Friday, September 17, 2010

Music Channels need to end.

Hello loyal blog followers, I trust that all 15 of you have been keeping well? So I was on a break for the last month, travelling and then chilling out on Eid. Obviously a lots happened in the country since then which I've already addressed here in my column for the Express Tribune. But being away from Pakistan allowed me to gain some perspective on a whole bunch of things regarding the industry I'm in. So here, in my most self-important and pompous bit of writing yet, I tell you why our music channels need to stop existing.

Watching our local music channels on TV makes me want to find a blunt object and pay someone to slowly beat me to death with it. First of all, you can't call them music channels at all, at best their shows can be described as "time spent between advertisements". Now for everyone who's going to parrot back at me and say "they have to make money somehow yaar" that is no excuse for the mind numbingly stupid programming they have. Radio stations make it work all the time. Just because advertisements are a revenue stream it doesn't mean you can't manage them within quality programming.

To be fair, I know a lot of good, intelligent kids who genuinely wanted to work for music channels. They had visions of interviewing new and exciting bands, talking and promoting music, being innovative and having the chance to really entertain people with our own homegrown talent. Not one of them stuck around for more than a year. In fact as a general rule, they all left waving one middle finger in the air and having one index finger pointing to their balls. (not on the same hand, that's tricky to do...but not impossible..just saying). Nobody can deal with the incompetence and the sheer cynicism shown by the people at the top of the management.

Nobody else in the world is sticking with the same VJ format. VJ's are a thing of the past. No other music channels in the world have them. The typical formula here seems to be to pair a fresh faced, pretty 20 something girl with some obnoxious douchebag guy who is supposed to be streetwise and uses the word "tight" to describe something he finds appealing. I really feel for these kids. I know a lot of VJ's personally and most of them are nice people, smart and intelligent and they have a lot to offer. I've also heard directors barking orders at them telling them how to act so that the 'masses' will appreciate them. So the girls become stupider and the guys become more obnoxious. There is a strong sense of resentment against anything considered "Western" or intellectual or foreign or burger mostly because of the complexes of the directors working there.Eventually any sort of creativity or individuality that these kids would bring to a TV show is wiped clean and what we have is a parade of zombies on television who desperately pinball between different tv channels in the hopes that things will be different but they never are.

Bands are still chasing the dream out there. There's a few poor sods out there who are still investing their life's savings into recording that one killer song with the awesome video shot on 35mm. I truly feel sorry for these guys because they're relying on television channels to make them successful, which is the equivalent of taking a picture of a lump of your shit, putting it on TV and then expecting people to know that it is in fact your lump of shit.
TV channels will play your video for a week and then retire it. Heck they'll probably lose it. I wouldn't be surprised if they took your video out of the system after a week, gave it to one of the brain-damaged engineers working there who uses it to wipe his ass while singing the first verse of "Khamaj".
I recently went to a TV channel for an interview and they asked me what video of ADP's should they play. I told them to play "Nazar". They said they didn't have it. I told them that was impossible considering that it had already run a whole bunch of times when it was released and that I had personally delivered the video to them myself. To which they replied "The system was cleared out, so we lost most of the videos before 2006". I told them 'Nazar' came out in 2008. And I also pointed out that they were playing a song by Faakhir that came out in 2003.  They didn't even bother apologizing. They just remained silent while, I kid you not, I pointed and loudly laughed at them calling them out on how they were blatantly lying to me.

TV channels aren't even trying. A lot of apologists are going to come back at me saying they don't have budgets. If you don't have a budget then please exit the market. Please close up shop. Cut your losses and end. But the black cynicism prevailing through every single one of these channels is that "we'll just put Bollywood Songs on television. "The 'masses' love them jhankaar beats! Oh and we get to show indian actresses half-naked and defying gravity with hips and nips, they'll love it.". What you're seeing is an insult to your intelligence. What music channel producers are saying is that you are too stupid and too horny to deserve any better.

Our 'masses' deserve better. They deserve intelligent, smart programming. They deserve to know about upcoming bands. They deserve to see live concerts with great sound recording, shot by professional directors rather than three dudes with cameras. They deserve to see profiles, reports and news about our mainstream artists, what they're upto and what they plan to do. They deserve to see hot girls doing something more than just coming on screen being shot from the waist up taking calls from semi-retarded people and simply telling you when they're going to break for ads. They deserve to see something special on Eid rather the hellish "Eid Lounges" year after fucking year asking the same questions. More than anything our public deserves to watch and listen to Pakistani music videos and judge for themselves, develop their own taste and have a fucking clue about the music scene today. Don't for one bit buy the myth that TV channels are simply giving people what they want. People want to hear music, and they want to hear good Pakistani music, so blaming Bollywood for being so darn sexy that you can't play anything else is insulting to everyone involved.

I probably wouldn't have written this piece 3 years ago when I too was one of those desperately struggling bands offering to whore myself just so you could play my music video. I realize with this post I might be burning a lot of bridges. But for once I dont find myself caring. We've already been banned by one music channel and you know what, no one even fucking knew about it. Because the incredible thing that has happened is that within the last year or so, the TV channels are now finding themselves increasingly irrelevant as the Internet is becoming THE place to find out about the latest Pakistani music. Nothing makes me happier than seeing a website like KoolMuzone. These kids are true blue Pakistani music fans and they will promote everyone from indie bands to big mainstream artists. It's the most exciting thing I've seen for the music scene in a long long time. Fans can access the complete videography of their favourite artists, they get updated with the latest news, they get links to the latest articles anyones writing about the scene and its a fantastic resource for them to give their feedback directly to the artist. The best thing about them is that if you like a song after seeing its video, you can just download it, right there and then. To me, that's what music videos are supposed to be about, THE MUSIC. The visuals should always be secondary.
In short, websites like KoolMuzone, PakMusic and Pakium are doing everything music channels should be, except they're doing it faster and better. They are the true future of our music scene. I think the next step would be for them to start having their own hosts, and their own online shows that would give talented actors and personalities a chance to operate outside the bounds of the staid television mores and that's what has me really excited.

So if you're a band out there, don't spend your scarce resources on making a wildly expensive music videos and chasing TV channel execs. Expensive music videos out there are already becoming obsolete. If your music is good and you kick ass as a live performer, I promise people will notice you. Spend your time putting your videos online, building a website, maintaining a happening facebook page and having an online presence on Pakistani music websites. It's the way to go and the smart ones out there are already recognising it.