It seems like you can’t turn around this year without hearing about a musician’s death. It gives me a lot to think about, maybe because I’m getting old and it’s now my generation’s time to start losing everything we grew up with because life is fucking awful and always wants to remind us that we’re only temporary and some other deep-thought nonsense.
Bet you thought this was going to be about the circle of life and celebrating it? Nope, jokes on you, fuckers. No, this is about how we as an industry and culture use death as a way to profit one last time off the achievements of others that we had little to nothing to personally do with.
My first thought anytime a musician dies is, “wonder if my old boss sent out his usual text telling employees to set up displays and increase the prices of said artist’s vinyl before they’re even in the fucking ground?” Why such a cynical thought? Because every time an artist dies their back catalog shoots up in the charts as fans mourn and parasites get in position to feed off of their grief. It’s not an uncommon practice; go into many stores over the next few weeks and I guarantee they’ve moved their Prince records somewhere prominent. Same as when Bowie died, Lemmy, too. 2016 has had multiple Christmases for businesses with this shitty kind of ethical drive.
It’s the sad truth that while many artists are alive and struggling no one gives a shit about them but the moment they’re in morgue, the general public all of a sudden recognizes their talent and a feeding frenzy occurs. Double time if they died tragically since there’s nothing really erotic about someone dying in their sleep at the age of 89. And shysters are there to help drive up prices artificially, creating false collectability which, as I’ve discussed before, is leading us to a bubble whose sustainability is really beginning to run out. An unscrupulous record dealer once told me that Michael Jackson dying was one of the best things to ever happen to his business. It’s like he would scan the obituaries with a hard-on, hoping someone he had a good amount of stock of would be in them.
It’s not just people like the above that get into this: the labels are just as guilty. When an artist passes, labels practically fall all over each other scraping their archives for unreleased or unfinished material that they clog up the plants with trying to get out into the public before they lose interest and go on to the next dead artist. Check the upcoming releases a few weeks after someone shuffles off this shitty mud ball and I guarantee you’ll see half a dozen “greatest hits” collections being shit out like the labels ate some undercooked chicken. It’s fucking disgusting and serves no purpose other than filling their pockets quickly.
It’s not just music that people use to capitalize on someone’s death: think of the fucking merchandising possibilities! I’m sure when Lemmy died many of you saw shirts being advertised on Facebook by sponsored pages with names like “Motörhead Fans” or whatever, which memorialized him. Some even got cute and mixed Star Wars and Lemmy. These are the same companies that just put some line from a movie and a picture together and spam the shit out of social media trying to sell them before the copyright holders send cease and desists. Do you think that the estates of these artists see a dime from this shit? I sure fucking doubt it. It’s the same as a bootlegger making flags and patches that aren’t licensed. Sure you’re getting something that has an image or logo of a band you love but you aren’t supporting anyone but the greedy shitheel profiting off of someone else’s work. Stop giving these people money if you claim to support these bands or artists, you’re just feeding these parasites money when the only thing they deserve to be fed with is fresh dogshit.
I don’t give a fuck what genre you’re into—or even if you’re still reading this—but I do care that actions like those prior are obscuring the memory and the intent of those they seek to profit from. It makes music, an important escape for a lot of us, turn into another facet of the real world and its economic function and ethical drought. And the real world is a fucking awful enough place to exist in without good old fashioned American capitalism shoveling its dick into your morning oatmeal (or whatever you eat—I like oatmeal myself).
A final note: I understand it can be annoying if everyone on your social media feed is mourning the loss of an artist they admire that you, personally, could give a shit about. But for you to take a stand and piss on other people for doing so doesn’t make you brave, it doesn’t make your dick bigger, and it certainly only impresses the LCD who are already impressed by shit like flash lights and ice cubes: it just makes you an asshole. Fucking stop it.