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“Entourage,” Altered Zones & “Straight Talk”

Published in Blog, Culture Bully. Tags: , .

[Ed. Note: In June I was invited to contribute some words to Hypebot in response to Mark Morgenstein’s CNN article titled “Before I get old: Success for late-blooming bands.” An idea was suggested in the comments section of the article, and I was subsequently asked to respond. I thought about it, and came up with a version of the following, but it ultimately never made it online. Keep in mind that this is over a month old, that I’ve changed a few things around, and that in the end, everything said here should probably be taken with a grain of salt.]

A quick suggestion for music publicists about working with artists from someone who’s neither a music publicist nor an artist.

I wish he had put some advice in there for music publicists trying to make their clients understand that buzz doesn’t happen over night…

That was the question which was posed to me and it’s one that I’m largely unqualified to answer. I mean, I’m not a music publicist, and I’ve never really dabbled in the business of being one. The closest I’ve come to that sort of work has been through blog promotion or hyping the occasional show as a sponsor. But even at that, things have been fairly casual. So, I figured that rather than spout off under the guise of knowing exactly what I’m talking about, it might be more appropriate to revert to someone else’s idea. In this case, that idea comes from the unusual source of HBO’s Entourage, and in particular Jeremy Piven’s character Ari Gold, who buried a key line deep in the middle of the show’s season seven kick-off.

Are you giving it to him straight?

For those who are unfamiliar with the show, Piven’s character owns one of the largest talent agencies in the world, and is as much a top-level agent as he is a top-level asshole. But I digress. In speaking to one of his employees about the actual possibility of landing a prime acting role for one of the agency’s clients, he asked those simple words: “Are you giving it to him straight?” He later followed—uncharacteristically so—with three more: “What’s the truth?”

Around the same time that the episode premiered, Pitchfork expanded its reach with the announcement of a new site, Altered Zones. “Altered Zones contributors will share their favorite tracks each week in a rotating schedule with daily posts, as well as highlighting the most compelling new albums.” This group of contributors includes the likes of veteran music blogs 20 Jazz Funk Greats and Gorilla vs. Bear, the latter of which cheekily re-tweeted the following after the announcement of Altered Zones was officially made, “P4k launches new site to start over-hyping bands the moment they write their first decent song.”

Are you giving it to them straight? Whether or not the site leads to an unprecedented number of mediocre glo, chill, or blog-wave bands achieving indie super-stardom (whatever that might actually mean) isn’t really the issue here. The issue is exactly what was humorously raised in those less-than-140-characters: what’s the truth?

I wish he had put some advice in there for music publicists trying to make their clients understand that buzz doesn’t happen over night…

For some, buzz seemingly does happen over night. It seems like some acts are able to find a steady following mere months after starting up in obscurity. But for most, it doesn’t. So what’s there to do? I realize that this might not reflect the reality of the way the business of things works, but I say: why not give it to them straight. If you believe in them: give it to them straight. If you don’t think that there’s a market for their sound, or they suck, or you’re just not that interested: give it to them straight. If you think that they could develop into a popular act over time given practice and hard word: give it to them straight.

If you work with a band that is potentially a break-out: awesome. If you work with a band that is featured on what is sure to be a highly trafficked site such as Altered Zones: awesome. But these situations are both rarities, and in the absence of a bit of luck, you’re likely going to have to work like a madman (madwoman?) to get even the faintest whisper of valuable publicity. Again, this is a utopian view of things, and to make the wheels spin you’re not going to be able to only work with bands you think have a chance of breaking into buzz territory. Just don’t get caught up in the muck of “the game,” because at the end of the day if you’re not giving it to them—or yourself—straight, you’re not doing anyone any favors.

[This post was first published by Culture Bully.]