By dean

     It has recently come to my attention that there is a plague growing in this world. It halts logical reasoning, corrupts the mind, and causes terror in the hearts of noble men's souls. It is doubtful even the recent Human Ge-Gattaca-Here-We-Come-Nome Project can save us. Yes, I'm talking about idiocy. Because lately, I have run across quite a few people parroting around each other with remarks about what is the usefulness of modern radio. There's my theory (here), there's fellow columnist Shane's numerous theories (most recently here), and then there are many variations of both filtering in over the past several months. What strikes me as unusually disturbing as of late are some very vocal opinions on the whole thing. Namely: why does any self-respecting music fan care if a radio station plays a readily-owned and personally-treasured song 4,304 times per day or -- on the converse -- never at all? The answer I have run across over the past few weeks usually ends up resting on a simple, "Because that means somebody who has never heard the song before might like it."
     The plague grows stronger.

     Now, let's get this out of the way: the ideal of hearing listeners potentially being "educated" by a corporate radio station is admirable. It's even sweet. It speaks of the kindest portions of the human character. But there's only one tiny, key, infinitesimal flaw to its logic: it's absolute bollocks. Why? People are idiots. Nearly every waking person in this world is a raving idiot -- and if you think that's just not true, you're probably one yourself. Don't believe me? Go take a drive out on the freeway. Listen to the conversation from the people next to your table at a restaurant. Read the warnings on a bottle of shampoo. Look at what movies and albums are in the Top 10. Remember the last time a taxi dropped you off at the airport and when the cabbie said, "Have a nice flight." you replied, "You too!" Yes, the world is being overrun by idiots.

     So somebody please explain it: why would anybody want to "educate" these idiots with treasured music? Do you like these people? Do you want respect from these people? Do you want to try and "convert" them? Do you like your favourite musicians so much you want to flog their concert audiences with the worst examples of mental midgets? Do you actually -- in any way, shape, or form -- care about these people? If you answered yes to any of these questions, that makes things even more confusing. Because there's a difference between exposing someone to music they might like and getting a "thrill" out of "educating" someone through the evils that is modern radio: the former is splendid, the latter just feels a bit off. Did you grow up only to rehash high-school? It's like choosing to sit under the bleachers during lunch because you hate the rest of the kids at school...but then turning around and quickly trying as hard as you can to win their interests and respect. There's no consistency to the logic. It's as if some odd sense of unfulfilled insecurities are popping out in these helpful people all in the form of "music education." And there's no dignity in that.

     However, it's not as if the intentions are impossible. If you want to "educate" somebody, you have to do it on the right path. How so? Don't waste your time with MTV or mainstream radio. They let the idiots thrive and reign supreme. If there is a weed in your garden, don't try to "change it" by dressing it up with a happy face smeared on with a magic marker. A weed is a weed. You uproot it. Get it out of there. Let something new grow. So start a fanzine, work at a record store, go become a club DJ, organize underground events, start a web-site, get a mailing list going (wait a minute...), or whatever you think helps in a non-homogenized manner. Just do something vocal and productive. Do something good. But avoid the mainstream shackles of the close-minded, corporate, numbnut-controlled radio play-lists. They do more harm than good in the long run anyway.

     But what if one really likes mainstream radio? And the power it possesses? Well, get over it. It only has as much power as you allow it. I would hope this is redundant by now, but whenever radio's idiots do grab hold of something decent, rarely do things go right. Even just in the world of music, the idiots tend to squeeze decent music's innards out in-between their fingers as they drunkenly try to stick their hand in the top of the milk carton that is real creative endeavor. Heck, I bet they would even admire truly awful and confusing metaphors people use in music columns that only make sense if you read them about nine times in a row. These idiots were the ones that reduced BLUR concert crowds to "I hope they play that 'woo-hoo' song" cranial fatalities. They were the ones that caused bands like THE SMALL FACES never to tour again. They were the ones that made Be Here Now or Alone With Everybody. They were the ones that had the Grammy's turn into a battle of the Mouseketeers. The idiots are definitely dangerous. So don't waste your time with them.

     In that case, this entire problem comes down to this: you either respect the average person or you don't. If you do, you have to realize that these are the same people that let a woman successfully sue a fast-food chain for spilling coffee on herself or even let Al Gore and George W. Bush both run for the Presidency. You also have to realize that the vast majority of these idiots, well, don't want to be "saved" by your oh-so-brilliant taste of music anyway. Just as it would be futile to try and play Pong with somebody afflicted with multiple personalities, it would be foolish to try and "convert" somebody who hates your music. If you have personal stories of winning over strangers with your music, great. It's superb when it works. Although let's be honest with ourselves: it is the exception, not the rule. So where does this leave the types of "helpers" out there that don't respect the average person at all? Well, I take it that if you don't respect the average person, you just want to reach "that cool guy" or that "interesting chick" that made it out of the winnowing bullshit that is everyday life. If that's so, then you wouldn't reach them by ordinary, mainstream avenues in the first place. Argh. So it's a lose-lose situation. Either way, it's becoming more and more clear that maybe you have to subvert the mainstream -- not cater to it -- in order to affect real change.

     It's similar to those old western movies or that Sesame Street skit. The good ol' guy in the white cowboy hat knew deep down that if he resorted to the same tactics as the dude in the black cowboy hat, all was lost. You can't win the war of decent music by bowing down to the teet of corporate radio or MTV. Once you fight the good fight and "successfully" request/plan/sneak your music into the corporate bloodstream, you will find yourself infected with the plague. Mainstream radio controls the horizontal. It controls the vertical. And even when you think you had your way with it, it just laughed and sandwiched you in-between the "wacky" morning show and an ad for diarrhea medication. After all, the message is lost because the medium is still the message. Which is precisely why earning a victory through duplicitous mediums is no victory at all. Once you use the same tactics as the villains, you really have become one of them.

     So if you truly care about bands watching their audiences grow, fine. Let them cultivate. If you want to "teach" the ignorant public out there your "superior" taste, go for it too. Let it all flourish from DJ parties, word-of-mouth, and other such effective avenues. More power to you. But don't rape them all with good intentions. If you want to "educate" people, avoid the idiot wasteland and just choose a higher trail. It can be done. It probably should be done. And at the very least, it must be done miles away from the tractor path that is known only as MTV or mainstream radio. I'm sure thousands of people will follow. You just have to take that first step.