Updated: Mar 21, 2020
Look, as a music critic, I’ve been around the block a few times and, let me tell you, this Capitalism band’s not gonna be around much longer if things don’t start turning around for them.
Don’t get me wrong, they were great at first. The best even. I mean, they released four platinum industrial revolutions. Unheard of. Each one better than the last. But the thing about this industry is that people don’t care so much who you were, no matter who you were. They want to know what you’re doing now. And frankly, Capitalism has gotten complacent, a little too comfortable with that hair of the dog. Even their latest work was more flash than substance. Impressive flash, but flash. Fact is they’ve been doing the same washed up gig for forty years now and people are getting a little tired of it.
I suppose it’s inevitable. A little something that comes with age. After more than 200 years, how many times can a band be expected to break the mold? It’s that cruel paradox: the more new things there are in the world, the less new things there are to make. Other people are a little more sympathetic. “How is an artist supposed to give its fans what they want if each fan keep clamoring for something different?” they say. Well I got news for them: no matter what they told you at school, being an artist isn’t about filling orders at Burger King. It’s about unleashing something special into the world to add to all of the other great things done before to accumulate in cosmic harmony. Brings a tear to my eye just thinking about it.
But I don’t think the band’s lacking creativity, they’ve got that in spades. Problem is complacence. Laziness. Apathy. Living high on the hog of their legacy and past achievements. You can tell the guitarist is more eager to look good at his next solo than he is at his next ensemble. Poor fool doesn’t realize that if his fellow musicians go down, he goes down too.
I think the real problem comes down to their damned band manager, Mr. Moneybags. A bad manager can ruin a good band, even in its heyday. Seen it happen too many times and it’s a damned shame when it happens. Thing is Mr. Moneybags isn’t all that bad at filing the paperwork, as most managers go anyway. But this band keeps bending over to his every whim like he’s some kind of king. It keeps the band short-sighted and looking after the next gig and not the next album. Looking at what worked before and not looking what’s going to work in the future. It makes the whole band dysfunctional, but he won’t listen to reason.
When the band says, “Look, Mr. Moneybags, it’s great that women have joined the workforce. It’s allowed us to double our workers and human capital. We’ve got twice as many brains as we’ve had before. But that means that we have two parents going to work every day without childcare and too many without sick leave. These children will be your future workers someday, and they are raised on your employees’ dime. The least we could do is help them out a little.”
Moneybags says, “I don’t wanna,” and so they don’t.
The band says, “Mr. Moneybags, it’s not reasonable to expect to fill your quota of workers without training them while they’re young.”
Mr. Money says “it’s too expensive on such a tight budget” as he gobbles another fistful of share buybacks. He continues after wiping his mouth, “Those damned kids should have gotten those expensive degrees exactly in the fields that I need this second if they’re so worried about jobs.” Economists keep scratching their heads about the relatively low nominal wage growth, despite the low unemployment, and commentators blame the unfilled jobs on those lazy kids and welfare.
The band says, “Mr. Moneybags, it’s great that you’ve made so much profit from these trade deals, but it’s time to give a little back to people hurt from them. Job training might be especially useful (since you won’t train entry level yourself) and relocation benefits so that people can move to where the jobs are located.”
“Bah!” snorts Mr. Moneybags, “People should be more self-reliant and stop asking for handouts. No one ever gave me anything!”
“You’ve passed laws to avoid paying taxes in a society that gave you protection, the right to property, and public research, without which our hits wouldn’t even be possible. Mr. Moneybags, this is practically stealing!”
Do I really need to tell you how Mr. Moneybags responds? On the band goes again, bending over backwards to give him exactly what he wants without question. Just like last time. Just like next time. You usually don’t fatten a pig like this unless you intend to eat him. If Mr. Moneybags keeps it up, that’s exactly what’s going to happen.
It’s a truth as old as time that every band needs a manager, but a manager’s got to know his place. They keep him hired because Mr. Moneybags is such “a great man,” and maybe he is in some ways. But you’d think a great man would be able to succeed without laws that make other people’s lives difficult. You’d also think a band would be smart enough to stop coddling a manager that nearly crashed its entire performance with his recklessness and required a bailout.
And that’s not even the worst of his track record: another diabetic dies because he couldn’t get access to insulin that’s cheap to make because Mr. Moneybags felt like he deserves every penny he makes off his product. A young straight-A student who worked two jobs all of high school can’t go to college because her parents had a bad year and Mr. Moneybags fails to see how it’s his problem. A young lawyer sadly watches his firm break the law again; but he won’t blow the whistle because his college debt is massive, and Mr. Moneybags likes the obedience it gets out of him. A grandfather takes himself off life support at the local hospital so that his grand kids won’t have to resort to payday loans to keep him alive. I hear Mr. Moneybags was kind enough to give the sermon at his funeral. He taught from the gospel of Positive Mindfulness. He preached the importance of Unending Gratitude and Gratuitous Hope. “Beware the rational skeptic who stalks in the night! Yield not to his temptation! Amen.”
Of course, maybe the real problem isn’t Moneybags at all but the band itself. Every member who escapes the heel of Mr. Moneybags takes it as a badge of honor. Mr. Moneybags has got to step on some people so that the rest can dream of that day when they muse, “Guess not everyone can be as smart and diligent as the rest of us (me).”
I don’t know. I know I get a little sentimental on the subject. There’s just not a lot of music left in the world, even before Rock n’ Roll died. To tell you the truth, I kinda like that plucky band. But if they don’t get themselves out of their rut, there’ll always room for younger bands willing to put in the effort. It’s Capitalism’s choice if it wants to be another has-been.