Am I the only one confused about this?
Don’t get me wrong, Barack Obama is one of the best speakers I have ever seen. Hands down the best.
My confusion comes from him receiving the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize today October 9th for talking.
There are many people, perhaps hundreds, who could have been given this award because of what they DO. Here are several that are written down here.
Talking can get you the presidency, and Obama has given speeches that can make me cry, filling me with emotion that this man’s heart is in the right place.
While getting a Nobel Prize is a great credibility indicator, he doesn’t need many more of those as he already is one of the most powerful men in the world.
Here’s a crazy idea: Obama could reject accepting the award.
Imagine it…Obama had a high approval rating since he got elected and despite his progress in many issues, it has slumped down gradually over the last 8 months. If Obama could demonstrate his ability to recognize the efforts of those who DO things meriting a Peace prize, and suggesting those people as recipients in lieu of him, people’s respect for him would increase even more.
This is just an suggestion based on my own opinion, what do you think?
Should Obama reject the Nobel Prize and use this press coverage as a platform to support another recipient?
I am not talking about poor quality guitar strings or amp distortion cranked up to 11. At least not this time.
I am talking about making music that people talk about.
The author of Buzzmarketing, Mark Hughes, identifies six “buttons” of conversation starting subjects. While I am sure these are not the only ones, these are tools I hope you can be aware of. Press one, and you will see their effects. Press more than one, and you will have stronger buzz around you or your music.
1. The “Taboo Button” – Being a rebel is not an unusual concept to music. Many genres of music were birthed through expressing distaste for the status quo, and hold it as close as a family crest. Many songs have sexual innuendos ranging from the subtle to the blatantly obvious, from Jason Mraz’s “Clockwatching” to Katy Perry’s “I kissed a girl”.
2. The “Unusual Button” – Similar to taboo, but rather than offensive, this button leans more on the seldom done things. If you want examples, Weird Al’s “The Food Album” or the “buffalaxed” bollywood music video.
3. The “Outrageous Button” – in the Buzzmarketing book, Mark Hughes talks about the site/company, Half.com. To promote their site, they convinced a town to temporarily rename their town “Half”. It was crazy, so it made headlines. For a more music industry-themed example, look no further than Kanye West’s non-acceptance speech that occured at the VMA’s where Taylor was trying to thank those who helped her win. Outrageous? Yes. Rude? Yes. It just goes to show that you can be rude or not rude while still hitting the outrageous button.
4. The “Hilarious Button” – Humour sells, especially when combined with any of the previous buttons. Steven Lynch has been making a career of performing songs in his comedy act for years. I am sure he is not the only one.
Politics is a good place to find humour as well, as it combines your humor with the popularity of major political figures.
5. Push the “Remarkable Button” – This is the one that I favor the most out of all of them because of its reputation building power. It is also the subject of many Seth Godin posts and even a book of his titled Purple Cow. This comes from delivering value above and beyond what your competition offers. Steve Vai does it with guitar, Josh Groban does it with singing, Daft Punk does it with robot- influenced techno music.
You can also do it with promotion. One example of this is a Radiohead album that was released by the band at a “pay what you want” price.
6. The “Secret Button” – You may be thinking it is hard to promote something by keeping it a secret, and it is. What you can do is create mailing lists, forum groups, and other systems which create exclusivity. You can charge extra or only admit a certain amount of people at a time. Once you do, provide value above and beyond to them. Free concert footage, inside looks at your new songs, participation in the writing process, parties, or backstage passes are all methods to try. With a little brainstorming you can come up with several yourself.
While I read the entire Buzzmarketing book, you can get this information in his words by going to his (Mark Hughes) website and downloading chapter 13 in ebook form without paying a dime.
Two types of songs exist in this world. Roller Coaster songs and Message Songs. I believe that to be a truly great artist mastery of both categories is a great asset.
Roller Coaster songs- These take you for a ride; you listen for the rhythm and the emotion (usually one constant emotion). Lyrics are not as important. Examples of Roller Coaster leaning artists include Black Eyed Peas, ZZ Top, AC/DC, Lady Gaga, and Van Halen. Their goal is not always to change the world with their songs, but they will take you for a ride, and it will usually be a real fun one.
Message songs communicate ideas that the artists want people to feel, express, or adopt as their own. The music plays more of a supporting role to the lyrics in these songs. Examples of Message-leaning artists are Bob Dylan, Casting Crowns, and Taylor Swift.
In this day and age, few people are recognized as capable of balancing these two types of songs as well as Rob Thomas. The singer of Matchbox 20 just released his second solo-album, strengthening his personal brand and once again proving mastery of roller coaster songs and message songs. Given, few songs feel 50/50 in that area, and songs almost always lean one way or the other. This album definitely leans more towards the message side than its predeccessor, Something to Be, which leaned more towards the roller coaster side with hits like “This is how a Heart Breaks” and “Streetcorner Symphony”.
Cradlesong starts out with “Her Diamonds” the first single. It is slow, and gradually builds upon one emotion, growing stronger and stronger until the end. It feels like when you are with a friend and they are breaking down emotionally, and all you can do to help is be there, even if you have nothing to say.
A more balanced roller coaster/ message song is two tracks deeper in with “Give me the Meltdown”. This one is fast, and definitely feels like his MB20 material. It is rock oriented with its strong drum beats, guitars, and lyrics that repeat many times in a rhythmic fashion. At the same time you get the message:
Feelin' worn down like a piece of glass Doesn't take too much to get yourself to feed your monkey Tell some white lies Make and swallow them You don't see just how you got into this situation
We all lie, some more than others. Most of the time it is because we are scared, either of the people around us or our inadequacies. After only one, we can get so stuck emotionally that we cannot believe our situation.
Late at night, late at night You weep for something better than the secrets you keep me down Just lay down, here, close to me And tell me what you want from me
Thats what we want. We want someone who understands us. Someone who is going to address our fears with unconditional love, and not punish us for our symptoms of fear by being distant or hostile.
Hey now, give me the meltdown Take it out on me this time around Oh no, it ain't over now I can feel the world spin around, around, around Hey now, give me the meltdown Take it out on me, don't let me down Oh no, it ain't over now I can feel the world spin around, around, around
My last thought on this is that I am thankful for the those few who love me even when I don’t deserve it.
I could go on like this about many of the songs, but in short I give this album the thumbs up. It would be great to see more things like this on Top 40, balancing out the army of exclusively roller-coaster based songs. If this happens, music will regain some of the power it had to connect with people emotionally.
I am searching around on itunes today. Right now I feel the way many people do in this post napster era. I want someone to filter the music for me and tell me what I should listen to. I do not however, want dance music/top 40 pushers to dominate all of it.
Artists need to connect with those people who want something to listen to and just don’t know what to pick. I WANT to buy music, but the vast quantity that is out there and the way it is packaged still holds me back. If Spotify were in the Americas, the problem would be solved. I could listen to as much as I want of whatever and pay just a little (as opposed to 1.25 per track or 80$ for an essentials pack that has 20 songs out of 65 or so that I actually want to hear.)
Anyone who comments on this blog post I welcome to tell me their favorite method of finding good music, bonus karma points if these methods are online methods. I am open as well to recommendations of your favorite tracks.
Also, I have a confession to make. I don’t really like the Beatles.
Were they good? Yes
Culturally relevant? Yes
People who worked hard and deserve the success they have? Double Yes.
Do I respect them ? Totally.
Its just that my personal preferences don’t really include the Beatles except for maybe 2 of their best songs. Either I am the only one who doesn’t care much for the Beatles, or I seem to be one of the only people not waxing eloquent on their catalog of music. People usually condemn my tastes because of this, and try to use Beatles therapy on me (“You must see Across the Universe“. “Try listening to this song”. “Read these lyrics and I dare you to tell me you don’t like them after that”). I have done all of these and they still sit at about 6.2 out of 10 in personal preferences.
Therapy doesn’t work apparently, but my respect and appreciation for them has grown from these attempts nonetheless.
I guess this just goes to say that nothing is for everyone, not even “the best in the world” can appeal to everybody. You can disagree with me on this; I think that’s fine. I do however, hope it brings perspective to any artist that worries a lot about other peoples opinions and ties their self esteem to how universally they are liked.