In this short but thought provoking interview legendary “Smashing Pumpkins” guitarist Billy Corgan sits down with Brian Solis to discuss the state of the music industry and why he feels today’s musicians are treated like sex workers.
As powerful as the ideas expressed are, to my mind there is still a very dominant ‘marketing’ drive evident in this discourse. Is this the only basis from which to evaluate the arts?
The present capitalist economic/advertising/self-promotion market system is the only context we have at present, but could it be seen as being similar to a picture of condemned prisoners on death row squabbling over who gets the best cell with regards to proximity to the exit door leading to the inevitable gallows? Is there not another way?
Should artists be like common disposable commodity hawkers? … going around with cap in hand, desperately peddling their art as commercial wares almost exclusively to the demands of the mostly uneducated and consumer driven masses, usually at minimum rates just to fill our stomachs?
Another angle is whether musicians and artists are themselves not selling their own souls to the “pimps” who offer the promise of sustenance or “fame?” Many musicians perform under the false allure of “exposure”. .. not unlike the sex worker on street corners selling themselves in hope for a fee essentially determined by the buyer. Are musicians and artists themselves not living lives just like sex workers when they participate in this type of seedy transaction?
Personally I am very concerned at the toll this is taking on the arts and culture on a deep level. Perhaps the desperation for survival, scratching out an existence, is only adding to the degradation of society and humanity as we see it in our day?
For me this is no more glaring and disturbing as in the Christian music and specifically the so called “Worship” industry today.
Music and the arts in the spiritual realm of human consciousness is an expression of the ethereal in the most powerful way. Through it we are able to explore new dimensions of meaning, new frontiers of communication and understanding. The arts were there long before we ordered and symbolized our means of communication in symbols and cognitive speech and thought patterns. The example a Christ reveals how he chose the metaphor in parables and the mysteries of “supernatural” demonstrations in word and deed to convey deep and challenging ideas to a culture essentially stuck and locked in to superficial memes and limited two dimensional language.
To harness the creative arts and bring it under the power and control of popular culture and the surface tension of linear thought and communication is to place a lid on spirituality.
In the New Testament writings we are challenged not to conform to the patterns of the world but instead to be transformed by the renewing of our minds in order that we might test and approve the perfect will of God for our lives and for our times. But at least to my mind it is blatantly clear that in churches world wide we seem mostly if not exclusively to follow trends and popularity stakes. We follow ‘feel-good’ consumerist systems in our ‘worship.” And the standards of this interaction are determined and set by the Christian worship industry and the “pop stars” who parade as its front, its representatives. Our “worship leaders’” and Christian “Pop Stars” do not seem to operate from a platform of a biblically renewed minds but rather seem blatantly to conform to the patterns of popularity and the success it offers in the world today – looking, speaking and sounding exactly like the regular music industry celebrities. Relevancy and spiritual accuracy and authority is measured by popularity and accessibility to the common ground of consumer sentiment.
In our churches we seem only willing to play that which we are led to believe has been tried and tested by the Christian worship industry as if it has the divine anointing and authority with respect to the sounds of the Kingdom of God but which is instead almost exclusively run on aggressive capitalistic, strictly profit based, manipulative economic strategies, – methods copied verbatim from the successfully implemented patterns of a greedy and an undeniably profit motivated secular music industry. After all, it’s pure business, right?
I have asked as many pastors of churches as I can if they would feel happy if instructed not to preach from their own individual heart perspective but instead to copy a great audio or DVD teaching by one of the great present day popular Christian preachers as their regular congregational church sermon, … following each word exactly (or as best they can) , using the same analogies, the exact same visual prompts and effects. The answer I received each time, even though the “popular Christian preacher” was deemed acceptable and even highly regarded and embraced as theologically sound and “anointed by God” was always, “no.”
Yet amazingly those same pastors instruct their worship leaders and musicians to copy verbatim (or as best as they possibly can) what is popular and selling in the Christian retail outlets worship CD and worship DVD racks.
If we believe that there is a “Holy Spirit” amongst us who dwells in each believer and leads each believer into all truth, taking what belongs to Jesus and making it know to each as the bible says, … why do we only permit the singing of songs by the industry backed and promoted superstars?
What is this repetitious sensual liturgy amongst us?
Where are the “new songs” expressed in and from the hearts of the local redeemed of the Lord?
Sometimes it even feels like God lives exclusively in USA or Australia these days.
I also ask the question, “why are today’s Christian musicians and creative artists being treated like sex workers?”
And why are we letting it happen?