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:


  1. Ineresting... and thanks for the links


  2. Yeah, JT is taking the "old school" thing a bit to far, IMO. I mean, he doesn't need to tweet each time he ingests, digests, decongests, or suggests. But to imply that contact with his fans will demystify his celebrity is pretty vain.

  3. Good writing kittyfunpuppy! You have written down how I thought about it too. Wow.

    Lots of love,


  4. I agree with you, Kitty. DD has always been on the cutting edge of technology during their careers, from their first use of video and video screens in concert, to downloadable music, and especially John & TTP, which took a grassroots promotional model and moved it into the 21st century. Now for John to declare his "Luddite" tendencies seems a bit contradictory.
    I understand his nostalgia and love for the "old ways". I remember waiting impatiently for the videos on MTV and Night Flights, and taping songs off the radio with my crappy recorder. Not having instant access did create a need for more.
    But times have changed, and in this case, there's no turning back. The internet, ITunes, and YouTube have helped create a different kind of music artist. I'm not sure that we will ever again see the fan frenzy created by Sinatra, Elvis, The Beatles, Michael Jackson, or our beloved DD. Lack of instant, constant access did create intense, lasting need for more. With constant contact, I think it's human nature to seek out the next thing, but truely good music from passionate artists will always hold our attention. DD should understand this by now. The music world has changed, and those who refuse to engage with their public will be left behind. I hope DD understands that, too.

    I do have to wonder though if John, for all his lack of enthusiasm for fan interaction ("dutiful meet and greets" for example) and his desire for the pedestal, doth protest too much. Maybe our beloved Bass God is taking a page from the Sex Pistols. Perhaps a little disdain, a touch of contempt, a bit of the old sod-off brings back the punk in the pop star. And after all, we are talking about him, aren't we?

  5. I agree with you. If DD want to become relevant again, and not looked at as a retro act that is still performing just to pay the bills, then they must keep up with the times. They have done so many firsts, but sadly have fallen behind in the last decade. They have dated themselves.

    I'm not saying put their public lives all over the internet--but for some members of the band, it's practically an every day occurrance to see him and his famile somewhere on the press--that isn't necessarily the best plan of action. They do need to communicate with their fans in a 2 way dialogue. They need to know how we feel about the music they're producing. They need to know whay their fan base wants. We need to feel imvolved in this day and age. We need to feel that we matter. We need to have ownership of the process that we are ultimately a part of.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and allowing me to put my 2 cents in as well.


  6. I totally agree with you Kitty! I so remember those days of taking pics of the TV screen. Funny. Duran Duran, in their effort to be "cutting edge" has neglected their fan base, without whom they would not be where they are today. They started out with technology being a huge part of their success and it seems as though they are now fearing and avoiding "Too much information," and instead they are biting the had that feeds. We still go and pay for show after show, to be used and taken advantage of (Hammerstein Ballroom show a few years back for diehard fans to be exact. Listening to 4 songs from RCM on a CD when we came from far and wide to see them; that would have been a good thing to let us hear over the internet for sure.) I totally digress. Sorry. Duran Duran really don't seem to understand that without letting us connect with them, they are beginning to loose us. The few meet and greets that are few and far between, where we are not even allowed to have a photo with them, PLEASE. They have this arrogance and superiority about them that is quite frustrating. Their music is and was a huge draw for us all to follow them and continue to pay their mortgages, but truly, there is tons of music out there that is equally influential in our lives. By using the internet to connect with us, they could actually keep their extremely loyal fans (although starting to be bitter diehard fans like myself) and have us actually aide in their success even more. Look at the radio play that other bands like Your Vegas get due to fans requesting and being vigilant. This is all due to the connection that they make with us by throwing bones our way to keep us interested in what they are doing professionally, and it is primarily done via the internet. This is something that Duran fans have not been given the chance to do for them because of this superiority thing. It is the connection and the commeradery that the internet has allowed us fans,from way back to the Tiger List days. Duran Duran had and still has an opportunity to harness the energy that the fans are putting into them. They could have used us for promo in such a way as loads of other bands do, but instead just used us. I totally agree with the previous comment "We need to feel involved...that we matter....We need to have ownership of the process that we are ultimately a part of."
    WOW, I guess I am in a crabby mood in regard to these guys today. John, the internet can be your friend if you will let us! Sorry, I will now stop before I ramble on even more.

  7. It just comes down to a balance. A band is not relevant because they twitter or talk more to their fans or always are on facebook/myspace. They are relevant because of the music. A lot of bands have success and are popular because they do all those things but they are not relevant. That is the key. You just need to give enough but not too much.