In theory, I embrace technological changes that allow me to get my music to the most people the fastest way possible. But unlike many younger musicians who seem to adopt these innovations immediately, I tend to jump on the bandwagon a bit late and almost always after something’s gone “viral.” Case in point – I only created a MySpace page when more than half the musicians I know had already joined and raved about it. And Facebook took me even longer to cave on. Now they’re both the lifeblood of my promotions, go figure.
Why did it take me so long to adopt these two platforms? Because I’m concerned that in being so plugged into the latest internet trend I’ll lose perspective on what’s most important to me – writing and performing music. All the promotion and spamming in the world isn’t going to be too useful if your songs suck. And I’m wary of our “quick-fix” culture, with shows like American Idol perpetuating the myth that just by entering you’ll have an overnight chance at fame (and by implication – a career in the music industry).Case in point – does anyone even remember who the fuck Taylor Hicks is?
I think though that what’s happened with all the musicians on MySpace and YouTube reflects a cultural tendency that favors instant gratification and fame over hard work, e.g. Thinking that getting into American Idol is all you need to “make it.” And I think my reason for holding off is I’d like to pretend that this has nothing to do with my being technologically challenged (my 65 year old mother who remembers the bombs destroying her town of Kumamoto, Japan got a palm pilot a year before me!) And while there’s plenty of positive things to come out of Internet innovation (just see how quickly some bands have climbed the charts once they went viral on YouTube and/or MySpace), I wonder if this new Internet heavy presence is becoming a substitute for face to face communications and the communal experience of live music performances.
A few months back, Fast Company magazine had a debate between two designers, one who said that the touch screen interface will come to be integrated into our daily lives without resistance.The other said that no digital interface can take the place of a live, tactile experience. He ended by posing a question along the lines of “what will you respond to more – a bouquet of freshly cut flower, or an email attaching a picture of flowers?” So in this context, is watching a performance on a screen ever the same or as rewarding as seeing live music?(Maybe Madonna was onto something when she decided to go with LiveNation – a live concert promoter – instead of renewing her contract with Warner.)
It’s interesting to see how interfacing with technology to promote music can bring out the best and worst in musicians’ insatiable egos, and how the rush to get more and more “friends” is often seen as a legit substitute for common sense, basic courtesy and organically building your fan base. Another attempt at the quick-fix. For example, I’ve gotten so many MySpace friend requests from musicians who don’t send a message, who never follow up and who seem to be requesting me arbitrarily just to up their numbers – to wit, just in one hour alone I got friend requests from a heavy metal band, a hip-hop record label and a country band – and one even got angry when I try to communicate with them. When I asked the metal group how they found me, their reply? “Oh, I don’t know. Listen to our music!” to which my thought was “Hmm. Go f*ck yourself?”
Perhaps a good comparison to the problem with musicians and MySpace (or in the larger context – the integration of the Internet into our lived) is that we’re doing the online equivalent of walking into a bar, seeing someone we like, shoving our business card down their pants without any introduction, promptly leaving the bar and then wondering why they never call to ask us out on a date! Before you think me trying to be above the fray- I admit I’m just as guilty of being cyber-etiquette challenged as anyone else I’ve met. And from a practical standpoint, it’s hard to spam or leave the identical comment to people when you see them face to face.But with the anonymity of the internet, I’m especially wary of not bringing real world etiquette to the Internet as anyone else, especially the way I handle my happy holidays MySpace comments. Copy and paste, anyone? I mean – I’ve got 100+ messages to reply to on MySpace that I probably won’t be able to get even close to answering for another month. Yes, it’s rude, I know. But if I get any less sleep than I am now, I won’t be able to function. So to clarify – I don’t wish to blame any musicians for how they conduct themselves on the Internet. Staying in touch with 500+ people on top of a day job is impossible.
But I think the best lesson learned from this is that it’s all the more evident with technological advents how important it is to do the legwork and pay your dues, and how to build relationships with your fans one conversation at a time.
While I’m excited by how these new tools allow us musicians to reach fans without some big monolithic corporate label behind us, I always find myself wanting to adopt technological advances after a l guess I’m a lil bit of a curmudgeon in this regard.
Anyways, a poorly edited entry. Apologies for that. Guess I’ve been spending too much time on YouTube :-X