party, slipping further from its grasp, taking my expendable income with me. If the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the industry at large keep congratulating themselves for implementing the most cynical, reductive strategies on the table instead of doing right by fans and the bands, they'll see even more like me heading toward the exits.
-- Written by Jason Notte in Portland, Ore.
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