[The Australian, Australia]



Nachrichten, Switzerland

Michael Jackson: Symbol of a Near-Dead Music Industry


"The current crises in the music industry can be compared to the crisis among car manufacturers. It may well be that with Michael Jackson, the last megastar of the music business has died - and along with this talented musician who had been brutally treated in life, much of what ultimately destroyed him will also be laid to rest."


By Patrik Etschmayer


Translated By Patrik Etschmayer


June 29, 2009


Switzerland - Nachrichten - Original Article (German)

The moon rises behind a 36-foot-high statue of Michael Jackson in Regensdorf Switzerland, near Zurich. The memorial statue will be displayed in Regensdorf from July 3 to July 5.


BBC NEWS VIDEO: Fans around the world united in grief over the death of Michael Jackson, 00:00:43, June 27.RealVideo

Ever since Michael Jackson, King of Pop, extra-terrestrial, and whatever else he was dubbed, shuffled off this mortal coil, commentators around the world have absolutely flipped. There are even cases of journalists confessing that 25 years ago, with a hand clad in a white glove, they practiced the Moonwalk in front of the bedroom-mirror while Billy Jean blared in the background.


Others claim that there isn't a household without a Michael Jackson recording somewhere - particularly for those who went through their formative years in the 1980s and were at least mildly interested in music.


The conviction with which these claims and confessions have been made regarding the "King of Pop" - an appellation bestowed on him by his good friend Elizabeth Taylor - has almost led the author of these words to believe that it is he and not Jackson, who is a bit of a freak.


But one isn't entitled to judge a man based on second and third-hand information. So let us go only as far as to say that Michael Jackson seemed most often somewhat eccentric and unstable.


Regarding the music, the author will leave this judgment to those who are now in a veritable frenzy of enthusiasm, but who only a week ago were gloating in anticipation of a disaster at Jackson's comeback concerts in London.


But first and foremost, the whole hubbub over Jackson's death shows that for all sorts of people, everything imaginable was projected on him, when he was in fact only a man who recorded some great hits but was apparently unable to cope with his fame.


What's rarely mentioned is that Jackson, along with the other giants of the 1980s, such as Prince, Madonna and U2, together initiated the downfall of what was known back then as the music industry. Of course, the industry blames file-sharing, particularly bit torrents, for their current woes (which apparently, with the massive sales of Jackson CDs, are bound to be somewhat mitigated). But another reason can be found in the terrible 80s and 90s.




Mega-million-dollar contracts ultimately ushered in the age of music lawyers and marketers. Until the 1980s, the pop music business was not a very professional affair, spewing out lots random stars and starlets - and a variety of musical styles. It all was rather chaotic but also somehow endearing. Naturally, there were abominations back then as well (just Google Bay City Rollers), but somehow people of real talent - even without extensive market analysis - got the chance to be discovered, show their potential and put out some great records.


But then came the 1980s and '90s, and superstars became megastars with record contracts like Jackson signed in 1991 for a sum of over $65 million. Music was the latest part of our culture to mutate into an industrial product. Although it continued to be produced by artists, it was no longer regarded as art by the people who managed the recording companies.


The campaigns mounted for new albums by these superstars were rather similar to the launch of a new soft drink. All that mattered were sales-numbers and a quick return on investment. Artistic courage and innovation were more of a hindrance, because allegedly, fans of a certain record - as though it were a soda - expected a certain flavor.


It was this madness that broke some artists. Jackson slowly seemed to lose his mind, while his big "adversary" Prince even temporarily gave up his name, because he could no longer cope with his contractual obligations. Meanwhile, Madonna appeared to have her real personality stripped away in an acid-bath of continual self-re-invention.


The current crises in the music industry can be compared to the crisis among some car manufacturers. The conviction that just making larger products would satisfy the markets - which simply meant more of the same - failed at some point. When it ultimately became possible - albeit illegally - to download recordings freely and rapidly, few got the feeling that they were hurting an artist. One thought mainly of media-moguls dumping truckloads of money on their superstars.




Folha, Brazil: Neverland Was Never Forever
Le Figaro, France: Michael Jackson: A Man Who Lived His Life in Reverse
Le Figaro, France: Jackson: The Tragic 'Genetically Modified' Icon of Globalization
Novosti, Russia: Russian Fans of Michael Jackson Still Devastated
El Universal, Mexico: Hugo Chavez Scolds CNN for Coverage of Jackson's Death

Jackson was an extremely visible symbol for all that had gone wrong with the music business. And as they have many times before, great excesses led to a fall. All that had been missing was the technology. Once that was there, the inevitable crash arrived.


The new Internet culture could be a boon for a far greater individualization of musical tastes, and at the same time disempowering the record companies. It may well be that with Michael Jackson, the last megastar of the music business has died - and along with this talented musician who had been brutally treated in life, much of what ultimately destroyed him will also be laid to rest.



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[Posted by WORLDMEETS.US July 2, 8:05pm]