Option Magazine How do unknown groups attract the attention of record
   Frank Zappa Today record companies don't even listen to your tape.
   They look at you publicity photo. They look at your hair. They look at
   your zippers. How gay do you look? And if you've got the look then it
   really doesn't make a fucking bit of difference what's on the tape -
   they can always hire somebody to fix that. And they don't expect you
   to be around for 20 years. The business is not interested in
   developing artists. They want that fast buck because they realize that
   next week there's going to be another hairdo and another zipper. And
   they realize that the people are not listening, they're dancing, or
   they're driving, or something else. The business is more geared to
   expendability today. That's because merchandising is so tied to
   "visuals" now.
   Option Magazine How is music selected to be heard on pop radio? Is it
   determined by the taste of the listener or does the public listen to
   whatever the industry feeds them?
   Frank Zappa A little of both. Radio is consumed like wallpaper is
   consumed. You don't concentrate on the radio, you turn it on while
   you're working, you turn it on while you're driving. It's not like the
   old days when families sat around and looked at it. So the stations
   are formatted to provide a certain texture and ambience that will be
   consumed by people who view themselves in a certain way. Are you a
   yuppie? Well, you're going to listen to a certain texture because that
   reinforces the viewpoint you want to project to other people of who
   and what you are. It's the same thing as what you leave on your coffee
   table for people to discover when they come to your apartment. It's
   not a musical medium, it's an advertising medium.
   So if you have a nation of people who refuse to face reality about
   themselves, about the rest of the world, about anything, they want
   reinforcement for the fantasy that they're living in. And these
   consulting services that format the station know that. Market research
   will show that. So obviously you want to deliver to the public things
   that will reinforce that. A station loses money when somebody turns it
   off like the air. So as long as your station sounds like the kind of
   swill that the yuppie needs to consume, you got it.
   Option Magazine Could you give us your view of the process whereby a
   record becomes a hit?
   Frank Zappa It's simple. It's called "payola". You pay somebody to
   play your record.
   Hits are OK. I think they're wonderful for people who like to listen
   to them. But then, hits shouldn't be the sum total of music history.
   Let's face it. Mozart had hits. Beethoven had hits. Did you ever look
   in the Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians? There are thousands
   of names of people who wrote music throughout history, yet we haven't
   heard one line they ever wrote. That doesn't mean it is bad music. It
   just means they didn't have hits.
   In the old days, if the king didn't like you, or the church didn't
   like you or whatever,you didn't have a hit. As a matter of fact you
   might even be dead. So now you can have a hit if you are willing to
   pay. So who's the new king. Who's the new church?