The Anti-Grammy Campaign

The Anti-Grammy Awards
From: (Nicholas F. Polys)

We are holding this press conference (Feb. 23) to announce the formation of Transcendent Funktions, a league of disgruntled artists, entertainers, independent record labels, film companies and publishers, and politically dissident groups who are absolutely fed up with the deterioration of quality and lack of substance which pervades the mainstream culture of today's society. This is not just another bleeding heart leftist movement of complainers. In fact this movement is not at all about left vs. right or right vs. left. It is about the truth versus the lies and that which stems from the root of lies. The time has come to fight back. Being that we live in an age of extreme terrorism, it seems appropriate that our initiatory act be to engage in a a healthy dose of entertainment terrorism.

Let it be known that the coalition, through various guerilla methods and tactics, has infiltrated every facet of the Grammy awards celebration- from executive members of The Recording Academy to Radio City Music Hall Security, from video technicians to artists actually nominated for the much coveted award- and that we are poised to fully disrupt the Grammy Awards ceremony.

Let it also be known that there is somewhere on the order of 5-10,000 protesters from New York to California, and from England to Russia, planning to come down to Radio City Music Hall on Wednesday, February 25th to express their disgust for an awards ceremony which redeems a system that promotes and perpetuates illusion. These demonstrators have all expressed that they are are sick of feeling like tools of the current corporocracy when they watch such gross spectacles of media hype and cultural stagnation as the Grammy Awards.

In conjunction with the protest, we will be throwing the Anti-Grammy Awards at Coney Island High beginning at 10:00 pm the same night. Just as the Grammy Awards represent the music industry's enslavement of artist's to the almighty dollar, the Anti-Grammy's will showcase artists who have clearly not compromised their artistic message for sterile pop acceptance. Winning the Best Metal Performance is CANDIRIA . Winning Best Rant/Spoken Word is The SubGenius Foundation . Winning Best New Artist is OSIVA . Winning the Lifetime Achievement Award is John Hall of King Missile fame. And winning Best New Album is Atari Teenage Riot? Sonic Youth? Ween? Bob Dylan? M. Manson?

We realize that there are many groups who espouse an activist approach to the injustices of the status quo, and that the power of solidarity is not a novel idea. What separates Transcendent Funktions from the rest is our comprehensive transcendent paradigm and the sheer audacity to initiate the revolution long overdue. We are not fascists, but catalysts. Thus this campaign is not directed against any particular artists, or the Recording Academy for that matter, but against the system that perpetuates hollow, homogenized pop-for-profit; against that part of the music industry dominated by financially induced hype instead of creative substance.

So what is the origin of this detestable mediocrity? What is the motivating influence which results in the emphasis on quantity over quality? Believe it or not, MONEY. How surprising. It is the need for the major record companies to make money for their shareholders which is the ultimate source of this vicious cycle of cultural stagnation. Thus, because major labels care more about selling units than about quality artistic content, they base their product on sales trends and demographics. Major labels scramble to find the "Next Hot Thing" which, once "discovered", becomes the cast-mold for a dozen copy-cat rip-offs.

This practice inevitably kills that "Next Hot Thing" at which point the labels leave the artist for dead, and madly scurry for the "Next Hot Thing". For example, we've seen it happen with Nirvana and the "Grunge scene", where the music industry virtually strip-mined the artist community of Seattle, destroying any possibility for new artistic integrity, and effectively draining every iota of quality out of established artists. We also watched this phenomenon effect an entire genre, the so-called "alternative" genre. We are currently witnessing a similar situation with every major record label scrambling to sign their very own ska artist and female rocker. According to Billboard Magazine and The Nation, "Such ?-signing is one of the biggest problems in the industry", "freezing out musicians who fit an image set by someone else." And to quote Michael Greene, the President/CEO of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (the official body which presents the actual Grammy awards): "The shortsighted slash-burn policies of the '90's have virtually eradicated any kind of sound, coherent approach to the development of new talent."

The result of signing young artists not for their musicianship, but because they fill a lucrative marketing niche is at the core of the mediocrity which we are protesting. Quite often the artist signed is without talent to begin with. To again quote Grammy Chief Michael Greene, "A&R folks [talent scouts] run in packs, desperate to sign the flavor-of-the-month acts, many of whom are just learning to tune their instruments.". As Mark Crispin Miller puts it writing for The Nation, if the artist does actually make it, "that corporate pressure never to be different can be as stifling as rejection." The artist all of a sudden finds their creative impulses stunted and enslaved for the sake of selling units. God forbid if their follow-up album doesn't sell as many units as their breakthrough album. The artist is then considered to have "fallen off" musically, and is often ditched. And once again the public is left with a superficial product that won't mean a thing to them six months down the line.

The question then becomes why, if there is no substance to the music, are there 11 million people shelling out $15 to hear it. How can the public be so blind as to not be turned off by the blatant bullshit? Well for one thing, the widely debated notion that humans functioning in a mass society are for the most part easily led into belief systems by a ruling elite is unfortunately true. However the public's laziness is not entirely to blame. There is a slicker, more deceptive force at work. The marketing strategists of the corporate giants in every industry have recognized that over the past eight years the language of "extreme", "alternative", and "rebellion" are palatable trappings for wholesale normalcy. The public is consistently duped into the conventions of mainstream culture by marketing schemes which purport to represent 'hip' counterculture. Tom Frank in an essay featured in the December 1997 issue of Utne Reader writes perceptively:

"Liberation marketing takes the critique of mass culture- consumerism as conformity- fully into account, acknowledges it, examines it, and resolves it. ... Dissidence has been channeled into the marketplace; existential rebellion is becoming just as powerful an element of brand loyalty as the 12 ways in which Wonder Bread built strong bodies ever were."

It is indeed the record companies which, nine times out of ten, ultimately decide the fate of the artist's music. According to the December 27, 1997 year-end issue of Billboard Magazine, "Labels continued to exercise their own form of selective reduction in 1997, deciding which acts lived and which died by the most capricious of means. We watched many records that we thought were sure hits die on the vine when success didn't happen immediately... Labels seemed to almost decide before an album came out whether it would be worked or not." Whether an album is worked or not depends on whether or not a record label is willing (and able) to invest the staggering amount of money which is practically required to get on major radio and MTV and into mass-societal consciousness. With this system, it is almost impossible to achieve popularity without exorbitant amounts of money. Hmmm, the almighty dollar sign strikes again.

This insidious mass-marketing machine not only dresses the illusion of quality music in pretty clothes, but also makes sure it is everywhere all the time. With radio for example, they stack the play lists so listeners are sure to hear that 'new hit song' 2 or 3 times an hour. Oversaturating the public with this music is not only annoying and oppressive, but it also has the adverse results in that the public gets sick and tired of hearing that song- and having to endure it AGAIN and AGAIN. Sandy Carter from Z-Magazine (December 1997) exposes this dynamic:

"... the most serious problem is market saturation. During the last five years, the relentless marketing of hip-hop, "alternative" rock, and "new" country has overexposed and used up artists and music genres that only recently fueled consumer consumption. And while industry bosses have been throwing obscene amounts of money at so-called proven superstars and hoped for the next-big-thing blockbusters, new and more challenging musicians have been ignored. As a result, the mainstream marketplace has become a wasteland of boring copycat "superstars" with short shelf life and little artistic credibility".

So then why focus all of our dissatisfaction on the Grammy Awards? After all the winners are chosen by an academy of "musicians, producers, and other recording professionals" who are supposed experts in the general category of music in which they vote. The answer is both theoretical and practical [could use better synonyms]. First of all on the theoretical side, the Grammy awards are not the actual problem, but more a symptom of the problem. As the official award ceremony of the self-defeating system which rapes the creative landscape, the Grammies serve to validate and reinforce the bogus practices of corporations motivated by quick returns rather than compelling content. On the practical side, the abilities of the voting members of the Recording Academy are suspect. Remember, this is an academy which awarded the corporate-puppet duo of Milli Vanilli a Grammy for a song they never sang. This is an academy which awarded Jethro Tull a Grammy for Best Metal Performance, for crying out loud. Such embarrassing flubs cast serious doubt on the competence of the Academy to stay in touch with the realities of contemporary music.

Finally the question remains of what can we actually do to solve the problem. First of all, a fundamental mindshift must take place. Music and the arts must not be approached with the same assembly-line capitalist mindframe. The high rate of Number One albums (29 in 1997 as compared to 12 in 1993) is clearly indicative, as Billboard's Melinda Newman suggests, "that no acts stuck to listeners' musical ribs this year." Perhaps if we were talking about the manufacturing of cars or shoes this would be a suitable approach. However we are talking about the expressions of feeling and new ideas- an unquantifiable, extremely personal phenomenon which cannot be tainted by the profit motive, lest it lose its essential value and meaning. This is not to say that we are against capitalism. The competition which is fostered by capitalism is intended to yield a higher quality product with greater efficiency. However, it is when the desire to make money outweighs the requirements of quality that we see the limits of unchecked capitalism. The music industry has got to get back to basics.

Secondly, all people who are sick of this unchecked industry should unite together and check it. This is the purpose of Transcendent Funktions- a confederation of artists for the arts, dedicated to upholding the standards of quality essential for professional integrity. It is the mission of Transcendent Funktions to liberate music from the death-grip of corporate accountants through emerging communications technologies such as the World Wide Web.
Thus in April, we are launching the Transcendent Funktions web site whose primary function will be to circumnavigate the current industry system and distribute Quality Music and Multi-media. It is with the intelligent use of developing information technologies that artistic empowerment on such a massive scale can be achieved. The Web creates a level playing field on which we can be just as powerful as the majors.

This campaign is a call out to all the disenchanted idealists, the ripped-offed geniuses, and the spirits lulled into indifferent complacency. It is revolution by all means necessary for people like us and you who are tired of having valueless bullshit shoved down our throats by all the insidious forms of mainstream media. This is the call to arms for those of you who perhaps have slipped into passive acceptance of being a pawn to mediocre or misinformed ideas, etc. You people who had lost hope in any possibility for cultural redemption. Friends, it is time to shake off the distracting and hypnotic haze of television and corporate drivel. It is no longer enough to sit on the sidelines or the couch taking bong hits, and commenting on all the things that suck. This is the signal you've all been waiting for. It is time to initiate the Cultural Renaissance for the new age.

Nicholas F. Polys
Transcendent Recordings: Music for the New World Ardor
phone: (914) 883-9157

"If triangles had a god, he would have three sides"

Original file name: Fuck the Grammys

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