Singin’ the blues: Stop factory musicians


(Editor’s note: As we get closer to the 25th anniversary Farm Aid concert Oct. 2 in Milwaukee, expect to hear the refrain “Stop Factory Farmers.” Farm Aid tells us corporate agriculture drives small farmers from the land, ruins food and harms the environment. Ohio Farm Bureau communicator and music fan Joe Cornely, with tongue firmly in cheek, applies the same criticisms to the music industry.)

Guest Commentary


The soul of American music has been sold out.

Gone are the small, independent musical acts that authored the soundtrack of Americana. They’ve been shoved from their stages and studios by a corporately driven scourge of mass-produced, mass-marketed factory musicians.

Music, for generations, was a family affair. Mom, pop and the youngsters toiled tirelessly in obscurity for little payment or praise, content to nurture their notes and lyrics into a wholesome bounty of auditory delights.

It was an idyllic existence. It was doomed by progress.

With the advent of phonographs and radios, families no longer needed to be musically self-sufficient. Freed from the drudgery of singing and songwriting, many happily left behind the family band for more lucrative endeavors. Quickly, a nation of music producers became a nation of music consumers.

Enter the capitalists

And the capitalists pounced. There was money to be made from feeding America’s hunger for music.

The corporate model would be simple: Profit by turning an art form into a commodity. As executives replaced artists, technology replaced talent. Synthesizers eliminated string sections. Computers banged out the percussion. Even deficient vocals could be processed, overdubbed and multitracked into a palatable product.

Inevitably, music is no longer crafted. It’s manufactured.

Save the small musician

As with any industrial takeover, the little guy gets hurt.

Our last protectors of America’s musical heritage can no longer compete. There’s no room on the big-box retail shelf for raggedy garage bands; radio station playlists will not accommodate struggling lounge acts. The last vestige of homegrown entertainment has been crowded out of the marketplace by the onslaught of industrial audio.

As consumers, we pay the costs of this national shame. Our lives are made less full by the forced consumption of bland melodies and tasteless lyrics. We are undernourished by the empty content of techno-tunes.

We’ve lost our connection to real music, the healthful, natural sounds that exist only when produced locally and organically.

Environmental disaster

Worse, our ravenous diet of mega-music has sickened Mother Earth.

Fans flocking to concerts and music festivals burn billions of gallons of fossil fuels. Their residual beer cups strain landfills. And the collective flatulence of 25,000 nacho-fueled concert-goers is a leading cause of global warming.

We’re not gonna take it

It is time to fight back. It is time to stand up to the immoral corporate profiteers who have engineered an end to auditory enjoyment.

The battle begins at a day-long spectacle to celebrate the small, independent family-like musician. The event, likely to be held on the Yasgur farm in upstate New York, is tentatively titled “Band Aid.”

The casts of Green Acres, Little House on the Prairie and other famous farmers, who, despite limited experience in the music industry, have great passion for the cause, will headline the massive field day. The world will be changed! We will stop the factory musicians!

Between the lines

OK. Enough with the satire. Factory musicians are a fabrication, a ploy designed to raise fears about a nonexistent evil. It’s the same trick employed by Farm Aid and other critics of modern agriculture with their call to stop factory farmers.

Factory musicians/farmers are not contemptible. They’re not even factory. They’re regular folks who fill a large-scale need for high quality, affordably priced music/food.

They use modern technology to enhance their talent and hard work. They are successful for a simple reason: They make the music/food people want.

It’s also hype to suggest big acts/farms make it impossible for small bands/farmers to prosper. Thousands of entrepreneurial performers/farmers have developed profitable markets for their specialized contributions to a diverse musical/culinary marketplace.

The world craves music, be it electric or acoustic, turntable or iPod, rock or country. It’s an appetite that can be fed only by embracing all artists, from chart-busting super groups to obscure street singers.

Ditto for food. A hungry world demands conventional and organic, processed and fresh, growers of every size and type using the latest technologies or ancient traditions.

We don’t need to stop factory musicians or factory farmers; we need to stop the name-calling.

(Joe Cornely is senior director, corporate communications, with the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation.)


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  1. Did you just come out of the closet or from under a rock? You just sound like an angry venting granola eating hippie. This is not an article about music, it’s about you complaining.

    Bad job.

    P.S. If you get out a little more, you may discover some great music

  2. On the contrary, I thought this was a fantastic article. I get so tired of people with no real connection to producing our food (except that they rely on it for survival) pretend to know how best to produce it or to even understand the issue. Do we complain about the loss of local car makers vs. factory car makers? Or local heavy equipment manufacturers, or local oil companies?

  3. I agree with the final premise: Let’s stop the name calling. On the other hand, let’s tell the truth. If you grow food as part of a totally integrated system and you don’t have control of your practices, you might be rightfully called a factory grower. Not sure the word “farmer” applies. 25 years of FarmAid means they’ll be around, they’ve seen the harm of corporate takeovers and loss of control by individual farmers. Remember low prices? Remember suicides? FarmAid can help, carefully drain the venom, don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.


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