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Songs about the unbearable process of making music?
May 13, 2014 8:44 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for songs about the music industry -- preferably negative.

I've pulled from memory and looked through the standard "top 10 songs about record contracts gone wrong" lists but want to go deeper. Especially looking for early meta-songs (pre-70s) about the industry and others I may have missed.

Example themes: Leaving the label, pissed at the label, nobody likes my new songs, nobody recognized my old songs, I've got to get my song on the radio, I miss the radio, I hate record execs, I hate everyone... you get the idea.
posted by RobotVoodooPower to Media & Arts (112 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
It's later than you want and you've probably already encountered it, but Eminem - The Way I Am?

I'm so sick and tired of being admired
That I wish that I would just die or get fired
And dropped from my label, let's stop with the fables
I'm not gonna be able to top on My Name Is
And pigeon-holed into some poppy sensation
To cop me rotation at rock-n-roll stations
And I just do not got the patience

posted by lwb at 8:48 PM on May 13


NIN - Starfuckers inc.
posted by deadwax at 8:50 PM on May 13


Reel Big Fish's Sell Out is a classic.

And maybe a slightly different angle but Ani DiFranco's Napoleon.
posted by Lutoslawski at 8:54 PM on May 13 [3 favorites]


Sex Pistol's EMI is an obvious example. Not pre-70s though.
posted by sockpup at 8:55 PM on May 13 [1 favorite]


Pink Floyd - Have a Cigar

Bob Marley's "Small Axe" is about this too (about the 'big three' labels at the time), but the lyrics don't give too much away.
posted by pompomtom at 8:56 PM on May 13 [1 favorite]


Fuck This Town -- Robbie Fulks
Please Play This Song On The Radio -- NOFX
EMI -- Sex Pistols
Radio Radio -- Elvis Costello and The Attractions
I Hate Alternative Rock -- Bob Mould

And: A Spotify playlist of 31 songs about radio
posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:58 PM on May 13 [4 favorites]


Paint A Vulgar Picture - The Smiths

Garden Party - Ricky Nelson
posted by SisterHavana at 9:01 PM on May 13 [1 favorite]


Aimee Mann's 'Nothing is Good Enough' and Mika's 'Grace Kelly' both stemmed from negative dealings with record execs.
posted by littlegreen at 9:01 PM on May 13 [1 favorite]


Joni Mitchell - For the Roses

I heard it in the wind last night
It sounded like applause
Did you get a round resounding for you
Way up here
It seems like many dim years ago
Since I heard that face to face
Or seen you face to face
Though tonight I can feel you here
I get these notes
On butterflies and lilac sprays
From girls who just have to tell me
They saw you somewhere

In some office sits a poet
And he trembles as he sings
And he asks some guy
To circulate his soul around
On your mark red ribbon runner
The caressing rev of motors
Finely tuned like fancy women
In thirties evening gowns
Up the charts
Off to the airport
Your name's in the news
Everything's first class
The lights go down
And it's just you up there
Getting them to feel like that

Remember the days when you used to sit
And make up your tunes for love
And pour your simple sorrow
To the soundhole and your knee
And now you're seen
On giant screens
And at parties for the press
And for people who have slices of you
From the company
They toss around your latest golden egg
Speculation well who's to know
If the next one in the nest
Will glitter for them so

I guess I seem ungrateful
With my teeth sunk in the hand
That brings me things
I really can't give up just yet
Now I sit up here the critic
And they introduce some band
But they seem so much confetti
Looking at them on my TV set
Oh the power and the glory
Just when you're getting a taste for worship
They start bringing out the hammers
And the boards
And the nails

I heard it in the wind last night
It sounded like applause
Chilly now
End of summer
No more shiny hot nights
It was just the arbutus rustling
And the bumping of the logs
And the moon swept down black water
Like an empty spotlight
posted by mykescipark at 9:01 PM on May 13 [2 favorites]


The Wonder Stuff: Radio Ass Kiss
posted by pompomtom at 9:03 PM on May 13


The Moneygoround (The Kinks)
You Know I Couldn't Last (Morrissey, maybe too recent)
posted by whoiam at 9:04 PM on May 13


The Entertainer - Billy Joel
Barracuda - Heart
posted by Iris Gambol at 9:04 PM on May 13 [2 favorites]


Graham Parker and the Rumour - Mercury Poisoning
posted by hydrophonic at 9:06 PM on May 13 [1 favorite]


The Compromise by The Format
(sorry about the font)
posted by mekily at 9:13 PM on May 13


Pink Floyd - Have a Cigar

The rest of that album (Wish You Were Here) would qualify too, most obviously Welcome to the Machine.
posted by w0mbat at 9:26 PM on May 13 [4 favorites]


The Kinks - The Moneygoround

Robert owes half to Grenville
Who in turn gave half to Larry
Who adored my instrumentals
And so he gave half to a foreign publisher
She took half the money that was earned in some far distant land
Gave back half to Larry and I end up with half of goodness knows what
Oh can somebody explain why things go on this way
I thought they were my friends I can't believe it's me, I can't believe that I'm so green
Eyes down round and round let's all sit and watch the moneygoround
Everyone take a little bit here and a little bit there
Do they all deserve money from a song that they've never heard
They don't know the tune and they don't know the words
But they don't give a damn
There's no end to it I'm in a pit and I'm stuck in it
The money goes round and around and around
And it comes out here when they've all taken their share
I went to see a solicitor and my story was heard and the writs were served
On the verge of a nervous breakdown I decided to fight right to the end
But if I ever get my money I'll be too old and grey to spend it
Oh, but life goes on and on and no one ever wins
And time goes quickly by just like the moneygoround
I only hope that I'll survive
posted by The Architect at 9:28 PM on May 13 [3 favorites]


Smog - A Hit
Bobby Bare Jr. - Dig Down
Sonic Youth - Or

These aren't negative:

The Byrds - So You Want To Be A Rock 'n' Roll Star
Bo Diddley – Background to a Music
Free Design - 2002 - A Hit Song

Songs about being on tour.
posted by hydrophonic at 9:29 PM on May 13 [2 favorites]


The Clash, Capital Radio (One/Two). Also Hitsville UK.
posted by spaet at 9:31 PM on May 13 [2 favorites]


Hey Mr. DJ, I Thought You Said We Had A Deal by They Might Be Giants

"He said to think long term investment and
That all the others had forgiven themselves
He said the net reward would justify
The colossal mess they'd made of their lives..."
posted by baf at 9:34 PM on May 13 [4 favorites]


Harry Chapin, 6 String Orchestra
posted by Confess, Fletch at 9:35 PM on May 13


Mister programmer,
I got my hammer
Gonna smash my smash my
Radio!

Ramones - We Want the Airwaves

You slap our backs and pretend you knew
About all the things we were gonna do
Whatcha gonna do
Whatcha gonna do
When it's over


Joy Division - Novelty
posted by stargell at 9:36 PM on May 13


What are some of the songs you've heard?

This is a tiny bit later, but John Fogerty did one in the 80's called Vanz Kant Danz, which was ostensibly a dig at his old manager Saul Zaentz.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:38 PM on May 13 [1 favorite]


Neil Young - Payola Blues
posted by hydrophonic at 9:39 PM on May 13


They said we'd be artistically free
When we signed that bit of paper
They meant let's make lots of money
And worry about it later


The Clash - Complete Control
posted by stargell at 9:40 PM on May 13 [2 favorites]


The Who - Odorono
posted by hydrophonic at 9:45 PM on May 13


Chicago - 25 or 6 to 4 (about writing a song at 3:35 or 3:34am)
Dr. Hook - The Cover of the Rolling Stone
posted by cali59 at 9:47 PM on May 13


The Beatles' (well, George Harrison's)Only A Northern Song, written about their publisher's indifference to the quality of their music. ("It doesn't really matter what chords I play or words I say or time of day it is/ 'cause it's only a Northern Song.")
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:47 PM on May 13 [1 favorite]


These are all great picks! If I didn't "mark as best answer" it means I already have it in my playlist. BTW you can search Spotify for "music industry meta ennui" for what I have so far if you're interested.

Thanks, keep 'em coming!
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 9:54 PM on May 13


Sara Bareilles' "Love Song" is "a response to the record-label pressuring her to make safe, 'radio friendly' songs."
posted by girlhacker at 9:55 PM on May 13


Tried to hold me to a phony contract
I said I didn't agree
Had to get out of the clutches
Had to go underground you see
Now I'm living in another country
But I know exactly just where I've been
Stay away from big time operators
Baby, on the music business scene


Van Morrison - Big Time Operators
posted by alicat at 9:56 PM on May 13


Queen, Death on Two Legs, in which Freddie Mercury has advised a slimy industry person to kill himself.
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:01 PM on May 13


In addition to Aimee Mann's Nothing is Good Enough (above), her first self-published album Bachelor No. 2 had the song Calling it Quits, pretty clearly about what she was leaving behind.

He's a serious mister
Shake his hand and he'll twist your arm
With monopoly money
We'll be buying the funny farm
So I'll do flips,
And get paid in chips
From a diamond as big as the ritz--
Then I'm calling it quits


But then I think she has a whole genre of these "abusive|controlling|dismissive ex-boyfriend ... or the music industry" songs....
posted by dhartung at 10:01 PM on May 13 [1 favorite]


Also by Aimee Mann - Calling It Quits
posted by murphy slaw at 10:02 PM on May 13 [1 favorite]


This is a much more contemporary perspective than perhaps what you're looking for, but for what it's worth, some songs that came to mind were:

Jason Mraz's "Wordplay", perhaps evoking a sense of ennui on the music industry in general and pressure to write a successful second album-- "I've been all around the world, I've been a new sensation, but it doesn't really matter in this generation. The sophomore slump is an uphill battle, and someone said that ain't my scene, 'cause they need a new song like a new religion, music for the television, I can't do the long division, someone do the math for the record label puts me on the shelf up in the freezer, gotta find another way to live the life of leisure, so I drop my top, mix and I mingle. Is everybody ready for the single and it goes . . . "

Sara Bareilles' "Love Song", on her record company and her songwriting process -- "Blank stares and blank pages, no easy way to say this/You mean well, but you make this hard on me/I'm not gonna write you a love song/'Cause you asked for it, 'cause you need one/You see, I'm not gonna write you a love song/'Cause you're telling me, it's make or breaking this/I'm not gonna write you to stay/If all you have is leaving, I'mma need a better reason to write you a love song today/I learned the hard way that they all say things you wanna hear/My heavy heart sinks deep down under/ and you and your twisted words, your help just hurts, you are not what I thought you were/Hello to high and dry/Convince me to please you/Made me think that I need this to/I'm trying to let you hear me as I am . . . "

and "King of Anything", on receiving early criticism in the songwriting process -- "You've got opinions, man/We're all entitled to 'em/But I never asked/So let me thank you for your time/Try not to waste any more of mine/Get out of here fast/I hate to break it to you, babe, but I'm not drowning/There's no one here to save/Who cares if you disagree?/ You are not me/Who made you king of anything?/So you dare tell me who to be/Who died and made you king of anything?

Some older ones:

Lisa Loeb, "I Do", on disagreements with her record company -- You can't hear it, but I do/You're trying to convince me that what I've done's not right"

Bruce Springsteen, "Dancing in the Dark", ennui on lack of inspiration -- "I get up in the evening and I ain't got nothing to say/I come home in the morning, I go to bed feeling the same way/I ain't nothing but tired/Yeah, I'm just tired and bored with myself/Hey there, baby, I could use just a little help/You can't start a fire/ You can't start a fire without a spark/This gun's for hire/ Even if we're just dancing in the dark."

A more comprehensive list can be found here.
Hope this helps!
posted by resilient_raindrop at 10:04 PM on May 13 [1 favorite]


Spiderbait's Buy me a pony:

You're almost on your way to popularity
And we'll teach you to play
With icy stare and punk rock hair
And Beatnik flair, we'll take you there

posted by Wantok at 10:13 PM on May 13 [1 favorite]


If you're willing to include negative songs about the radio side of the industry (rather than the recording part), there's Harry Chapin's W.O.L.D.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:19 PM on May 13


Pavement, "Cut Your Hair".

Music scene is crazy, bands start up each and every day
I saw another one just the other day, a special new band
I remember lying, I don't remember a line
I don't remember a word
But I don't care, I care, I really don't care
Did you see the drummer's hair?

Advertising looks and chops a must
No big hair!
Songs mean a lot when songs are bought
And so are you
Let's run down to the practice room
Attention and fame
a career, career, career, career

posted by spaet at 10:21 PM on May 13 [2 favorites]


Lots of Frank Zappa's work, especially We're Only In It For the Money and Joe's Garage.
posted by chbrooks at 10:22 PM on May 13 [2 favorites]


"Joe" by Tom Petty
Go get me a kid with a good lookin' face
Bring me a kid can remember his place
Some hungry poet, son of a bitch
He gets to be famous, I get to be rich
posted by bleep at 10:25 PM on May 13


Check the Rhime for Industry rule #4080
LCD Soundsystem You Wanted a Hit
Sleater-Kinney The Professional
posted by citron at 10:28 PM on May 13


Possibly tangential, but it's what I thought of.

MGMT's Time To Pretend, which satirises the music industry in general.
Regurgitator's I Like Your Old Stuff Better Than Your New Stuff.
posted by Athanassiel at 10:32 PM on May 13


"The Moneygoround" is right and the Kinks also have "Top Of The Pops" and "Session Man".
posted by chrchr at 10:33 PM on May 13 [2 favorites]


The Rezillos - Top Of The Pops
posted by hydrophonic at 10:47 PM on May 13 [2 favorites]


Cake - You Part the Waters
They Might Be Giants - Rhythm Section Want Ad
posted by contraption at 11:05 PM on May 13


The Cure - Do The Hansa
posted by srednivashtar at 11:17 PM on May 13


Tribe Called Quest Show Business (related to Check the Rhime, but a whole song).

I'm sure someone said it and I'm just missing it, but Turn the Page.
posted by Pax at 11:21 PM on May 13 [2 favorites]


Ride -- "Sunshine / Nowhere to Run"

By the time of their fourth full-length studio album, Ride were on the brink of break-up and had lost the spark that had brought them early critical acclaim. It's not their best work (by a long shot) but pretty much fits your criteria exactly.

Sample lyrics: "Hear the engine running as the tour bus pulls away / the sadness of the road will be the death of me one day / I'm sick and tired of my guitar and the same old songs again / and so I'll write a new one, that's the nature of the game"

Joe Jackson -- "Blaze of Glory"

The story of the rise and fall of a young man groomed to be a pop superstar.

And of course no list would be complete without..

David Bowie -- "Ziggy Stardust"

..he took it all too far. But boy, could he play guitar.
posted by Nerd of the North at 11:28 PM on May 13


Pretty Boys -- Joe Jackson

Pretty boys - on my tv screen
Teeth so white and hair so clean
Pretty boys - sing and play guitars
Pretty boys get to be big stars

How do you rate my sex appeal from one to ten
Is my image just a bit confusing
Maybe i should get a facelift, start again
Maybe i should trade my pointed shoes in
'cause talent don't count
For pretty boys

Those promo people got a lot to answer for
You can take your face and see just where it fits
Be a pretty pawn in someone else's war
Your baby blue eyes - somebody else's wits
Equals success
For pretty boys

I want to see a human being on my tv set
Want some action for the fat and thin man
They're getting closer but they ain't got robots yet
Just a hero with a smile like a tin man
No brains and no heart
Just pretty boys
posted by she's not there at 11:49 PM on May 13


Catch Without Arms by dredg, I think.
posted by Gymnopedist at 12:13 AM on May 14


"I Love My Label" by Nick Lowe
"Something in 4/4 Time" by Daryl Hall
posted by zorseshoes at 12:24 AM on May 14 [1 favorite]


"Record boss said we would be a smash / Yeah, go straight to Number One / He talked of hits and tours and lots of cash And all the time it wasn't on"

Stiff Little Fingers - Rough Trade (and also You Can't Say Crap on the Radio)

Ramones - Danny Says: about the boredom of touring.
posted by Pink Frost at 12:53 AM on May 14


Neil Young- Crime in the City

The artist looked at the producer
The producer sat back
He said, What we have got here
Is a perfect track
But we don't have a vocal
And we don't have a song
If we could get
these things accomplished
Nothin' else could go wrong.
So he balanced the ashtray
As he picked up the phone
And said, Send me a songwriter
Who's drifted far from home
And make sure that he's hungry
Make sure he's alone
Send me a cheeseburger
And a new Rolling Stone.
Yeah.
posted by humboldt32 at 12:53 AM on May 14


Also Joni Mitchell--Free Man in Paris

The way I see it," he said
"You just can't win it
Everybody's in it for their own gain
You can't please 'em all
There's always somebody calling you down

I do my best
And I do good business
There's a lot of people asking for my time
They're trying to get ahead
They're trying to be a good friend of mine
I was a free man in Paris
I felt unfettered and alive
There was nobody calling me up for favors

And no one's future to decide
You know I'd go back there tomorrow
But for the work I've taken on
Stoking the star maker machinery
Behind the popular song
I deal in dreamers
And telephone screamers
Lately I wonder what I do it for
If l had my way
I'd just walk out those doors

And wander
Down the Champs Elysees
Going cafe to cabaret
Thinking how I'll feel when I find
That very good friend of mine
I was a free man in Paris
I felt unfettered and alive
Nobody was calling me up for favors
No one's future to decide
You know I'd go back there tomorrow

But for the work I've taken on
Stoking the star maker machinery
Behind the popular song.

·
posted by shibori at 1:26 AM on May 14 [2 favorites]


Cover of the rolling stone - dr hook
Don't Call Us We'll Call You - Sugarloaf
30 Days In The Hole - Humble Pie
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:37 AM on May 14


Pearl's A Singer - more an observation on how people get stuck in early promise than full-on industry rage, but still pretty harsh:

And they say that she once cut a record
They played it for a week or so
On the local radio
It never made it...

posted by freya_lamb at 1:42 AM on May 14


Neil Finn: "Rest of the Day Off"

Over and done, not a lot to say when the man calls up
The line goes dead and you're yesterday's news
I couldn't care less now, I'm here with you
We're the only ones left and we're flat on our backs
Taking the rest of the day off
You find it don't add up to much
When you're wrapped in a blanket of stars
With the one you love, hey


His "Souvenir" is about touring:

And the guests like souvenirs
They play with you 'till you're all worn out
Back where the guests like photographs
They hope, you had a good night
Loosen up your tie, make the viewers cry
I cannot pretend to cry, memorize by heart
Every single part, there's nothing for you here

posted by kariebookish at 2:12 AM on May 14


Pearl Jam's Corduroy addresses this to some extent. Not the record label as much as the onset of sudden fame:

The waiting drove me mad...you're finally here and I'm a mess
I take your entrance back...can't let you roam inside my head
I don't want to take what you can give...
I would rather starve than eat your bread...
I would rather run but I can't walk...
Guess I'll lie alone just like before...

I'll take the varmint's path...oh, and I must refuse your test
Push me and I will resist...this behavior's not unique
I don't want to hear from those who know...
They can buy, but can't put on my clothes...
I don't want to limp for them to walk...
Never would have known of me before...
I don't want to be held in your debt...
I'll pay it off in blood, let I be wed...
I'm already cut up and half dead...
I'll end up alone like I began...

Everything has chains...absolutely nothing's changed"

posted by kinetic at 2:56 AM on May 14


MC Lars - Download this song (2006, and man is it of its time)

Hey Mr. Record Man, what's wrong with you? Still running your label like it was 1992. Hey Mr. Record Man, your system can't compete. It's the new artist model - file transfer COMPLETE...
posted by ChuraChura at 3:04 AM on May 14


Timbuk3, B Side of Life (lyrics)
posted by Mapes at 3:21 AM on May 14


Sugarloaf, Don't Call Us, We'll Call You
posted by flod logic at 3:30 AM on May 14 [2 favorites]


Video Killed the Radio Star maybe?
posted by cornflakegirl at 3:57 AM on May 14 [1 favorite]


Elliott Smith- King's Crossing or Angeles
posted by quiet coyote at 4:26 AM on May 14


Jellyfish, "The Ghost At Number One" seems to be vaguely angry about the music business ("How does it feel/To be a chalk line dollar sign?")
posted by thelonius at 4:33 AM on May 14


Kristin Hersh's Listerine is (broadly speaking) about the breakup of her band Throwing Muses after the collapse of the alt-rock market in the late '90s. It's more oblique than that, though, and surprisingly restrained considering how comprehensively screwed over she was by Warner Brothers.
posted by Sonny Jim at 4:48 AM on May 14


This is an interesting take on the subject:

Melvins- Laughing with Lucifer at Satan's Sideshow
posted by cosmicbeast at 5:00 AM on May 14


A chunk of the imminent Resistor (i.e. me) album "First World Problems" fits the bill.

Vincent van Gogh
I'm fast getting fed up with failing at fame
it's been ten years and no one knows my name
I'm sick of the boring undignified slog
Hoping to see my name on some dumb blog
I'm tired of toiling in obscurity
that fate's just not fit for a genius like me
But maybe I'll make it big after I've died
I can't write it off til I give it a try
Choose Your Parents Well
My mother was a famous beauty
up on the silver screen
my father is the editor
of a rock 'n roll magazine
my first record went platinum
before I turned eighteen
and now because i’ve paid my dues
i get to live the dream

If you wanna be a star
if you really wanna sell
you better buy the best PR
you better choose your parents well
I'll Refuse
In my dreams I write the song
that makes you realize you were wrong
you'll understand as soon as you’ve heard
my catchy tune and clever words

you’ll tell me you’re so sorry
you’ll say “you win, I lose”
you’ll ask me to take you back
and I’ll refuse
posted by ludwig_van at 5:06 AM on May 14


A song about the industry chewing up an artist: "Paint a Vulgar Picture" - The Smiths
posted by tuesdayschild at 5:17 AM on May 14 [1 favorite]


Do the Contract Hustle.
posted by Decani at 5:30 AM on May 14


Van Morrison, Drumshanbo Hustle.
posted by rikschell at 6:27 AM on May 14


People have already mentioned the Kinks, but it's not just one or two songs. Nearly the entire Lola vs Powerman album is basically about the music industry.
posted by phunniemee at 6:41 AM on May 14 [2 favorites]


Nashville by the Indigo Girls
posted by mosessis at 6:47 AM on May 14


The Spirit of Radio by Rush?
posted by daninnj at 7:06 AM on May 14 [1 favorite]


Ramones, "This Business Is Killing Me"
posted by Devoidoid at 7:16 AM on May 14


Joe Jackson, "Hit Single"
posted by Devoidoid at 7:21 AM on May 14


Sophomore Jinx by sElf.
give them what they want/when they want/when they know what they want
i'm sick of thinking for myself so i'll play along
stick me in a room full of books, suits, and record deals
be sure to make some coffee with your cream and ask me how i feel
it's been a long, lonely wait/oh, we can hardly wait
to hear the tunes you have made/i'll bet they're really great
there's something to the way/you find time to create
the second album is late/where is it anyway?

posted by onehalfjunco at 7:28 AM on May 14 [1 favorite]


Devo, "Puppet Boy" ... in part... I think...

Stand up puppet boy
Time to start the show
You'd better do some brand new moves
They paid a lot to watch you go

No!

What's that puppet boy?
Don't tell me what to do
What's that puppet boy?
I'm not a freak like you
What's that puppet boy?
I'll move when I want to
I can't hear you puppet boy
Now dance dance dance
posted by Devoidoid at 7:30 AM on May 14


Pretty sure Shut Your Mouth and Not Your Kind of People by Garbage are both about hating the image-making part of the modern music industry, although both are easily read as songs about sexism.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:31 AM on May 14


The Monkees, "Do I Have To Do This All Over Again?" It's not explicit in the lyrics, but we all know what it's about.
posted by Devoidoid at 7:35 AM on May 14


And. the "Head" version of "The Monkees Theme." "The money's in, we're made of tin..."
posted by Devoidoid at 7:40 AM on May 14


"Jimmy Iovine," Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
posted by dlugoczaj at 7:54 AM on May 14


'No No No' by Warrior Soul

Come on and take a piece of me
If ya got the guts to take it
I don't get anything for free
Except the piss I'm drinkin'
And when they cuddle up on you
And promise everything you're screwed
How many times they gonna rip you off
And man nobody cares

They said no-one loves you
So what
But you're goin' somewhere
So let's go

No no no - we can taste it
No no no - we get it all
No no no - you've been degraded
No no no - we're havin' a ball
posted by TwilightKid at 8:21 AM on May 14


Ben Folds - One Down
posted by naoko at 8:29 AM on May 14 [3 favorites]


Frank Zappa - Tinsel Town Rebellion, Be in my Video, the aforementioned Joe's Garage, and others I'm probably forgetting.
posted by usonian at 8:35 AM on May 14


Upthread "Sell-Out" was mentioned, but I'd say even more so Reel Big Fish's "Don't Start a Band."

NOFX's "Please Play This Song on the Radio."
posted by General Malaise at 8:56 AM on May 14


I've always thought Alan Jackson's "Gone Country" was a little wry (... I may be wrong):

He commutes to L.A., but he's got a house in the Valley
But the bills are piling up and the pop scene just ain't on the rally
And he says, honey, I'm a serious composer, schooled in voice and composition
But with the crime and the smog these days, this ain't no place for children

Lord, it sounds so easy, this shouldn't take long
Be back in the money in no time at all

He's gone country, look at them boots
He's gone country, back to his roots
He's gone country, a new kind of suit
He's gone country, here he comes

posted by stoneandstar at 9:10 AM on May 14


It's a Long Way to the Top - AC/DC
posted by TwoWordReview at 9:11 AM on May 14 [1 favorite]


Josh Ritter's "Labelship Down."

We heard it over the wires
That everybody here was fine
But we never even really felt hired
So we felt bad, but not that bad
We just pressed Record
And started singin' like we'd sung before
We got enough so who needs more
Of what we never really had
As the label went down in flames
Red ink and legal claims
We kept singin' for the same
Reasons that we sung before

posted by emelenjr at 9:14 AM on May 14


Ani DiFranco - The Million You Never Made

Gavin Castleton - The Great American Bottleneck
posted by likeatoaster at 9:16 AM on May 14


Does The Big Royalty Check by Van Morrison count?
posted by Coatlicue at 9:16 AM on May 14


Two by Momus:
How to Get and Stay Famous (lyrics)

I Was a Maoist Intellectual in the Music Industry (lyrics)
posted by perhapses at 9:21 AM on May 14


XTC has a few:

I Bought Myself A Liar Bird
Funk Pop A Roll
Travels in Nihilon is more about the commercialization and futility of "youth culture" than the music industry explicitly, but it might fit the bill for you. Lyrics for it are conveniently included on the Youtube page.
posted by mollweide at 9:31 AM on May 14


Tool's "Hooker with a Penis" is directed at fans crying "sellout" more than the record label, but:
All you know about me's what I've sold you, dumbfuck
I sold out long before you ever even heard my name
I sold my soul to make a record, dipshit
And then you bought one
posted by Zozo at 9:48 AM on May 14


Check out this Sound Opinions podcast on this very topic.
posted by Leontine at 9:51 AM on May 14 [1 favorite]


Here's one I bet you haven't heard. First thing I thought of was the song "All That You Are" by Foreign Exchange. They talk about staying up late to make music, and the strain and toll it is taking on their families and relationships as they try to convince the people around them that them making music is a worthwhile endeavor. The two emcees on this particular song are Phonte and Median. They trade rhymes in the verses. Some excerpts:

[Phonte]
"It's a long process from bar 1 to bar 16 and
Writing in my notebook from morn' to evening
But my fam still not believing - in my bed late
At night with my eyes closed often dreaming
And zoned out"

[Median]
"I'm gone now, fuck it I'm home now
I rest in the rhythm I'm a rolling stone now
Making my own way from stone cold days and long nights
But who could feel my sacrifice"

[Phonte]
"Cause they ain't half as nice and couldn't' understand
How I feel when I'm on the track board turning the knob switch
Moms keep talking that old "get a real job" shit
And that's the kind of thinking Phonte got a prob with"

[Median]
"Solved it - my blood fam on the bandwagon
Can't believe the man put his plan into action
They rather that I choose a different plan for my passion
Couldn't understand I demand satisfaction"

[Median]
"I'm doing this for her and me, take mics and make currency
Steady worrying, yo, I wish I had a clone of me
Man this ain't the way it supposed to be
My daughter's mom wishing she was close to me
Holding me, instead she's lonely - and loathing"

[Phonte]
"Complaining that her life's competing with mine
Cause I be out of the house for weeks at a time
And she be stuck at home playing housewifey with an attitude
Before we had a kid, we should've had a clue"
posted by cashman at 9:53 AM on May 14


Lady Gaga's "Paper Gangsta" is about her short-lived deal with Island Def Jam.

Midnight rush, with a pen in my hand
Drinkin' Lincoln, sand-script with a fan
Remembering me, before we began
Sometimes I felt so Def in the Jam
[...]
Got something really shiny to start
Want me to sign there on your Range Rover heart?
I’ve heard it before
Yeah, the dinners were nice
Till your diamond words melted into some ice

You should been rapping to the beat of my song
Mr. California paper gangsta
and I’m lookin’ for love, not an
empty page full of stuff that means nothing but
“you’ve been played”

posted by woodvine at 9:55 AM on May 14


More modern, but Jesus and Mary Chain I Hate Rock n Roll

I love the BBC
I love it when they're pissin' on me
And I love MTV
I love it when they're shittin' on me

(The companion to I Love Rock n Roll on the album Munki)
posted by Kafkaesque at 10:03 AM on May 14


We're In The Music Biz by Robots In Disguise
posted by keever at 10:09 AM on May 14


Suit Fugue (Dance of the A&R Men) by the late Kevin Gilbert. Actually, the whole album, "The Shaming of the True."
posted by kindall at 10:19 AM on May 14


Kathleen Edwards - One More Song The Radio Won't Like

From a magazine interview with Kathleen: "'one more song the radio won't like' is about... i had finished this record and i was going through the process of playing a few showcases in toronto and learning how the game works; how to play it and get drowned and how to play it and keep your head above water. i went home and wrote [it] after one showcase where i was questioning my reasons for feeling like i had to impress people. it's a true song and i'm definitely the girl who won't sober up in that one."
posted by platinum at 12:26 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


No Destroyer? The albums Thief and Streethawk: A Seduction could be particularly fertile, but there might be good stuff elsewhere too. Some suggestions:
Beggars Might Ride ("Paradise felt fine / What's yours was mine / Collaborators fuck us every time")
Kaputt ("Sounds, Smash Hits / Melody Maker, NME / All sound like a dream to me")
Queen of Languages ("We hung from a thread just to prove poetry undead / We rendered ourselves perfectly suitable to public consumption")
The Bad Arts ("The world woke up one day to proclaim / Thou shalt not make or take part in
the bad art / You see, the singer sold us out / The guitarist lost his clout on Life-Of-The-Mind Day")
The Music Lovers ("And look, the private sector's not denied you for the last time / They're saying those grapes go rotten on the vine / Oh, but once we were the music lovers")
The Sublimation Hour ("Medium rotation / The shock of the New / And a memo from Feldman saying everything is true")
The Way of Perpetual Roads" ("It's a long climb down from obscurity / So cancel those keys to the city please / Upon which rest the inextricable failures / of popular wisdom and popular music!")
To the Heart of the Sun on the Back of the Vulture, I'll Go ("In the theatre of impatience, records cause culture / As records break records on the back of the vulture, I'll go / Into the heart of the Sun / We have set the controls for one")

Okay, a lot of suggestions. Destroyer lyrics tend to be elliptic as hell but the music industry is definitely a recurring theme!
posted by valrus at 12:33 PM on May 14


Cock Sparrer's "Take 'Em All" fits in well with the Clash songs mentioned.
posted by look busy at 2:52 PM on May 14


Buddy Miller - A Showman's Life
Tom Petty - Into the Great Wide Open

More in your target time frame:
Dolly Parton - False Eyelashes
Milwaukee Here I Come (not sure who did it first)
The Who - Behind Blue Eyes (sort of)
Jacques Brel - Jackie (and there was a nice version in English by Scott Walker)
posted by neat graffitist at 3:55 PM on May 14


TMBG - We're the Replacements

Billy Joel - The Entertainer, Great Wall of China (about his manager who ripped him off)

Neil Young - Thrasher (about leaving CSNY I think)

That Jackson Browne song about roadies that goes on forever?

I think country songs about rodeos are often metaphors for being on tour, like Amarillo by Morning

Oh! If touring counts, how about London Homesick Blues by Jerry Jeff Walker, or Lodi by CCR

Sorry for no links, I'm on the train...
posted by neat graffitist at 4:01 PM on May 14


Mother Hips - Third Floor Story:

Now the company quit, they didn't do shit for my new record
What do I have to do to get a break
Won't somebody please just give me a hit
I feel better already

posted by shakobe at 4:19 PM on May 14


How about something with a different 'negative' message? Not professional, but personal.


"Beth" performed by Kiss, written by Peter Criss, Stan Penridge, and Bob Ezrin

Beth, I hear you callin'
But I can't come home right now
Me and the boys are playin'
And we just can't find the sound

Just a few more hours
And I'll be right home to you
I think I hear them callin'
Oh, Beth what can I do
Beth what can I do

You say you feel so empty
That our house just ain't a home
And I'm always somewhere else
And you're always there alone

Just a few more hours
And I'll be right home to you
I think I hear them callin'
Oh, Beth what can I do
Beth what can I do

Beth, I know you're lonely
And I hope you'll be alright
'Cause me and the boys will be playin'
All night

posted by Leenie at 5:23 PM on May 14


nirvana - rape me

really surprised this hasn't been mentioned yet.
posted by IfIShouldEverComeBack at 5:45 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


Belle and Sebastian -- Seymour Stein

(Stein was a founder of Sire Records and is now a vice president at Warner. During his career as the head of Sire he signed hugely influential bands such as the Talking Heads, Ramones, Madonna.. The Belle and Sebastian song bearing his name is written from the standpoint of a person in a relationship with a member of a band which is being considered by Stein.)
posted by Nerd of the North at 6:35 PM on May 14


Can't believe I missed this one:

Sun Kil Moon (Mark Kozelek): UK Blues (lyrics). I was at this show. It was actually worse than he makes it sound...you couldn't hear him over the fairground ride next to his stage.
Left for London via Copenhagen, for a concert in the park at 1:30pm
Got up on the stage, people gathered round
Retro 80s band... drowned out my sound
went and got my check, went back to my room
Feeling suicidal, feeling full of gloom
Turned on the TV, there was rioting & stuff...
As if this city isn't depressing enough
See also Track Number 8 (songwriting is a hassle) and Sunshine in Chicago (I used to be popular and girls liked me, now I only appeal to neckbeards). As well as maybe Livingstone Bramble (I'm a great guitarist and I hate Nels Cline...)

And bonus Jesus and Marychain: Write Record Release Blues (lyrics)
posted by Pink Frost at 7:28 PM on May 14


Tom Petty Into the Great Wide Open
posted by superna at 8:46 PM on May 14


The Records, "Starry Eyes" (1978)
posted by Karlos the Jackal at 9:46 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


Barenaked Ladies - "Box Set"
I never thought I'd be regretful of all my past success
but some stupid number one hit single has got me in this mess.
You can put it on every compilation - that's alright.
You can hear it on the oldies radio station every night.
And if you want it again, you got it-
it's right here in my box set.
Tonedeff - "Politics"
Every thing you see and hear was paid for
So, don’t try to discredit me, cause my shit isn’t played more
...
But, Oh well – Another day in a cold hell.
When everyone riding your coattails are the same cats that’ll pray your record don’t sell
posted by c95008 at 3:45 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]


Almost forgot this one: Super Trouper - Abba
posted by SisterHavana at 5:53 PM on May 15


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