by Jack Rampant (b. 1984)
In one of Bruce Springsteen’s most recent hits he sings, “This is Radio Nowhere. Is there anyone alive out there?” Each time I hear him on the radio, I scream, “Yes! Me, my friends, and my favorite bands!” There are people my age playing songs with conscious lyrics. But you can’t, or don’t hear us, Boss. Why not?
I am a musician and many of my musical cohorts are writing excellent songs. They stick in your head, the lyrics are meaningful, poignant, and reflective of the lives we lead as young people in a strange new century, and in a nation at a crossroad. But Springsteen is right. The radio is nowhere, playing to nobody, and what’s worse, playing nobody. At least, nobody new.
The median age of artistic success seems to be getting ever-older in front of us, so most artists in their twenties and thirties have yet to be heard. Old names like Tom Petty and Bob Dylan, and dead names like The Beatles, who all broke into the mainstream young, still hog the covers and columns of Rolling Stone, while bands our age face a catch 22. Labels prefer their old stars. New names can only get “development” deals, which sign artistic rights away to the company. They can’t just sell our music because of the internet. They need control of merchandising. A band can’t survive without that profit in pocket. Result? Canned trash goes to market, and the market value of artistic greatness plummets.
If Springsteen would like to hear who’s “alive out there,” he should spend some time reforming the business, though I don’t expect him to be able to. The universal soapbox which is mySpace severely blurred the line between amateur and professional. It looks like a screen door for real talent to get through, but it’s a façade. It is a lucrative advertising business, which devalues developing artists and their work.
If we are all allotted 15 minutes of fame, most of us are out at least five, in particularly unsatisfying platforms, devoid of respect for our craft. Our voice, then, is yet to be defined, as we reach the age when the Boomers’ heroes were already dead. We’re taking a slower road, hoping for a hand. Our poets will be discovered postmortem. In the meantime, enjoy the silence.
Jack Rampant is an incredible guitar player. If anyone ever hears him, they'll agree.