I fell down a rabbit hole the other day. I really, really did not want to open the South by Southwest 2010 email that was in my mailbox as there is not much chance I’ll ever be springing for a trip to that long-running music festival again. Now if they invite me to waddle up the aisle for some kind of lifetime achievement award in the year..ah, 2025, that’s a different story. But til then I think I’ll keep sitting it out, having had a great time in Austin for many years since the thing was held in a tent with a case of beer and everyone in sleeping bags. Back before the internet was invented.
But my hand slipped on the keyboard and next thing I knew I was reading the SXSW newsletter, where they were giving people a chance to vote on potential panels. Then my hand slipped again and I was scrolling through eight or nine pages of panel proposals, mostly along the lines of “Making Social Media Work For You” and other promotional workshops that made my eyes cross with boredom just reading the titles – marketing was never a big interest or strength of mine, but apparently it’s pretty much all anyone involved in music thinks about any more.
There was a time when that selling business was the (usually neglected) job of a record company. Now it is apparently possible to make a pretty good living at this music game, if you’re willing to put in your time at the keyboard. Not keyboard as in piano keys but to sit in front of the computer constantly reminding people of your existence. Damn, I’m doing it myself right now – when I could be coming up with some excellent music. But who would know, if I didn’t make a point of keeping in touch at all times?
One title caught my eye – something about writing a song a week. I clicked on the proposal, where a singer/songwriter said the old model of putting together an album of 12 good songs every two or so years was not going to work anymore – that now it was all about providing new content for the fans as often as possible and by challenging yourself to write and make available a new song a week, you’d be giving them just that while keeping yourself creative, exercising those songwriting muscles.
People were allowed to comment on the panel proposals and someone wrote in saying you couldn’t force creativity, sometimes it takes a while to say something meaningful or interesting, he resented the whole idea of a song a week.
The song-a-week guy then replied to album’s-worth-of-twelve-good-songs man, first saying he was entitled to work any way he chose but then s-a-w got warmed up and his creativity really started flowing as he made all kinds of suggestions for what the (obviously) old codger could do with his prehistoric mindset – I got the feeling it was the most emotion s-a-w guy had felt about anything in a very long time.
The sad part, aside from the time I was wasting playing imaginary referee, was that this is just the type of lively argument that would have once occurred in real time, in front of a crowd who could have also joined in the debate. Blood might have even been spilled.
And now I can’t decide who to cast my lot with – accept that fans will take what you give them as long as it’s with some regularity, that if they believe in your “brand” well that’s good enough for them? Or have faith in the possibly archaic form of the record album itself, a collection of a certain number of songs that go together, some kind of perfection worth aspiring to, whether anyone hears it or not?