Thursday, March 29, 2012

things worthy of nostalgia

I realized that the last post made me sound like a cynical jerk so I thought I'd attempt to lead you away from that perception by sharing with you a list of things that I am nostalgic for.  

The world before the Internet: I have a theory about how the Internet is killing/has killed any prospect of the coming of a cultural movement in the 21st century, but I’ll spare you. All I’ll say is I feel that the Internet has robbed us of the magic and mystery of the world, and that the trend in corporations hiring qualified college grads to fill newly created social media vacancies is complete and utter bullshit. The greatest good that has come out of the Internet is Reddit

The world before technology in general: Technology has made it virtually (pun observed and fallen flat) impossible to get away with a lie. Paper trails exist for infinity in cyberspace. You seriously have to be an idiot to even consider attempting murder in this day and age.

The advertising industry circa the 1950’s: Mad Men enthusiasts understand my sentiments exactly.

Newspapers: If you haven’t heard already, the news industry is going south. I can’t be the only one who’s sad for the downfall of the “iron core” of accountability news and the fact that our kin will be Perez Hilton guzzling idiots.

Roald Dahl: My childhood (and book reports) would have been dull without this fellow.

90’s Nickelodeon Cartoons: I feel incredibly lucky to have grown up during the last decade of quality cartoons. The Spongebob generation and beyond have lost the privilege to important moral takeaways from shows like Hey Arnold.

Traditional Post: Tangible mail is meaningful to me. The idea of someone going through the trouble of writing the letter by hand, purchasing a forty-five cent stamp, and dropping it off in a mailbox makes the sincerity in the “sincerely” so much more authentic.

The Renaissance: I know, I contradict myself, but how awesome and obsolete is the idea of artists being celebrated and commissioned by the wealthy. Seriously though, it would only take a couple of Medicis to get people excited about fine art again. And who knows, maybe a few Da Vinci reincarnates will be revealed.

James Dean: James Franco doesn’t hold a match to him.

Badass blues musicians in the likes of Bo Diddley and Howlin’ Wolf: They INVENTED a sound that many will unsuccessfully attempt to replicate forevermore. 

Vocals pre-bullshit auto-tuning: I won't discount the magnificent Adele and the highly regarded and personally despised Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, but I wish pop singers today didn't have auto-tuning to fall back on. Their voices must have to really suck for producers to think that distorting them to a degree that sounds alien is more desirable and more marketable. I wish the music industry would snap out of it and start searching for the Robert Plants, Brian Wilsons, Stevie Nicks, and Fiona Apples of our day. 

College: Summer vacation, winter recess, spring break, self-discovery, fast food diets, kegs, living a block away from your best friends, needing only one explanation for your actions (it's college!), meeting some of the most intelligent people you have met or will ever meet, sleeping 'til the sun goes down, taking the first step toward independence, pushing buttons, pushing boundaries, pushing drugs (kidding!), and realizing how much you've grown in four years are some of the perks, to name a few, of college life. Enjoy it kiddies! 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

things unworthy of nostalgia

Feeling extra-critical today, I compiled a list of things from the past that aren't worth our yearning. Only after much consideration did I arrive at the few items below that made the cut. 

Woodstock: This will undoubtedly come across blasphemous especially in hindsight of brochella, but if you've actually read accounts of people who attended the festival, the music is always mentioned second to either the heat, the contaminated water supply, or the inescapable smell of sewage from overflowing porta potties. Plus I'm bored of "Woodstock" as everybody's answer to "If you could travel back in time to a specific moment in history, which would it be?" What about James Brown live at The Apollo in '62 or the mega jam sesh in '88 between Mick Jagger, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Jeff Beck, Elton John, Billy Joel, John Fogerty, Neil Young, the Beach Boys, and Les Paul and the Drifters. There are better options imho. 

Moustaches: Congratulations, Millenials! Moustaches have persisted to be more than a transient fad. Not only are they appearing on fratbro, hipster wannabes, but on necklaces, coffee mugs, and baby bibs, too. Please don’t try this one at home; I promise you won’t be able to pull it off like Tom Selleck or Frida Kahlo.

Silent movies: The 20th century has bred an increasingly ADD-prone population and I include myself in that category. While some contemporary actors and actresses are so unbearably terrible that I wish films were still silent, geeking out to Star Wars and LOTR just wouldn't be the same without sound. 

Cassettes & CDs: Although there are few sounds I adore more than that of a needle hitting the periphery of a vinyl record, I cannot deny the convenience and flawless sound of digital recordings. Cassettes were a bit before my time, but I remember what a hassle it was to carry around my case of CDs in addition to my walkman and clunky headphones. 

Typewriters: I have author-hopeful friends who attempt to channel Hemingway through writing on typewriters, but honest to god, all typewriters are is a hindrance to creative output. Not only do they require constant maintenance and repair, but also my hard-earned 120 wpm goes to shit. Why not use a computer and get down to business?

The Middle Ages: Hollywood period pieces make the days of the Monarchy look so goddamn glamorous, but if there’s one underappreciated technological innovation that I couldn’t live without, it’s modern plumbing. And the rampant diseases are definitely worth a mention…dysentery, ergotism, leprosy, small pox, typhoid fever…god bless modern medicine.

College: Homework, exams, papers, grades, obnoxious classmates, near brain dead classmates, alcohol-induced brain dead classmates, three-hour lectures, greek life, disgusting living arrangements that could afford an entire year of food for a third world village, feigned interest in football, the fine line between non-consensual sex and date rape, broken bones, broken morals, and broken souls are a few aspects of college, to name a few, that deserve scorn. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

interview with nathan

I had the pleasure of sitting down with Mr. Nathan Hazard, A&R Coordinator at Warner Bros. Records, to learn more about the condition of the music industry. He was knowledgeable, personable, and supremely generous in providing me with all the information I needed. We began with some general questions about his department and moved our way into the logistics of the division’s business practices. Though the majority of my questions were relatively matter-of-fact, Nathan did not hesitate to provide his own insight with colorful anecdotes.

Tiffany: How would you describe what A&R is to someone who has no knowledge about the music industry?

Nathan: A&R, which stand for Artists and Repertoire, is the division of a record label that deals directly with the artists and their management and acts as the liaison between the talent and the label. It’s also the unit in charge of scouting and signing new artists and fostering them throughout their career, acting as a sort of in-house management that ensures all their needs are met within the company.

How long have you been with Warner and which artists are you responsible for?

I’ve been with Warner for six years my roster includes The Flaming Lips, Jenny Lewis, Iron and Wine, Devo, Built to Spill, and my personal favorite, Jeff the Brotherhood.

Could you tell me a little bit about your previous experience and how you got your foot in the door at Warner?

I went to the University of Oregon where I majored in Intermediate Design and was heavily involved with the radio station. I moved to Los Angeles immediately after graduation ‘cause I knew it was a place conducive to creative work, and began freelancing in music video productions. I immediately began working to build up my network and got an in with Warner Bros. Records through someone in the Marketing department. Six months later, I applied for a competitive position in A&R, and, to my surprise, I was selected. I always knew I wanted to work in A&R because I think it's the most creative division of any record label.

What are your major responsibilities within the department?

I serve as a production coordinator, relaying information between the technical and business sides of the production process, scout new talent, paying attention to musical trends that are not only reacting and in vogue, but sticking, court artists (going to two to three shows per week), and attend to daily administrative needs.

Could you take me through the process of how an artist gets signed?

Well this happens in a couple of ways. Most commonly, the deal is either a business transaction (plain and simple, the label “shops” for an artist) or a courting practice. If an A&R rep finds an artist with label potential, he immediately starts a relationship with them, seeing what they want to do and what their long-term goals are. I always compare this process to dating: Relationship building and trust is the most important thing. If the scout and the artist find that they want to work together, the scout offers a pitch to the company, and if upper management approves, the artists are brought in for a meet-and-greet and a more extensive conversation. Assuming this all goes well, the label creates a proposal and the two teams of lawyers settle all legal matters to reach an agreement and form the final deal.

How many demos do you receive everyday?

It’s actually slowed down a lot. It used to be three to five per day. Now it’s one or two a week. The majority of those are from urban artists, country and hip hop, which are the two genres that have very much stayed faithful to old school, traditional ways of doing things.

What differentiates a good artist from a great artist with label potential?

“Career artists,” those with real long-term potential and a bright mind, who think outside the box and take themselves seriously as an artist. They can tell you their goals twenty years down the road. You see, scouts have to be slightly clairvoyant. To be tempting on a label level, an artist must show signs of growth and has to be something that is not already out there or on the label.

Has the digital movement impacted the way A&R conducts business?

Of course. But the current media landscape has not made his job more difficult, just different. It is now a lot easier to retrieve information. Whereas you once had to perform all your research by reading a lot of trade magazines and blindly going to shows, today it only takes a few keywords and the click of a button.

Do you think there will always be a need for A&R?

Absolutely, A&R will remain sustainable because curation of information will always be necessary.

I had a great time chatting with Nathan and he equipped me with a lot of new knowledge to share with you all. A&R is a department that I have always been interested in, and learning more about it has only fed the intrigue.

Though it was inspiring to see the enthusiasm in Nathan’s eyes as he talked about his work, what I enjoyed most was getting to know him on a personal level. I found out that he channels his other passions for food, photography, and writing in his blog, TheChocolate of Meats, and his podcast, The Table Set. He also dispels the saying about not mixing business with pleasure, claiming that he is more passionate about music recreationally than ever and at the end of the day, still listens to the music he likes to listen to.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

a little about me

Since we all like to know about the person whose writing we're reading, I'm going to use this post to tell you a little bit about myself. In less than a month I’ll embark on an endless journey to make my mark in advertising, but for now, I’m enjoying my final days in college by making as many interminable memories and impressions that hopefully won’t be interminable to my psyche. I live and breathe:

Advertising - I always remind myself how fortunate I am to have discovered my calling. Since senior year of high school, I had been taking on jobs and internships at companies ranging from American Apparel to my dentist’s office. And by sophomore year of college, I had accepted that I was going to have to deal with being passionless. But everything changed that summer when I was introduced to the world of advertising by a stroke of luck internship I acquired. Anyone who’s in advertising will tell you it’s not nearly as glamorous as Mad Men makes it look. It’s long hours, mediocre pay, and often heartbreakingly fierce competition. But in turn you get to work in an environment that is progressive, entrepreneurial, and inspired where you’re surrounded by the most creative minds in the workforce. In short, there’s no looking back for me. If you can’t be bothered with my love affair with advertising, then I’m not your copy. 

Reading & Writing - I’m generally a fan of non-fiction and the works of Vonnegut, Dostoevsky, Murakami, and Klosterman. But honestly, I don’t read nearly as much as I’d like to. Here are a few books that have been on my summer reading list since, well, summer: Full Dark, No Stars, A Visit from the Goon Squad, Everyone Worth Knowing, A Picture of Dorian Grey, and You Remind Me of Spam. If you must know, I enthusiastically purchased all of the aforementioned. That might be a pretty defining characteristic; I’m regrettably whimsical. Oh, and that last title is actually one of the prospective names for the future bestseller I hope to pen.

Food - I plan my day around food. As pathetic as that sounds, I’m not ashamed. There’s so many reasons to love food and it’s only brought perpetual contentment to my life so I won’t turn my back on it. And I mean that quite literally; I’ve never lasted more than a day on a diet. Cooking has always played a big role in my life because it’s a way for me to bring joy to the ones I care about, not to mention to satiate my visceral, gluttonous tendencies. I can’t really tell if I’m a good cook or not, ‘cause you never know when your friends and family are just trying to be nice. So my general rule of thumb is if they’re going back for thirds, I’ve succeeded. 

I don’t know where I’ll be or what I’ll be doing in 10 years, 10 months, or even 10 days, but that’s the beauty of this moment in my life. As I work toward my goals, I’ll try everything once, live with reckless care, and realize the boundless opportunities around me ‘cause after all, as the great Jack Kerouac once said: “Happiness consists in realizing it is all a great strange dream.”