Guest rant by Robin Millar
Robin is a musician who has conquered blindness to become a world famous record producer with over 150 gold, silver and platinum discs to his credit – not to mention 55 million record sales. He was made a CBE in the 2010 Birthday Honours. He has contributed this post to us at Fresh On The Net – questioning the modern pressure on musicians and artists to beome active users of social media – and is keen to hear your views.
I’ve touched on this before but it’s becoming a burning issue. This is about people who write songs, sing, play instruments, feel things very very deeply, hurt easily, are highly strung, creative, unworldly, brilliant, awkward in their own skin, impractical, gifted, passionate, emotional.
A musician and singer came to see me last week. She lives outside the UK. She came a long way to see me. I have recorded with her. She is brilliant. She was in a state of confusion.
All her friends – and family too – are telling her she has to get out there on Twitter and on the Internet and get busy doing it for herself. Blowing her trumpet – or in her case, alto sax – telling everyone what she’s doing, alerting them to gigs, building her fan base on Facebook or MySpace, possibly joining Pledge, certainly uploading to Soundcloud … STOP!
She’s overwhelmed. Not by the prospect of hard work. You don’t get to be as good as she is without dedication, practice and application. She’s overwhelmed by two things. Firstly the technology. It’s just too bloody complicated to master it all and become an online guru and it’s not her strength. She is not a nerd. She is not a geek.
Second and much more fundamental is that she says it just feels phony, self-important, shallow and ridiculous. She writes music, plays and sings, she doesn’t otherwise communicate particularly comfortably or confidently. She’s quite shy. She’s not got a degree in journalism. She doesn’t bloody want to do it – or in other words she’s very like most of the other great artists and musicians I know.
And I agree with her. I follow a few people on Twitter. If the only thing they have to say is to tell me how great their next gig is going to be or how great their last gig was I want to puke and I want them to fail. If they also tell me how grateful they are to their fans then I want to drown them in my vomit.
On top of that there is the American blogger Bob Lefsets. A middle aged lawyer who has set himself up as the Deepak Chopra of commercial music. He’ll tell you how to do it. Whether you run a big record company, are an older member of a band who used to have hits, a young singer songwriter, a student, a mother, a publisher….doesn’t matter, Bob knows what you need to do.
And Bob’s mantra is that you’ve got to become a smart, savvy, forward-looking, tech-savvy, self starting, self-promoting in-your-face person 24/7. You’ve got to forget albums, they are toast – oh and you’ve got to be a genius, poet and a true original as well.
Hang on a minute there. I’m running through a few folks who had true genius, poetry and originality. Carravaggio, Oscar Wilde, Salvador Dali, Van Gogh, Sartre, Jeff Buckley, Jaques Brel, Jimi Hendrix… I’m imagining them busy working on their Facebook page, tweeting about their upcoming gig, uploading their latest mixes to Soundcloud before setting off in their 4 x 4 to drive 300 miles to the next gig with me in the passenger seat! Not likely. I’ll catch the train, thanks.
Poets don’t usually have a licence, thank goodness. They know they shouldn’t drive. They know they would be too busy dreaming to watch the road. Also these folks like to be driven. They like to be looked out for and looked after. They like to live in the dreamland of their own warped, special version of reality. They need a bloody manager, Bob!
To my friend who came to see me? You’re fine. You’re right. Selfpromotion is not for you. It’s for Bob and for wannabe celebs on The Voice, it’s for entrepreneurs [whatever they are]… More than anyone else, it’s for Bob. Check out his archive sometime. Check out just how much of his time he spends namedropping, how much he talks about which star let him go backstage and talked to him, which record company mogul took him to lunch – but there’s nothing else there. Bob’s never had a hit, never run a music company, never broken a band.
Chill girl, leave it… and if you’re worried about your career, get a manager.