Thursday, March 17, 2011
Wacky musical high jinks ensue
Regular readers of this blog--indeed, all four of you--will be familiar with an ongoing series of posts in which we try to improve odd advertising copy for vanity press books by adding the phrase "Wacky high jinks ensue." (Perhaps it's worth restating at this point that there is nothing wrong with going the for-pay publishing route if you know exactly what you're getting into. But many of the companies with this model are quite scummy, and take advantage of the delusional. I don't care how many ads you take out in the Times, no one is going to buy your book about the previously unknown 13th zodiac sign.) What I've been only dimly aware of until recently is that there are similar companies in the music biz.
About a week ago, a music video by a young teen, Rebbecca Black, went viral. It was promptly heralded as The Worst Video in the History of the World by writers at Salon, Huffington Post, etc., ad nauseum. There was a real pile-on, which is why I'm not linking. It wasn't pretty.
The video in question may indeed be the Worst in the World (honestly, it's arguable--I've seen and heard equally bad), but the kid appears to be around 14 or so, and the comments by bloggers, young and old, seemed like a form of cyberbullying to me. I was reminded of some cases I've read about in Asia where citizens broke some social code and suddenly found themselves hounded by millions of Netizens. I was beginning to think the comments wouldn't stop until Ms. Black committed seppeku in the public square.
It appears that she, and many other teens, have fallen under the sway of one Ark Music Factory, which will put together hungry-for-fame-but-not-terribly-talented teens with some hack pop song writers (including that Latvian sensation Lady-Bird!*) and an Auto-Tune program, film a video (reports say this service goes for $20,000), and unleash it on an unsuspecting Internet.
The results aren't pretty. Here's a celebratory video that Ark posted two weeks ago:
Keep in mind that these are the snippets of performances that Ark editors thought would best showcase their clients in the best light. And then just imagine what didn't make the grade.
It's difficult, but stay tuned for the surprise guest appearance by ... Quincy Jones. Yes, Q, one of the most successful producers of all time. He phones in congratulatory wishes toward the end. I can only assume that there was either a gun pointed at his head or there are some very nasty photos he doesn't want getting out.
Again, I want to stress here that I post this not to mock the kids. The Ark itself, though, is fair game. Guys: It's hard for real talent to be successful, and harder still for it to reap the benefits of success. There's no need to insert another layer of exploitation between them.
On the other hand, songs about broken dreams are pretty successful, and I'm betting there will be no shortage of material in the near future. Or ever.
UPDATE: Rebecca Black speaks out. (And it only cost $2,000, apparently. Hell, maybe I'll do one.)