Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
News, analysis and commentary on the human condition from a black left perspective.

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR editor and columnist Jared Ball

The same billionaires that own vast natural resources, chemicals and real estate also control the musical culture that surrounds our everyday lives – and use that cultural dominance to tighten their economic and political stranglehold on humanity. The “Big 3” that monopolize the music industry deploy megabucks to produce consumers of both their products and their corporate worldview.

 

The 3 in “The Big 3”: The Music Industry and the Global Order of Things

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR editor and columnist Jared Ball

The music industry is another that is apparently considered by the international business and banking community to be ‘Too Big to Fail.’”

So the “3” in “The Big 3,” or the three largest music companies who dominate international popular culture, was just sold for $3.3 billion. Warner Music Group will now be owned by Access Industries. And just who is that? As they are happy to tell us, Access Industries is a “U.S.-based industrial group with long-term holdings worldwide.” Their “industrial focus” is in “three sectors” which include “Natural Resources and Chemicals… Real Estate” and “Media and Telecommunications.” They are run by Russian-born Len Blavatnik who is said to be personally worth roughly $10 billion. He is a friend and former Warner board member alongside current CEO Edgar Bronfman, Jr. and even bought Bronfman’s Manhattan penthouse for $50 million. The deal is being backed by banking giants UBS and Credit Suisse and each side is assured massive $50-60 million pay days should either back out of the deal before November. Word is also that Blavatnik plans to go after the “4” in “the Big 4” which is EMI and which is currently owned by another major banking institution, Citi. This is no small matter, all the heavy-hitters are in this mix and all protections for all involved are in place.

I have to say it again. From the perspective of those who own it the music industry is fine and what’s to come is going to be even better. For them the future is so bright… I won’t even bother to finish that line. Those who suffered the industry’s abuse in the 1980s know it well and can finish it for me. Which is also the point. The music industry is another that is apparently considered by the international business and banking community to be “Too Big to Fail.” This is why, despite those persistent claims that the music business is dying, major money steps in to preserve maintenance over the world’s popular culture. Yes, Blavatnik and Bronfman are reportedly friends but that’s not why the former is buying the company and assuming the $2 billion debt belonging to his friend the latter. No, as the head of media for Access Industries has said, “The music industry is at an inflection point where digital adoption is rapidly gaining momentum. Warner Music, as one of the most progressive forces in the music business, is well positioned to capture this opportunity for music creation and distribution."

Despite those persistent claims that the music business is dying, major money steps in to preserve maintenance over the world’s popular culture.”

On sports radio this week the one called the sport’s industry’s “Super Agent,” David Falk, discussed the now legendary deal he struck on behalf of Michael Jordan and Nike that resulted in the Air Jordan franchise which he says is still roughly 94% of the athletic shoe market. He talked about the role of advertising and why it was necessary for Nike’s ad budget to be roughly $5-600 million. Because, as Falk said, its this initial investment that yields Nike $20 billion in sales. In other words, Blavatnik’s investment in music is expected to bring cultural returns in the way his investment in Oxford University’s Blavatnik School of Business is meant to bring returns in the world of business. Each serve as advertisements and ads serve, of course, as promotion but also as assurances of control over content.

And what is that content? Judging by this week’s list of top 10 songs aired on radio across the country, of which Blavatnik’s new property owns 4, he is getting plenty to assure that no one raises a fuss about a world that makes him and his colleagues awfully powerful. Even with the Warner-owned Lupe Fiasco, who is proof that progressive ideas can be as hot as their opposite, the presence of artists like Pitbull, Wiz Khalifa and the New Boyz do more than erase his potential impact. And besides, as dope as he is, Lupe is only progressive in the musical vacuum created by the forced omission of Dead PrezGodsilla or Kelli Love Jones. It is no different than Obama being seen as progressive in the political vacuum left after the forced omission of Malcolm X, Dr. King or Cynthia McKinney.

Ownership of music and this kind of influence over popular culture is never about money. It is an investment in the advertising that protects against vital questions being raised about how our world is being governed and for whom it is so orderedIf we wiggle to or are distracted by his music we are less likely to raise questions about Blavatnik’s massive holdings in oil or in “the world’s third-largest independent chemical company,” or the “world’s largest vertically-integrated aluminum company.” More importantly, it is so we are less likely to raise questions about a world order that allows for these industries to exist at all or the profit they create to go only to a global handful.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Jared Ball. Online visit us at www.BlackAgendaReport.com.

Dr. Jared A. Ball is the author of I Mix What I Like! A Mixtape Manifesto (AK Press) and can be reached via: IMixWhatILike.com

Direct download: 20110511_jb_MusicIndustry.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:49am EDT