It's 1221

in any bar from silver lake to williamsburg
29 December, 2008, 6:55 PM
Filed under: Uncategorized

I’d like to share the blog post at NYT Songs From the Heart of a Marketing Plan” by Jon Pareles. He begins by lamenting the sad truth that much of Santogold’s album was sold for commercials and promos, and while he admits that he should wake up and smell the coffee, he paints the harsh, realistic picture of the record industry and the age-old dilemma (it seems) of the musician striving to “go big.”

So now “going big” is really about one good song to get you some airplay and if you are gonna be nit-picky about it, dude, you just need about thirty seconds of a good beat and a hook and you have yourself a ringtone.

The emerging practical solution is to let music sell something else: a concert, a T-shirt, Web-site pop-up ads or a brand,” says Pareles.

It makes me want to vomit because it is so true. The days when you wrote an album—blood, sweat, tears, and all—and then you released your baby into the world while holding your breath STILL exist. Do not be fooled, I think that can lead to an entirely different post altogether, but for the music machine and making hits, it is tied up to a good song (or a few, I’ll give Santogold props).

The art of licensing is really a fine art of making money and it has been so seeped in the fashion world that for it to finally tighten its grasp on that of music is heartbreaking. But we’ll look harder and listen better than corporate America. How do you go from seeing Friendly Fires at Spaceland to hearing “On Board” playing during a Nintendo Wii commercial?

“It’s almost enough to make someone miss those former villains of philistinism, the recording companies. Labels had an interest in music that would hold listeners on its own terms; selling it was their meal ticket. Labels, and to some extent radio stations and music television, also had a stake in nurturing stars who would keep fans returning to find out what happened next, allowing their catalogs to be perennially rediscovered. By contrast, licensers have no interest beyond the immediate effect of a certain song,” writes Pareles.

And this brings us to my second point, and baby you can apply it to music, to fashion, to cooking, anything that has fans and, hmm, shall I call them carnivores or phonies? I like carnivores because they are predatory but on the other hand, if you’re being spoon-fed hits 24/7 thanks to your local KIIS FM (gross! start fasting!), then you’re not predatory despite thinking that you’re all-over the hottest jam. Sorry.

Anywho, it’s the fans that make the big stink in the first place. Let us look at Pareles’ example of the talented, beautiful, and explosive M.I.A. I love her albums and think yes, a cash register and selling music is a fairly accurate metaphor positioned with gunshots and selling drugs. That is not a genius statement to make, but she delivers it exquisitely. Unfortunately, it seems that the goodness of that song cannot stand on its own. Pareles claims that placing the song in the trailer for the stoner-comedy Pineapple Express “was probably” the factor that allowed M.I.A. to land a Grammy nod for record of the year. I haven’t looked into this parenthetical statement he makes, but I’ll share if with you: “(Grammy voters often seize on music from everywhere but the albums they purport to judge; they seem particularly drawn to film soundtracks.) And if the song now conjures images of the movie trailer for many listeners, that’s the tradeoff for recognition.”

Music, we know, can stand on its own to be considered a work of art and worthy of attention as opposed to a distraction and a novelty. That’s why we have the mecca that is Amoeba and for people on the East Coast, it’s places like the Princeton Record Exchange and the local record stores dotting the landscape like the last leaves on the maple tree. I think the rise in popularity of records and turntables is a key indicator of fans wanting to own music again in a much more humble kind of way.

That’s what I tell myself as I try to hunt down my favorite album of 2008, which is no longer being offered on vinyl, but since Bon Iver won’t be in LA anytime soon, his voice echoing through my apartment will bring me right into that log cabin with him a little better than my iTunes.


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