July 24th, 2011

Amy Winehouse

Once again we get to see the ugly side of the music industry as yet another talented performer enters the 27 Club.

As a brighter man than me once said "The song remains the same."

When you are in the music business and like drugs or alcohol, the industry makes a very cynical decision - they decide whether or not to surround you with people charged with keeping you alive or with people who will make it easier for you to die.

It's a zero sum numbers game. Some acts are worth much more money to record companies dead than alive. They won't actively murder you, but they will make sure that there are gremlins around you that will make it very, very easy for you to instigate your own untimely passing.

But, if you are worth more alive than dead - i.e. if you are going to give them money through profitable new albums and tours, then you can be damn sure they'll have tons of people near you to make sure you can get as high as you like and keep breathing.

This is why Morrison died - he'd left The Doors and wasn't going to be a moneymaker so the powers that be left him to the devils. This is why Keith Moon was allowed to die but Pete Townsend, who was still writing hit songs and able to tour, was kept alive even though his drink and drug use wasn't very much different from Moon's. Accountants decided that The Who could still make money with a new drummer, but not without Pete.

This is why Keith Richards was damn lucky that his drug problems came up in the mid-70s when The Rolling Stones were hitting the peak of their stadium rock profitability. If it had happened in 66 or 67 he would have suffered the same fate as Brian Jones.

It's no accident that Amy died just a few weeks after she proved in concert performances that swept through YouTube that she was not going to be able to get on stage and bring in money for a long time if ever.

Much better for the bottom line of her record label for her to be dead - so that her album and merchandising sales will soar.

This week many of you will be tempted to buy an Amy Winehouse T-shirt or album or purchase one of her singles from iTunes.

Before you do so, consider the hundreds of millions of dollars record industry people made after they let Michael Jackson die. Decide for yourself if you want to support a system that understands that tragic death is much more valuable than a complicated life.