So how is “cool” music manufactured? In an article entitled “For Indie Bands, the New Publicity is No Publicity” The Atlantic started to investigate the latest trends how hype-worthy bands get made, and the answer they found was this: Mystery. Writer Jason Richards poked around the inner workings of the indie music marketing machine to try and figure out how enigmatic bands like WU LYF, Unknown Mortal Orchestra and the Weeknd booked shows and garnered nods of approval in critics’ circles when those critics were only going off a minimum of information revealed. It turns out that playing hard to get, at least in the indie universe, is becoming the senior strategy of our times.
The consensus from The Atlantic seems to be that maintaining a band’s mystery can be a very conscious activity. Or rather, a focus on “virals” and song leaks, as Kathryn Frazier, publicity manager for acts like Crystal Castles and Salem, told the publication. But does that make the process of sharing and selling music more manipulative, or less?
Perhaps we’ve just reached a new era in collective manipulation (e.g. marketing), in which we need to feel like we discovered the music on our own. It’s the whole, “Okay, let them think they did it,” psychological maneuver. Or, maybe there’s something kind of romantic about a band who is too clueless to market themselves, too incredibly talented to bother, or too ethically opposed to the idea. This article serves as a sort of warning that that romanticism can be produced, packaged and sold, even to people who identify with the notion of counterculture. And yet, to deny something for fear of being disingenuous seems like a gateway to pre-paranoid, crusty music-recluse and possible hypocrite territory.
But maybe there is something weird going on, you guys. The people who do an active stand against the constant barrage of advertising (remember the guy who did those subway ad moustaches?) are being arrested. And for fear of a dystopian future where my diet consists exclusively of corn syrup (and a machine catches my drool with a cup while I listen to the latest white noise that all the blogs call cool), it makes me a little hesitant to listen to those new, mysterious bands the blogosphere has been raving about this morning. Maybe I’ll just dig up some old high school mix CD’s and wistfully look back on the days when I wasn’t even aware of what marketing was.