Letters for the week of March 12-18, 2003 

Doing a grave disservice to the community it purports to support; presupposing that spiritual seekers are nothing but simple-minded anachronisms.

"Has CMJ Become the Monster That Ate College Radio?" Feature, February 26

Loretta Lynch to CMJ: Ever Heard of Google, Y'All?
We'd like to applaud the Express for publishing the article by Katy St. Clair in last week's issue. Thanks as well go to KALX's Ian Hetzner, Paul Koehler, and Sandra Wasson for their discovery and whistle-blowing.

The excuse used by CMJ execs to delete legitimately charting bands and other artists -- that they couldn't "verify" the existence of these bands -- is pretty pathetic in an age of search engines. Are bands like us erased because we don't have industry muscle behind us? Because we're not on a label? In addition to our Web site (which comes up on the first page of a Google search, as Ms. St. Clair suggests), Loretta Lynch has played to a full house at the Great American Music Hall and at a wide variety of venues in and around the Bay Area. All verifiable -- all without a label.

CMJ clearly takes advantage of the reputation of college radio to promote its own ends, and does a huge disservice to the entire music community it professes to serve in the process. We hope that Ms. St. Clair and the Express will continue exposing the practices CMJ and other like entities use that stifle independent music.

Verifiably yours,
Loretta Lynch, aka Heather Davison, Val Esway, Ari Fellows-Mannion, and Joe Rut, Oakland and Berkeley

Part of a Larger Trend
I was CMJ's New World columnist for a few months, right before they ceased covering niche markets altogether, except for charting airplay. I quit when the powers that be informed me that I was expected to sell ads, which struck me as a complete conflict of interest. Also, I had a lot of trouble getting paid and eventually had to go to the law to collect. Judging by my experiences, your article is a dead-on account of how things are at CMJ. It's a sad loss, because it wasn't always this way and no other publication has emerged to take their place.

Christina Roden, New York City

Stupidity, Not Conspiracy
I don't see how it would benefit CMJ to intentionally get one of their compilations on the top 200. If it listed the actual artists on the compilation I'd be more suspicious, but it's an album chart and all that gets published is the title: "Certain Damage." No record label is going to pay for that.

The other thing I noticed is that the money numbers are wrong in that article. The tracks can cost as much as $2,000 or so on the compilation that goes in the monthly magazine available to consumers. But for the compilation that goes in CMJ New Music Report, the tracks are much less expensive -- it was around $700 last time I checked. It's considered advertising, which is the standard with compilations from all the radio trade magazines. Considering the serious problems CMJ has had with its online reporting system and its server, the computer glitch answer sounds right to me. In my experience, chalking it up to a technical screwup makes more sense than anything having to do with pay-for-play.
David Avery, Framingham, MA

Editor's note:
According to CMJ's own price list, which can be found on its Web site, the price of each track on the compilation that accompanies CMJ New Music Report is precisely $2,000.

"Touching Our Private Parts," Feature, January 29

Yuppie-Style Conservative or Antispiritual Hack?
I was shocked by this "mainstream" piece being published by what alleges to be an alternative press. The author's "wounded" bitterness drips from every line. At best, he notes Frank's determination and spiritualism. At worst (most of the article), he whines about being "pissed off" by Frank's confrontational humor (and claims that we would be too), or alludes that much of the rituals and performances are motivated by sexual desire (and gratification).

Having attended a performance (yes, just one) and even participating (a little, towards the end), I have to say either the author is a yuppie-style conservative or devoutly antispiritual (a radically "alternative" journalistic view indeed) to so grossly misinterpret Frank's message. Is he just embarrassed by nudity outside of sexuality, as his article seems to stress through repetition; does he feel threatened?

Or does he suppose he is representing the modern meme of "post-spiritual intelligence," which presupposes that people involved in either spiritual or philosophic exploration are simple-minded anachronisms, to be mocked and ridiculed for their self-gratifying rituals and beliefs? As if the meme of "consumption gratification" and "happiness through material rewards or entertainment," presented as intelligent and modern by the merchants and media, is not motivated by the same quest for "satisfaction" and "acceptance."

That an "alternative news source" would support the bitter and almost vindictive (if not discrediting then) undercrediting of alternative groups for their nonmainstream views smacks of hypocrisy of the highest order. I, for one, felt the author was trying to put himself above those he was "covering." What about the equality and openness that Frank represents threatens him so much that he felt obliged to sneer and look down his nose?

Frank is worthy of the coverage, and your article was long enough; too bad it seemed very biased and resentful. Maybe in the future you'll do a more earnest story, which, rather than being about how smart the author is, instead tries to illuminate the issues that Frank addresses and stimulates through his work.
Nic deGroot, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

"The Making of Leon Powe," Feature, February 19

Heroes Happen
Such a moving account of a true hero. I realize you can't always print accounts with happy endings, but am so glad you chose this one. We all need to know that successes like this DO happen to people in Oakland.

My very best wishes to Leon, his extended family, and all those who helped him make this happen.
Cherie Hishida, Oakland

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