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Music Biz Ails; Columbia Hires Canary As Consultant

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Author: Tom Attea

The music business has found the answer to its mounting ails, which all the iPod world knows: album sales being replaced by singles downloads, Tower Records closing, and Borders apparently not having a clue about what music to stock.

But now there seems to be hope on the horizon. Columbia Records is trying a radical new experiment. The record giant and a principle perpetrator of musical nonsense on an overly obliging public has retained a canary, much as songbirds have been employed to detect, by passing out, the presence of poison gas.

The job of the tuneful bird is to provide the executives in the A & R department with a reality check as to what a good song is.

Here's the new protocol. First the staff listens to a new track. If they think it has potential, they play it for the tweety bird. If it starts to sing along, they can present the ditty to management for probable release.

On the other hand, if the canary just stares in silence or falls off its perch, the track is to be considered not music.

Rumor has it that the music business may be remade toward a new melodiousness. So far the hipsters in pop and rap at Columbia's A & R department have played over a hundred selects for the canary. Yet they have not managed to play even one that has inspired the bird to sing along.

Since the canary is nature's own expert on song, there's just no way to get around the fact that the singing creature is the ideal arbiter of tuneful music.

Of course, A & R has grown somewhat impatient with the rigorous new standard, but management cannot afford to relent.

In fact, the chairman of Columbia has posted a sign in the A & R department that says, "If going into the woods to listen to birdsong was good enough for Beethoven, it's good enough for us."

So the A & R staffers, much to their reluctant tutelage, find themselves with only one choice: Listen to that bird.

About the author: Tom Attea, humorist and creator of, has had six shows produced Off-Broadway. Critics have called his writing "delightfully funny," "witty," with "good, genuine laughs" and "great humor and ebullience."

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