A question about the music industry (plus a minor rant on Akon's "Mr. Lonely")

So, as I was driving on my shift last evening, I happened to turn on the radio. I rarely do this as I prefer CDs, and I instantly regretted my decision. Yes, you know the song that inspired such regret: Akon’s “Mr. Lonely.” Now, if you are one of the few so out of touch that you haven’t yet heard it, please try not to. I’m no stranger to abhorrent R&B music, but combining bad R&B with Alvin (from the Chipmunks) takes this sad, bloated genre* down by four or eight notches. Worse, this song is popular.

I have long been under the assumption that the American music industry is run by Corporate Nazis who brainwash impressionable minds to buy music from whatever artists they feel like promoting through MTV and its ilk; I feel that the popularity of “Mr. Lonely” more than adequately proves this thesis. I cannot imagine any human actually enjoying this asinine tripe unless he has been conditioned to do so.

On to my questions, which are directed especially to Dopers who are somehow involved in the music biznass:

  1. How accurate is my belief that major media outlets (like MTV) can promote any shitty artist they want and immediately make him/her/it insanely popular? Is this done by sheer exposure alone?

  2. Assuming the above is true, what exactly are the dynamics involved? Are those media outlets simply payed to air a particular artist by major record companies?

  3. Assuming question #1 is true, whose dick did this Akon guy have to suck to get him where he’s at?

*Yes, I am well aware that good R&B exists (I am an unabashed Alicia Keys fan), but the majority of the stuff that gets heavy air-play these days is awful.

For the record, I didn’t know exactly where this thread belonged. It might be better off in GQ. If this is a case, it would be appreciated if a moderator would edit the title appropriately and redirect it.

I feel guilty now :frowning: . I thought the song was charming.

  • Honesty

I haven’t heard this Akon song, but let’s add Nitty to that list. His songs are getting mega-airplay on MTV australia, and that seems to have had a flow-on effect to the radio, and record stores.

I think it’s just sheer marketing. MTV tells the impressionable tweens that this music is cool. They stage ‘votes’ so people can choose the most popular of two equally inane songs. They hype the songs up as far as they can, and then the rest just happens.

It’d be interesting to actually hear from someone in the music industry, though. Either an actual musician, an exec or a programming co-ordinator for a channel like MTV.

Does anyone actually think that song is funny? Or maybe I’m missing something.

Not very. Exposure only works if there’s an audience for the song. If no one likes the music, all the exposure in the world won’t help.

The reason why that particular song is on the air is because a large number of listeners like it. They may have absolutely no taste in music, and only want songs that to you sound like crap, but you are the minority.

I kind of agree with your point, but kind of don’t. I think a large number of listeners ‘like’ music because they’re told to like it, that it’s cool to like it. This is marketing and peer pressure, rolled into a happy bundle of conformity, more than people actually appreciating the music for the music’s sake.

I read somewhere that Paris Hilton likes Britney Spears and 50 cent. I mean, how generic can you get? There are people who are genuinely not into music, and all they know is to buy what is marketed to their demographic. These are people for whom music is just background noise.

Me personally, I need lyrics and emotion that I understand or find compelling. Some people honestly don’t care about those things, or cannot hear them in music. These are the people who would be responsive to heavy marketing by MTV.

Heck, I watch MTV. It’s almost like a science project though, to see what kids of today are listening to.

Sure. A large number of listeners have developed a taste for a certain type of music, and aren’t sophisticated enough (yet – they are usually fairly young) to understand that there is much better music around.

But when a radio station makes a decision (I’m not convinced that MTV is the force it once was), its goal is to pick a song that will appeal to its audience. There are also plenty of songs that they choose to play but which their audience doesn’t respond to; you just don’t hear much about them.

But no program director at a popular radio station is going to make the audience respond to a song merely by choosing it. Do you think if they chose to add Dvorak’s “Humoresque” to the playlist, it’ll become a hit? Of course not, since it is not the type of music the audience is looking for.

Basically, radio stations (and presumably MTV) pay the labels so that they can play whatever is thought to draw an audience. Having a large audience means that they can charge quite a bit for ads, and that’s how they stay in business.

I don’t know the details, but there’s certainly some evidence that a lot of backroom dealing goes on to see to it that a song gets heavy airplay. This, of course, doesn’t mean that a particular song is going to be a hit, but it does better the odds. One of the reasons Britney Spears got promoted so heavily is that she was a “product” and all the real money was made by the people who worked behind the scenes controlling her. A band like Rush, for example, which is made up of heavily talented individuals who by now know what the hell they are doing, isn’t going to get that kind of promotion, because they’re not going to be stupid enough to sign away their rights to a song just to get a couple more cheese sandwiches in their contract, since there’s less money to be made by the industry leeches.

While this is certainly true, I was subtly suggesting that there probably is an audience available for just about anything; exposure would, in this case, merely make that audience aware of that record/book/whatever.

It’s not a question of whether there’s an audience for any particular item–as you pointed out, there almost certainly is. It’s a question of whether there’s enough of an audience to drive ad revenue. Musically speaking, the further away you get from bubblegum pop, the closer to “no” the answer is.