CMJ Panels and Bric-a-Brac, Day 3-4: 2-3 November 2006
Days three and four bring a new set of surprises as the Concerts crew catch Paul Brill between beats, explore the cause of Tattoo Fever, and face their greatest CMJ foe: the underlord of over-capacity.
Rants and Raves
Day Three-Four Panels
By Dan Nishimoto and Andrew Phillips
A lot of people think that coveted laminate is the golden ticket to CMJ success. In some respects that’s true: after all, it's hard to talk trash a free ticket to see any one of 1500 bands. But, what does an all-access pass mean in a neighborhood where the clubs are already packed to capacity? Anybody with a lanyard will tell you, it means:
- Being turned away from at least four shows (Tokyo Police Club at Mercury Lounge; Mew at Bowery Ballroom; Craig G, Digable Planets, MC Lyte, and more at R&R; and ANYTHING Sub Pop).
- Sometimes seeing nothing, because bands are either running late (Asteroid #4 at Arlene's Grocery) or setting up because the preceding acts ran late (The Big Sleep at Pianos).
- Waiting in line behind a gaggle of twenty-something girls with Olivia Newton John headbands, wristguards, and sporty shorts, shivering in the breezy cold before realizing, "George Clinton is not worth this."
- Only catching the last eight seconds of a grinding cover of "Breaking the Law" by Acacia Strain at the Bowery Poetry Club.
- For all your sweet journo-speak, flip phrases, and wicked band-bashing, at the end of the day, you’re no better than anyone else.
By Jennifer Kelly
The roar of Arlene's Grocery’s day party is just getting going, so, in the spaces between last night recaps and indie-rock networking (there are a lot of writers here), you can just catch the traces of interestingly mixed ethnic, electronic, rock, and folk music. Paul Brill, whose excellent Harpooner is out this month, sits hunched over his laptop, occasionally fiddling with an iPod to craft the eclectic mix.
We talk for a while about his latest album, far more atmospheric and less poppy than New Pagan Love Song. He tells me that he's been to the wall lately, working on three different documentary soundtracks (he’s way behind), and meanwhile trying to put a band together for an upcoming tour with Michael Zapruder. (He's just replaced his drummer.) Asked if his soundtrack work has influenced the impressionistic non-song structured solo material, Paul grins and says, "Definitely. This new record is very cinematic. That's what I want to do right now."
By Dan Nishimoto
Let's get to the point: artists want to eat off their art, but most can't. The common theories on why: 1) you suck; 2) somebody hates you; and 3) you suck. Of course, Kevin Federline disproves these deterrents. So, how does one live in this industry? Like any other: with a little help from friends.
Each panelist presented an array of useful data/information aggregation tools -- various websites that collect information and/or share information about music out -- but made clear that their success is dependent on artist initiative and action. The importance of building relationships, sharing information, and personal responsibility hold as much sway as cultivating your craft. Remember: even the o.g. Renaissance Man Leonardo da Vinci had the backing of a family of de'Medicis.
By Megan Milks
While this panel didn't focus so much on the music side, any chance to discuss Samoan boar-husk tapping is not a chance to miss. Happily, there were only three panelists, all equally insightful: Alice Veasman, a junior artist who talked of her apprenticeship in an unethical shop in the south; Kate Hellenbrand, a wizened firecracker and one of the first female tattoo artists in the U.S.; and moderator Mario Barth, owner of Starlight Tattoo and one of the top names in the business. Topics jumped from Mike Tyson's facial tattoo to artist responsibilities to the art form's history, which goes back centuries at least and yet is still ignored in art history discourse. According to Barth, the history of tattooing is still being uncovered, and more people want to experience older inking practices as the methods are discovered and studied. Where "tribal" tattoos used to mean tribal-inspired images, the word is now attached to a methodology; tattoo artists are responding by bringing in guest artists who specialize in boar-husk tapping and other tribal processes, using modern sterilization techniques.
What everyone agreed on is that tattoos are everywhere: one out of three Americans has one, and the numbers are only growing. As Kate pointed out, today's young generation is "primed for tattooing": we got temporary tattoos in cereal boxes as kids and are more influenced by inked celebrities (Travis Barker, Angelina Jolie) than generations before us. The subculture even has its own reality TV show, which, Barth said, is good for business but ignores the history and ideology. And, Hellenbrand added, Miami Ink gives clients the false idea that a back tattoo can take a half hour -- "a year and half?!" her clients will exclaim. "I'll just go to Miami Ink." Which, the panelists were quick to note, is a stage, not a shop.
By Megan Milks
Pingponging between various issues surrounding the state of digital music distribution, this panel was strictly business, centered on the economics of promo and distro. The panelists came off as knowledgeable and persuasive, if money-hungry and self-promoting. In other words, great businessmen. There were reps from Napster, Nimbit, Wind-Up, and mVisible; Kevin Arnold of IODA (Independent Online Distribution Alliance) moderated. What they said:
1. Digital rights management is "a waste of time," and soon the major labels will give up on it. (Matthew Arnold of Napster)
2. Ringtones, mixertones, and podcast and blog seeding are the new front in independent music promotion. Mixertones are especially exciting in that they allow users to interact with music to customize their own ringtones, which are both intensely personal and interpersonal and, thus, automatically viral. (Andrew Schneider of Wind-Up Records and Myk Willis of mVisible Technologies)
3. Artists must promote and sell themselves; there's just no way around it. Yes, recording and distribution have become democratized, but neither can create demand. Building a fan base is crucial, or, no matter how available your tracks are, nobody will be downloading them. (Matthew Arnold and Myk Willis)
4. The mp3 phone is the future. Bands are finding ways to build fan bases through text messages and emails that allow users to download tracks and ringtones on the spot. The mp3 phone is where digital distro is headed once phone companies and technology catch up. (Myk Willis and Scott Feldman of Nimbit)