Category Archives: Books

The Music Business is a Cruel and Shallow Money Trench

“The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.”

Hunter S Thompson MusicBiz Quote

One of the best and most misused ‘quotes’ about the music industry, allegedly from Hunter S Thompson’s book “Generation of Swine: Tales of Shame and Degradation in the ’80s”

But David Emery at About.com dug around and sourced the correct quote from the book here:

Hunter-S-Thompson-TV Biz Quote

“The TV business is uglier than most things. It is normally perceived as some kind of cruel and shallow money trench through the heart of the journalism industry, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs, for no good reason.”

Thanks David.

Further Reading

Thieves and Pimps (HST Books)

“Where Thieves and Pimps Run Free” (About.com)

Generation of Swine (Google Books)

99th Floor Elevators vs. The Beatles

Moving on from my first national pop hit, ‘Hooked’ (as the 99th Floor Elevators) we struggled to come up with a follow up that PWL were happy with, then we finally finished ‘I’ll Be There’ which actually crawled onto the BBC Radio 1 playlist.

Anyway, recently I was browsing through some news archives and stumbled across a piece from the mid 90s in the Independent about how the Beatles had been ‘banned’ from the BBC Radio 1 playlist.

Radio 1 refuses to play `boring’ Beatles

Beatles-vs-99th-Floor-Eleva

Their John Lennon penned single, ‘Real Love’ , only the second Fab Four single since their split in 1970, despite entering the mid week charts in the top ten, had been left off the playlist to make way for “less established chart names” such as Goldie, Gat Decor and the 99th Floor Elevators.

Paul McCartney went on to say “The Beatles don’t need our new single to be a hit. Its not as if our careers depended on it” Too true of course but still a grin of self satisfaction that something you wrote had a hand in ‘banishing’ the Beatles from the national radio playlist!

The story even made it into the Keith Badman book ‘The Beatles Off The Record Volume 2: The Dream Is Over (Beatles Off the Record)

Download 99th Floor Elevators Torrent Sampler here

More info: Torrent Distribution Experiment

The Best Music Biz Book You’ve Never Heard Of

Sometimes when I’m looking around for inspiration for a post I’ll start researching one then wander off into a completely new subject matter all together. I began the weekend writing a piece on physical music distribution tips and ended up stumbling onto the KLF (again) via a 2007 link on Metafilter.

The Manual

* “Be ready to ride the big dipper of the mixed metaphor. Be ready to dip your hands in the lucky bag of life, gather the storm clouds of fantasy and anoint your own genius. ”

That reminded me of when I first discovered the book ‘The Manual (How To Have A Number One The Easy Way)‘ . It was the early 90s (though the book originally appeared in 1988) and I’d been stumbling around as lead singer of the Fruit Eating Bears (not the 70s punk band of the same name) travelling from one disastrous gig to the next for a while and it was getting boring.

* “All bands end in tantrums, tears and bitter acrimony. So if in a band, quit. Get out. Now. That said, it can be very helpful to have a partner, someone who you an bounce ideas off and vice versa. Any more than two of you and actions develop and you may as well be in politics.”

I’d happened across ‘the Manual’ at the local library (pre-Google!) and was fascinated by the straightforward and easy to understand instructions on how to have a hit record. I quit the band after one more drunken gig and fled to London from South Yorkshire and decided to pursue a ‘career’ in dance music.

The appeal of getting involved with dance music was mainly due to the fact that you didn’t have to learn to play an instrument first, and you could steal all the best ideas using samples from other records. Brilliant.

* “If you are already a musician stop playing your instrument. Even better, sell the junk. It will become clearer later on but just take our word for it for the time being. Sitting around tinkering with the Portastudio or musical gear (either ancient or modern) just complicates and distracts you from the main objective.”

Every other book on the music industry then and probably every one since has made getting involved in the music industry sound about as exciting as a lifetime career as an accountant in a sewing factory and as complex as studying to be a brain surgeon.

It took me about two years (compared to the books suggested three months) but by 1995 I’d had that illusive hit record in the UK top 40 pop charts with a record that had the vocals stolen from an acapella from the b-side of an Italian single and the disco hook from an old disco record (naturally). This blatant disregard for sample clearance protocol lost me 40% of the publishing but looking at it philosophically, 60% of something was always better than 100% of nothing.

Better still, the hit record and a follow up had both been released by 80s pop factory PWL, the hit machine given the thumbs up by the authors Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty in the book.

“The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.” — Hunter S. Thompson  (#source correction)

Surprisingly the book hasn’t lost much of its appeal since it first appeared twenty years ago. If you’re American lots of the 80s cultural references will be lost on you (that’s what Wikipedia’s for right) but a lot of the instruction is still relevant today and with the advent since of social media, 90s Napster/P2P and downloads counting towards sales charts (none of which were around in 1988) its probably even more easier.

Other successful acts have since used the long since out of print book as a ‘blueprint’. Edelweiss, the Pipettes and most recently successful UK ‘nu-rave’ act the Klaxons have confessed to having also used the book as an ‘influence’.

* “It’s obvious that in a very short space of time the Japanese will have delivered the technology and then brought the price of it down so that you can do the whole thing at home. Then you will be able to sod off all that crap about going into studios.” (Bill Drummond/Jimmy Cauty-1988)

* Quoted from ‘the Manual’ .

Seeing as the book is out of print (and listed at £65 on Amazon) there’s a txt download of the whole book here, or if you prefer a PDF download here. And at Scribd.