All for Social Good

I posted this over on my other blog, and I couldn’t help posting it here too…Love the band, love the video. Spread the love.

Social capital has been our main topic of conversation in my Digital PR and Advertising class at the University of Houston. The notion that an organization can assess communication efforts based on the resources available through social connections (particularly facilitated through digital and social media), is both an intriguing concept and one that should stretch organizational strategy beyond the normal harvesting of customer databases, or even Facebook followers and Twits. The real power of social capital is what is possible by tapping into that social capital, preferably for both organizational and societal benefit.  New England rock banders, Guster, may have discovered this spontaneously, when they harnessed the power of their social capital in a recent contest. The story goes, that they invited fans to produce their own videos for each of their 12 songs on their new EP Easy Wonderful, and one lucky fan video for each song would be chosen and highlighted on their site (Social Capital Recap: Access your followers/fans? CHECK. Get them to do something for you? CHECK. Get them to do something that builds your reputation? keep reading).

The videos produced included the usual cadre of interesting images, abstract stories, and quirky cinematography (including one video that had one poor bloke being pelted by paint-filled balloons). But one video, in particular, gave Guster more than just a quirky video credit. Check it out:

4 strangers, helping more strangers, and the giving goes viral, as the companies involved paid it forward after they heard what the pizza and flowers were for. Rather than social capital for organizational good, this is social capital for  social good, and it’s something that’s infectious, if not serendipitous (in this case).

Please! No More Series Books

The Indie Girl has been trying to get me to read a new book series she’s gotten into: Fablehaven, by Brandon Mull. This is the same Indie Girl who introduced me to Harry Potter over 10 years ago, and who’s book choices have always been superb. So why I have been hesitant to start the series? I have to say, I’m a little series’d out right now. And, in the end, I’m probably going to give in and read the darned Fablehaven series, because, the Indie Girl is usually right, but here’s a few reasons I’m dragging my feet:

1. Book series books are so overdone. I remember growing up reading one-and-done books like Cricket in Times Square. Simple little, one-dimensional stories that were reflective of the kiddie audience they were written for. Then comes Harry Potter (ok, Potter wasn’t the first in-depth kiddie series, some forget The Dark is Rising series and others). Jo Rowling introduced to the reading world that kid books could actually be good. Now there’s an idea. Deep plots with classic literary themes, the works. So why do I deride book series now? Everyone thinks it’s the format, the multiple books telling the same story, thing. So now instead of one-dimensional, one and done books, we now have one-dimensional one-and-done books spread out into more than one book, just to sell it. Not good.

2. A good story should be concise. I have a friend who is writing a book series. He asked me to review his plot line, characters, etc., and I found them to be quite enigmatic and engaging. When he told me it was going to be a book series, I told him: “Sure, it can be a book series, but why don’t you just write the story as one book?” The thing is, too many authors are thinking multiple books in a story line, when they should be looking at multiple story lines in one book. A good story should be as long as it needs to be. Harry Potter fits the bill, though she could have left out a few subplots. Percy Jackson and the Olympians? ENTIRELY too long. I think we could do without books 2 and 3 frankly. The problem? Book series tend to either have too many unrelated plotlines, making the series just a ploy to make more money, or they’re just one plot line stretched out over too many books. And for all those people who think they’re selling a great idea to publishers, think again. Most publishers don’t want someone who proposes a book series, because for them it doesn’t mean multiple book profits, it means multiple books they have to worry about marketing for.

3. Copy cats are never innovators. Now, don’t misunderstand me. There are a lot of good series books out there, and there will be many to come, but most authors who write a book series now seem to be trying to re-create what Jo Rowling and other authors have done. Peruse the kiddie section of the library and book series books are being done like it’s going out of style. I think it’s time to try something new. Write a story that begins on page one and ends when you close the book. I think the one-and-done book is the NEW book series book. It’s the new black too. And the new novel. Case in point. I love Eoin Colfer books. He’s a fantastic writer. One of my favorite junior lit authors actually. But I could never get into Artemis Fowl. Why? I hated the story. I know, it’s odd. Artemis Fowl is his Harry Potter. In my opinion though, his one-and-done books are much, much better. I particularly love Half Moon Investigations. I found it at a school book sale for like $2. It’s one of my favorite books I think I’ve ever read. So well-written. Such a great story line. And the ending is superb. One of my other favorite books, Airman. Yes, another Colfer one-and-doner. AMAZING story line. He effectively captures the Count of Monte Cristo theme, innovates it, and produces something special. Both books are supremely better than his book series.

All in all, am I condemning book series? No. In fact, I picked up Rick “Percy Jackson” Riordan’s newest book 1, the Red Pyramid (in which he does the same thing he did in Percy Jackson, but with Egyptian Mythology instead of Greek Mythology). The thing is, though, just writing a book series does not make it better than the one-and-done book. In fact, more often than not, we’re seeing it go the other way around.

In the end, I’m probably going to end up reading the Indie Girl’s new favorite: Fablehaven. And you know what, I’m probably going to love it, and the next blog post is probably going to be a gushing review of it, with all the usual pictures, links, pomp, and circumstance. But that’s going to be my last book series. Of course, until Indie Girl finds another good read.

Indie Mash-ups: The Old, the New, the Borrowed, the Blue

The beauty of indie music is that the sphere of creative music is limitless. Indie is the realm of co-creation–where artist and technologically skilled fan can create something entirely new and undeniably original, benefiting both the artist and the fan. The indie sphere truly is interactive, which, I believe, has led to its growth and overwhelming acceptance by the diverse collective of those of us who consider ourselves Indie followers. Case in point: the following mash-up I recently found perusing Indie offerings.

How does the old marriage tradition go? Something old, Something new, Something borrowed, Something blue? Phoenix’s 1901 (the old) set to the rhythmic stylings of the Shins (the borrowed), producing a melancholic revision (something blue) of the original anthem that, in and of itself, is completely different, refreshing, and “something new”.

Download and enjoy.

What no Indie? Itunes new Ping not Indie friendly.

Much ado has been said about ITunes 10, as it launches itself from music software to social media hub. I for one was quite excited about the prospect of a social media realm dedicated entirely to music, but unfortunately, my excitement was short-lived. On the list of media genres with which one can associate oneself, Indie is curiously absent. This is particularly odd, considering that ITunes seems to be a crusader for the Indie genre. Case 1: Ipod commercials have often featured Indie songs and bands, virtually inviting users to explore new, undiscovered Indie talent. Case 2: The free single of the week often features Indie-type music. Case 3: I’ve downloaded lots of Indie from ITunes, and don’t they care about what I like? (Ok, so number 3 probably isn’t valid).

Either way, it’s like I’m in 1995 again. Instead of listing oneself as an Indie fan, users have to select from categorizations like: Alternative, Singer/Songwriter, and Rock. No Indie. No Indie-pop. Not even Indie-Alternative. I mean, how would “one” associate oneself with music similar to Rodrigo Y Gabriela? It’s certainly not “World” music. What about Mates of State? They’re anything but “Alternative”. And I don’t even have a clue where to put They Might Be Giants…

Honestly Mr. Jobs, aren’t we farther than this in the sphere of online music?

Of Dada, Broken Social Scenes, and the Science of Slap

Once upon a LONG time ago, in a galaxy far, far away (that galaxy we often refer to as “undergraduate life”), I had an inspired professor who used a New Order Video to demonstrate Dada art, which he described as the anti-art: a rising art form in the 1980s that challenged the conventions of art as refined style. The video’s intro, which features two oddly dressed individuals slapping each other, has stuck in my head ever since, which is why I like the new Broken Social Scene video for All to All (props to Spinner.com who featured the video on their front page; boos to WordPress, who doesn’t allow more than 2 or 3 embedded video formats, making me use Youtube to show it to you):

What’s ironic is, I’m not even sure how much I like the song…but the video is genius for its perfect refinement of the type of Dada art in music videos that bands like New Order and others started over 30 years ago. I particularly like the way this video mixes classic Dr. Seuss (anyone remember a story about a bug that went Kachoo?) with the Indie music revolution.

Indie Music not for Jocks or Pretty Girls?

I always like to get your opinions on what Indie Music is and means to you…but, it’s nice to get opinions from the trenches, the people that are defining this new music revolution. I asked Andy Clockwise, whose free download I featured a few weeks ago,  on what Indie means to him, and  here’s what he told me:

1. What does Indie mean to you and where do you see yourself in the evolution of this amazing musical revolution?
Well I suppose it means everything. People finally don’t have to tow the line of the phenomenon of whats happening now, they can create whatever. Anarchy in art is to be embraced and rules are meant to be shunned….. I mean, I can see that sometimes the essence of the term could be bastardized by the powers that be, but the brilliance of the situation is that someone can come along and break it all down once again, thats the beauty of it, we have the tools, the means, the time, the avenues of which people can finally hear something that relates to them, not something that makes the jock or the pretty girls at school feel good on a Friday night. I also love that indie bands are covering such a huge musical and lyrical landscape…. they’re  doing everything that they want to hear…… & it rules!!!!

2. How do you define Indie music and your place in the “Indie sphere.”

Well I think we are delving deep into the arbitrary idea of indie music maybe in the way that they hijacked the term “alternative” in the 90’s. I mean, I suppose what indie has been defined to me over the years reflects me at 13 yrs old, lining up at Waterfront Records in Sydney before it opened trying to get a limited pressing of a 12 inch by some unknown hardcore band. Or sneaking out to festivals, dying my hair that morning and having blue hair dye all over my face. I suppose what we are trying to define is somewhat already done– a DIY attitude to what you are doing, not an obsession with the normal musical landscape but not an entire rejection of it either. Take a pinch of rejection and social awkwardness mix it with some honesty, add a half a cup of irony and sarcasm and mix it around in a bowl of amazing awesomeness…..I’m not sure if I am trying to make a recipe for us all, so we all know what the fuck we are doing!!!?

to the the posed question of where I think I fit in the indie sphere I would have to say I’ve never been much of a sphere guy i’m more into cubist stuff or even a dodechahedranist. 🙂



Good stuff, Andy, you make dodechahedranists everywhere proud!

A Suburban Deal!

Welcome to the show. I’m your Indie Network Shopping host. You know why you’re here. You want good music that’s cheap. You want good music that’s free. You want good music that I’ll pay you to listen to!!!

Well friends, up on today’s Wheel of Fish is an Indie band you know and love. No, they’re not just a good Indie Band, they’re a GREAT Indie Band. And what’s more, they hail from the Great White North, the same wonderful country that brought us Rick Moranis and Michael J. Fox! The same nation that brought us Bullwinkle J. Moose and Dudley Do-Right (and not to mention, one in a long line of forgettable movies featuring Brendan Fraser)! They are Arcade Fire! And their latest album, the Suburbs, a masterful work of the type of Indie mellowdrama that you have come to cherish, has just been released. More than just another set of Indie songs you know your Ipod wants, this album is incredibly deep, with tunes that border “radio-friendliness” (The Suburbs), lyrics that mix themes in modern warfare with suburban innocence, and tunes that even feature roman numerals! This, my friends, is an album that you’ll leave playing all day–at work, at school, in your house while the kiddies play!

Now, friends, how much would you pay for this delectable dish of divine indie…delectability? $19.99? $15.99? $9.99?

How about: $7.99?

That’s right friends, Arcade Fire’s newest album is $7.99 at Target* (o.k., at least it is in the Houston area).

*No, this is not a commercial for target. No Target is not paying me to endorse their sale. Yes, I would like it if they would.

Free Download: Andy Clockwise – The Casanova

Andy sent me this track today to share with all my favorite Indie readers (ok, it was his management group, not him, but you’re still my favorite Indie readers). Usually, I’m not a big fan of folksy, slow Indie, but this one intrigues me. Take a listen and I’ll tell you why. Here, I’ll wait (click the link to download it):

http://soundcloud.com/asha-1/the-casanova-remember-love

Ok, got it? Yes, it’s got a sappy, sad-sack tone to it. And yes, his voice drones a little, almost as if he’s halfway between sleep and consciousness. But there’s something about this that I really like. I find it extremely moving. I even like the palindrome-type cliche that the chorus brings (I remember love – but love don’t remember me), even though that usually turns me off. It’s moving because it’s more than just a rusty old guitar and a voice. It’s the violins that get me. They add a nice bit of orchestration the piece. Sure, it’s amazingly simple, but a good violin track in a song can make all the difference. Take Black Rebel Motorcycle Club on serious depressants, mix in with some My Morning Jacket and Mountain Goats (without the high voice), throw in some violins and you’ve got a really haunting song. It’s like a campfire ghost story, with the raspiness of the hardened campfire veteran telling it. You can almost feel the chill of the night air, can’t you?

Pass me a s’more and let me know if you like it.