Pop Playground
Rockism Reorientation

By: Erick Bieritz
2005-06-08



Posted 06/08/2005 - 09:49:18 AM by Amandalucia:
 Well put! Before there was the internet, there was the public library, where my friends and I would have the chance to sample disparate artists (Edith Piaf, the Carpenters, Husker Du, Leadbelly, Leo Kottke, June Tabor, Billy Bragg) and realize that Hothouse Flowers were definitely not the shit. There was the same anonymous glee that people get from downloading and none of the shame of browsing the easy listening section. Our tax dollars: contributing to the demise of rockism before we knew it was hurting us. ha.
 
Posted 06/08/2005 - 11:05:30 AM by wmdavidson:
 Thanks for this lucid and enlightening article! So many writings on this topic either viciously attack anyone who dares prefer one type of music over another ("anyone who doesn't like rap as much as rock is a racist!"), or are filled with so much meta-gobbledygook that the point is impenetrable (like last week's rockism article). Great job.
 
Posted 06/08/2005 - 12:31:47 PM by jedmond:
 Can I just point out that rockism (or at least the equivalent) is hardly unique to music. Using your example of film, can I at least point out the film debates of the fifties and sixties regarding autuer theory - which was heavily involved in the re-evaluation of marginalised genres and directors of those genres. Arguing that rockism is only relevant to music, also removes certain similarities to how the debates occured. For example, just as the increase of availability of mp3s helped the rockism debate, the backlog of american films made during WW2 being suddenly made available after in France after WW2 made it easier for connections to be made in between films/directors.
 
Posted 06/08/2005 - 12:33:30 PM by IanMathers:
 Anti-rockism, then, is like skepticism: Properly understood it is a tool, not a platform.
 
Posted 06/09/2005 - 12:37:42 AM by maxwellk:
 I've never considered myself rockist or anti-rockist; I would say I just like good music. I think this whole debate, if we can even call it that, between anti-rockists and rockists (and, really, who has ever identified themself so ridiculously? "I'm a rockist") misses what is undoubtedly the greater issue in music/pop-music today: the sacrifice (by the recording industry) of the artist on the altar of profit. It doesn't matter what genre a pop song is, whether it's rap, country, or rock. What matters is this: If the song is unpopular (or even tests poorly in focus groups), the artist will likely be hung to dry by their record label when it comes to promotion and support. What this means is that the record label has essentially become a bank which demands ridiculously high interest on a loan it has no intention of helping you to pay back. You owe the record label half a million dollars; they refuse to promote your album; you cannot take your work elsewhere; an finally you probably cannot even take yourself to a label that cares because of whatever devil's deal your captors have trapped you with (i.e. you owe them three more albums which they will not pay for, will not support, and will not allow you to record for anyone else). Conversely, if your single is popular, you continue to finance this corrupt system until you are no longer marketable. Then, like the artist who was unsuccesful from the start, you are hung to dry (except perhaps now you've developed a drug habit you can't pay for anymore). This is why I am against Britney. Not because of her music. Not because she doesn't write her own songs. Not because of her lack of substance. I'm against her because she helps to perpetuate a system that has destroyed the lives of some of my close friends, a system that will continue to strangle artists until innovation is finally snuffed out for good. So now feel free to call me a rockist, but this is why I'll stick to buying from independent labels. Someday, I hope somebody brings this to the forefront of the hopelessly banal debate on "rockism".
 
Posted 06/09/2005 - 09:53:24 AM by wmdavidson:
 Wait. First you say you "just like good music." Then you give a laundry list of *ideological* reasons why you don't listen to Britney Spears and do listen to indie artists. Cognitive dissonance?
 
Posted 06/09/2005 - 05:36:29 PM by ddrake:
 Erick, Simon Reynolds likes your article! I cant say I agree with his conclusions, though, or at least I dont agree with his definition of an anti-rockist's position on music.
 
Posted 06/10/2005 - 08:47:00 AM by maxwellk:
 I guess if I'm being honest I'd probably have to say that at least half the reason I don't like Britney is because I think that the majority of her recorded output is total crap. One "Toxic" does not redeem the rest of her catalogue. In fact, it doesn't even redeem "Not a girl, not yet a woman." For certain I think most pop music is total trash, as nearly anything that has been focus group-ed into existed would be. Of course I enjoy adventurous pop music (but that usually doesn't even come from the few artists who've managed to transcend the trap I mentioned and control their music, like Prince or the Wu Tang) So I guess I was exaggerating my stance for the purposes of my polemic. Nonetheless, I reiterate that the structure of popular music today is destroying worthwile music of all genres in exchange for a few good songs by a few lucky artists. [Also, I didn't say I don't LISTEN to pop music, I just said I refuse to spend money on it]
 
Posted 06/10/2005 - 09:17:41 AM by wmdavidson:
 maxwellk, I think you're right that the quality of the end product is not always easily divorced from the authenticity/passion (or lack of it) of the process. It's complicated and both aspects feed into one another. That's why I'm suspicious of both extremes-- the "I only listen to 4-track recordings of unknown artists put out on underground labels" crowd as well as people who fall over themselves to avoid the dreaded rockist label by indiscriminately praising the Top 40 (Pitchfork anyone?).
 
Posted 06/11/2005 - 06:25:34 AM by DomPassantino:
 Stupid people who think that "Toxic" is a better single than "Ooops I Did It Again" (or "Lucky", for that matter) make the Good Lord shed tears.
 
Posted 06/11/2005 - 08:18:40 AM by maxwellk:
 I just read on pitchfork that the feds busted some independent record store in New York for selling hip hop mixtapes. Hip hop artists freely participate in the mixtape industry. No one loses money on mixtapes. Nonetheless, some major label saw the mixtapes in the store and felt the need to go run to the feds. 5 people working at the record store were put under arrest, including 3 clerks who were just selling the records and may not even have known about the legality of what they were doing. They had to spend the night in Manhattan central booking. If this doesn't indicate how totally screwed the music industry and the people bringing us pop music are, then I don't know what does. How many stylus readers work at a record store? Every time you buy a cd buy Britney, Christina or the gang you give money to the people who would arrest them for selling what amounts to promotions (at no cost to the label) for their artists. Who cares who thinks you're an elitist? Fuck the pop industry. It's time to end the tyranny.
 
Posted 06/20/2005 - 01:15:51 AM by daavid:
 I am not sure I agree with your main conclusion that the abandonment of all filters of musical appreciation is one of the potential problems of anti-rockism. From what I understand, you seem to imply that, in absence of these filters, music criticism would become a sterile, subjective exercise due to the lack (or complete absence) of criteria to judge music by. While I see the problem with the "just what I like" or what "resonates with me" approach, I believe that anti-rockism is still compatible with serious music criticism, albeit the dismissal of rockism standards would demand more creativity and work from the critic. In my opinion, the key point is that anti-rockism is not necessarilly about abandoning values to judge music by, but rather to choose from a different set of values for different types of music.