Successful wedding receptions come down to music and food.
Not really. But good lede, right?
Successful wedding receptions involve a lot of different elements and require them all to come together, to complement each other, to form a cohesive whole. In some ways, it’s like designing an entire restaurant, from the ground up, knowing it will be open for a single night. But it’s not just a restaurant, because it’s not just dinner.
Consider so-called “self-publishing” for the past several years and you’ll find that every year, someone writes that its “stigma” is disappearing. Perfunctory research dug up this 2002 Wired article, and articles every year following up until now, including this one at the Washington Post. What’s odd is that extensive searches for stigmas associated with either indie filmmaking or indie music-making yield no such results—in fact, the closest I came when Googling for any stigma associated with indie filmmaking were results lamenting the difficulty of an NC-17 film-rating. I thought, at first, I might be using invalid search terms, so I tried “independent”—rather than “indie”—filmmaking; ironically, I found only this Yahoo! question-and-answer post regarding the distinction between the stigma associated with self-publishing and the lack of any associated with independent filmmaking.
What’s interesting about that question is the response thereto: the poster proposes that the distinction is that, when considering writing, often the author is the only person associated with the work (say, a novel, or memoir, or book of poetry). The general thought seems to be that filmmaking can only be collaborative—with a producer and writer and director and actors—while a self-published novel’s creation is isolative—just one writer, in one room, with one keyboard and one screen.
If that is the case, however, wouldn’t it be true that, except in very rare circumstances, neither filmmaking nor music are ever truly “independent”? How often does one encounter a movie written, produced, and directed by one actor in one room? And that doesn’t even mention lighting, sound, and crafts.
Really, sounds like those self-shot YouTube videos one sees, in which users turn on their webcams and talk/rant at it for a few minutes.
(Regardless of your feelings concerning authors who have published their own books—through whatever means—it’s simply not equivalent to ranting at a webcam.)
What it comes down to is simple: for some reason, people respect independence when associated with music recording or filmmaking but not writing, even though writing is the only endeavor of the three that is ever actually accomplished independently.
“Blues’n How to Play’em” is the second (other) of my stories from the Sparks collection I published with Simon Smithson that I’m now making available individually for anyone who missed that limited-edition collection.
It was one of the most challenging stories I’ve ever written for a couple of reasons, not least of which was that it’s written in a Blues-y patois.
I realized when writing about “Struck by the Light of the Son” that both it and “Blues’n How to Play’em” began their lives as two-page stories based on Janet Fitch’s writing prompts. I know that I wrote an early draft of “Struck by the Light of the Son” as a story for the “fret” prompt; I can no longer recall the word for which I handed in what later became “Blues’n How to Play’em.” I do remember that the prompt was just an excuse; I’d already started the story a couple of times.
Honestly, I no longer remember the inspiration for the story. I know I workshopped it a few times, both at USC and in one of the myriad writers’ groups I once-upon-a-time found and joined on MySpace.
I think the embedding for YouTube is different on self-hosted WordPress blogs than over at WordPress.com, so I thought I’d test it out. Which is nicely coincidental, because there was a commercial I caught while taking a break that, on sight, I knew belonged on my blog.
Because it’s awesome:
I mean, seriously! It’s Heidi Klum! Playing video games!
In her underwear.
(excuse me while I wipe my chin. There. Much better)
It is, apparently, one of a series of Guitar Hero commercials, all based on the iconic scene from Risky Business:
Which is also awesome. Watching it, one can see why he became the star he did, who was awesome right up until Mission: Impossible III, and who desperately needs not only a better role but also to cut loose a little. Anyone else see his interview with Barbara Walters recently? Since when is Tom Cruise restrained?
I have to admit, I’ve not understood the allure of Guitar Hero; seems like an awful lot of work to invest in mastery over buttons when one could actually master a real musical instrument one wouldn’t have to plug in to a console for it to work. I’ve been contemplating picking up a guitar this spring; it’s something I’ve always wanted to learn but never managed to.
All that said, though, I found a video of a drummer using a modded controller to master an insane song:
But then again, looks like a dude who could probably actually play the real drums, too.
I think one of the reasons I felt the catharsis I mentioned was that we’ve gotten beyond the noise and chatter. No more political ads, no more proposition whatever, no more signs on people’s lawns. Used to be that it was difficult to separate the static from the noise; seems like now there’s too much noise, and it’s more difficult to separate the stupid from the real.
There are few things that excite me more than ambition. A lot of music critics complained that The Killers’ Sam’s Town was too Springsteen-esque/epic, and while I’d be the first to admit it is, in places, sprawling and messy, well, so is sex a lot of the time, and I think we can all agree ain’t nothing wrong with that. “Read My Mind” is one of my favorite songs in recent memory:
And now a new Killers’ CD on the horizon, comin’ up soon: Day & Age drops in late November (the 25th to be exact), and I simply can’t imagine I’m the only one totally looking forward to it.
pay my respects to grace and virtue
send my condolences to good
give my regards to soul and romance
they always did the best they could
and so long to devotion, you taught me everything I know
wave good bye, wish me well.
It’s not really that eclectic a list, but, then, Paste focuses mainly on independent “artists.” Even though most of the musicians they cover have major label record deals (I am, in fact, not entirely sure any of the songwriters they mention are truly independent). But that’s a side-issue.
Here’s their top ten:
9. Joni Mitchell
8. Elvis Costello
7. Brian Wilson (The Beach Boys)
6. Leonard Cohen
5. Paul McCartney (The Beatles, Wings)
4. Tom Waits & Kathleen Brennan
3. Bruce Springsteen
2. Neil Young (Buffalo Sprinfield, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young)
1. Bob Dylan
Not really all that inspiring, you ask me. Seems a bit safe, to me. Nobody on there who really makes you say, “really?”
But still I think they’re ignoring a lot of great artists on the list as a whole. For example, I think my personal top ten greatest living songwriters would be:
1. Roger Clyne
3. Paul McCartney
4. Axl Rose
5. Leonard Cohen
6. Tori Amos
7. Bon Jovi
8. Billy Joel
9. Tom Petty
10. Kevin Griffin (Better Than Ezra)
Also on my list would be Dave Matthews, Marshall Mathers (Eminem), Ben Lee, Jack White, Dr. Dre, Joni Mitchell, and Lili Haydn.
I mean, don’t get me wrong; I get most of Paste‘s choices. But Bob Dylan as number one? Really?
That’s a big “meh.”
But as always, I’m looking for recommendations, so who would your choices be?
I noted yesterday that I thought Nick Mamatas’ point was cogent; that, one day, the predominant business model might be Print-to-Inventory, so, basically, Barnes & Noble might actually stock all of a hundred or so books, mostly including the newest releases and the most popular sellers, and the rest of the inventory might be consigned to digital files that could be printed literally on demand. By “literally on demand,” I mean the sort of demand like a customer might walk in, approach a machine like an ATM, find a digital file, and print it perfect-bound while waiting for a cup of coffee and perusing the magazines. I’d say I like bookstores as much as the next guy, but I don’t know who the next guy is and wouldn’t wager he’d be as into reading as I am, and, really, from a business standpoint, the entire industry is cumbersome at best and actually borders on ridiculous at worst.
As just one example, I don’t think I’m aware of another industry that allows for returns. So a publisher might invest an unhealthy amount into a particular book, but booksellers might shelve it behind the tomes on kumquat botany, which no one reads, and then, when they receive the invoice for their order, rather than paying it, send the books back. Does BestBuy return DVDs it doesn’t sell? Does Wal-Mart return CDs its consumers don’t buy?
Which brings me to an interesting piece of news; Wal-Mart is no longer the nation’s largest distributor of music. Care to guess who is?
Which is a shame, because though Rupert Murdoch and his News Corp corporate machine was one of the reasons I left MySpace, the model the imprint’s new CEO, Robert S. Miller, describes makes a lot of sense. Perhaps part of the model is to slim down the advances the imprint will give its authors, but really, that might not be such a bad thing; selling an arseload of copies and participating in profits means that books don’t have to earn back their advances, which seems to me (and I could be wrong, as I’m only just now a young writer with a single book under my belt) as though it might take some long-term pressures of authors who don’t need it. One of the worst possibilities for second-time-out authors is for their books to underperform their debuts, which can bring their futures into question. Also, the two most popular modern publishing success stories (Brown and Rowling) weren’t really based on debuts; if I remember right, Harry Potter had some early buzz, certainly, but I don’t remember it hitting its stride, marketing- and sales-wise, until at least the second hardcover (and might have been the third), while The Da Vinci Code was Brown’s third or fourth novel.
All of which is to say that the combination of the two seems a pragmatic approach. One of the biggest problems with a debut hardcover is: who really wants to spend thirty bucks on an unknown writer, regardless of how much hype it’s gotten? I sure don’t; heck, I rarely spend more than ten bucks on any writer anymore. I rarely buy magazines; most of the ones I read are available online, with mostly free text available. I don’t read newspapers; I go to their websites. I probably read at least twenty blogs per day. Which is to say: I don’t read less–I just read differently than I used to. My attention span is really no shorter; I enjoy sitting down with a good novel (keyword: good).
One of Godin’s more cogent points regarding publishing and marketing was a division: some people read a lot and are aware of writers like Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace, while others don’t read much and are aware of writers like King, Brown, and Rowling. He mentioned there’s nothing wrong with either audience, but that one has to pick one or the other. Of that latter, I’m not all together certain, mostly because I’m one of the former who prefers the latter writers, but I realize, too, I think I’m an exception to a more pervasive, general thought about which Godin is correct.
The publishing model I described above might, in some ways, foster that division and make it even more marked, but I think the real benefit it is that, though it might cater to that divide, it still serves to the benefit of both types of customers.
I think, too, that the more these new technologies are used, the more blurry the actual idea of “publishing” is going to become. By founding McSweeney’s, Eggers blurred the line between traditional models of publishing and self-publishing, and I think, in years to come, the distinction is going to become even less clear.
So long as readers are satisfied, I’m okay with that.
I’ve been a huge fan of Clyne since 1995, and the Refreshments; Fizzy, Fuzzy, Big, & Buzzy was the first CD I ever owned I loved beginning to end. I played the shit out of that bad boy. Over and over. I passed up a chance to see the Refreshments in New York, once, and they subsequently broke up. Clyne reformed a band not long afterward with a few members of other bands from the Tempe music scene, and Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers released Honky Tonk Union.
RC&tPM are the most successful independent band in the country, from what I’ve read. I think they deserve it; I love pretty much everything I hear from them. Not everything, mind you; I think it’s rare to find an artist whose entire output one loves, but they come pretty close. Clyne reminds me equally of Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, and Bruce Springsteen, but to my mind surpasses all three with a unique vision of the southwest, peace, love, and rock ‘n roll. This new one, Turbo Ocho, is really good; not as awesome as !Americano!, but certainly among their best (though really, which isn’t?).
I’ve also just received the new Arsenal CD, Outsides, their follow up to Oyebo Soul (the latter of which apparently most accurately translates to “White Boy Soul,” which, being a white boy, I find amusing). They’re a bit of a fusion band; as nearly as I can figure, the members of the band are from El Salvador, Puerto Rico, and Boston, or somesuch; really, they’re a terrific mixture of some very different styles. They’re a bit electronica, but a little lounge-y, with some rock thrown in for a sexy groove. I dig them lots.
And finally, Steve Acho. I found Steve by accident; I’d been searching on iTunes for different versions of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” (the greatest lyrics in the history of music? Discuss), and his covers CDs came up. I like his style and delivery; I’ve seen comparisons to Elton John and Billy Joel, but I think they’re superficial at best–just because he’s a dude with a piano doesn’t make him comparable. He lacks the ostentation of the former, certainly, and seems more passionate than the latter.