Guns N' Roses, Welcome To Today's Jungle

Axl Rose has been working on "Chinese Democracy" for 17 years and has spent $13 million (as of 2005) to complete his just-released CD.

Rose is now 46 years old.

There are no roses, so to speak, left in Guns N' Roses if Axl is considered the top "gun". All the original band members are gone.

Whether the album sells at their exclusive record store or not is less relevant than the changes that have been taking place in the record industry since GNR's last album.

The labels are mere shadows of their former selves.

CD sales have declined all but one year since 2000.

Napster (the real Napster, the rogue Napster) has come and gone and changed the landscape for record sales. Free is the new price for music with a generation junior to Axl Rose.

Radio is whimpering out as a major factor in selling music.

MTV is not what it used to be when GNR's first album rocked the world.

The die hard fans of Guns N' Roses will no doubt not miss an opportunity to go over to Best Buy and pick up their CD for around $11.99. That, in and of itself, is a major change since we were welcomed to the jungle. Back then, fans went to a record store -- any record store -- and paid a fortune for CDs.

Today, GNR is a Best Buy loss leader.

Reuters reports that at Best Buy's New York City Chelsea store -- you'd hardly know the album was there. Modest display and few other signs around the store that such a major marketing event was taking place in their midst.

Things have changed a lot since the "good old days".

In all fairness, no matter what shape the record industry is in now, it's hard to take almost two decades off without losing the edge. And some reviewers have already knocked the new work -- saying the intros are the best parts. The New York Times reporter Jon Pareles writes this:

"By way of comparison with the old Guns N’ Roses, Mr. Rose’s latter-day songwriting tilts more toward the pomp of “November Rain” than the thrust of “Welcome to the Jungle” or the pealing guitar lines of “Sweet Child o’ Mine.” The one song on “Chinese Democracy” written by Mr. Rose alone, “This I Love,” is by far the album’s most maudlin track, and he hams it up further with a vibrato vocal homage to Queen’s Freddie Mercury".

I personally don't like to critique music. If that's your thing, I'm fine with it. Music is a personal thing -- if it resonates with even one person it has artistically achieved a goal. On a business level, of course, that resonator must be a sonic boom in order to make profit.

It's safe to say the 18 million albums sold by Guns N' Roses' debut album "Appetite for Destruction" will not be equaled by "Chinese Democracy".


Rose could take his sweet time with "Chinese Democracy" because he was pampered, tolerated and got away with bad boy tactics that groups can't pull off as readily in today's dire music industry climate.

They've got other problems.

Rose is a complicated personality who suffered abuse and growing up without a father. He has arrived at where he is -- for better or worse -- because he experienced pain and pleasure that he can articulate in a gifted way.

Pain is an advantage in music. Alanis Morissette's best work -- in my personal opinion -- was when she was unhappy and able to articulate the songs on "Jagged Little Pill". In subsequent works, she became happier singing "thank you Africa, thank you India" and it lost something for me.

And "Chinese Democracy" probably wouldn't have been the name of the GNR album if it were produced, say, 18 years ago. Even Axl Rose couldn't foresee the rise of China as a major world power. Of course, being a major world power in the age of pirates makes bootlegged Guns N' Roses albums more lost revenue for the artists and label.

Things change.

But some things do not.

Like arrogance.

The arrogance of a very talented artist who decimated his band to eventually emerge with his major event with musicians he eventually pulled together.

And, lest we forget, the arrogance of the record industry that in many, but not all ways, screwed things up even when times were good.

Even when everything broke in their direction.

Even when they had artists who sold 18 million CDs.

"Chinese Democracy" marks the end of the age of arrogance.

Going forward, whatever the music industry is to become, it will become one artist or band at a time.

Building from the ground up through social networks and eventually finding new ways to monetize their efforts -- a way that has yet to be proven or even articulated.

The jungle may prove to be a lot friendlier than the unknown -- where the future of the music industry now lies.

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