August 30, 2008

Personal Brand Marketing

Posted in Life tagged , at 2:39 pm by Andrew McMillen

I put off reading this article for a few days, and I’m glad that I did. Tom Peters’ discussion on the importance of self-marketing demands your complete attention for a few minutes.

When you’re promoting brand You, everything you do — and everything you choose not to do — communicates the value and character of the brand. Everything from the way you handle phone conversations to the email messages you send to the way you conduct business in a meeting is part of the larger message you’re sending about your brand.

Being constantly aware of how you’re presenting – marketing – yourself throughout the day is hard. It’s not easily learned, either. It takes time. I’m learning.

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August 18, 2008

EMI Records Are Really Good Dudes

Posted in Music tagged , at 10:32 pm by Andrew McMillen

From undercover.com.au:

Last week, EMI Records sued 30 Seconds To Mars for $30 million dollars for terminating their contract when renegotiations failed.

Let’s repeat that point. A record company that sold more than $20 million worth of units for band they haven’t paid one cent to is now suing the band for $30 million for not giving them the chance to do it again.

The band’s singer (and sometimes actor) Jared Leto commented on the band’s MySpace:

If you think the fact that we have sold in excess of 2 million records and have never been paid a penny is pretty unbelievable, well, so do we. And the fact that EMI informed us that not only aren’t they going to pay us AT ALL but that we are still 1.4 million dollars in debt to them is even crazier.

Full transcript here.

I don’t know what to say. I don’t listen to the band, nor do I have any interest in them, but.. wow. This is the biggest fuck-you from a major label to a popular band and their fans in recent memory.

It appears that little or no thought has been given to how this appears to the music-listening public. Understandably – though batshit insane as it appears – the label have calculated that they think they’re entitled to thirty million dollars. Their other requests include: (bolding is mine)

…the new regime at EMI firing most of the people we know and love, wanting to place advertisements on our website, EMI owning 100 percent of the masters of our record…forever, and basically having a revolving door of regimes at the company made it easy to not want to continue as is.

I find it really hard to believe that the people in charge of these institutions think that they’re being reasonable. That they’re still relevant. That they don’t appear as lumbering dinosaurs to intelligent music consumers.

And yet, here we are. Golf clap for EMI’s total assholery. Alongside the other members of the”big four“, they’ve been polishing the brass on the Titanic for years. Since Shawn Fanning released a cute little program.

Surely, the iceberg can’t be far off.

August 17, 2008

Music Journalism: Opportunistic Idiot-Baiting

Posted in Music tagged , , , , at 9:04 pm by Andrew McMillen

Funnily enough, days after my last post regarding my interest and participation in the grey area of writing about music, Everett True set his proverbial cat among the pigeons by describing some popular Australian acts as “musical abominations” and suggesting that this country’s music publications are too kind when discussing musicians, both established and upcoming.

While acknowledging that True’s article was little more than a thinly-veiled bit of self-congratulatory promotion – he runs a UK monthly music publication named Plan B Magazine, if you didn’t gather – the uproarious response to his words made for some thoroughly entertaining reading.

Cue, en masse:

How dare this prententious prick of a Pom have the gall to write off a couple of our most popular musical exports? These bands are popular. A lot of people like them. This means that they write good music!

As above, except with more spelling errors and angst, and less rational thought. Here’s a few examples from a discussion that appeared on news.com.au:

Who cares what this wanker says.. If you like the music you like, if you don’t you don’t it is not up to anyone else to tell us what is good and bad!!!
Posted by: Lisa 3:04am August 12, 2008

Well, this comment makes a bit of sense. But Lisa probably listens to The Presets, so her opinion is invalid.

I would suggest that the majority of reviews concerned with the arts boil down to little more than “I don’t like it”. How else can one account for critics’ wildly divergent opinions? Ah well, if you lack creativity, you’ve still got to earn a living somehow … right?
Posted by: Andrew 3:15am August 12, 2008

I like the way Andrew thinks. He’s right, to an extent: the concept of professional criticism is hilarious in itself. He has a cool name, too.

Powderfinger are a great example of an extremely talented Aussie band, who deserve as much if not more recognition here and internationally as the likes of Silverchair and co…
Posted by: James of Sydney 8:15am August 12, 2008

Lulz.

It’s True, Lol. The guy is right, particularly about the street press. The street press in trash, with no critical faculties and poor writing. Just cos it’s free doesn’t mean the writing should be lazy. “I went to the gig by XXX the crowd went off, the band sounded good. oh but I missed the support band cos i was out getting pizza” give me a break.
Posted by: Unaustralian of Australia 9:06am August 12, 2008

What a fantastically well-informed and intelligent opinion. Not generalising at all, no sir!

The discussion henceforth devolved into further idiocy. You could check it out for yourself, but I’d recommend against doing something more productive for five minutes instead. Like banging your head against the wall.

Conversely, True’s initial article yielded some intelligent and coherent responses. Monkeywenchdotnet wrote:

I don’t think positive music writing is lazy or passionless. True is attacking the Brisbane street press in particular, and as a sometime writer for one of the mags which comprises the Brisbane street press I can say with 100% authority that we do it for the love, which is a good thing because the money is crap. Oddly enough, if I’m doing something for the love I want to enjoy it, not spend all my energy complaining about aspects I dislike.

I’m not going to waste my time listening to, talking to, and writing about a band I don’t feel warm about. I don’t feel the need to prove my worth by swinging my pen around and declaring myself the arbiter of good taste by tearing down artists that I’m not interested in.

I wholly echo the above sentiments.

Do I only nominate to review bands that I find enjoyable or interesting? Absolutely. Only once have I accepted an assignment to review bands that I was less than interested in; that show resulted in an unexpectedly enjoyable experience.

The overarching theme that many seem to forget is that all discussion of music is subjective. Preference and taste vary between listeners. This isn’t going to change. Bleating to everyone within earshot that Band X or Band Y are great or shit or relevant or geniuses or ugly or brilliant or immature or talentless or irrelevant or (adjective) isn’t going to change an individual’s preference.

Sure, it’s fun to mock those who listen to The Presets, but I’m being facetious when I do so and don’t devote more than a moment’s thought to the listening choices of those around me. My listening habits have been on display since October 3, 2004. My experimentations, lamentations and guilty pleasures are all there (*cringe*). Do I listen to music that you think is shit? Most definitely. Does this concern me? Certainly not.

I don’t have time for that. It’s hilarious that others do. It’s also interesting to note that musical discussions tend to evoke strong, passionate feelings within many of us.

Within music journalism, there exists a consistent and inelastically large market in idiot-baiting. Thanks for reminding us, Everett.

(footnote – I’ve listened to The Presets quite a bit. I liked their early releases a lot, but their latest is a stinking pile of shit that I never want to hear again.)

August 4, 2008

Celebrity Photographs: I don’t get it

Posted in Web tagged , , , at 11:08 pm by Andrew McMillen

Why do publications still pay ridiculous amounts for “exclusive” photos of celebrity babies?

We all know that as soon as these photos are published, they’re scanned, uploaded and disseminated across the web.

Exclusive pictures of [celebrity name] newborn twins fetched $14 million, a person involved in the negotiations told The Associated Press. The celebrity weekly scored the photos in a joint deal with [magazine name], and the two will split the bill. Particulars of the division were not disclosed.

Bragging rights?

“We’re thrilled to be able to feature these pictures in [magazine name],” managing editor Larry Hackett said in a statement. [magazine name] plans to unveil the first photo on its Web site on Sunday evening.

The photographs aren’t even going to appear in the magazine first.

How can a collection of pixels be worth US$14 million? And what kind of fucked-up, media-driven society thinks this is normal? Acceptable?

It’s cool that they’re donating it all to their charity. Really cool. But can you imagine the boardroom conversations before this deal was sealed?

“We’ve got to secure the rights to these pictures! It is imperative that people of the world associate the images of these celebrity children with our brand name! Our magazine!”

Doesn’t this all seem ridiculous? Excessive? Moronic?

August 3, 2008

Condoleezza Rice: It’s your power, use it

Posted in Life tagged , , at 12:02 pm by Andrew McMillen

Noel linked me to an inspiring speech recently given to students of Perth’s Mercedes College by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. It’s well worth the read. I’ve picked out some key quotes below – bolding is mine.

I’d only have one suggestion, (to young people) which is when you go to college, don’t try to determine what job you’re going to have when you get out. Try to determine what your passion is. Try to figure out what it is you really love to do.

Finding your passion is the most important thing that you can do. My passion turned out to be the study of the Soviet Union. The first time I heard the Russian language, it was like falling in love.

Don’t worry if it’s something that seems a little odd because there is no reason that a black woman from Birmingham, Alabama, should have been interested in the Soviet Union. I just was. Don’t let anybody define for you what you should be interested in. Your horizons should be limitless at this point. You have to find that special combination of what you’re good at doing and what you love to do. And when you find that combination life is going to work out.

Just don’t let anybody put limits on it because you’re a woman or because you are from some particular ethnic group or because you’re Aboriginal or whatever you are. What you want to be and who you’re going to be is really up to you.

Most often people will underestimate your capabilities. The best way to deal with that is, be tough, be prepared to take on whatever questions come at you. And you’ll find that sooner or later, it won’t matter that much.

Music Journalism

Posted in Music tagged , , at 1:08 am by Andrew McMillen

I just spent a couple of hours completely enveloped in music, and the discussion thereof.

I Googled The Courier-Mail‘s music section, after my parents recommended that I read an article written by Noel Mengel about iconic British artist Paul Weller‘s forthcoming tour. Mengel’s (now seemingly dead) blog appeared near the top of the search results – specifically, his review of 2007’s Four Ages of Robert Forster concert series. Nice. A smile remained on my face as I read about Forster’s songs and antics; I ruminated on the handful of encounters I’d had with the man thus far, and anticipated his show later this month.

That wasn’t the reason I went to the site, though. I read the Weller article and made a mental note to download acquire and absorb his latest release. That’s another potential show and review on the horizon: in this case, I’d accompany my parents. My eye was attracted to a headline elsewhere on the Courier Mail’s music page: “Remembering Nirvana, twenty years after the Love Buzz“.

Nirvana. We all know Nirvana. I grew up with Nirvana. We all did. Well, all the cool kids did. Yes, I’m applying the cool tag to myself. Erroneous? Subjective.

The article read well. It was written by Everett True. Everett Who? In the article, he states facetiously that he attempted to distance himself from widely-publicised claims that he defined the genre “grunge”, and introduced Kurt and Courtney. Intriguing. Wikipedia suggested that he’s quite prolific. Google led me to his MySpace page, which led me to his VillageVoice column.

All of this information cascaded within a couple of minutes. A few clicks, a curious expression, and skim-reading eyes. Internet, how ’bout it?

Everett True currently lives in Brisbane. He saw the same Gin Club show as I. His weekly column is highly amusing. Wikipedia suggests:

…some appreciated his enthusiastic tone, while his critics were infuriated by the highly subjective, self-referencing nature of his work.

I appreciate his enthusiastic tone, in addition to the self-referencing nature of his work. One of his posts linked to this video by Those Dancing Days, and damned if I haven’t listened to that song ten times in a row. Shamelessly gorgeous Swedish indie pop.

What am I braying about?

Music. It’s all about the music. Man.

“I love music”. A common and cliché statement. But absolutely true.

I saw bands on Thursday and Friday nights. I’m seeing bands Sunday night. The months ahead are arranged around shows of interest.

This is my life. Nothing excites me more often than music.

In December 2007, I was shortlisted for a VRaw-sponsored assistant journalist internship at Rolling Stone’s Sydney office. Coincidently, Almost Famous was shown on television as I was waiting for the application result. I re-watched the film and allowed myself to get carried away with the romanticised notion of it all. Music journalist. A kind of pre-emptive narrative fallacy.

The internship didn’t happen. But I do still get to call myself a music journalist. The moment that I start using that term in a serious, non-self-deprecating manner hasn’t arrived. If it does, I hope that someone’s around to wake me up.

Music writing is my hobby, not my vocation. It’s my escape, of sorts. See some bands; reflect; write coherently. Repeat. Enjoy.

Sometimes, though – that thought creeps up. You could do this. Full-time. Come on, it’d be fun! The thought is usually dismissed and forgotten.

Sometimes, though…