NOTE: The following is just some random thoughts stemmed from a few observations that popped in my head with this whole SXSW 2010 thing. It’s not a condemnation of SXSW, just thoughts and, who knows, maybe even a discussion generator?
Well, if I’m not mistakin’, this week starts off the music portion of SXSW or something. It happens annually and every year you see the bloggers, twitterers, bands, etc, etc, etc, go down to pimp their wares or to write about the wares they just got pimped on them. I pretty much ignore it but I was struck this year, and maybe this is because how much more active I am on Facebook/Twitter and on my own site than I ever was, but it seems like everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, is going to SXSW. Bands, music websites, non-music websites, bloggers, friends of bloggers, celebrities, products, I mean EV-ER-Y-ONE. Now, I don’t feel left out because that’s such a common feeling to me, it’s when I’m included it feels weird, but it kinda hit me today….
Pink Floyd once sang, “Welcome To The Machine”, a reaction to the music industry’s desire more for money than artistic expression, and they were right, it was a machine. Back when it was dominated by the big labels, it was “yeah, yeah, great music you got there, wonderfully artistic, but, uh, which is the single?” Now, for those artist who still live in that big label world, vying for Top 40 air play, old school style, say The Black-Eyed Peas or the latest American Idol make-over kid, it’s still exactly the same. It’s about airplay in all the modern markets and moving CDs & mp3s, that’s it. In fact, it’s become so much about “moving mp3s” via iTunes and to a lesser degree Amazon/Rhapsody/etc, that, as has been discussed a million times, the “album” as we knew it is dead in that world. You need about 10 – 12 songs, 3 to 4 of which that have hit potential, the other songs will be for the CD buyers that are still around. The end.
So, Pink Floyd’s machine, as they saw it, is still running. Yeah, it needs an oil change, a tune-up, some new spark-plugs, and, hell, probably needs a full re-build, but it’s still there. Just like my 1980 Toyota Pick-Up parked in the back alley. Yeah, it runs… ish.
You and I, we HATE that machine, ew, Black-Eyed Peas? Miley Cyrus? Taylor Swift (is that really her name)? Whatever, who cares who’s on that machine that’s not part of OUR machine-less world, is it?
Well, yes and no.
Is She & Him trying to get a heavy FM station rotation of “In The Sun”? Is Local Natives hoping that VH1 adds them to their morning videos hourly repeat rigmaroles? Doubtful (though I doubt they wouldn’t be upset if they were added). But both are showing up, along with 1,288,310,311,604 bands to SXSW in Austin in hopes that one more blog writes about them, that maybe Pitchfork or Stereogum or Paste will give them a standout shout out, that they’ll move a few CDs (or LPs), or that 189 people on twitter will tweet to their 538 average followers how much just loved the song they just heard by that band in one of their 900,000 abbreviated sets while standing next to OMG, that guy from Animal Collective, potentially increasing the awareness of that band’s existence & their own coolness to 101,682 people. All, of course, sponsored by such indie-companies as:
Maybe that site will blog about this party and that label will show up to that party and this one band will get signed to make that album? The machine looks & sounds different, but it’s still a machine. Hell, I’m part of it and so are you.
It all is though, for all industries, all the time! What strikes me the most is the “annualness” of it all. Hollywood’s “award season” watching people & celebrities & studios & bloggers & tweeters “gearing up” for the oscars or the globes or whatever.
Watching sports people, teams, apparel folks, espn, bloggers, tweeters “gear up” for this bracket basketball thing or the super bowl or whatever.
Every industry has it, there are small indie events like Comfest in Columbus, there are big corporate ones like The Music Awards (the Emmy or whatever it is that Taylor Swift or whoever won all those trophies) and there are those in between, like SXSW which start out as a little indie thing and is slowly become this big corporate one. Follow the money, it feeds the machine.
I guess it’s in our nature, we are programmed to follow the machine. Just look at the original machine, seasons. Yep, Summer, Fall, Winter, and Spring… Think of the annualness, not just of the physical changing of the weather, sun, and our living/farming patterns, but of our annual reactions to it all. Our annual begging for the warmth of spring, our complaining of the heat, our love of the “first snow”, our hate of the last few snows, the holidays we tied to the seasons, from Xmas to Easter and back again for the Christian types, but the millions of others to the millions of other types. I guess it’s a sense of progression of change that we like, but with a giant fat glob of consistency of that change. We love it and we love to hate it, yet every year (and really pick your own starting point, doesn’t have to be Jan 1), we do it over and over and over (and over and over and over) again.
Some traditions grow and take over, becoming an institution (like Xmas), some, once significant, disappear to only a select few (like Winter Solstice), some stay small and “indie” (like Kwanzaa).
Are you following my thoughts??
Now, again… This is not a treatise or some rant on or against SXSW/MTV Awards, X games/Olympics, Cannes/Aspen/Sarasota Film Festival/Acacemy Awards, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc by any stretch of the imagination, to each their own, and whatever tickles your belly-button…. No, it just fascinates me. By “it”, I mean, us, we, aka you AND me. We are a funny creature, us humans. We rebel against the old way, only to make a new way that becomes the old way which we’ll then rebel on while we also reminisce about the way things used to be. Will our dear bloggers, bands, music zines, product placement reps, PR folks, swag-bag-giver-outers, party hosts, bar owners, etc one day look back to the good old days of SXSW while watching the new way grow and take over? Judging from the size of this year’s, are they already doing that?
I mean, it will change, SXSW will go away at some point. Better technology, a worsening economy, a struggling industry, a backlash to it’s corporateness, etc, etc or simply just a better/closer “festival” concept means more bands will opt out of packing up & taking a trip to yet-another-city to play in some tiny bar or apartment or whatever in hopes that they “win the lottery” vs the other 1,288,310,311,604 bands and the right people will be at their right set and give them the right attention at the right time, and for what? To get a contract with Merge or Matador? To become talked about & respected? To sell a couple albums? Maybe be successful, in an Arcade Fire way, or hell, maybe in a Black-Eyed Peas way?? So that you show up on Perez Hilton one day with white squiggle marks written on you while he wonders if you fucked that one guy or made out with that one chick while doing Red-Bull and coke on the back of that one celebutante?
I don’t have all/any of the answers, but it’s pretty interesting… Maybe I should be at SXSW? *shrug* All I know is I’ve now got a hankering to listen to some Pink Floyd.
Anywhosal, I’d love to hear your thoughts on machines, music & other. If not, no worries, this cog in the machine will be back again soon to talk about whatever the hell is playing and filling up his ears with joy!