Lashing out

For the moment, let’s leave aside the thorny ethical tangle of what it says about the state of things when radio types are willing to essentially fudge airplay affidavits and artificially inflate songs from groups that the radio guy “believes in” or “has a relationship” with. For now, let’s stick with the uproar Ken Kirksey and the SN made about all this. Here, I refer back to the discerning dj I quoted above:

You know, I came within a click of the send button of firing a response to Kirksey about his grudge against Hendrix. My response was to have been something like “What’s the big deal? Every promoter in the industry does what Rick does.” Didn’t send it, cause I know Ken well enough that it wouldn’t have made an impact. I’ve seen him in the past deal with his grudges through the gauntlet that is the SN. Plus, it’s not the first time he’s made public his feelings toward Hendrix. I think you or some other blog eluded to it, but there has to be more to the story, since Kirksey isn’t going after the other promoters.

Nor, as I have noted before, is he going after the djs themselves or the groups that hire ninja promoters (aren’t they at least as guilty?). One reader wrote in to say if he were a dj, he’d be supremely insulted by Kirksey’s implication that “I haven’t the intellect to spot marketing tactics, that I am easily susceptible to the ether of propaganda, and that I can’t be trusted.” That makes sense, though I hadn’t really thought of it that way (primarily because the Heirline debacle suggests that at least a good portion of radio types in sg may in fact be just that susceptible to propaganda). Instead, I tended to assume that Kirksey’s singling out independent promoters while remaining silent about the groups and the radio managers themselves was a way for the SN to project a get-tough attitude without alienating key constituencies in the SN’s network: artists (who advertise with the SN) and radio stations (whose affidavits keep the SN charade, I mean, chart, going). Taking Hendrix out back for a good thrashing is a cost-free way for the SN to save some face: though everyone likes the taste of success that comes from paper-hits, nobody wants to be associated with the guy who makes the sausage. Thus so long as Hendrix doesn’t get run outta bidness, no one with any clout - like, say, Claude Hopper, who used Hendrix to promote “Jerusalem” - will give the SN any heat for smacking Hendrix around.

Still, the SN is caught in a tight spot: pinioned between its acquisitiveness on one side, which demands fidelity to the status quo rather than undertaking an expensive and divisive effort to reform or scrap entirely the current system in favor of something more equitable and reflective of … you know, reality and stuff; and, on the other side, the obvious truth - that the system is reduced to a laughingstock by and mired in the swamp of quid-pro-quo dickering and the embarrassing chocolate-for-chart-position deals that reduce the SN Top 80 to a measure of who doles out the best crap and sugary sweets to djs. Ken Kirksey is way too smart and his instincts are too ethical for him to let this kinda thing go unnoticed in public (he’s on record as admitting the system is not what he’d like). Thus, he lashes out. The trouble is that, as one reader put it: “Kirksey’s soap box has become a witness stand. By threatening Hendrix and [implicitly] every sg-charting station, he has simultaneously revealed/admitted to the inherent problems with his chart model.” Hear ye, hear ye, indeed.

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