There has been a lot of talk lately about age discrimination in the music business, and it's becoming a more serious issue with every passing year.
For some reason, the problem seems to be more noticeable in country music. After an entertainer hits the age of 30, many record labels and radio stations consider them to be "over the hill." This idiotic attitude seems to be aimed more in the direction of female performers, causing it to become a sex discrimination problem, as well. The old boys manage to remain in action as long as they can pick the guitars and belt out the love songs.
I believe we have reached a point to where success in show business, especially in music, is based on video rather than audio. This is especially noticeable when viewing some of today's more popular television shows. They focus on new kids attempting to make it to the "big time" with their diversified talents. The value of the voice appears to be secondary to one’s appearance. Here, again, it seems to involve the little ladies more than the lads. If a female singer is beautiful, and dressed in a sexy garment, as she lays on a cute little smile and presents a "suggestive" dance while belting her song into the microphone, the voice is hardly noticeable. Being capable of singing on key isn't necessary. Of course, youth is also very important. The younger warblers have an extreme advantage.
It all comes down to the visual approach. Trouble is, this approach to success is also being utilized in the recording industry. Practically all of the major record labels release video gimmicks in order to pedal their products. This is a very expensive process. Therefore, they limit their investment to the younger sect -- most of them females -- with the most visual appeal. The voice and the song are simply added features.
It's been reported that CD sales have dropped by approximately 20 percent during the past year because most of the singers and the songs are lacking in appeal. Since record producers seem to consider an artist’s visual content over the audio, they have allowed inferior vocalists to become the premium products. As a result, the potential buying crowd has lost interest.
One of the most consistent statements I hear from those listening to my radio shows is, "All of the singers sound alike! Not only that, but all of the songs sound the same!" I totally agree. Original styling among today's so-called "superstars" is difficult to track. Here, again, I believe the producers are to blame. If one of the singing bunch happens to record a song that hits the best-seller music charts in the various magazines that cater to record sales, most all of the competitive producers will automatically attempt to find a singer who sounds like the kid who was lucky enough to warble that hit. They also try to find a song that has a similar melody and subject that the lyrics presented in that hit. Soon, you'll be hearing singers sounding almost identical to the original balladeer blabbering songs with the same message ... and with almost the same melody!
Creativity in music is becoming a thing of the past. The recording industry now uses the same theory that was utilized by the old Hollywood movie studios. "Copy the style!" "Copy the looks of those who are selling the tickets at the box-office!" The acting ability of the movie stars might be inferior, but if their names are written in big letters on the marquee at the local theater, they were the ones to imitate!
Here, once again, the talent is visual. The average movie fan could care less about what was said on the big screen. He was Clark Gable! She was Lana Turner! Then, there were those dozens of others under contract at the competitive studios who were lucky enough to "look" and "act" like Clark and Lana!
The Hollywood system dropped from existence decades ago, and movies took on a completely new approach. Now, most country music fans are of the opinion that record producers should also change trenches in order to recreate a sound they have cherished for generations. It's okay to present video takes on the musical releases, but make the sound a priority! Allow those special fans the opportunity to hear good singers capturing their hearts with good songs! Give them diversified song stylists instead of gorging them with assembly-line performers whining out mediocre lyrics and melodies that fail to touch the soul!
Nashville and Bakersfield might also give some serious thought to this. Hire some producers who actually appreciate the true-country sound. For years, the industry has angered the dedicated fans of authentic country by insulting them with something similar to "fizzy rock." It's been said that country music followers are the most loyal, dedicated fans on the planet. Those in charge of recordings should look around for more singers and songwriters like Hank, Lefty, Merle, Waylon and Willie. Insert a few more fiddles and steel guitars in the tunes! Sure, some of the so-called "country" radio stations refuse to air recordings with those instruments, referring to them as being too country. But some of those record producers should take note of the fact that many of those radio outlets have switched to all-talk formats or placed for sale signs on their lawns because their once devoted listeners switched the dial and never returned.
Now, back to the basic subject of this column.
Those experts who produce recordings and those in charge of the music at country music radio stations should stop setting age limits on some tremendous talent out there who deserve a chance to be heard. The good old boys will manage to hang in with their guitars as long as the honky-tonks and show rooms are open. But what about the little girls with the sweet voices and serious dreams?
There should be no bridges lifted on a female because she's approaching 30. Or 40. Or 60, for that matter. If the voice is there, and if the song is good, let the lady sing!
The Trucker staff can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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