Friday, October 30, 2009

Too Much Information

Yesterday, I watched John Taylor speak on a panel at the "40th Anniversary of the Internet" conference at UCLA.

While it was lovely to see him, I couldn't help but find his words to be a bit stodgy and closed-minded. He warned us of his Luddite leanings early on, stating that he does not facebook, myspace, or twitter. Fair enough, as the man clearly has better things to do.

John spoke about how the abundance of the Internet has brought music from across the ages into young peoples lives. At the same time he commended youngsters for listening to music from the past, he also said that this is "causing innovative nature to slow down." I found this interesting coming from someone who's music has clearly borrowed from different genres and ages, particularly since the new Duran Duran album is consistently referred to as trying to recapture the early Duran sound of "Rio."

More off-putting was his position on how the Internet has affected the relationship between fans and artists. John spoke about the "immense power of restriction" and how he believes that these days, by putting their personal lives and thoughts on the Internet, "artists are diluting their magical attraction and power over their audience." There is no doubt this power of restriction was once quite magical, even in the days when Duran Duran was just starting out. There was no YouTube... we had to sit through lame Tom Petty and Dire Straits videos in hopes of catching Planet Earth or Rio. I remember taking photos of the TV screen in an effort to savor the images longer. I remember eagerly anticipating the next issue of Tiger Beat in hopes that there would be a new pin-up or more information on Simon Le Bon's favorite flower (Rhododendron... swoon!) or the constant reiteration of Roger's "Froggy Barnacle" nickname. Keeping themselves high on that pedestal worked in that day and age. Those were good times, and I can certainly understand the sentimentality of his statements.

Today, I would love to look deeply into those big brown eyes and whisper ever-so-sweetly to our blessed Bass God that the times, they are a changin'. If Duran Duran wants to position themselves as more relevant and less retro, they must do so in a logical, forward-thinking, profitable manner. The high pedestal that John referred to magical artists sitting atop is now seen as more of a reluctance to engage due to insecurity and apathy. John described "Trust the Process," his once flourishing solo site where he was highly engaged with fans as "hard work," and his stumble about how it was a "great way to interact, uh, I mean, SELL directly to fans" was awkward. Selling and interacting are not mutually exclusive, as he should know, and hard work is what it takes to survive, especially with the Internet constantly changing the way people discover, listen to and buy music. There is a mind-boggling amount of music out there these days, and hiding in an ivory tower will no longer endear you to increasingly music-savvy fans who, thanks to the Internet, have become information junkies for better or for worse.

John said that "energy and inspiration will keep you afloat and enable you to ride out these changes." This is very true, and many successful artists are finding that energy and inspiration by connecting with their fans via the Internet. An excellent example is Imogen Heap, an outspoken advocate of using new technology to interact and collaborate with her fans. Imogen is constantly finding ways new ways to connect with her listeners via twitter, video blogs and online chats. She has dared to bring fans into all aspects of her craft, from songwriting to creation of the album artwork. By doing so, she has enjoyed chart success and Grammy nominations while developing deep loyalty within her fan base and positioning herself as a technological and music industry maverick.

John spoke about how it's important to "know the rules so you can break them." He clearly set forth his personal rules for how musicians should deal with the Internet. If Duran Duran are to continue to stay relevant and be the forward-thinking band that they've always claimed to be, I would like to see them break a few rules of their own.

Opening statement:

Q&A session:

Friday, October 2, 2009

Authentic Shit

Just a few minutes ago I was listening to Mark Ronson's weekly show on East Village Radio, "Authentic Shit". Mark played a tiny but delicious taste from the unfinished new Duran Duran album, which he is producing.

And here it is.

Listen to the unreleased and in-progress Duran Duran