Once upon a time, there was a digital revolution in the form of the free internet. It was presented to the people as a revolutionary medium in which anybody would be able to place ideas, writings, quotations, music, songs, poems, etc. into the cybersphere and the people would decide if there were any merit or value to the various creations. Much excitement ensued as everybody and his mother raced to create websites, blogs, and other digital showpieces for purposes of exposing their ideas and creative expressions to the world.
But the lords in the corporate monopolies and oligopolies were very displeased by this new development. Most alarming, they feared that those who once were consigned to the periphery of society....whose incendiary ideas had been banished far from the focus of the cultural mainstream......and those who distracted consumers from the corporate-sponsored icons of the day would undermine the hegemony of the corporations and their ability to extort monopolistic profits from the market place.
Under the guidance of Wall Street, all the corporations banded together to begin the process of seizing control of the internet. In the matter of “internet search,” Google emerged as the de facto ruler of the digital kingdom. Yes, anybody would be able to continue creating websites and blogs on any topic....but Google would determine if that person’s website or blog would receive either a Top 10 search result pertaining to any particular topic, or a Top 1,000,000 search result. Essentially, Google became the dominant internet gatekeeper that would rule on whether a person’s ideology and creative efforts would become clearly prominent or effectively invisible to the world at large.
Furthermore, Google would determine if a particular person’s search results would be left undisturbed or contain sporadic viruses; by randomly inserting viral junk into any particular person’s search results, that would serve as a clear warning to the public....”Beware this person or topic, lest you find your computer infected with digital demons impairing its proper function!!!”
In the case of musicians, Google benefits the major record labels (all three of them!) by providing their feature artists with a fancy first page search result, along with MILLIONS of associated results, clearly indicating the “importance” of that particular musician or band....and if that person or band were unsigned, the vast majority would receive a plain garden variety first page result, and at most THOUSANDS of associated search results, thus demonstrating the relative inconsequence of that musician or band. As part of this grand design, Google created a partnership with the “knowledge gatekeeper” of the internet, aka, Wikipedia, the organization that determines who or what merits inclusion in the digital encyclopedia of our age. Comprised of hobbyist “experts, ” Wikipedia did not require its freelance editors possess any kind of intellectual pedigree (e.g. Phd in any chosen field), merely that those editors conform to Wikipedia standards and methodologies, contrived to serve the corporate monopolies and oligopolies seizing control of the internet. To that effect, Wikipedia decorates the entire right half of the first page Google search result with all variety of pretty photos, not merely as a means of enhancing the aesthetic experience of artist discovery, but again, as a means of certifying that the artists in question are, in fact, first class and important..... in stark contrast to those who are Wikipedia-deprived, their plain, ordinary, first page search result serving as a digital “slap in the face” to the public, an unequivocal reminder that the artist in question is a mere trivial peasant in the digital kingdom...typically an unsigned artist who should not merit any public scrutiny or attention.
Back in those golden days of the internet dawn, one of the greatest developments for musicians seeking to expose their songs happened to be internet radio. In fact, until internet radio emerged, most musicians were at the mercy of a powerful radio station oligopoly (dominated by Clear Channel and Sirius XM) and, unless a musician were label signed, it became near impossible to expose songs anywhere in the land. Last.FM quickly emerged as the most widely popular internet radio station and musicians could place and promote themselves there without any kind of record label sponsorship. In its earliest incarnation, Last.FM happened to be a genuine radio democracy that would place major label artists side by side with unsigned artists in their Similar Artists category; as a result, to cite a personal example, if somebody decided to listen to the Last.FM radio stations created for Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, or Neil Young, they might also discover Catman Cohen songs playing on those same Last.FM stations.
Unfortunately, such a paradise for the unsigned musician could not be tolerated by the corporate monopolies and oligopolies determined to restore their firm control over every significant aspect of our contemporary culture, not merely in service of profit maximization, but most importantly, as a means of suppressing populist rebellion against corporatist hegemony.
Enter into the picture the indomitable and formidable CBS Corporation, originally a member of the gargantuan Viacom Group, controlled by billionaire, Sumner Redstone, who receives special visual mention within my controversial video, “Prayer for America.” Under CBS Corp. control, slowly but surely, Last.FM began to erode and terminate the hallmarks of its internet radio democracy that once made it the darling of every stripe of musician all over the world. Today, it is very rare to see any particular unsigned musician at Last.FM placed in the Similar Artists category of a major label artist, and vice versa. Without such placement, then exposure of that unsigned artist within the major label artist’s Last.FM radio station no longer exists and, in the manner in which corporations reign supreme today over the once vaunted “free” internet, that unsigned musician is rendered invisible to the world.
Score another victory for the major record labels in their quest to suppress the rebellion of the unsigned artist and reassert dominance over all things musical!
Where the world of music is concerned, there is a long litany of other examples whereby the corporate monopolies/oligopolies, having long ago consigned unsigned artists to oblivion in terms of Big Media coverage (e.g. Rolling Stone, New York Times, LA Times, New Yorker, Billboard, MTV, TMZ, E!, etc.)....Big Retail CD placement (e.g. Wal-mart, Target, etc.)....and other mainstream exposure, has managed to ensure that even key internet entities (e.g. Pitchfork, Paste, Brooklyn Vegan, Huffington Post, Stereogum, Salon, Slate, etc.) no longer provide a speck of coverage.
Sitting astride all these various manipulations contrived to resurrect corporatist control over the internet is Wall Street; first and foremost, their associates on Madison Avenue can threaten the withdrawal of massive advertising monies from those who dare rebel and provide coverage for unsigned musicians...the kinds of massive promotional dollars that no unsigned artist can begin to match. Yet, Wall Street’s ultimate weapon is this: It is Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup et al who offer the promise of Initial Public Offering (IPO) mega-fortune to those internet corporations that “tow the line” and bend their knee dutifully to monopolist /oligopoly control of the internet. For example, in the several months prior and following the IPO of Facebook, the effective social media monopolist, all variety of new rules and regs were erected designed to undermine and thwart the free flow of social interactions that once existed at that site. No longer can a Facebook member choose to befriend any random person on Facebook unless there is a pre-existing relationship....otherwise, Facebook expeditiously places longstanding bans against future contacts. Furthermore, if a Facebook member desires to send a direct message to a Facebook “stranger,” then that member is now charged for attempting such contact. All these new Facebook rules and regs serve one primary purpose....not the ostensible purpose of enhancing Facebook revenues but rather the insidious and covert suppression of rebellious ideas that might be communicated and disseminated across a broad spectrum of society. It is nothing less than Wall Street and the corporations reasserting control over the cybersphere, quashing the populist internet rebellion, once and for all.
In the realm of music, if an internet company wants to take itself public, as Pandora Radio recently did, then it better cease exposing unsigned artists on its station. Again, in a personal example, Pandora invited Catman Cohen to join its playlist some seven years ago (pre-IPO), placing the first and second Catman Cohen CDs into its playlist.....and then following its IPO, Pandora summarily rejected subsequent Catman Cohen CDs....and that is not an anomaly, rather it appears to be the shared negative experience of many other unsigned artists who once received exposure upon Pandora before it sold its soul to Wall Street.
Alas and alack, the internet is now controlled today by monopolists/ oligopolies in a perfect reflection of the bricks and mortar world In which we live. What is particularly disturbing about this new and dismal status quo is this: as people spend even more time upon the internet, Wall Street and its corporate fraternity have succeeded in directing populist dissent away from the streets onto the message boards of all variety of internet sites. Today, a young person thinks scrawling a derogatory sentiment upon his Facebook Wall concerning some controversial societal issue is the equivalent of taking to the streets and marching upon the Pentagon, the White House, the New York Stock Exchange, or the property of a corporation perpetrating crimes against the environment.
Your corporatist puppet-masters would like you to believe that digital age myth because, as long as you do, as long as you confine your dissent to mere digital scrawls, then you will never disturb their sleep, nor their nefarious methods, with the kind of loud and visible clamor that genuinely “rocks their world” and induces real substantive change.