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He called it ‘Chick-Prog’!

Jerry Lucky Commentary May 2010

Copyright Jerry Lucky © 2010 All Rights Reserved

 

Hey, here’s some further random thoughts to follow-up on last month’s bit on the Muse concert I saw in early April.

Well it turns out the program director at the radio station I work at saw the band as well and he said to me, “Don’t you think

they’re like Chick-Prog?” Which I thought was a rather interesting observation, given the number of females at the concert and

more specifically the not-entirely-young-one who chose to stand in front of us and danced through most of the concert.

 

It was an interesting comment that has been dancing around in my cranium for the past few weeks. And it’s kind of linked to the book I’m reading entitled Appetite for Self Destruction by Rolling Stone contributor Steve Knopper. It’s worth point out the sub-title for the book is…The spectacular crash of the record industry in the digital age. It’s a realistic look at the events that have brought us to this point and it’s not a pretty picture; certainly not if you happen to be working for any of the five major labels.  

 

If I’m to dissect the Chick-Prog phrase, I know he didn’t mean it in any kind of derogatory sense, but rather in a descriptive manor. His point was the band members are all young and good looking and yet in true prog fashion the band intentionally avoid using their images on the CD covers choosing instead classic proggy images sometimes even designed by Storm Thorgerson of Pink Floyd fame. Another thing that led him to use the descriptive was that much of Muse’s material has infectious melodies along with a certain dance ability and yet they’re able to craft compositions that greatly depart from the traditional rock/pop format giving them a bona-fide prog sensibility.

 

So here’s the question; if Muse can make the big time, which is radio airplay, mega selling albums and huge tours with enormous staging is there some hope for progressive rock making it back into the mainstream? The practical side of me says, not-likely but in truth I guess the question is one of compromise. As a progressive rock band/artist are you prepared to make that compromise, a compromise that many have compared to selling your soul to the devil?

 

Are many of the prog bands out there prepared to commit themselves to the riggers of success?

 

The genre has developed into this giant ‘cottage-industry’ where moderate success can come from producing a self produced CD and then merchandising it on the internets progressive rock website sites. You won’t probably make much of a living from it, but it will provide more than a little creative satisfaction and that has to count for something.

 

Getting back to the book Appetite for Self Destruction; the traditional model for band success goes this way – form a band – play anywhere and everywhere – record some music – get spotted and signed to a major label – get a big advance - get your music played on radio – record a video get it played – play larger venues for more money – get more radio airplay exposure – latch onto a support tour with a big name – release more singles for radio airplay – Headline a tour – repeat as required. All the while you are paying back the record company for studio costs and a variety of hidden costs. Now I know there will always be variations to this model and exceptions but for the most part even in the age of iTunes and the internet this is still how it works. For now anyway.

 

As you can see the above scenario involves a total commitment. So, and this is the real kicker, is this the lifestyle that works for you? Something tells me that this is a young-person’s game and that’s where Muse comes back into the picture. There are more than a few in the prog world who have no ambition of that level of making it big. There are plenty who are quite comfortable working the prog-festival circuit and leaving the gruelling tours to someone else.

 

In order for prog to be recognized in the mainstream as it was in the seventies will require quite a few more Muse-like bands getting that mass-media exposure and then treading the floor boards. It’s certainly possible, but I’m not sure I’m prepared to hold my breath that long. I think the digital age has changed the music world in such a dramatic fashion that not only do I not think that will happen again like it did in the seventies, I don’t believe that it has to for progressive rock to be successful. At least that’s what I think.  

Jerry Lucky (5/2/10)