Offspring boss spills it!

A long time ago in an online content paradigm far, far away, we mused about the Offspring (who could always go on and who equaled George Michael). À l’époque, Offspring manager Jim Guerinot wouldn’t talk to us.

He eventually loosened up. Forgive the timing, what with the death of Joey Ramone (“Just put me in a wheelchair and get me on a plane!”), but is it time to run what passes for an interview? For you? Yes way! For you? Yes way!

Q.: When we grew up with record albums, did we ever imagine a day in which songs would actually be computer files that could be zipped back and forth in an instant, and were not all that different from word-processing documents?

It’s a big humbling. Music comes to be devalued – or it finally did when Napster came along.

But you and the lads have tried to do a lot of things right in an era of devalued music. It didn’t stop you from getting all sorts of other obstacles put in your way.

So how does a band – any band – catch a break here? What’s Plan B here for a band that wants to embrace and use the online medium?

A.: It’s funny, technology is introduced and it has its first phase impact, usually something superficial such as convenience. We saw that with the casssette/Walkman. Phase two usually has a more cultural impact. In the case of the Walkman, mobility, freedom, etc. Digital was the same. CDs’ first phase was permanance, size, sound. Phase two brought about a focus on the song since sides of an album didn’t matter. I suppose a third phse is the ability to rip and use a WWW medium.

I suck at typing so I get bored easily. My next thoughts have to do with technology transforming entire business forms, i.e., U.S. Mail to FedEx to fax to E-mail – major shifts.

This is a long winded prequel to my answer but I am tired

Q.: Web content. A band puts up a Web site: Photos, text, stupid-ass Flash animations, maybe 30 seconds here and there of song snippets.

That’s Web content.

Then a band tries to put up entire songs, even if only for a day or a week (e.g., Tom Petty). Assuming no one tries to stop the band, are the songs still content?

Why do people get upset when the word “content” is applied to something as longstanding, storied, and beloved as a song (even a pop song) but not at all when applied to photos, text, and Flash?

A.: I don’t know. I guess that content sounds too much like “product” and less like “art.”

Q.: How much access to “official” material – even photographs – should fan Web sites have, do you think?

A.: Everything “official” and, to be truly interesting, plenty of unofficial stuff.

Q.: With labels owned by electronics manufacturers (not all are, but Sony, and, for a time, Universal and PolyGram fall into that category), and with music appearing as tidy digital files, suddenly there’s another level of indignity: Your album isn’t merely product, it’s software for your somebody else’s hardware. (George Michael was the first to make this point, prophetically; Napster proved it.)

So a band puts all this work into an album, which is then reduced to “product” or “software.” That’s got to hurt the ego, nu?

As a manager, then, how do you counsel bands (including the Offspring) in handling the fact that music is now an infinitely replicatable, transferable commodity licensed by an oligopoly of manufacturers?

A.: Well, no. A least not in the terms you have chosen. It’s just business, though, and no one is mistaking any of the aformentioned pressing and manufacturing machines for A∧M, Island, Stax, etc. At this point everyone goes into this with their eyes pretty wide open.

Posted on 2001-04-16