The music business is a shining example of supply-side economics gone awry.
Fans are forever finding new ways to discover, share and bottle what seems to be an ever expanding library of new, free sounds-and tech companies obligingly help lighten our wallets with a dizzying array of new gadgets, subscription services and digital solutions to problems we didn't know existed.
For most musicians, the outlook for a reversal in fortunes looks about as promising as Elizabeth May becoming the next Prime Minister. Or Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, a posterboy for Speedo swimwear. Fortunately, musicians are a tough lot, in a soft sort of way; which is why songs such as "I Will Survive" and "That's Life" continue to be popular
One of the many reasons for hanging tough in the music business is because one is constantly surrounded by outrageous eccentrics; individuals who buck, mangle and up-end the system, and still manage to live life on the bright side of the road.
It's a community of Mad Hatters.
For instance, managers tend to be an animated lot [Bruce Allen paces like a panther backstage when his act is on, and Rush manager Ray Danniels - famously media shy - scans a hall like a hawk searching his prey]; agents often talk as if they have read one too many Sam Spade detective novels; and record companies seem to be populated by people who stand tall together, like Wallace Hartley leading his band with equanimity through one last song on board Titanic.
Then there are the music publishers, a breed apart; many of whom could as easily have become lawyers, politicians, or comedians.
Broadcasters largely suffer from dissociative identity disorder, privately extolling a love for music and professionally making life difficult for anyone but the advertiser to get air time.
As for us scribblers, we like to pretend we know what we are talking about, reporting too often on what people who might actually know are willing to tell us about what has already taken place.
Copyright lawyers? They couldn't agree to agree unless it cost lots, and even then they would want to ammend the bill they billed for and signed off on.
We may sound like loons, and perhaps we are. But lovable ones who daily think outside the box, furiously working at making dreams come true, voluble in expressing passion for what we do-and fighting to the last round for those we believe in. It's a business that attracts eccentrics. Money may be tight, but that doesn't mean the people in the business are uptight. Quite the contrary.
And then there are the musicians, god love 'em.
There isn't a week that goes by when I'm not awed, smitten or given a jolt of laughter on a day that seemed custom-ordered from hell! Take Benny, Ben, Chris and Chris, a quartet of crazies collectively known as BBOSS, named after a high-end 'gentleman's club' in Hong Kong. The Canadian quartet recently bought air time on MTV and MTV2 in the US to plug an album of songs saluting action figures. The TV spot is a parody of earlier day K-Tel commercials and it had me laughing my face off. Music marketing needs more of this kind of stuff. Take a look for yourself.
Sometimes simplicity is best, as Japandroids show in this film noir rock n' roll fantasy storyboard that perfectly captures the essence of this guitar band's riveting on stage energy.
Toronto electro-pop quartet Phedre takes a Fellini-esque approach in its video for "Aphrodite" with choreographed dancers in a bachanal party festooned with fruits, crustacians...and body parts, and jugs of fluids being poured over naked skin. Bizarre, musical-and memorable.
Roots singer Whitney Rose chose a simpler approach, using one camera to shoot a staged performance for her storybook song, "Chivalry Is Dead". She's as cute as a button, the performance is colourful and she leaves you wanting to know and hear more. Of course, it doesn't hurt having a killer band to play with. All in, the video is effective, the performance beguiling and all done pretty much for a song.
Montreal's Elephant Stone recently earned a winning NCM review for their self-titled 2nd album. Led by sitarist/bassist Rishi Dhir, the band's psychotropic music is creatively meshed with stock footage to create a moody accompaniment for their song, "Setting Sun". The band recently opened a 20 date N/A tour in Sherbrooke QC that fittingly ends up at the Austin TX Psych Fest late in April. Elephant Stone is appearing in TO during CMW.
There's plenty more where these come from. The important point is that music is alive and well, and musicians are using technology to express themselves and reach out to mobile audiences and the fans at home. And at NCM, starting this week, we are incorporating video into our reviews. The videos need to be tied to a current release, whether it's a single, EP or album-and effective and compelling, which is not the same as expensive or outrageous. It's part of our master-plan to make the world a better place for our musicians, and brighten your day-as much as mine.