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By Johnny Angel

Make Book On It:
Peel the skin from the back-stabbing, two faced music industry and you find a back-stabbing, two faced music industry

I have made this column a screeding ground for all kinds of curmudgeonly tirades and rants, but I gotta admit that much of what I rail on about isn't so much music itself, or the sociology of band hypery, but about the chief nemesis of every real music fan and musician--the music business itself.

So when I got my grubbies on Bruce Haring's ass-kicking new exposé, Off the Charts., I was as fully stoked as a sober man can be. Haring, the former music editor of the Daily Variety and a current BAM columnist, pulls no punches in his tireless uncovering of various industry heavyweights peccadilloes. Raking SBK head Charles Kopplemann over the coals, lambasting bean-counters like former Warner Brothers chief Robert Morgado, tearing the flimsy layer off self-congratulatory back-patting that is the bane of these self-proclaimed arbiters of public taste, Haring picks up where Hit Men left off.

Fascinating stuff, and a must for any act clamoring to ink a deal with a major label. Haring details how Kopplemann built up the pop trio Wilson Phillips with so much inflated hype that the three young women had to fall flat on their faces, or how he rammed Vanilla Ice down the throats of the American public with such aplomb, only to find zero interest in the Caucasian clown's buffoonery once the cover was blown offa that hopeless sucka. I'd say you'd better trot down to your local bookstore and ante up the bucks cuz this is a must tome for those who wanna read the truths that ain't nowhere near Grammy-ville.

And I gotta admit the book brought me, a working musician, down a bit. The Music Industry is one of the seamier trades to ply for a koan or two, and Haring is unsparing with reminders of who makes all the real lucre and why. But just yesterday, I had a conversation with a Warner exec as per the foibles and fables of the business, and she righteously picked up my spirits after I'd told her that my band was putting out its own disc, rather than go through the hell of dealing with another round of record-label misery.

"I see every new act putting out their own records in the future," said this veep who, for obvious reasons, preferred to remain nameless. "The blockbuster mentality that states that all new acts must have Alanis-type numbers is killing us. And when these newcomers can't follow-up, they're dirt. [In Haring's book, the sad saga of Arrested Development is proof-perfect of this fact.] Better to put out your own stuff, and work it via low-budget tours and the Internet"

And we intend to. But if you wanna deal with the biggees, pick up Off the Charts. It'll spare you a lotta heartache down the road.

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From the April 11-17, 1996 issue of Metro Santa Cruz

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