Friday, 17 January 2014

How powerful are music videos for a song?

When I was a child, whether or not I liked a song depended almost entirely on how much the music video appealed to me. I remember hating Kasabian's song 'Fire' because to my little brain, the music video wasn't full of flashing colours and therefore the song was shit.
(Ironically, I now love the music video, but that's because my love for Quentin Tarantino has meant that I love anything with a relative amount of violence in it and running away in it. Worrying, how much pleasure I get from seeing violence- I hope this doesn't lead to a life as a serial killer, but that thought is for another time).
I listened to the song again a couple of years ago, and realised that I BLOODY LOVE IT, and cursed myself for not giving the song a proper chance.

Matured (cough) as I'd like to think I am, I now view a great music video as simply a perk of a great song. Now I actually listen to the music, and most of the music I listen to was made before music videos were all the rage.  But it seems that many people are still stuck in that 'child' mode of frame. Just listening to a song is too much effort- sure, they'll download the song and listen to it on repeat AFTER they've seen the video and liked it. But meh, it's too much effort waiting through that boring 7 second instrumental without a jaw dropping video to grab your attention.

And music artists have picked on to this fact. Oh, you can be sure they have! In today's society when people are ridiculously impatient, easily distracted and need to be stimulated constantly to be interested (we'd probably all fit under the diagnosis of  ADHD ). Music videos are now seen as a way of stimulating people enough for them to listen, or at least hear, the song in the background, which will probably stick in their heads and force them to buy it. And never mind if the song's not good, whenever that person listens to it they'll always visualise the music video and forgot about how repetitive and empty the music is. *Record company boss rubs his hands together gleefully, salivating at the mouth* "What a brilliant plan!" he shrieks, and proceeds to burst into a long,evil laugh.

So we have music videos that a created into beautiful works of art to lure people in. Hey, fuck that, they don't even have to be all that beautiful they just have to be appealing, which can be achieved easily with attractive people, lots of shots of attractive settings and have bright colours and lots of flashing.

And music videos where people try and do controversial things to get publicity (oh the countless times this has happened in 2013 .....think Wrecking Ball and Blurred Lines to name but a two)

And often, music videos go viral and then BAM, the song achieves mass success despite the fact that it's in a language most people don't understand and has the same repetitive electronic sound that reminds me a bit of a window being scrubbed really hard (listen closely and maybe you'll see what I mean).

Precisely why Beyonce has released so many videos for her next album. Music videos are powerful- the release of this visual album  made her reach number 1 in over 100 countries.

Soon, we'll see the rise of more visual albums. With increased internet usage, our shorter attention span, and with the capacity for things to go viral- music videos are becoming a powerful force.

What do you think lies in the future of music videos?

Friday, 3 January 2014

Is it Possible to Achieve Fame as a Music Artist without Being Turned into a Product? 6 EXAMPLES OF WHY YOU CAN'T

Can music artists get people to like them for their music, and their music alone without turning themselves into an 'image' or 'a product'?
Let me explain. Take David Bowie:

A talented musician who's made incredible music that will be listened to for generations. But with the help of his image. He created  an eccentric image with the help of his two different coloured eyes, his reputation for crazy outfits,  and crazy spiked ginger hair that resembles the top of a pineapple. This of course gave him extra publicity, helping him to achieve fame. 

A touring exhibition is currently going around the world, centred around Bowie's original costumes, album artwork and creative influences. In other words, this exhibition is focusing on his image, rather than his music. And many people who may secretly loathe David Bowie's music will go to this exhibition to gawk in wonder at his insane clothing taste, and to appear cultural in front of their friends. 

Ultimately, music is a product: which means people have to turn themselves into products themselves in order to achieve mass fame, and sell. 

As I go through a list of the categories of  'products' people are turned into, you'll start to wonder more and more whether or not it actually is possible to achieve fame without an image...

1) Product Number 1: The sexually attractive girl

This has many sub-categories, because it is one of the most common. The two most common ones are  sexually attraction through trying to appear cute and virginal (even if you doubt she may really be a virgin, if you stare at her innocent smile, blonde hair and girl-next-door hairstyle, you find it incredibly easy to convince yourself she is) like Marianne Faithfull and Britney Spears in their early days, or she has some sort of inner confidence and (supposed) sexual maturity that oozes sex appeal like Grace Slick, Joan Jett or Debbie Harry. Ironically, as the 'cute & virginal' sexually attractive girl matures, she tries to dramatically change her image so she fits into the sexually mature category, as we've seen happen with Miley Cyrus. Marianne Faithfull's image also changed after she released the film 'The Girl on the Motorcycle', and her scandalous behaviour with Mick Jagger was made for Britney Spears....she tried to shed her 'virginal' image as quickly as she could. 

Marianne as virginal: (throughout this period she'd almost always wear tops right up to her neck)

BAM, Marianne becomes sexy: (BAM, Cleavage everywhere)

2) Product number 2: The eccentric

We've seen this countless of times, used as a form of publicity to get a lot of attention. This includes acts of sexual promiscuity (though their effects are wearing off as we are exposed to this more and more frequently), such as Miley Cyrus' famous VMA performance and Madonna's pointed bras.

Undoubtedly, the most favoured way for musicians to make themselves seem eccentric is to wear eccentric clothing. This was seen very frequently during the 70s and 80s, and David Bowie did this very often.

Lady Gaga's mix of sexual promiscuity in her music videos and crazy outfits have ensured that she has achieved world-wide fame, proving that she knows herself exactly how important becoming a 'product' is to achieve fame. 

3) Product number 3: The Badass Rockstar

The Rolling Stones, AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, The Who, The Doors.... I could go on listing for years.
These people became famous because of their extreme alpha male-esque confidence, drug usage, crazy sex stories (crazy to think that Jimmy Page effectively kidnapped the 14 year old Lori Maddox and used her as a sex slave...and this was regular behaviour?).
Trashing hotel rooms, drinking like mad, having groupies crawl after them...
All the girls want them. 
And all the guys want to be them.

As times have changed and music has changed, we now see many rappers and hip hop artists trying to fill in the space left by the 'Badass Rockstar', surrounding themselves with half naked women in their music videos, and becoming famous for drug usage.

4) Product number 4: The attractive boy-band
Never underestimate girl power.
Anyone at the Beatles' perfomance at Shea Stadium probably still feels a slight ringing in their ears when recalling the screaming girls, who'd faint one by one. 
Girls claimed they'd have orgasms just standing in a Beatles' performance

Why else are a terrible, terrible band like One Direction world-famous? 

5) Product number 5: The intellectual artist who writes deep, 'insightful' and depressing lyrics about how terrible the world is.
The artist proceeds to do one of two things: he wallows in self-pity or tries to use his lyrics to change the world.

Listen up y'all, the world is a terrible place but it's ok because I'm going to bring about world peace with my song lyrics....FUCK THE POLITICIANS, WHO NEEDS 'EM??
Said Bob Dylan
And John Lennon

Said Morrissey.

6) Product Number 5: The mysterious ones
Ssssh, we can't scare them away. I think they're fairies. Their music certainly sounds like it. 

The XX and Syd Barrett (after he decided to release his own music) fit in here. These people who hide from the limelight, and reject the entire notion of becoming a product. But what they don't realise is, there is no way to escape it- in a world where every musician who achieves fame turns into a product, if you try to hide away then you are automatically selling yourself as 'Mysterious'.

Take this quote from Syd Barrett:
“I don’t think I’m easy to talk about. I’ve got a very irregular head. And I’m not anything you think I am anyway.”
Don't get more mysterious than that!

You could even argue Slipknot, with their insistence on wearing masks, fit in here. Although, their music does not sound at all like fairies. 

These categories mix together a lot, for example occasionally the 'Badass Rockstar' decides to write a song that also defines him as an 'Intellectual Artist'. Or there can be a band with a lead singer who is 'Sexually Attractive' whilst the rest of band members are the 'Mysterious Ones' who the public know very little about.

There is nothing wrong with having an image at all. In fact, as I just mentioned, by rejecting the notion of becoming a product, you become one underneath the 'mysterious' category. But I believe the problem arises when musicians become more about their image than about their music. Often, when terrible music becomes famous, it's because of publicity, and because the artist has a strong 'image' (take the majority of boy-bands out there). Also, I think it is sad that it has become necessary for artists to invest so much in maintaining their image,which is especially a problem for girls. Women in the music industry are under a lot of pressure to be sexually attractive, to die their hair a different colour every month, and essentially appear youthful forever. Madonna achieved fame in her late 30s. That could not happen any more. The average female artist becomes famous around 17-20. Any later than 25 and that's it- you have a significantly less of a chance to achieve fame under the 'sexually attractive' category- though there's always the option of fitting yourself under the 'intellectual artist' category. Though of course, sex sells a lot better, and people listen to music now to escape their worries in life, not to be reminded of the horrors in the world. The 'intellectual artist' category is dying.

What do you think?

Monday, 29 October 2012

How much for a concert ticket?

I remember there was a time when I would laugh bitterly in the faces of fools who spent ridiculous amounts of money on designer clothing. It's all very well going into hundreds for quality...but...thousands? Really?
"That white blazer you bought for £2000? Yeah, well I bought one almost identical for £25 in a sale. Put that in your juice box and suck on it."
What irritated me the most was that all that money, if donated to charity, would go a long way. It could feed a family in a poverty stricken country for at least a year. Is an item of clothing really worth someone else's life?

And then I thought...well shouldn't the whole 'ridiculous waste of money' concept apply to concert tickets?
Exhibit A: Glastonbury Festival, UK

£1 Baby to see T Rex? Yes please....

See, the fact is, there are some people in the world that will pay any amount of money to see their favourite band/ musician. 
But what about the people who would pay any amount of money to see the band BUT JUST DON'T HAVE THE MONEY?
I went to see Paul McCartney last year in the o2 arena...I paid £45, but Macca's team were so sweet they had these guys (good-looking guys I might add) go around giving tickets to the front row that were originally hundreds. And...yours truly was one of the lucky people to get free front row tickets!
It was a once in a life time experience but then I thought...
Hang on..
What about the people who had actually decide to spend hundreds on tickets? 

What had made me want to bring up this particular subject is the Rolling Stones' high prices for their concert in London. The cheapest ticket is £106. If you want Mick and Keith to be anything more than spindly stick figures in the distance, prices go to £406.

And a VIP hospitality ticket, which guarantees a place inside the terrifyingly-named "tongue pit" at the edge of the stage, is £1,140.


I understand why The Rolling Stones have put the prices so high. They're up there with the other "gods" of classic rock, like Led Zeppelin, The Beatles and Pink Floyd. They're probably thinking, "Hey, it won't be long till we're in wheelchairs so we might as well milk those rich pigs who always wanted to see us as teenagers but never got the chance."

What's sad though is the high prices mean that the arena will probably be full of wealthy older men and the occasional spoilt kid whose parents have decided to indulge them. For the younger generation, The Rolling Stones will not be as accessible.

And then...back to the point earlier. Isn't spending £1,140 for a VIP ticket as self-indulgent and pointless as spending silly amounts on clothing, or a hotel room?

And to you: how much would you happily spend on a concert ticket?