Music business and lockdown—has the industry gone digital?
Billie Eilish Pirate Baird O’Connell is the identification figure of the new generation. A worldwide mass phenomenon and international pop star who seems to have reached the top even in young adulthood. On closer inspection, however, Billie’s nebulous extravagance clears and turns her into the tragic figure of a complex, calculated plan of the modern music and entertainment industry. What is behind the art and the terrifying calculation of the contemporary music culture landscape? And what makes Billie Eilish the tragic puppet of a perfidious stratagem?
In the northeast of La La Land`s (Los Angeles) – the city of fools and dreamers, stars and starlets of the film, television and music industry – Billie grew up sheltered in the midst of a family of musicians and actors. Music has been a central part of her life since she was a child. The artistic expression in the form of singing, dance and songwriting, your whole self and being. Her older brother Finneas Baird O’Connell is also a virtuoso of musical composition from an early age. Belonging together like heart and soul, they produced congenial world hits from their children’s room. Ocean Eyes, which according to its own statement was originally written for Finnea’s band The Slightys, became a viral Soundcloud hit thanks to Billie’s impressive vocal technique. Her quiet and breathy, yet precise and understandable way of singing makes her musical expression extraordinary and makes her a unique singer.
And it was precisely this hit that brought Billie Eilish a major deal with Interscope Records when he was only 13 years old. The label that once turned Madonna and Eminem into superstars. Looking at these approaches, it is unusual to sign a completely unknown artist with just one song and at that age. Nevertheless, such a label strategy comes up again and again and refers to artists of this origin as Industry Plants.
Industry Plant has a very negative connotation. It describes artists with a major or indie background who, however, see themselves and sell themselves as DIY artists. And it is precisely at this career-changing crossroads that the whole infamous calculation of modern label work spreads and infects the belief in trustworthy authenticity in music, the essence of this art form. With a view to today’s youth cultures and social changes, it is not surprising that such a musically contrary image to the mainstream like Billie Eilish is used, modeled and sold to embody an entire young generation. A disaffected girl, triggered by inconsiderate label work.
How genuine can an artist like Billie Eilish be, whose character is so antagonistic to the mechanisms of mere need-satisfaction of today’s throw-away entertainment? What kind of renaissance is attested through their portrayal, which was brought about so calculatively and ice-coldly that when you experience Billie’s performance, great sadness and concern spread and make it an example of the perversion of an entire entertainment machine? This is how a girl’s innocence perishes, with thunderous applause.
Above all that Billie Eilish embodies, there is pain. Depression is part of her life, her diabolical self-loathing and extraordinary personality isolates her and curses her with loneliness. Everything is meaningless. Their appearance is reminiscent of punk or emo. She never laughs in staged photographs because it does not correspond to her, self. Visually, she is not a superstar. She is vegan and suffers from a weakened form of the taboo Tourette’s syndrome. All of this is kind of good because it’s real. Nobody is perfect and we all have flaws. This is exactly the reality of life for many adolescent girls and boys in this world. The second born in history. A generation that has everything it needs, is richer than everyone before it and is therefore wondering what the meaning of all this is.
With entrepreneurial meticulousness and good work by one of the most influential music labels of this time, a performance and trustworthy character representation paired with great musical talent can be mimed from this real life, which has produced one of the greatest pop stars in modern music history. Billie Eilish is the result of Interscope Records’ search for a pop star who is visually and characteristically the next-gen.
The fact that her family, deeply rooted in the industry, may have left nothing to chance due to a lot of hard work and luck, is only a bitter aftertaste. As a result of the downright forced success and a presumably signed gag agreement, the parents gave up responsibility for their daughter, who was still underage at the time. Namely to a label, which from now on dominated the existence of Billie Eilish’s career infernal. If you look at the history of great masters of general art, music and pop culture, it may be the unstable and disaffected Billie who, like many others before her, breaks under an influence like this.
Inspiration grows out of suffering. Many great works come from unfortunate but brilliant artists of their time. It seems as if misfortune is the breeding ground from which true masterpieces arise. The feeling of a great sadness that was inherent in the inner workings of many musicians and artists produced something timeless and touching. But it also brought a tragic fate for many. If you limit yourself to a career in music, the myth of the young, successful and deceased of Club 27 is well known. Life shaped by depression, Weltschmerz, unrequited love and addiction is a parallel between all the men and women of pain in music. We consciously worked with these lifeworlds and emotions and turned them into hard cash.
The music industry cares little about content, only about profit. Crowd for crowd. A greed that demands discipline. A complex and well thought-out plan to put aspiring musicians in a position that allows the business behind the business to enrich itself immeasurably. Artists and musicians have to be kept desperate and sad at all costs in order to be able to exploit their art to the maximum. And that price already cost lives. Innocent lives of gifted exceptional talents who could not withstand the pressure of the maximum return on investment. Young musicians who were far too unstable. Who gained too early and excessive fame and probably never knew what was happening to them. A deep black and infernal fate. Frightening and unsettling to watch the extraordinarily talented and defenseless Billie Eilish as an industry can become the forge of its fate.
Originally published on July 13, 2021, updated on May 6, 2022