Email this review


Stokes, who writes on music and politics for the Village Voice, uses the saga of Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen in the throes of making their fifth album as the focus for this expose of how rock music is contracted, recorded, promoted, and processed. It is a deflating chronicle of ""the interplay between giant corporations"" at the expense of the musicians and the music--once thought to be the harbinger of radical consciousness. Stokes tackles the trade-offs and back-scratching between record producers, PR men and broadcasters as conscientiously and seriously as others have probed oligopoly among the petroleum magnates. And why not? Rock is currently an international commodity--at $3.5 billion per annum, bigger than films, bigger even than organized sports. It's also a business in which vertical integration and exotic bookkeeping practices make it possible for artists like the Airmen to gross $25,000 a month and still wind up in debt to the record company. The ""extraordinary symbiosis"" between producers and broadcasters who control ""playlists"" restricts the variety and originality of what gets air play, and various disguised forms of payola--notably ""drugola""--lubricate the turntables. Stokes occasionally bogs down in the minutiae of recording and the personality quirks of the Airmen, but for those who care about the machinery of the behemoth rock business, this is a first-rate excursion into the behind-the-scenes manipulations.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1976
Publisher: Bobbs-Merrill