On the way to/from Billboard's recent Music & Money conference -- which is focused as you may guess on the intersection of music and commerce -- I ironically polished off a great book lamenting on how the mixture of art and business has affected the music industry.
It's called "Rock On," a hilarious memoir by Dan Kennedy, who spent an 18-month stint as director of creative development at Atlantic, only to be axed (along with everybody else) once Bronfman and crew took over.
With a self-deprecating wit and rebel soul, Kennedy skewers the big egos and excessive (and expensive) hubris of the music industry rank and file from the foot soldier all the way up to the ivory-towered bigwigs. But he does so in a good-natured way. It's not mean spirited or vindictive, although it easily could have been.
Label critics will likely point to the anecdotes in Kennedy's work as further evidence of a top-heavy industry in desperate need of tottering. But the industry that Kennedy writes about no longer exists -- at least not at the same level it did back then. This is a nostalgic look at an industry that was, and no longer is.
For those of use who joined late, it's a funny historical account of the beginning of the end of an era. For those of you who lived through those years, it should provide a good dose of humorous nostalgia.
He doesn't name names, but you just may recognize some of the characters listed.
- Angry New Media Chick
- Rush Hair (The guy who had something to do with discovering Rush 25 years ago and never changed his hairstyle since)
- The woman who compulsively wears a Genesis World Tour crew denim jacket even though she could only have been 13 at the time of the actual tour
There's even a slight jab at Billboard in there, albeit minor.
With all the sharp attacks leveled at the big-label culture and structure, it's easy to get defensive when this kind of work comes out. But I recommend the book as a good cathartic release for those able to poke fun at themselves. That includes all of us.
If you can't laugh at the absurdities of this business, then you're part of the problem skewered in the book. Give it a read.
The Great Facebook Purge
When I first signed up for Facebook it was purely for reporting purposes. I wanted to understand how this iLike thing worked, and then later the Rhapsody widget, and most recently the Facebook Music pages.
But then something happened... I decided I actually wanted to use Facebook to share photos and videos with friends and family. Having just had a baby, I was flush with content, and demand was high.
But most of my "friends" on Facebook were business contacts. Now I'm pretty friendly with most of the people I deal with in this industry, but I'm also pretty selfish about setting a barrier between my personal life and my professional life. I've also got a habit of organizing with what I call "extreme prejudice." When I clean up my desk for instance, anything not immediately relevant to what I'm working on gets tossed.
Trolling through my Facebook friends, I realized a good third were people I'd never actually spoken to... who I wouldn't recognize if they walked into the room. OK so they were the first to go.
Then there were people who took Facebook to a ridiculous level. You know -- the knuckleheads poking you every 5 minutes, or sending app-spam of annoying virtual hugs/balloons/vampire bites or whatever other silly digital doo-dad was trendy that day. So those yo-yos were next to go.
Remaining were people who I actually know, and who by and large left me alone, but really wouldn't qualify as a "friend" under the following criteria:
- Have we ever met in person?
- Have we ever had a non-work related conversation?
So after that filter, a precious few were left.
Then I realized I had a political problem. I'd now be making judgments on, for all in the business to see, who I actually liked and who I didn't based on who I accepted or rejected as a Facebook friend.
So the lot of you had to go. I deleted every work-related friend on Facebook, save current and former co-workers, and of course my non-work friends and family. And it felt good.
Facebook is something you should do on your off time, posting pics of vacations, family, drunken lunacy. I don't need that open for all to see. I don't need to join any of the frankly way-too-many digital music related groups, or get PR pitches via the Facebook messaging tool.
Look, it's all well and good that we get along, and it's great that there are cool people I genuinely like in this business. But at some point you just gotta unplug.
So for those of you who've contacted me asking why I've ignored your friend request, or why I deleted them... my answer for you is -- try it.
It's amazingly liberating. The only way to truly enjoy Facebook and other social networking apps is to have the discipline and restraint to keep your contacts relevant, not to amass the largest group of friends possible. The pure volume of people in this business who know each other and want to network will completely overwhelm your "real" friends to the point where you stop using Facebook altogether just to avoid the noise.
Since the purge, I've actually viewed the photo updates of my nephew, read the wall posts of my east-coast friends, posted music playlists. And I like it.
So nothing personal, but no... you can't be my Facebook friend.