This week, it's time to turn inward a little – and look at songs written about the music industry. Needless to say, this kind of song is almost always written in a negative light (I can't think of any positive examples – if you can, I'd love to hear from you), and here are ten examples of this very craft. Any other suggestions – this list was a bloody hard one to collate – welcome as always.
Paint A Vulgar Picture
Strangeways Here We Come
Quite possibly the ultimate song about the music industry, almost every single lyric in this track holds true today, over twenty years on. Based around the idea of a record label dealing with the death of one of their artists, their first reaction isn't mourning, but instead how it will boost their bottom line:
Re-issue! Re-package! Re-package!
Re-evaluate the songs
Double-pack with a photograph
Extra Track (and a tacky badge)
Now here's an artist who has had his fair share of record label trouble. Indeed, he set up his own label (the title of this song, in fact) to enable the release of his second album, and this slow shuffle of a track is the sound of Rico getting his feelings about the music industry off his chest:
We will release the records your way, your way…
Yeah. That's what they all say
A pointed barb, perhaps, at a number of things that affected him (and surely also at his cover of Psycho Killer, a track I've never seen Rico play live, and as I recall was released as a single against his will).
The message from this artist's travails with is quite simple: 'fuck the music industry'. And while he has undoubtedly had issues along the way, it is particularly ironic, I guess, that he is the son of a record industry executive…
Long Live The UK Music Scene
Long Live the UK Music Scene 7″
A sneering-but-somehow-gleeful attack on the hysteria surrounding the Britpop boom. Lo-fi, barely-produced Ramones-style pop, the song doesn't amount to much but the lyrics – and the namechecking of all kinds of people from the time – make it an interesting snapshot of the time from some barely-known outsiders…
In fact, the mid-90s appeared to be a great time to be writing comment on other music scenes. Loads of bands were doing it, and these guys were no exception. This was something of a brutal attack on the fanzine culture, and trying to be more indie-than-thou.
At The Club
A bloody marvellous piece of pop-punk, this (and to this day one of the few Kenickie songs I have any time for at all). And to add to the fun, it's a(nother) vicious attack on indie culture – in this case, the lo-fi scene that tried to flourish for a short while and then either disappeared up it's own arse or went back underground, it's difficult to tell.
Favourite Worst Nightmare
Bringing things a little more up-to-date, another brilliantly worded song from Sheffield's current band of the moment – whose obtuse lyrics appear to be laying into the various music "talent" shows that take up so much of the Saturday evening TV schedules, and the record labels put so much money into to guarantee quick sales…
15 Minutes of Fame
And along similar lines, 15 Minutes of Fame works in the same kinda way. Maybe not fully about music, but it's sentiment holds true (particularly in the context of what the Arctic Monkeys are on about)…
This Year’s Model
Another marvellous track, this was a protest at the commercial nature of radio (and many station's refusal to play punk at the time, amongst other things). And like many songs in this list, it's argument still holds true today.
For the last item, it isn't a particular song – it's a whole band's output. The KLF's mastery of the music they released, as well as all the stunts besides – the book detailing how to write and release a number one single, their infamous BRIT Awards antics in '92, their "alternative" art award, the burning of £1,000,000 (that was filmed) – was either proof of true pop genius or simply a very elaborate joke. Always doing things their own way – their entire catalogue remains deleted, perhaps a comment on the disposability of pop music? – they are perhaps the ultimate "fuck you" to the music industry.