Lately I have been observing rock musics search for new patrons.
Tower is no longer an option. MTV is barely an option. Terrestrial radio is barely an option. Prominent options now include car companies, computer companies, coffee companies and American Idol.
Paul McCartneys new release has reportedly sold well, hopefully because its songs are among his more vibrant of recent years rather than because Starbucks employees had no choice but to shove it down the ears of 24 hours worth of latte consumers. John Mellencamp, after decrying the use of rock in advertising a couple decades ago, has now taken the opposite tack. And has reportedly sold fewer copies of his new record than the previous one.
Wilco, after streaming its new record, sent an e-mail out requesting that consumers validate their liberal marketing procedures by buying the thing. They, like Mellencamp, have let their songs appear in car commercials.
Some have decried this. Perhaps partly influenced by the fact that I wont get burnt out on those songs because I dont watch TV, I would like to suggest that any form of art that can make Nick Drakes records sell thirty years after he recorded them might have something going for it.
Last year, Simon Cowell suggested that he deserved a bigger contract from Sony than Bruce Springsteen. He may be right. Although, if Sony had a chart showing how many people would be listening to its latest batch of CDs five years from now, it might demonstrate that he was wrong. (Now I see that Kelly Clarkson has cancelled her tour, so perhaps even Cowells touch isnt all that Midas-ish.)
In the midst of all this, my wife and I went to see the new movie Once. I had mixed feelings about it. All of those aching, mix-tape, Cat Stevens/Sarah McLachlan love songs got old after awhile. Nonetheless, it had its charms.
Although the male character is an aspiring professional musician (and the careerist view is that this film may draw some attention to Glen Hansard), the female lead is an amateur. In my second-favorite sequence in the film, a loan officer also turns out to be an amateur songwriter. As well, one sequence shows a party with various generations of Irish men and women trading reels and toasts.
Its a nice reminder of the role of music in the lives of everyday citizens. And in the midst of all of these reports of the struggles of making a career of it, it puts things in perspective.
Of course, even amateurs think about these subjects. My favorite sequence of Once is at the beginning. Hansard, busking, interrupts his aching Van Morrison cover to chase down some kid who tries to steal his earning for that day.