The Titanic Sails at Dawn

by Dave Marsh

“To attack the business at a time when we are facing serious challenges that undermine the entire base of the industry is like arguing about the size of your room and the price of your ticket when you’re on the Titanic and you’re about to hit the iceberg,” said Miles Copeland at the Future of Music Conference.

As a Titanic passenger let me point out that it’s the perfect time to change captains. The people who steered us into the iceberg won’t be the perfect ones to help us survive the collison. Can you imagine standing at the rail, listening to the cry: “Moguls and A&R men first!”

Miles Copeland is the son and namesake of a notorious CIA ferret, who boasts about his role in overthrowing democratic governments in Iran and Egypt. Thus, one might argue, Miles Sr. personally instigated the war presently being prosecuted by the son and namesake of another CIA veteran. But we can’t blame Miles the Younger for that (even though I’ve always been curious about who might have traveled with the Police on all those Third World tours Miles managed.) Anyhow, I don’t hate Copeland, I love him for bludgeoning every ideological point his confederates are too chickenshit to say out loud.

Our Miles Copeland, former manager of the Police and current owner of Ark 21 Records, is a propagandist for virtuous entrepreneurship. His task is mainly to ensure that the real issues-who owns what; what the owners have done with their “property” (the stuff you think of as music); whether anyone except the owners gets a say in how things change-never get discussed. Copeland does this by insisting that the bad guys are greedy artists and thieving consumers.

This isn’t a full-time job because most of the time nobody would dare raise such questions in public. When they are raised, the subject is very skillfully changed. There’s no need to suppress the rude person who raised the question-more likely, that person will be exalted. So Ani DiFranco is lauded not for subverting the music cartel’s scam but because Righteous Babe Records became a profitable business. She becomes not a rebel but the very paragon of entrepreneurship.

In the wake of being forced to change the cover of the Coup’s Party Music album, which showed the World Trade Center in smoke, rapper Boots did everything he could to make his political position clear. He talked about American crimes in countries like Sudan. He even said, “Our fans know that we advocate a violent overthrow of the system.”

When this appeared in Rolling Stone, it became “we do not advocate,” which the Rolling Stone reporter attributed to being “edited under an extremely frenetic atmosphere.” In my day, this would have meant Jann Wenner was on a binge, but back then, even the tyranny of the loaded owner/editor didn’t change the stuff within quote marks. Perhaps today’s Rollling Stone fact-checkers simply couldn’t believe that anyone would say such a thing.

The Wall Street Journal wrote a story about Boots but it wasn’t about Party Music or his desire that “people hear it and get involved in movements and campaigns.” It’s about Boots becoming a media celebrity in spite of his politics: as guest on Politically Incorrect. Maybe they could invite Miles Copeland, too. After all, Party Music’s lead track is “5 Million Ways to Kill a CEO.”

Dave Marsh coedits Rock and Rap Confidential. He can be reached at: marsh6@optonline.net

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