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Bragg Takes on Banks, Downloads Take Off and the Religion of Metal

By Mike Breen · January 19th, 2010 · Minimum Gauge


Tax and Spend (and Spend and Spend and Spend...)

Like most of us, politically-minded British Folk singer Billy Bragg is disgusted by the way the banking industry has continued to hand out giant bonuses, despite being given huge “bailouts” from the government (or, more accurately, we the taxpayers). Unlike most of us, he's taking a stand and actually trying to do something about it.

Bragg has announced that he will no longer pay income tax and he's encouraging everyone else to join him in the tax boycott. Bragg wants the government in the UK to step in and limit giant bonus payments to execs at the Royal Bank of Scotland, which is scheduled to pay a reported $2.5 billion in bonuses next month, even while politicians are threatening huge cuts in public spending due to the rising national debt.


Gallantly Streaming?

Music industry pundits are predicting that the massive growth of digital downloads may level off this year, not because of return to older formats like CD or vinyl, but to an even more ephemeral delivery system — streaming audio.

Instead of purchasing MP3s, more and more music listeners are content to listen to music stored on other people's servers, migrating in droves to services like Pandora, LastFM, Spotify and LaLa (which was acquired late last year by Apple, another sign of a probable paradigm shift).

Technological advancements are making “on demand” services more attainable, and the industry, which was so seemingly caught off guard by the download revolution, is already looking at ways to capitalize and stay ahead of the curve (which pretty much means subscription fees for currently-free sites are imminent). So now guys at bars who had to shift pick-up lines from “Hey baby, wanna come back to my place and check out my huge record collection” to “I've got a massive iTunes library back at my pad” will now have to develop personalities or come up with new ways to pick up girls. “I've got the Barry White station on Pandora bookmarked,” just doesn't have the same seductive ring to it.


Metal Church

It has its own gods (Dio, Maiden, Ozzy), places of worship (hockey arenas), hymns (“War Pigs”) and hand signals (devil horns), so why can't Heavy Metal be considered a religion? There is a movement afoot in the UK, led by Saxon frontman Biff Byford and Metal Hammer Magazine, asking people to declare “Metal” as their religion for the 2011 census reports. In the last UK census, a similar campaign was launched whereby citizens declared “Jedi” their religion of choice, ultimately making it the fourth biggest religion there, just behind Christianity, Islam and Hinduism.

If the campaign succeeds, look for new UK holidays like “Black Sabbath” (Feb. 13, the date Sabbath's debut album came out), “Metallicamas” (Aug. 3, celebrating the birth of Lord Savior, James Hetfield) and the Metal April Fool's Day, March 2, the day Jethro Tull won the first Hard Rock/Metal Grammy award, in 1988. We're also looking forward to employers' responses to “religious dress” (torn jeans and faded concert T-shirt) and “It's my religion/It's against my religion” excuses (no Muzak in the office, mandatory 4:20 p.m. “smoke breaks”).



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