Pete Seeger asked, Where Have All The Flowers Gone while some of wonder Where Have All The Mentors and if there are even ANY mentors in music today, and if these “mentors” saying they’re “saving the music” are actually wolves in sheep’s clothing and smooth, sweet-talking parasites with their own agendas robbing young, naive artists of their art with a pocketful of mumbles that are vague promises.
And then, there was that numbingly stupid trend a few years ago when Nokia, Polaroid etc, wishing to buy credibility into the music world and revive dead brands and hoping to win over a new, younger consumer group, brought in people like Gaga, Dave Stewart, will i am, Madonna etc as their “creative directors”, “agents of change” etc which excited artists- and music fans who once looked up to these people.
Yes, and then what? Like Robin Thicke being “creative director” for some brand when all he’s proven is an “ability” to rip-off old Marvin Gaye songs and produce the “rape song” and dumbass video for Blurred Lines, nothing happened other than an overdose of hype which did nothing for the credibility of the brands and their celebrity “creative directors.”
It’s not only television talent shows with their ball-breaking, iron-clad contracts where many, desperate for fame or else as a final throw at the stumps as age is ticking, ticking, ticking into the future, and prisoners of the Age Factor, are willing to make pacts with the devil in the vague hope of that fleeting thing called “stardom”.
It’s those 15 minutes of fame that Andy Warhol predicted and which has an eerie Orwellian Big Brother vibe to it.
So, who’s your daddy and who’s there to REALLY trust, let alone finding mentors to support and advance one’s career- something even established names like everyone from Miley Cyrus to the Jonas Brothers to The Boobster are finding out the hard way as fans have outgrown them and whatever management they might have had are lost as what to do next?
One can go it alone and turn to fans to finance their records through Pledge, Kickstarter and others with a similar business plan- and the record is made- often a shabby production, but accepted ‘cos it’s better than nothing.
The loyal fans who paid for it go to that wishing well again and support the artist by purchasing the recording- and then what?
Is there a stampede of offers for touring?
Where’s the budget for the obligatory music video?
Audiences don’t see a new artist and they might as well be singing Adios.
Who’s the manager? A mate? The girlfriend? The wife?
How much do they know about Publishing, copyright and contract law, all those grey online laws, licensing, distribution and royalty agreements and not just having a “presence” on Facebook, YouTube, twitter etc?
The guy who knows the guy who knows the woman who organizers events at local clubs where people play for free to around ten people?
How big is their roller deck and how far does it take their clients?
As far as knowing a bloke who once auditioned for Take That or who once knew the choreographer for Menudo?
In Hong Kong, is it a “career move” that takes one from a gig in an industrial Hidden Agenda building to Peel Fresco to Backstage and then some hidden “cool club” no one can find- which makes it even more “cool”- but leads nowhere except for going around in circles and playing everywhere and nowhere for free for the usual suspects until finally hitting that inevitable brick wall and dead end- and, after all these years of gigging for “exposure”, dead broke.
This is where the artist must share the blame instead of passing the buck and blaming everyone else for Career Stagnation.
Too many make bad career choices and get stuck with time-wasters who, like a drug, become enablers and dangerous anti-depressants that brings co-dependence into play and, to paraphrase Bob Dylan, Wooh wee, with everyone going nowhere and lost in their own weird sense of Positively Fourth Street self-importance.
An ex would always remind me that if an artist has been struggling past their Use By date, it’s time to get a new gig and if, how music is the only thing they know, they need more schooling, baby, instead of being mollycoddled with a Whole Lotta Love.
In other words, pity and which is where tough love must come into play.
Once upon a far more simple time, there were Sam Philips who ran a small studio and label called Sun Records who took a chance and recorded a kid named Elvis Aaron Presley before Colonel Tom Parker took control of his career until the artist finally decided to become a depressed, paranoid, bloated human cheeseburger.
Brian Epstein hustled The Silver Beatles, saw them turned down by Decca but signed to Parlophone, put them in suits and created Beatlemania. Not bad for a guy who ran a record store and saw something in four Fabs performing at the Cavern.
Peter Grant guided Led Zeppelin, Chris Chandler, once the bassist with the Animals, changed the image of Jimmy James who morphed into Jimi Hendrix while real PASSIONATE music executives like Ahmet Ertegun, Jerry Moss and Herb Alpert, Chris Blackwell, Jac Holzman, the very underrated Andrew Loog Oldham who made the Stones the antithesis of the Beatles, Berry Gordy Jr and others have given us everyone from Bob Marley and the Doors to the sounds of Motown.
These were the pioneers in music along with legendary producers like Phil Spector and George Martin and those brilliant session musicians like Leon Russell, Hal Blaine, Glen Campbell, Joe Osborne, Larry Knechtel, Steve Cropper etc. It was one great competitive club striving to push that creative envelope.
Today, yes, there’s that old mantra of having “more music than ever before”, but is this a good thing? Really?
Or is it a dangerous tipping point of fragmented clutter in which new artists, some with tremendous talent, are being buried in hype, bullshit, mediocrity with the blind leading the blind over the precipice
Perhaps all this is needed so we can rid ourselves of this clutter of mediocrity and start again with a new slate, new players who are real game changers with a fresh outlook on the power of music, respecting those who create this art while parting those Red Seas and creating a level playing field for this art to be heard and seen.