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Jan 2010

Raging Against the 'Music Machine'

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RageSo, Rage Against The Machine has snatched UK’s beloved Christmas number one spot from X-Factor winner Joe McElderry.

When Jon and Tracy Morter organised a Facebook group last month their sole aim was to end the monopoly Simon Cowell and his X-Factor buddies had on the coveted UK Christmas single. What it turned out to be was something slightly bigger.

For those of you who somehow missed this story. Jon and Tracy Morter are a couple from Essex who started a Facebook group called “Rage Against The Machine For Christmas Number 1” because they were “fed up” with X-Factor’s four-year chart dominance during festive season.

“Fed up of Simon Cowell’s latest karaoke act being Christmas No 1? Me too … So who’s up for a mass-purchase of the track ‘KILLING IN THE NAME’ from December 13th as a protest to the X Factor monotony?”. With these words, the battle began.

The idea was to encourage ‘real music’ fans to buy American rock-rappers Rage Against the Machine’s expletive-filled 1992 single “Killing in the Name Of” in the lead up to Christmas in order to beat McElderry’s “The Climb” to the Christmas number one spot.

So, why did they choose a 17 year-old song with the words “’F— YOU I WON’T DO WHAT YOU TELL ME” repeated 17 times over a more appropriately-angled, perhaps family-friendly, song for the festive period?

“It’s a rallying cry,” Mr Morter told NME.COM. “It’s been taken on by thousands in the group as a defiance to Simon Cowell’s ‘music machine’.”

“We picked a song that was controversial and has a strong message, and it just seems to have captured everyone’s imagination,” Mrs Morter added.

When he first heard of the campaign, Cowell labeled it as “stupid” and “cynical” and claimed it was specifically directed at him. In the end though, Cowell was gracious in defeat and called Jon and Tracy personally to congratulate them on a “well-deserved win” and a “great fight”.

A great fight it was.

In the beginning, no one really expected them to actually pull this thing off. How could two, relatively average, people from the small town of South Woodham Ferrers in Essex possibly defeat the multi-million dollar empire of music mogul Cowell?

The thing is, this little Facebook group struck a cord with people. It was time to make a stand. It was time stick it to ‘the man’.

What this campaign demonstrated was, by using social media as the medium the ‘little guy’ can make a real difference in this world. When enough people get together and are motivated to really give something a shake, anything is possible.

“The campaign behind RATM is interesting in its own right. If only because, once again, it demonstrates the power — if it can be called that — of the emergent internet radicalism,” writes Phil BC at A Very Public Sociologist.

“With very little time and cost, people are able to register their protest/opposition without the rigmarole of standing in the rain, listening to boring speeches, and beating off the desperate efforts of Trot paper sellers.”

Captain Jako at Frank Owen’s Paintbrush has a similar view on the campaign, “It once again points to the democratic potential of the internet. A grassroots effort coordinated over social networking sites and with zilch budget has proved more effective than the largely traditional marketing techniques used by wealthy industry bigwigs like Simon Cowell to get even more money out of UK consumers.”

Just five years ago, a campaign like Jon and Tracy Morter’s was almost impossible to achieve. However, in Facebook, Twitter and other social media websites, society now has a very real vehicle for change.

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