How Men Have Been Conned

Saturday, 21 July 2007

[Picture of Bay City Rollers]WHAT is it to be a man these days?

This is clearly a problem; something seems to have gone wrong — and I suspect it has something to do with selling products.

Take pop music for example, and compare this with an earlier time.

When I was younger, pop music was for kids. Not adults. Just kids. And as these kids grew older, the proportion of girls increased as the number of boys decreased until pop music was completely for young girls. The early teenage girl market was catered for by magazines and pop music. Boys split broadly into two camps at this stage — a section left music completely for sport (usually football), and the rest ‘got into music’ — but it was not pop music (a.k.a. chart music).

[Picture of David Cassidy] [Picture of David Essex] [Picture of Smash Hits magazine with Bryan Ferry on Cover]

So a young girl in the 1970s and 80s, reading ‘Smash Hits’ or ‘My Guy’ magazine, would be thrilled with recording (onto compact cassettes) the BBC Radio One Chart Show for the latest pop music hits, and would scream at concerts for David Cassidy, David Essex , Bryan Ferry, and — of course, The Bay City Rollers.

This was a market created by those who created The Beatles in the 1960s. From Showaddywaddy and Mud to The Police, the charts were filled with young men and the market was girls.

By contrast, boys had turned their backs on The Charts and were exploring genres — Heavy Metal, Progressive, Country, Jazz, Fusion, Rock, Blues and so on. They would dress in a style and identify with a subcultural group that had its own identity and music. Artists could bank on loyalty from their fans — boys would buy the whole collection of albums by an artist they liked.

There would be cool record shops, such as ‘Listen Records’ which were NOT on the list of sales outlets included in making up the pop chart.

There was a subsection of lads who went further into a genre — especially for musicians. These musical lads would explore modern fusion, world music or delve deeper into original old blues.

But for most, while girls bought singles that showed up in the Pop Charts, boys were buying albums.

[ELP Logo]Funnily enough, the bands that were preferred by boys were probably more popular and sold more records, filled more concert seats and made more money than so-called pop acts. Bands such as Pink Floyd, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Robin Trower, The Eagles and Genesis were massive, but not on the pop chart.

There were clashes, particularly when Punk came out and opposed the Chart-biased Record Companies, The general Music Business and even the Progressive album bands — which they called boring old farts. This brings to mind earlier times — Mods versus Rockers — and with Led Zeppelin, Cream and Jimi Hendrix, the origins of music as part of male culture and allegiances.

I have stated elsewhere that Punk won, (in opposing the record companies), but Punk also lost because it stood for thinking-for-yourself, for not being manipulated or told what to do or think.

[Picture of football fan (England)]The bottom line, really, is that back then, to be a man was not to be sold to. To be a man was all about making uninfluenced decisions, forming bonds and joining a subcultural group — finding an identity, an affinity with others through music. If an artist made a single that charted, they would be accused of ‘selling out’ and fans would abandon and disown them. Men supported a football team whether the team was doing well or not.

A man could not be marketed or targeted as a result.

[Thin Lizzy Logo]Nevertheless bands made lots of money and achieved album chart success, and this has always been taken as more palatable, honourable and manly.

But everything has now changed.

Look around you now. Men in their 30s and 40s are buying chart music! They are going to T-in-The-Park and Glastonbury to sit in muddy crowded fields listening to pop bands playing their latest chart single!

The advertising and marketing companies have succeeded in reaching men. They have done this by exploiting the uncertainty of modern male roles — [see Clipped News article] — metrosexual, retrosexual, pomosexual and contrasexual men are new groupings designed to replace groupings such as biker, skinhead, punk, and hippy. One Third of men now live alone, so perhaps pop music is a way of appearing trendy and young in order to do better with women.

[Picture of T In The Park] [Picture of Glastonbury]

I feel so sorry for today’s young men. But I feel more sad for those of my age who have lost themselves to the admen. They no longer get the rush and excitement that only envelope-pushing music can give. They have traded the dirty, smelly, authentic venue for the posh new concert hall, multi-use conference centre, or stadium.

And it’s not confined to music — today’s men don’t go to watch small local football teams any more. It’s all about satellite TV Channels and marketing.

The power has shifted.

And as the record companies and record shops die as a result of Internet downloads, TV and radio become evermore important in selling an artist to the trend followers — we need to be told what to like, we need the comfort of knowing that everyone else is listening to the same rubbish on their iPods.

When The Beatles hit the Big Time, up came a load of soundalike bands — The Merseybeat was the term used, even still — Radiohead, Coldplay, The Killers, Keene, Arctic Monkeys, Razorlight, and Snow Patrol all sound much the same. That’s business — see a success and cash in on it. The thing that has changed is who is buying it, and I simply cannot believe that men are buying this pop rubbish and probably watching X-Factor as well!

My, how times have changed, and how sad that we need to be told what to like. The Internet offers unbelievable potential for exploration and investigation of artists and music — if only modern guys would see that and become empowered once again.

One Response to “How Men Have Been Conned”

  1. theworldaccordingtomorpheus Says:

    I’m now 56 (sob) and so I did a whole HISTORY of Pop and Dance going back to its origins in 1920, right through to its recent DEATH. Check it out at theworldaccordingtodamien – it’s 2,800 words, but you might find it interesting.

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