Monday, November 26, 2007

Jingle Bells

At the LA Auto Show, the prominent color this year was green. Hybrids, Variable Displacement, Fuel Cells and all things gas-saving were in the spotlight. Even the Porsche SUV, the Cayenne, had a partially electric version on display (though still a plan rather than a buy-able product). Cadillac displayed a hybrid Escalade that had chrome “Hybrid” badges big enough to compete with the 22-inch rims. It seems like the bigger and more guzzle-riffic the vehicle, the harder the manufacturer was trying to convince us they had the interests of the planet in mind. The car companies even hired hot chicks with a natural make-up and natural chests to hand out brochures – a sign of the depth of their commitment to the new, green way of the world.

Everyone knows that hybrids are not the answer. Hybrids are the methadone to the problem, They are a good step, and much better for our health that the hard stuff, but as long as we love that rush/horsepower – we are still gonna be watching movies about sad penguins on shrinking ice and news reports about “national interests” in distant places where lots of dinosaurs and plants died millions of years ago.

So the car companies were posing like they had it all figured out. They licensed some power-train technology from Toyota, slapped it in their three-ton pick-ups and the problem is solved. Right?!?

The record industry in a similar state. Radiohead and digital downloads make news. The industry giants are touting new ways of doing business and acting like they have solved their problems, but they have not. In late 2007, anyone with a couple of hundred million dollars could place the “Buy It Now” bid for Warner Bros Records on Ebay and receive free-shipping on their very own music conglomerate. The problem is, anyone smart enough to have that kind of money is also smart enough to realize they are better off buying Enron stock.

There are lots of smart people in the music business, and they are doing the best they can but there are no quick fixes. There are smart people at GM, too – and right now the best they have is green stickers to put on the back of the enormous SUVs that were uber-profitable for them just three years ago.

One thing big companies do really well – is act like everything is okay. What else can they do? So right now, the colorful lights make the top of the Capitol Records Building look like a Christmas tree, just like when Sinatra was moving units. What else are they gonna do? Not put up the lights?

Hybrids or no hybrids, Detroit (and Tokyo, and Stuttgart) have solutions to find if they wanna still be having the LA Auto Show in 20 years.

If the Capitol Records Building gets bought up by the Chinese government (and painted with lead paint, of course), they can still hang the Christmas lights every December. It will be just as pretty and only the old timers will be grumbling that it doesn’t mean what it used to. Most people don’t give a shit what the old-timers grumble about.

The music industry needs to move past their current stage of acting like it is all good while they rearrange the deck chairs when no one is looking. A “hybrid” sticker on the CDs that don’t really sell isn’t fooling anyone. Right now, we are still at the stage where Sony/BMG having a myspace page or Universal being big on YouToogle comes off like a solution. Please submit all suggestions to the Capitol Building, ASAP.

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