2000’s Rock

Fear was palatable as the millennium arrived. But there was no technological meltdown or social breakdown – only vague rumblings about possible terrorist attacks. Like that could happen.

The 2000 election featured a vice-president, Al Gore, against the son of a former vice-president (and president) who had also been governor of Texas, George W. Bush. It was one of the closest elections in history with W. pulling out the win.

In 1999, the music industry suffered it’s first of several down years. That damn technology, downloading and file sharing, was blamed. Of course, price fixing and a general drop in CD content quality were not mentioned by the labels. Too bad, because that had as much to do with the lower sales and revenue figures as anything.

Then a year later, online businesses collapsed. The wild internet growth that powered much of the 1990s economic boom behaved like any other business. Yes, the dotcoms, Wall Street darlings, were expected to make money and turn a profit. No! It turns out to be a cruel world after all.

All the music industry woes and online whining were immediately pushed aside by the events of 9/11. The 2001 attacks on New York’s World Trade Center (the twin towers) and Washington D.C. were terrifying. More than 3,000 died. Soon, U.S. troops were in Afghanistan hunting down El Qaida terrorists and their leader Osama Bin Laudin. El Qaida and their Afghan sponsors split for the hills and Bin Laudin showed up on video just often enough so people couldn’t forget he was still at large.

Rock groups played 9/11 fund raisers and performed for the troops. Others referenced recent events in song. Initially, it was a time of coming together and rallying around the flag.

Before a new (and friendly) government was even established in Afghanistan, the U.S. bore down on Iraq, the site of Gulf War I. Charges of supporting terrorism and the alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) were offered as the reasons for toppling Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship.

Few had any doubts about Afghanistan but Iraq was a different matter. After a lengthy debate, the U.S. went in and quickly scored a victory. It came to a head when president Bush landed on an aircraft carrier off San Diego. Wearing a flight suit, the one-time National Guard dodger, proclaimed “mission accomplished in Iraq.” Of course, within days all hell broke loose. The quick triumph was turning into a long struggle. Iraqi insurgents (with help from foreigners) refused to pack it in.

And what of Hussein’s cache of weapons of mass destruction? There weren’t any. Big surprise. So the powers-that- be tried to invent new war rationales. They kept at it until one stuck – spread democracy in the Middle-East and liberate the Iraqi people.

The record industry had its own WMD issue. It was digital downloading. An already reeling industry saw consumers amassing a music collections without paying for them. That was followed by rampant file sharing. They tried busting consumers but that only made them look heavy-handed, greedy and desperate. But no matter, the industry was fighting for its life.

The record industry has always look for the simple solution. In a business that allegedly promotes creativity and expression, it lacks both. When the accountants took over, in the 1980s, the bottom line ruled. Industry consolidation exacerbated the issue. It was all about money, not music. Whatever the product, the motto was do it cheap with large margins.

DVDs should have been the next big boon for the record industry. But given the environment, DVDs merely kept the industry’s head above water. They held more content than could be reasonably downloaded and it all still fit on a plastic disc (or two). The discs cost next to produce. Perfect.

As legal downloads (songs for a fee) gained traction, the industry needed something that would benefit their long time partners, the music retailers.

The first development was the enhanced CD with songs and videos. Good idea. Add value. Save the CD format. The videos were give-aways (promotional) already. DVDs went a little further. Consumers got songs, videos and more. The “more” was usually live tracks, interviews and behind the scenes footage.

As DVDs became popular they became as predictable as death. Concert footage was nice, but the real attraction of a show is seeing it live, with a couple thousand close personal friends, and watching a group feed off the energy. It’s not the same seeing it alone at home. Interviews tended to be pedestrian. Truthfully, musicians don’t make the most brilliant interview subjects. Endless months on the road, vices and whatever else, takes the edge off. There are Rockers who have something to say, but they are few and far between. The behind the scenes footage was much the same. For those who like seeing someone’s vacation photos or spend an evening watching home movies, this was of some interest. It was a snooze for everyone else. Still, groups, both old and new, shoved DVDs into the marketplace.