All Disasters Aren't Created Equal: Six Reasons the Music Industry Isn't Singing Over Spilt Oil

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Every summer has its Big Story This year, it's the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, an ecological and financial disaster that is quickly reaching such staggering proportions that the human mind can't comprehend it. It's like trying to count grains of sand on a beach -- or in this case grains of sand on the beach that still resemble sand and not glops of dysenteric bear poo.

And when such catastrophes rear their ugly heads, the music industry is one of the first responders, ready with a benefit single or charity concert. Famine, disease, family farming collapse, conspiratorial regicide, musicians know that nothing says, "We care enough not to change our routine" like rehashing an old standard or recording a drunken jam session.

So where's the Gulf spill's "We Are the World"?  


Except for a New Orleans benefit concert in May featuring Lenny Kravitz and raising about $300,000 for the Gulf region's seafood industry and wetlands restoration, there's been nary a peep. And that silence hasn't gone unnoticed, especially after efforts to help earthquake-ravaged Haiti and flood-ravaged Nashville. Some suggest that man-made, corporate disasters aren't as big a deal when those at fault are saying they'll be picking up the tab for the damages. (Hey, Alaska, how long did it take you to receive payment for the Exxon Valdez spill?) Could be. 

But I have my own ideas on what's behind the lack of response that's a little less cynical.

1. Summer concert season
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Vickie Chang/OC Weekly
Coachella 2007

Bonnaroo ended this weekend, and Lilith, Pitchfork and Lollapalooza are lurking in the wings. Artists are expending a lot of petrol in order to arrive at these events, and because we live in America, all musicians aren't forced to subscribe to Cloud Cult's hippy-drippy green philosophy. A benefit effort for the wildlife and people affected by the spill would just be gauche. If anything, proceeds should go to BP to make sure this disaster doesn't force them to drive up oil prices.


2. Waiting on Sarah McLachlan
The Canadian songstress has turned her song "Angel" into a Pavlovian tool that makes people blubber when they watch those depressing ASPCA commercials of abused animals. The music industry is waiting for her to turn Possession, I Will Remember You or even Ice Cream into an anthem for sludge-soaked sea turtles. And pity the musician who steals her thunder. He or she will wind up beached on a panhandle resort, covered from tongue to taint in tar balls.


3. Lots of dead people > Few dead people, lots of dead birds and fish, unemployed working class
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This is just simple math. You can tell because I used the greater-than symbol. You can't argue with math. And neither can pop stars.


4. Escalation of Lady Gaga-Katy Perry feud

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Christopher Victorio/OC Weekly

It's a fool's bet if you think Russell Brand can keep the peace in this beef. Eventually, an innocent bystander is going to be torched by a flame-throwing bra, or someone is going to pull in M.I.A., and redheads and unlisted cell phone numbers are going to be in jeopardy. Musicians are keeping some cash handy to help the relief effort for this ugly fight's aftermath.


5. No explodo
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Flickr user focalintent

Hurricanes winds blow shit over. Earthquakes knock shit around. An oil pipeline leak just spews shit into the water. From below, which means no big splashes or waves or bubbles (...except for that first brief explosion). Just a bunch of floating shit. A good, benefit-worthy disaster can't coast on a label. It needs to make an effort to be entertaining.


6. New Orleans fatigue
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This is a hard pill to swallow, and the the music industry--nay, the entire entertainment industry--is too classy to say it out loud. That's why I have to. It breaks down like this:

New Orleans, you need to understand that the entertainment community is brimming with sensitive, arty types who are willing to help out people in their times of need. But there's a lot of suffering and cruelty in the world, and you can't expect Bono to answer the phone and empathize with you 24/7. Sure, he's a saint, but that doesn't mean his patience is infinite. Hurricane Katrina was just an awful tragedy. Terrible. And the celebrities were there for you when it came to the money and the clean up and the rebuilding. Even moral support. You got a Super Bowl, Reggie Bush got to date a Kardashian, David Simon put together a highbrow HBO series for you featuring a bunch of your musicians no one has ever heard of in 20 years. The industry's done its part, so maybe you could handle this on your own, let the celebs chill out a bit so they can hook up with some other charitable efforts. Don't worry, they'll be back for Mardi Gras.
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