On being brutally honest

The latest Hendrix brouhaha (see above) brings to the fore an underlying question: Why isn’t the SN willing or able to change the structure of the chart? Or, more broadly put, why is sg still driven by unverifiable radio “air play” and not sales, like most other genres? Well, depends on who you ask. Ken Kirksey’s answer is that it’s just not feasible in sg for authenticated sales or even official authenticated air play to be the propulsive force in the industry. A system like SoundScan, which relies on sales affidavits, or systems that use audio fingerprinting are just not viable alternatives, Kirksey would contend. Specifically, Kirksey has made this argument about audio fingerprinting: Too advanced, he essentially says, too unrealistic to expect the average sg to have or know how to use the technology, just unworkable (and I suspect Kirksey speaks unofficially for most sg radio stations too). As for SoundScan or any other similar system that shifts the burden of verifiability from radio to artist by tracking product sales (the system I prefer), most groups or owners would probably say it’s too financially onerous for them to buy into a tracking system like SoundScan (I’ve heard that initial subscription fees for SoundScan can run $5,000).Ok, but as I’ve said before, these arguments assume a premise I’m not willing to grant: namely, that the current sg configuration of regional groups working a core of mostly regional radio stations for chart position that could lead to wider (with luck semi-national) recognition is more or less an ideal set up. I don’t buy this premise, just as I don’t think sg can indefinitely support the glut of mediocre groups justifying their existence with shoestring projects and meaningless “hits” on a chart that can be manipulated by almost anything but the reality of what people are buying and wanting more of. If sg is going to remain competitive and relevant in the years to come - and not just a loosely affiliated alliance of hobby-horse groups playing in the shadows of a few masters and giants of the craft - it’s going to require an institutional force like the SN with its clout and prominence and authority to step up and say: sorry, Radio Station. Covering a few hundred square miles of rural North Carolina with a radio signal doesn’t mean you get to help create an alternative universe of “hits” that has no connection with the retail market for sg music. And sorry, Happy Times Quartet. It’s not enough that your group means well and has a project from which to cull a single. It takes more than good intentions, a bus, a savvy radio promoter and the mantle of “ministry.” You have to be doing something that people want badly enough to buy. Think this is harsh? Think that ministry is about more than selling stuff and entertaining people? Fine. But as a smart reader and correspondent of mine said recently, sg has ministered people to death. Put that another way: the really first-rate, top-notch acts in sg right now are the ones that entertain audiences - authentically, reliably, and well. They start with an idea, a set of convictions, an artistic and entrepreneurial commitment and create from that a demand for their product. So you say you don’t have the money to buy into whatever system of authentication it takes to verify sales (which is - by the way - the only real means of measuring the effectiveness of any artist and/or ministry)? Well, sorry. Sell your bus, maybe. Or better yet, sell some product.

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