Sunday, May 31, 2009
MAKING MUSIC MATTER
As exciting, new, and influential as music is today, it still lacks some sort of prestige. The focus during the times of Monterey pop and Woodstock was music, not money, fame, success, and glamour. Given the downfall of the music industry and a time where innovation is key, do you think it is finally time that artists' will focus on making music and not worry about all secondary elements that come with it?
What comes first, the chicken or the egg? Does life imitate art, or are artists describing the world around them? Are the paintings of victorious hunters that adorn the walls of paleolithic caves prophesying things to come, or are they records depicting past accomplishments? These ancient questions have been the subject of much debate, and they have no perfect answers. Dance and music were the first and most enduring of the performing arts. It is impossible to tell when they transitioned from religious life rituals to show business but for certain it was a process that evolved over thousands of years.
The pursuit of entertainment is one of man's four basic instincts. Twenty five percent of all human endeavor is devoted to various forms of creating, observing or participating in entertainment. The cultural circumstances that create the popularity of particular songs are part of a multi-faceted process that is continuously evolving. Every time the technology changes, the entire game must be reinvented. The old systems and protocols must surrender to new mechanics and politics that defy the status-quo and impose artistic integrity on the future.
When teens, coming of age, venture into the pursuit of personal identity their primary vehicle of expression is music and dancing. Their parents musical legacy becomes associated with a past they yearn to abandon. Peer pressure and personal yearning contribute to the search for mathematical satisfaction in the moment. Humanity is gloriously addicted to music, the mathematics of the masses. Every generation selects and defines its own musical heroes.
The Internet has invaded the world of music with both a powerful destructive force and a liberating weapon of mass distribution. The digital convergence provides a vast array of creative possibilities as it simultaneously inflicts obsolescence on the prevailing methods of producing and marketing music. Technology induced evolution is not accomplished by the flip of a switch. Old ways die hard and innovation starts small and grows slowly. The decay of the postmodern record business will happen over an extended time period. The birth of the new music industry paradigm has already begun in the form of a music renaissance.
Digital recording , MP3 technology and the ubiquitous iPod have revolutionized how music is accessed and how popularity is assessed. Every musical genre is demonstrated through millions of songs and videos that dominate social networking and Internet marketing web sites. Music fans have instant access to the historical music archives and on demand, free acquisition of the extant content. They have been liberated to choose and share the music they love without the influence imposed by record company selection committees.
The freedom to choose has diluted the taste pool and divided the global fan base into communities of niche market interest. No new musical force has emerged with a dominant style to galvanize a mass audience. Without the emergence of a superstar the consolidation of appreciation and interest, that brings prestige to an art form, is not likely to occur. Music as an institution has gained enormous value in the minds of the youth, but specific interest in a particular genre has been elusive. It would defy history for this situation to prevail.
For almost three decades main stream popular music has been dominated by the Hip Hop culture. A majority of the successful product was rebellious in nature and its validity has rested on images of misogyny, drugs and the accumulation of wealth. The new generation seems to have rejected these values and is seeking a more focused message from its heroes. The well entrenched singer/songwriter community is surging forward with a renewed vigor and provides the most viable competition to the burgeoning electronica movement.
The artists who were presented at the Monterey Pop Festival and Woodstock were part of an underground music environment generated by the explosion of FM radio. It was further fueled by a massive resistance to the Viet Nam war and long prevailing racial injustice. Most of the performers, at these major pop festivals, were new artists on the threshold of careers that grew significantly as a result of the media explosion that followed the events.
Fame and fortune were not motivating factors for these emerging artists. Most were confident of their talent, but they were not commercially successful. Furthermore, there was a rejection of establishment values. This spawned a drug soaked counter-culture attuned to truth and enlightenment and opposed to the accumulation of wealth as a primary, motivational goal.
A generational reaction to the trying times we endure today, should create some manner of rebellion in the emerging artist pool. This new artistic community must be willing to describe their parent's failure to protect the future for their grandchildren. Songwriters, singers, musicians, bands and music entrepreneurs must imagine and communicate a vision for tomorrow that denigrates greed, war and toxicity and inspires peace, love and survival. Such a message could unify a generation and create a music movement that would empower the evolution revolution. If an army of innovative artists stood up and demonstrated the will and talent to change the world the accouterments of fame and fortune would surely follow.
Saturday, May 30, 2009
The optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds; and the pessimest fears this is true.
James Branch Cabell 1876 - 1958
J.W. Lonsdale asks:
Many bands with only 100 base fans plan to go on tour each summer. Considering all that it takes to put an act on the road, will this accomplish anything? If they enroll a few hundred new fans across the Nation, what benefit would the band see? Merch they sell at the gigs plus the little pay they get for playing may barely compensate for the travel expenses. What would be the best way to convince them that they just don't have to endure this process?
All bands start out at rock bottom. Careers in music always begin lost in the fog of showbiz. There are many prevailing mis-perceptions born of the postmodern record business paradigm. For many decades the promotion and marketing of recorded music has been conducted on a national and international level. Hit records have always been the driving force in the process of breaking new acts and advancing established artist's fame and fortune. The vanguard in these assaults has been the "single" record. One song from an album, usually selected by committee, would be presented to national radio by the promotion departments of the record companies. These songs suffer through an excruciating process that requires an enormous amount of systemic coordination and a modicum of lick. It is the personal manager's responsibility to unify the activities of touring and radio airplay to effect the life extension of any given record.
The ubiquity of digital distribution, peer-to-peer file sharing, and free music has changed the business model that built the extant infrastructure of the postmodern record industry. The system can no longer survive in its current form. After vigorous debate on all the causes and effects, every musician with vision must embrace the fact that the old paradigm has shifted and the once reliable, established, path no longer leads to the desired destination. Touring was once the most effective way to contribute to the promotion process. The personal appearance induced the record company to take action on the current single in each market where the artist performed. In order to "break" new artists the record company would guarantee the artist and manager that the "shortfall" financial losses incurred on tour would be covered by the label.
The big four major record companies are floundering in a state of confusion that began when they rejected Napster, and decided to sue their customers, instead of embracing digital distribution. Their fears were well founded. In an effort to retain very high profit margins, on per unit sales, they tried to stop the proliferation of music itself. That strategic error has precipitated the downfall of the old system. Downloads are the future and those who deny it are doomed to fail. The challenge becomes how to create a financial business model that can support a new method of marketing and distributing music. This necessity challenges artists and entrepreneurs to reinvent the ancient enterprise of compensating musicians and songwriters for their product.
The two primary activities that must be addressed, in this renewal, are performing and recording. Both are relatively easy things to initiate and very difficult things to bring to profit. Anybody with a guitar and a song can stand on a street corner and sing for his supper. He is immediately a performer and a business enterprise. With a MacBook, a microphone and ProTools software he is a record producer. These two functions provide the core elements of a perpetual motion machine that produces compensation for art, money for music. The organized expansion of this process can lead to fame and fortune.
The first plateau of success is survival. In the music renaissance, survival is accomplished when the artist makes his living, by purveying his music, without the need for a day job. That means all of life's necessities, and the costs of being in business, are paid for from the various income streams that accrue to the artist from box-office receipts, branded merchandise and recorded music sales. Without huge record company investment in touring and record promotion this level of success is very hard to reach.
The spending of vast amounts of money trying to reach a national audience is no longer viable. The future of music lays in the success of local artists. If a band cannot make it in its home town, it cant make it anywhere. If it can make it at home it can make it everywhere. The threshold for entry is very low. Anybody can call himself an artist. There are millions of singers and bands that can be accessed instantly on the Internet, if one knows where to look he might even find something with artistic value. With so many contenders, it is difficult to find the greatness.
The great is always easily recognized, it is the mediocre that clouds our vision. If you think your talent is so magnificent that the world will flock to your concerts, when they know about you, prove it. Conduct your career within driving distance of your home. Don't invest your earnings in hotel rooms, long distance travel and per-diems. If your music has universal appeal, you will build a following that will sustain your survival. Music fans, that bond with your act in the intensity of the live performance experience, will buy your CDs and merch. They will spread your legend by word-of-mouth and text messaging. Your own viral marketing efforts will sustain and grow this fan base. Success cannot be achieved without an aggressive Internet presence.
If you become the dominant musical force in your community and develop a profitable business around music, a national presence will follow. The local promoters and agents will be aware of your ability to sell tickets in your home town. This will get you on the bill with national artists who visit your town. They are eager to move the last thousand tickets on their arena shows. If they see your value, they could take you on tour, as their opening act, in other markets. The years of practice you have invested in your act will reveal to new audiences your polished performance and a repertoire of songs shaped and crafted over time. They will join your fan base and expand your career organically.
The integral ingredient is a great live show. An entertaining performance doesn't happen over night. It requires a practiced integration of musical virtuosity, compelling material, charisma, sex appeal and desire. The passionate pursuit of imagined goals is the most powerful creative process on Earth. If you know what you want and have a clear plan of action coupled with an obsessive commitment to the certainty of your eventual success you are an invincible force. Stay home, become a big fish in the small pond and you will attract the world to your web site. From there the touring of your act will be paid for by the demand for your presence in the global marketplace.
There will be no need for the artificial support mechanism previously provided by record companies. Even if they deliver the radio airplay promised, is anybody still listening? Even if they do "loan" you the money to go on tour, it is of little significance in a world where music fans no longer wish to have their music choices dictated to them by monolithic corporations with a profit agenda. Music is first and foremost an art form. Its role in our culture is to serve and inspire the listener. Personal identification with artists and their music is an act of choice. It all starts with a song that communicates artistic integrity and pure love though melody, meter and message. It ends with a vast legion of followers who will sustain the acts long term success and survival.
Friday, May 29, 2009
Maddy Weese asks:
I recall you telling our class that in order for a genre to make it it in industry as a major influence it must have a "superstar." Could this be possible when most of the electronic music artists are disk jockeys mixing other people's talent? Could there ever be a huge superstar, the kind you have explained to us in class, in the electronic genre? What classifies someone as a superstar when there are so many different opinions and varieties of music?
The Internet has made every known genre of music totally accessible to the global fan base. With the ability to have thousands of songs on your iPod, for free, musical taste is expanding as never before in the long tail of recorded music. This universal exploration is broadening the public perception of music in general. As the fans are exposed to more sophisticated music their tastes change and the mathematical mind tickle music provides seeks more and more satisfaction. Humanity is gloriously addicted to music.
At first exposure we are satisfied with vanilla, but once we have tasted chocolate, strawberry and the array of other musical flavors, our demands shift. Over the past decade, the practice of DJs manipulating other artist's music has been acceptable in the burgeoning electronic music world. However, the public has proven they want chocolate and the rise of Daft Punk and others is proving that original songs presented by talented performing artists is still the necessary ingredient for major success. It will take a superstar to explode the genre.
A superstar is someone with a unique and inovative style, who reaches an ubiquitous audience, and dominates the popular music culture by setting a standard that all other artists competing for supremacy must meet. The hybrid quality of Hip Hop, Electronic, pop stylist Lady GaGa has produced one of the few platinum selling albums of 2009. Her Ladyship is very strong out of the box but the game is about duration. Buddy Holly, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Ersel Hickey, Jerry Lee Lewis and others all gave Elvis a run for his money before Elvis The Pelvis ran away with the top spot and became The King of Rock & Roll.
It remains to be seen who will win the competition for supremacy in this evolving musical force and become the Avatar of Electronica. The great thing is this generation seems to have finally chosen a new genre to embrace as the music of their lives. The race is on between electronica, a new wave of singer/songwriters and several other creative competitors for the popularity crown. A superstar must eclipse all competition and bring their particular music to prominence in order to claim dominion. The proof will be determined by the size of the following and most importantly by the fan base choosing to honor the new star by paying for the music. The mass audience will have to fall in love and choose their Superstar before the question is answered. This is a case where size does matter.
The standard is very high and the degree of difficulty is greater than ever because of the proliferation of styles. The easy access to millions of songs and the low cost of Internet exploration makes it difficult ot find the higest quality material. there is a "fog of art" imposed by the easy access to the prevailing system. When anybody with a tune in his head, a mac and a microphone can enter the competiiton, the truly talented become lost in the well of dilution. To succeed, one must know how to play the game, play perfectly well and have superior talent. Then, they will still have to get lucky to win the mantle of "Superstar."
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Nature, Mr. Allnutt, is what we are put into this world to rise above.
James Agee 1909 1955: The African Queen
Remixes seems to be the big trend now. People are taking songs and changing little parts of them or completely restructuring the entire song. What do you think about that?
Beauty is in the ear of the listener. There is a long tradition of amateur and professional record producers manipulating the works of others for their own amusement. This is not unlike a mechanic adding accessories to an automobile or a hipster cutting the sleeves off his shirt. If you own the music and the technology gives you the ability to make adjustments to the original work, it is your right to do so. It is all part of the the digital convergence. It is fair to say that some of the changes may have been for the better and their is a cult interest in the variations produced. In most cases the originators probably got it right and the remixes don't add much improvement. Most of these alterations are designed to enhance the dance factor.
Some might see the practice as desecration of the original artist's intellectual property Certainly, the owners of the copyright and the master recordings do not surrender any of their entitlements. If unauthorized remixes are offered for sale through any venue, on line or through brick and mortar sales all royalties and mechanical fees are due the songwriters and artists who created the original works. However, since most of the usage is perpetuated by DJs at live events, and peer-to-peer file sharing, there is probably not a lot of money changing hands.
First and foremost music is about fun and entertainment and if somebody wants to strip his car down and remove all the extra hardware or add four barrel carburetors to turn an old Ford into a hot rod, why not. There is no harm done when a recording engineer does the same thing to a record. When he tries to put some miles on that speedster by turning it into an income stream for himself, he's asking for a ticket. Stealing is made easy in the digital age, but there are honesty and integrity issues that every individual has to face. Traditional values are not always honored in a culture where animosity toward corporate excess runs very high. There is an entrenched perception that stealing music doesn't harm the little guy, but that is not true. Music piracy effects everybody in the food chain and in the end, the artist has the most to lose.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
There was only one catch and that was catch-22... Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn't, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn't have to; but if he didn't want to he was sane and had to.
Joseph Heller - 1923 - 1999: Catch-22 (1961)
THE VOICE OF A GENERATION
Jon Deutsche asks:
Could a single artist in a single genre actually represent our entire generation? Or are the musical tastes of our generation too eclectic as a result of more exposure of music through the internet? How could one person/group capture the interest of several very different audiences?-
If Aristotle's dictum that freedom is an essential ingredient of happiness holds true, music fans should be living in a state of ecstasy. When it is possible to hold ten thousand songs of your choice in your iPod and be under no particular obligation to pay for them, it is truly revolutionary. Prior to the advent of peer-to-peer file sharing, musical taste was filtered by distribution systems that were restricted mechanics and protocols dictated by the music industry rather than through the public taste. The record business decided what music would proliferate and the fans followed.
The extant institutions created a flow of recorded music starting with the sheet music publishers and record companies. They provided a stream of "product" selected by committee. The choices made by A&R men and record executives were often influenced by by fads, trends and recent successes. The filtering process often eliminated the most original and creative artists from the competition. Buyers of recorded music had a limited selection to choose from. The promotion process was tightly controlled and most often emulated the styles of prevailing superstars. The music of Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and The Beatles set the historical trajectory for more than sixty years. The transitions between genres was always dictated by an advancing technology.
The influence of the digital age on the music industry is overwhelmingly profound. The Internet has brought the postmodern record business to its knees. The entire industry has been consolidated down to four major companies that control ninety percent of the traditionally recorded product. The infrastructure that evolved in these companies was built on a business model that is no longer viable. Massive shrinking of their overheads is in progress. The ability of these companies to discover, develop and maintain long term careers is in serious jeopardy. Their prevailing system is very much tied to a tight control of AM and FM radio. However, this generation of music fans is not particularly attached to radio. The iPod is their weapon of choice.
These fans are more involved in the selection process than any previous generation. The music they identify with is chosen through a controlled network of distribution dominated by very small niche groups and online communities. The array of musical styles available covers the entire history of recorded music. There is no genre that cannot be fully explored on the world wide web in minutes. Virtually every song ever recorded can be found and downloaded free of charge. There is more music in play than ever before in history. The only problem is how do the creators of it get compensated? If songwriters and performers can't sell records, how do they survive? Without an industry geared to the discovery of new talent how will the next superstar be born? These are questions without obvious answers but there is an historical trajectory.
Every previous era has produced innovators and original stylists who have brought together a myriad of qualities to produce an ubiquitous following from the arriving teen generation. This particular age group inevitably rebels against its parents music and chooses to identify with a style of its own. This process seems to be a natural phenomenon that is part of coming of age in America. It is unlikely that this right of passage would disappear because digital technology facilitated the proliferation of music to a wider audience.
It is most likely that a new superstar will rise on the winds of change. It will require a lot of extraordinary talent ending up in one package for this to happen. But, should that artist arrive the economics imposed by digital distribution systems could create huge financial windfalls instantly and the competition would explode in a new direction. If the fans decided to actually purchase the music, out of an increased affection for the artist, the new business model would spread like wildfire. Fortunes could be made in a day.
It is entirely possible that this scenario may never come to pass. Music fans could explore all of the great genres on a song by song basis and create the soundtrack to their lives on an individual basis. It is possible that personal choice would become the standard and that one's identity was tied to a very specific content chosen to reflect a personal commentary on the musical taste of an individual. The ability to send an entire library of music as one's calling card would certainly communicate a significant amount of information about a new friend or acquaintance. What one stands for and values would be quite evident from a digital survey of the songs and artists a person values and supports. The getting to know you phase of a relationship would be greatly accelerated by exposure of the musical soul. Perhaps music has become too big for any one force to dominate. I on the other hand, keep one eye on the horizon, because I fully expect the next big thing to pop up around the next corner. What a glorious day it will be when that star rises.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Kevin Cenepa asks:
If you are a solo artist with quite a few songs, what should be the next step? Recording first, or trying to play gigs and eventually recording after gigging for a while?
There are two primary activities in the music business, performing and recording. In this age of low cost digital record production there is a huge temptation to put the cart before the horse. Everybody with a mac, a mic , and a tune in his head does not automatically become a talented recording engineer because he can boot up Pro tools. Listening to ten thousand records doesn't make one a great record producer. Novice songwriters should be reminded constantly that every song they write is not a crystal tear from the eye of Zeus. And, every record they make is not an audio masterpiece destined to scream up the pop charts spraying fame and fortune in its wake.
The one true thing is music publishing and the single source of all popular music is great songs. There are many reasons that contribute to a record becoming a hit and there is a primary reason they fail. Most records fail because the song was poorly crafted and lacked one or more of the three "Ms" of songwriting. A great song is a meticulously crafted balance of melody, meter and message. The crafting of these elements into an esthetically pleasing, reproducible work of art is not about the writing, but the rewriting. It is extremely rare for a composition to reach its final form in real time. Most hit songs are assembled slowly from bits and pieces of phrases and notes that are moulded into a theme and carved to reveal a story.
Young songwriters with extensive repertoires should begin their careers by performing their material before live audiences. The starting point is in front of a mirror. Perform your songs for thousands of hours until you are totally immersed in every lick and every lyric. Careful attention should be paid to every detail of how one moves and what is spoken before and after a song is performed. This is show business and nothing should be taken for granted. The attention and respect of an audience has to be earned; and it is not always awarded. Sometimes the patrons will totally ignore the act on stage. When the volume goes up they just talk louder. Stopping to listen is a choice and the goal of the artist is to seduce the reluctant listener with the music.
The artistic quality of the material is what draws a room full of people to surrender to the performance. The audience reaction to any given tune establishes what is working and what is not working about each particular song. Repetition is the grind stone of perfection. The more times a song is performed live the more polished it becomes. The changes that evolve in the composition are subtle and the balance intricate. The words must be forged to the music and the tempo perfected. Through this process the many facets of a song are blended to complete the final arrangement.
When the repertoire of songs is buffed, polished and perfected the recording process can begin. This doesn't mean one shouldn't produce work records during the songwriting phase. Hearing the material as it is being created certainly helps evaluate the end result and it can demonstrate what works and what doesn't. Turning a finished song into a master recording is another arduous process that requires patience and skill. There are thousands of manipulations and techniques that can be applied to alter the quality and content of sound. A new artist cannot be expected to know all of them. This is where trial and error, experience and talent come into play.
Musicians in pursuit of enduring careers in The Music Renaissance must master many skills. Survival is the first level of success. If you can make a living creating and performing music, without having to hold a day job, you have reached the first plateau. In order to accomplish this you must control all the income streams. If an artist writes the songs, produces the records and performs the material in the live arena he is well on his way to survival. The symbiotic relationship between live performing and marketing music and merchandise to music fans provides the engine of the artist's business model. Drawing a crowd to a given venue, bonding with them and selling them recorded and branded merchandise is the game.
There is a gravity imposed by the status-quo that makes this pursuit difficult. Winning is about providing entertainment in a forceful manner that incites an audience to identify with the act. A willing fan supports an act by buying tickets, records, t-shirts, posters and whatever else an artist's dignity will allow him to endorse. A good show will bring fans back for more, and if it is really great they will bring their friends, again and again. If an act can become a dominant musical force in its home town, it can spread that popularity far and wide.
The invisible ingredient is talent. A bad song, poorly sung and weakly presented won't build a career. The audiences are sophisticated and know what they like. Polish your material by performing it live, then record it well and sell it to your fan base. That is the process that each new artist must follow and duration is the goal. If you are still making your living from music twenty years from now, you will have proven the point. And, you will probably be rich and famous. Start now, work hard and move your career forward every day. Evolve a clear vision of your short and long term goal structure; nurture it with imagination, passion and action. Most importantly, never give up.
Monday, May 25, 2009
Eilly O'Neil asks:
Do you think that this period of artists emerging through youtube or myspace will last? What is it about these sites that is making these artists successful?
Social networking has become a very important tool in the dissemination of contemporary music. There is no doubt that the Internet will continue to provide a valuable service in the exposure of new artists and their music. Only time will tell if any of these artists have enduring qualities. There are millions of videos and promotional pages available on youtube.com and myspace.com. The low threshold to entry provided by digital video and recording software gives anybody with a song in his head a chance to post his music on the Internet. This phenomenon has resulted in the proliferation of very mediocre content. The world wide web is rampant with poorly crafted songs recorded by inexperienced producers who provide boring arrangements and little musical virtuosity. This has created a hay stack of brass needles so vast that it is near impossible to find an artist of quality no matter how hard you search. Among those millions of songwriters, singers, musicians and bands are a certain number of golden needles. However, the truly talented are lost in the shear volume of contenders that is increasing every day. The Internet is the great equalizer. If an artist is genuinely gifted above the norm it is likely that enthusiastic fans will spread the word through peer-to-peer file sharing and instant text messaging. The fan base of any given artist is likely to be expanded and nurtured by the music aficionados in the various social communites. There is always someone who wants to discover the next big thing , and that person is always hunting and usually hears about the good stuff first. They inspire others to follow and have become a vital part of building an act on the Internet. So far, I don't see any "superstars" that were created on the Internet. However, it does seem that before a new act gets much attention from the traditional record business a strong web presence is required. In that sense the Internet is the new A&R mechanism. If you get millions of hits on your web site it is a pretty good indicator that somebody out there is taking you seriously. The potential of this phenomenon is enormous. If everybody with an iPod decided to purchase a download on the same song the profits would be enormous. It hasn't really happened yet, but when it does it will be because an artist emerges with such talent, charisma and sex appeal that the fan base decides to pay rather than steal the music. Most of the contemporary artists are competing in niche musical formats and there is little sign of anybody who might reach an ubiquitous audience. However, history shows that sooner or later every generation puts a hero up the pop charts. It usually happens when there is a doldrums like we are experiencing now and definitely requires a "superstar" talent to break through.
Sunday, May 24, 2009
If it falls to me to start a fight to cut out the cancer of bent and twisted journalism in our country with the simple sword of truth and the trusty shield of British fair play, so be it.
Jonathan Aitken - 1940 -
MUSIC & THE ECONOMY
Jane Zatkin asks:
What do you think can fix the economy right now? And do you think that it will affect the music business even more if it gets worse?
The state of the economy is not the result of some accidental choice or random, disastrous event. It is the direct product of an intentional conspiracy to destroy the American middle class. Prior to World War I and WWII the economy of the United States was cruelly dominated by "robber barons" and an egalitarian elite known euphemistically as the "idle rich." These powerful corporate monsters and banking predators drove the country into the Great Depression and built a giant "war machine" to reinforce a failing economic system. Through the music of revolutionary troubadours like Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger a strong labor movement was evolved that provided a balancing mechanism that resisted corporate dominance and the great American middle class was born. Music was a key component in the inspiration of this transition. The education of the veterans of these global wars and the rise of middle America, was something the ruling class eventually grew to regret. A middle class is not a natural phenomenon. Throughout all of world history the rich and powerful have enslaved the poor and defenseless. It has always been incumbent upon the intelligentsia and the artistic community to speak out to power in defense of the masses. For the past thirty years, initiated by Ronald Reagan and sustained by the heirs to America's political system, the neoconservative agenda has driven the middle class back into poverty. The resolution of our current dilemma is tied to the danger of rebuilding our economy on the same model that brought us to this disastrous precipice in the first place. Reinforcing the global banking apparatus is a huge mistake; it will only lead to history repeating itself. The creation of perpetual wars to enrich the war machine will destroy America. Only through a global cultural "Evolution Revolution" can we precipitate the changes that will turn our world from a "geed" armament machine into a "green" survival mechanism. For this to happen the hearts and minds of Americans must change course and we must revise our vaunted life-style. If the force of music is brought to play on this problem by an impassioned and motivated artist's community it will provide the fuel for the revival of the music industry. It will simultaneously enlighten and lead the world population toward a higher calling than they presently embrace. Turning from a "me" mentality to a "we" consciousness will only happen if pop culture heroes stand up and sing this truth in their message. Musicians have always been the champions of cause, and without them all we can expect is more of the same. Find the voice for change and learn the cost of freedom. Start with your self and live your life for change; the world is sure to follow. The business adapts to the music and the fans implement the changes. This survival mechanism will work, but it requires that musicians take charge and force the next generation to stand up, take notice an defend itself.
Saturday, May 23, 2009
It isn't that they can't see the solution. It is that they can't see the problem.
G. K. Chesterton 1874- -1936
THE FUTURE OF PROTEST MUSIC
Jennifer Marchini asks:
Stephen Stills composed his hit song "For What It's Worth" after witnessing the closing of a nightclub called Pandora's Box. This song was composed and released shortly after the event. Considering that digital music is at the forefront in the music industry, do you believe more hit songs will emerge in a similar manner? Since songs can be composed and released within a short period of time, do you believe musicians may use popular, or current, events to gain an audience base?
An inspired musician with a transformational message could use the Internet to distribute his song around the world in a single day. The last line of defense in any democracy is the arts. Prior to the assassination of John Kennedy, there was a certain flavor of innocence that permeated our society. The American dream, invented by the returning victors of World War ll, took root in the late forties and fifties when millions of ex military personal received free educations through the G.I. Bill. The resultant birth of a dominant middle class was dedicated to the idea that, "I went to war so my kid wouldn't have to go." The bubble burst when JFK died leaving the nation in the midst of a series of bazaar residual incidents and myriad conspiracy theories. There was a loss of trust and open rebellion against the government and universal military service. The acceleration of the Viet Nam War, that Kennedy had planned to bring to a halt, further alienated the youth who were expected to bleed and die in service to a military industrial complex driven by paranoia about communism. Little consideration was given to the fact that Ho Chi Minh was the George Washington of his country. This environment created a basic distrust of the political system that fueled the event known as "The Riot On Sunset Strip." Stephen Stills classic song "For What Its Worth," as released on record by Buffalo Springfield, was both an observation of the event itself and a vision warning of more intense confrontations to come. The legend says that Stills recorded the song in one night, played all the instruments and sang the vocals. It received massive airplay on AM and FM radio almost instantly. He and many of the songwriters of the "Folk Rock" era were emulating the social commentary of Woody Guthrie, Peter Seeger and Bob Dylan who exposed the corporate excesses of the thirties and the insidious racism that poisoned the united States. These and other great singer/songwriters have historically described the injustices of their time through music. They were an admired force and their opinions valuable and influential. During the sixties, the youth of America abandoned loyalty to the system that failed to protect their president and chose new leaders to follow. Musicians became the new national heroes. This resulted in the massive explosion of music and arts that resulted in the establishment of the postmodern record business. The war to stop the Viet Nam war was ultimately won through the passive resistance of the Hippies and the militant actions of the Black Panthers. They abandoned traditional mores, experimented with psychedelic drugs, created a counter-culture and used music to rally opposition forces. This anti-war mind set was fueled by ubiquitous television coverage of a very graphic nature. The blood, fire and hot lead was screened on TV nightly, creating the first major "reality" television programming. Today, the perception of "necessary" wars is carefully sanitized to keep the true cost out of the public purview. A compliant fourth estate has abdicated its historical obligation to report the "truth" and instead contributes to a psychological cushion that helps keep the public disengaged. Unless you are part of a military family you are rarely reminded that the wars exist. The news media is now part of the propaganda machinery in service to the corporate interest. This is why the newspaper is rapidly losing its efficacy as a tool for enlightening the public. Most discerning adults, and virtually all of the youth, rely on Internet sources for their information. Serious life lessons could be communicated instantly to the world if artists would discern the truth and had the courage to write and sing about it. This will require a change of perception about what is really going on in the world. Performing artists must form convictions and present them to a core audience currently confused by the fog of war. It must be jump started by a change of mind and will be driven by artists with the courage to resist the "fear" politics now fueled by a cultural war on "terror," just as the communist "menace" fueled a hot war in the Viet era. Many artists offer enlightened points of view, but the Evolution Revolution needs a superstar with an inspirational message to emerge. A great musical talent with an impassioned mission could stimulate the expansion of the peace movement. With the erosion of the United States Constitution, and the erasure of many of our basic civil rights, implemented by the Bush administration such a peace initiative could be curtailed in minutes. The government need only call it terrorism to allow a crack down on dissent. However, at this time no powerful voice is singing loud enough to effect a real challenge to the institutions that thrive on war profiteering and the destruction of hardware and human life. The song may be mightier than the sword, but someone has to sing it, and somebody has to be listening.
Friday, May 22, 2009
Mirth is like a flash of lightning that breaks through a gloom of clouds, and glitters for a moment: cheerfulness keeps up a kind of day-light in the mind.
Joseph Addison - 1672 - 1719
Do you feel that music today is going in the right direction? I feel that older music meant more/ the lyrics were meaningful. Where would you like to see music headed?
There is no "right" direction in which music is travelling today. There is only a myriad of styles vying for supremacy. Since ubiquity has not yet occurred in the digital age, it remains to be seen if any one of the niche musical genres can attract a universal audience. When music is "free" for the taking the public is able to experiment in many directions at once. They are exploring the great music genres of the past and seeking "the next big thing," from a new musical style, simultaneously. The great Paul Simon wrote in a song that "every generation puts a hero up the pop charts." This has been true from the antiquarian record business through the postmodern era. It stand to reason that this generation will follow the historical trajectory and choose a hero to lead them into the music of their lives. The sound track of each person is filled with the tunes that delighted their youth, sparkled in their coming of age and fueled the romance of their maturing process. These are composed of the three "Ms" of songwriting. Melody, Meter & Message. The songs that nurture us through life remain a part of our personal repertoire for as long as we can remember them. This is why "classic" artists continue to draw crowds as they age. There was such a demand for Frank Sinatra to perform that he was forced out of retirement many times. Elvis was on stage right up until his untimely death from a drug overdose. And there was enormous pressure placed on The Beatles to reunite until the assassination of John Lennon destroyed that possibility forever. Once an artist has built a huge fan base a devoted audience generally follows them for the remainder of their lives. And, the biggest personal appearance attractions today are the "classic" artists who have endured with careers lasting twenty years and longer. The great rap artists of the Hip Hop era will continue to pull large audiences from their massive fan bases. For the future the jury is still out. The major record companies have lost their way and are not producing new stars. As long as this prevails it will be hard to predict when and where the next "superstars" will come from. The Internet is the breeding ground. There are millions of singers, musicians and bands on myspace.com who are all lost in the fog of showbiz. One might surf the web in search of "talent" forever and never find anything truly great. Or it could pop up on your Twitter or Facebook any minute. The fans are the only ones who determine the direction and they have more control over what they like than ever. The choices are many and the tastes sophisticated. When a star is born and their light shines brightly the word will spread around the globe in a day. We will all be amazed at the moment and jump on the band wagon. When that happens and the entire generation falls in love with the same music it will be a momentous occasion. If everybody with an iPod decided to purchase a download, on the same artist at the same time, the income would be enormous. That artist would become totally rich and famous immediately and they would still have their entire career ahead of them. So the degree of difficulty in getting "discovered" may be greater, but so is the potential reward. The music business was never an easy game to play, but the stakes have never been higher. Only the greatest artists will reach a universal audience, but it will happen. The direction it comes from and where it goes will be up to the hard core music fans to choose. Then, we will all follow and a "superstar" will be born.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Come mothers and fathers,
Throughout the land
And don't criticize
What you can't understand.
Bob Dylan 1941 -
BEING A "YES" MAN
Paul Patterson asks:
I haven't seen the movie "Yes Man" yet, but I've been trying to incorporate this positive response philosophy into my own life. Outside of anything illegal (or at least extremely illegal), do you have any advice for someone trying to try different things for a change?
It is important to be a proactive, positive person with confidence and a creative approach to life. To gain a clear focus on this concept read the book "Psycho-Cybernetics" by Dr. Maxwell Maltz. Also, get into yoga and meditation. These are all empowerment tools that will help you make your daily choices the correct ones. There is always the right choice, the wrong choice, and every choice in between. Developing your awareness through meditation helps you make clear constructive decisions. This practice closes the mind + body gap and helps you develop mental discipline to overcome the body's instinctive agenda. The mind imagines an array of goals that is designed to bring your desires to fruition. Your body wants to consume, propagate, contend and be entertained. Will power is the force you generate to overcome these instincts and put your body in action to succeed in bringing your dreams to fruition. If you sit around and wait for life to deliver your future you have surrendered to fate. By taking action on a richly imagined vision of your future, you are creating your own destiny. When in doubt, do something. Every problem comes with its own solution. Clear thinking in the face of trouble is imperative. When you are challenged to overcome the difficulties generated in every day life it helps to remember the three "Ps" adversity. Tell yourself it is not PERSONAL, it is not PERVASIVE and it is not PERMANENT. Assure yourself that it will get resolve and move forward, in action, to create the solution. This is what successful people do. It is how winners reach The Big Top.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Fame is like a river, that beareth up things light and swollen, and drowns things weighty and solid.
Francis Bacon 1561 - 1626
INTERNET MUSIC MARKETING
Michelle Rivera asks:
What are the the most effective forms of Internet marketing?
Welcome to the digital convergence. This is where the winners and losers meet. Which category you end up in will depend on the choices you make. As the postmodern record industry crashes and burns the Phoenix is already rising from the ashes. The Internet is a double-edged sword. It is time to ignore the past and all of its corrupted systems and protocols. The mechanics of record deals and the politics of radio promotion built on various forms of "payola" are a broken system. The arcane practices of the record business have contributed to the public perception of an industry devoid of the principals of integrity and fair play. That perception is correct and has created a negative mind set among the music fan base. For decades personal managers have unsuccessfully battled record companies to create reasonable terms in recording agreements. The stubborn resistance of the Big Four to level the profit table has led to their demise. Now the world wide web is the regenerative mechanism that will invent The Music Renaissance. The business of music will never disappear, but it will always change with the technology. There are hundreds, soon to be thousands, of efforts to capitalize on the changing market place. The best systems will survive and the truly great ones could develop economic business models that are profitable. No one knows which applications are the survivors, but one thing is certain it won't be a hundred yard dash; it is a marathon. There are millions of songwriters, singers, musicians and bands on myspace.com. This is the great common denominator. Anybody with a tune and a video can register there and on youtube.com to throw a song in the ring. They are immediately lost in a haystack of brass needles clouded in the fog of showbiz. How do the golden needles rise above the fog of mediocrity? Only the most passionate artist driven by ambition and an insatiable need to make music will reach for the professional ranks. This will require a sense of direction and a compass. Navigation of the Internet can be like a rodent running in an endless circle. Without a clear sense of direction artists are lost in the cyber-space of an expanding universe with no center and no final destination point. The Holodigm is a sanctuary that provides refuge for the most talented artists and entrepreneurs. The music industry nestled in the prickly, but controlled, environment of the record business for more than a hundred years. Now it must reinvent itself on the track of its historical trajectory. Internet Marketing begins with having a product to sell. There are only two primary activities, recording and performing. Their symbiotic relationship creates the engine that drives any music business enterprise. It is clearly established that the purchase of an album is accomplished out of choice not necessity. All the music created is instantly available on the Internet through peer-to-peer file sharing. Buying it is an act of "love." The music lovers know when they purchase a CD or a t-shirt that they are contributing to the band's survival. In these difficult economic times, why buy when you can "take" it for free? The only reason I can think of is because the fan loves the act. How do they fall in love? Through a personal bonding experience. When, where and how does that happen? Such a connection is most likely to be born out of the live concert arena. This is where the energy exchange is most intense. Get them while they're hot. Sell your t-shirt and Cd at that juncture. The profit at that price-point is very high. One does not need to sell that many items with a ten dollar profit to break even. The same record sold through a record store would net the artist pennies, if he ever got paid. The Internet is the weapon of mass distribution. Get your music produced, create a dynamic live act and a booking mechanism and get to work. Build a web site and collect emails. Nurture your fan base and get set to run a long, hard race. Offer free downloads to create interest in your music. Sell you CDs on your own site and through the many on line outlets including iTuens, CDBaby, Amazon and the myriad of others. Cross pollinate all your daily efforts through Facebook.com, Twitter, LinkedIn, and every possible connection. Create a "Blog" and nurture your fan base. Make them members of your club and your "allies" in your battle to survive. They are the partners of your success. Get the drummer of the couch and on the computer. Talk to these people. Don't ignore them. Make it personal. The first level of success is survival. That means you can make a living with your music without a day job. If you can't make it at home, you can't make it anywhere. If you can make it at home, you can make it everywhere. Stay home and make it where the expenses are low and the profit high. From their you can expand within the cyber-galactic universe and become am international force in the global music industry of The music Renaissance.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
What one knows is, in youth, of little moment; they know enough who know how to learn.
Henry Brooks Adams - 1838 - 1918
MASTERS & DOCTORS OF SCREENPLAYS
Tyler McC. asks:
Do you find artists - in my case, a screen and TV writer - benefit from graduate studies in artistic fields, or would they be better served to pursue their career more directly after graduation from college?
These are the best days of our lives. A student for having the opportunity to go to school; a teacher for the joy of sharing wisdom and experience. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread. Don't be too eager to challenge the system. Preparation is the best offense. If you are able to continue your education and earn an advanced degree I strongly urge you to do so. Screenwriting is the highest art form, mostly because it is so very much about what is not written on the page. Screenplay pages bear more white than black and every single word counts. The subtleties inherent in the work are profound. Your career is for the rest of your life and there is no artificial time frame. The more prepared one is the better. The proof of your talent will lay in the quality of your work. The essence of the game is story. The more life experience one brings to the story telling process the less often he will rely on cliche and repetition. The averages say that you will write ten screenplays before you get one made. Devotion to the practice of the craft will be best demonstrated by taking action and turning out a body of work. It helps to learn production, acting and directing as well. The great screenwriters understand the contribution of these core professions and their work reflects that training and knowledge. Film making is one of the most sophisticated team sports on the planet. It is very expensive and the studios and film financiers hedge their bets by employing the most experienced craftsmen and women. Learning by doing is a process that begins more easily in television but even that medium has a power structure in place and there is a definite status-quo to be conquered. A writer who is the holder of MFA and PHD degrees has more time to prepare and create works to be exploited. Also, they carry the perception of intelligence and discipline which are valuable assets in any business environment. And, it should be presumed that there will be a breaking in period. The ability to teach can reinforce one's survival during the developmental years. Take all the education you can get and prepare yourself for the inevitable resistance, to your industry access and career development, that is certain to come. There is a screenplay in every computer and only the very best will be contenders in the most competitive environment on the planet. Remember, it is not about the writing, its about the rewriting. Study long and hard, write every day and never give up.
Monday, May 18, 2009
There may be trouble ahead,
But while there's moonlight and music and romance,
Lets face the music and dance.
Irving Berlin - 1888 - 1989
SURVIVAL IN THE REAL WORLD
John McCain asks:
In the wake of massive job loss throughout the country and a declining "record" industry, what is your advice for recent college graduates looking for jobs? I feel like the industry is already hard enough to get into, and now with the supersaturation of qualified talent trying to maintain their jobs these days, is the class of '09 totally screwed?
There is no doubt that the nature of career building in every profession has changed due to what we euphemistically call "the economic downturn." The degree of difficulty has altered exponentially for the worse. This effects every industry, but is geometrically more difficult for music and entertainment in general. We are coming off of thirty years of "BIG" business controlling the government, starting with Reagan's union busting and institutional deregulation philosophy. It took over a hundred years to build a strong labor movement in America and only three decades to prove what a terrible idea it was to leave corporations to control their own appetites for profit. This economic system just plain did not work. The situation was not helped much during the Clinton years and "W" took it to the point of disaster. Even when they investigated people like Bernie Madoff, they were so ideologically in bed with them, they failed to discover the crime until it was too late. There is still no clear path to recovery in sight. What it boils down to is that these people were not fiscally conservative, even though they wrapped themselves in the term and the flag. Greed driven, laissez- faire capitalism has fallen on its face. The class of 2009, and their children and grand children, will pay for these mistakes for many years. So where does that leave you in terms of "making a living?" In a terrible mess! Virtually every industry is shrinking. This leaves over-qualified people available to take the smaller jobs and pushes the middle class toward the poverty line. The sad part is that those getting a check won't even feel this and those who don't have income are being pushed to the brink of despair. The egalitarian elite regard the growth of the middle class as a mistake and want to create a poverty class to provide the soldiers for their perpetual wars. Before World War l & ll this country was owned by the "idle rich" and toiled in by the "working poor." The victorious armies returning home had to be rewarded. What they got was education. Once educated they realized that they had rights. The assertion of those rights created the great "Peace & Freedom" movement of the fifties, sixties and seventies. Racism was exposed for the insidious evil that it is and women were recognized as equally as valuable as men. Some would say, more valuable. I say equal, but more important to our future recovery. Now that the rich have realized the error, of allowing a powerful middle class to rise, they are bent on a destructive agenda to bring it down. This is a clear part of the neoconservative rhetoric if anyone took the time to listen to the whole story. I agree that getting past the propaganda and "fear" media assault is difficult. Read what they advocate, its in hundreds of books The Democrats are centrist enough; anything to the right of them is going to breed more of the same and will result in the destruction of America as we know it, and as the founding fathers dreamed it should be. The youth who have elected Obama did so out of a conviction and hope that all this could change. The U.S. Constitution calls for rebellion, against the enemy within, under these circumstances. Rebuilding the banking infrastructure and turning our survival over to Wall Street is not the solution. We must precipitate an evolution revolution, restore the Constitution to its pre Bush efficacy and put an end to all these wars both military and cultural. It is un-American to live in fear. Terrorism can only be fought through hearts and minds. Every time we bomb one we create five more. They exist because societies support them and there is a desperate need to include the third world in the survival process. It is a media war and far cheaper to conduct than one that relies on fire, hot lead and jet fuel. So, if you are seeking a job in the real world, focus on peace, freedom and survival. The greening of the planet can become the new American business model. The debate is over, if we don't transform idealistically and turn our heads around, the body will never follow. It all begins in the mind and grows there through visualizing a better future. Careers in music will be built around individual artists creating a business management force around their artistic talents. They will have to crawl toward the survival line, and if lucky enough to reach that plateau, build progress from there. The best thing to do is find a talented act and turn it into a business, in partnership with the artist. This effort is supported by The Holodigm System which trains and assists you in being an entrepreneur. Your survival will be about your personal choices, your passion to succeed and the talent of the artist you choose to be in business with. At least you will not be dependant on an archaic industry that is crashing and burning under the weight of its own excesses. It will not be easy. Not only will you have to know how to play the game, you must play perfectly well, and have an artist with extraordinary talent, but you must also get lucky. If you can avoid joining the army you are already ahead of the game. If you can survive in the music business and make a living without a day job you have already won.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
The test of a vocation is the love of the drudgery it involves.
Logan Pearsall Smith 1865 - 1946
D. Parra asks:
Just wanted to know if you (or anyone reading this) have heard of any bands that you think might have the potential to be the next superstar? If not, then any bands that are just really good that most people might not have heard of yet?
I just heard of an act coming out of Long Beach, California called New Boys who have a song called "You're A Jerk" that is part of the driving force behind a new dance step called "The Jerk." This record has been getting a huge number of hits on the Internet and has come to the attention of real music publishers and record companies. There are a couple other acts and a specific young producer pushing this music forward. The local teens are bringing the movement to life. The audience is the one true judge of what is hip and cool. My opinion doesn't mean much when it comes to new music, but if you are looking for something new and exciting, I would keep an eye on this one. You don't get all those web hits for nothing. I also think Simone Battle a.k.a. Little Miss Muffin is a talented teen with the potential to create a huge following. Will I. Am gave her that stage name when she worked as a background singer and dancer with Black Eyed Peas. This girl has a passionate commitment to her career, a great voice, beauty, sex appeal and could do it all in film TV and music. It is impossible to say where the next big thing will come from or when the star will rise. However, I do think the prime ingredient of all the recquired criteria for superstardom will be TALENT. The day of the packaged celebrity cashing in on anything but great songs and performing skills is long gone.
Saturday, May 16, 2009
There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion.
Francis Bacon - 1561 - 1626
THE FUTURE OF MUSIC
E. Snively asks:
Everyone asks the question of who/what will be the face of our generation or next superstar to grace us with their presence. Kanye West self-proclaimed that he was the voice of our generation...I would strongly disagree however what type of person do you see being the next superstar. Will it be a cocky virtuoso or a humble yet talented diamond in the rough?
The next big thing is usually something one would not have expected. In a world of straight jazz singers emulating Frank Sinatra, who would have thought that a hip shaking, animistic, sexual beast like Elvis would get the world all shook up? The Beatles were equally surprising when they came on the scene in the early sixties. Vocal groups were dominating and along came a self contained quartet who had the audacity to sing their own tunes. The individual or band that breaks through inevitably represents their own age group. They look and sound like their audience, and sometimes it is hard to tell if the artists are following the fans or vice-versa. And, it doesn't really matter. The important thing is that somehow they both end up on the same square at the same time. New music cycles generate from the grassroots up and usually it is a long slow climb. Often there is more than one genre or style of music competing for dominance. The winner is the form that produces the biggest star first. Electronica has been flirting with a growing cult audience for a decade and has yet to break wide open. Some artists are fusing different genres with elements of electronica, hip hop, dance and pop. These hybrid bands might just come up with something new. There is a band in Florida doing "Pop Reggae." This 12 piece band combines electronic music with the traditional reggae beat. This could be something great, as dance is invariably part of new music waves. One thing is for certain, the next big thing was not Kanye West. He is a pretender living on cloud 9 and suffering under the delusion that he is something great. His career slid into home at the tail end of Hip Hop and there is nothing original or enduring about his music. He is one of the last artists to be jammed into radio by a major record company hype machine. I think the future belongs to some artist who demonstrates a new set of personal values that transcend greed and "making it." This act will need to have a lot of bases covered, starting with great songs that speak to the concerns and anxieties of the youth culture. They must also show an integrity of purpose and a spiritual relationship with their audience. Symmetry and virtuosity would also help draw fans to their "cause." The public has a relatively sophisticated perception of musicians and the state of music as business. They are most likely to embrace an artist who shows himself to be like them ,or at least how they would like to see themselves. I don't think it will be a somebody with a cocky, pompous, attitude; although rebellion against the status-quo could provide an integral ingredient. The younger generation is engaged in a transcendent personal change from their cultural programming. This has been demonstrated in the "youth" factor as seen in the last election. They seem determined to provoke the evolution revolution. The next superstar will have to stand for something more noble than money, sex, machismo and personal glory. Look for an act with leadership qualities projecting an enlightened life style to be the next Pied Piper on Planet Earth. I don't think it will be a diamond in the rough suddenly staking a huge claim in cyber-space. It will most likely be an artist who has struggled and sharpened his skills over an extended period who will suddenly come with a great song that inspires everybody to take a look. When they come under the microscope of digital investigation they will reveal an evolved set of talents and personal principles that will make them "what's happening." Its up to the fans to make a choice. The historical trajectory of popular music suggests that this is not just a possibility; it is inevitable.
Friday, May 15, 2009
"When I came back to Dublin, I was courtmartialled in my absence and sentenced to death in my absence, so I said they could shoot me in my absence." Brendan Behan 1923 -1964
SUCCESS BY ANY OTHER NAME SMELLS AS SWEET
Amy Marston asks:
When pop stars become famous, they generally become famous because they have a hit song, receive a ridiculous amount of media attention, are exceptionally beautiful, or maybe even have extravagant setups when they perform, etc. Just recently I went to the new Britney Spears concert and as a huge fan was willing to pay a lot of money for good tickets even though I know she doesn't write her own music, is not particularly an amazing singer, lip syncs in concerts, and recently had a rough few years with negative publicity.I still love her and her music and from as far as I can tell, millions of people still do too. Are any of the heroes we studied in Rock on Film guilty of using things other than just their musical talent to lure in audiences and create cult like fan bases just as stars like Britney Spears do today? Could part of the reason there is so much history with some of these original rock and roll artists be because of their dramatic performances, tragic deaths, or something else?
Throughout the evolutionary cycles of the record business "hit" singles have always been the driving force. This was true in the "antiquarian" age when The Great Caruso had the first million selling record. It continued in the "classic" period as Frank Sinatra was chased about by legions of "Bobby-Soxers," as his fans were known. Elvis exploded into the "modern" recording industry as 45 RPM singles dominated AM radio. In the "postmodern" era, single records were used to provoke interest in the albums of The Beatles and the thousands of singers and bands that dominated the music business. FM radio created an enormous interest in the albums themselves. The great singer, songwriters reached an ubiquitous audience and gold and platinum status was achieved by a a large number of artists. These albums delivered extraordinary profits to the record companies. As "big" business" calculated the margins a feeding frenzy erupted and consolidation of the labels became a giant bidding contest. Any successful in dependant label was absorbed into the distribution systems of the major companies lured by huge buy out dollars and corporate stock options. Eventually, critical mass was reached and only four are left standing. All are foreign owned companies. UMG is French owned, EMI British, Sony Japanese and Warner Bros is Canadian. The infrastructure created during the rise of these behemoths can no longer be sustained because of peer-to-peer file sharing and other forms of music piracy. All of these transitions were provoked by advances in technology. Not one of the changes was a flick-of-the-switch phenomenon. No particular technology was eliminated over night and none was instantly universal. You can still buy vinyl records, in fact some prefer them for their higher fidelity. The proliferation of iPods and MP3 devices was the quickest assault on prevailing systems to successfully build a massive constituency. While the big four record powers engaged in destroying Napster and suing their customers, they turned to a business driven marketing policy by cramming radio with formulaic, trend driven, fad based music. Rather than following the best songwriters and performers lead musically, they created stylized records around "celebrity" driven artists. Television was used to sell life-style, beauty, sex appeal and charisma rather than great music. This became the launching pad for Madonna, Brittany, Justin Timberlake and an entire generation of "pop" tarts and "boy" bands. As the song says, "video killed the radio star." The strangle hold the major labels had on radio allowed them to parlay radio airplay and MTV exposure into a monopolistic one-two punch that created a lot of financially successful artists without much musical substance. Where is Duran Duran today? In the current era, music talent doesn't even seem to be a requirement. TV and movies can make "media" stars over night as seen in the case of Miley Cyrus and The Jonas Brothers. These idols are built on sand. Their lack of true musical skills will become blatantly obvious as their audience matures. Then the fans will move on and choose more authentic heroes. Remember The Monkees and Milli Vanilli? These were manufactured artists who eventually demonstrated a lack of talent and, once exposed, their bubbles burst in a violent media backlash. Their fan bases dissolved over night. Most of the great music stars rose on the rebellion of their fans against their parents music. The parental objection usually fueled the fans interest. The parents were usually frightened by the sexuality of the newly emerging stars. Afraid that their daughters would engage in premarital sex, the "responsible" elders tried to thwart the popularity of the upstarts thus guaranteeing the love of the fan base. Will the Brittany fans ever totally die off? Probably not, some will take that passion to their graves. Each career is different and circumstances can change everything in a moment. Premature death and other tragedies, can catapult a rising star into legendary status and without their presence to destroy the image, the legend prevails in perpetuity. At the height of The Beatles success they asked in a song, "Will you love me when I'm sixty-four?" The answer then was a resounding "YES!" And, if asked today most of their fans would still answer that question in the affirmative. I would. As a matter of fact, I am listening to them right now. They are still the best.