Archive for October, 2011

Twitter v. Shakespeare

Monday, October 31st, 2011

Shakespeare

Photo by Elliott Brown — Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved

If you love Twitter, does that mean you hate Shakespeare?

One of Shakespeare’s leading fans thinks Twitter and our other social networks are destroying our ability to communicate.

In accepting an award from the BFI London Film Festival, Ralph Fiennes took the opportunity to attack our “world of truncated sentences, soundbites and Twitter.” As reported by the great culture correspondent Lucy Jones of The Telegraph, Fiennes is no fan of our way of communicating: “Our expressiveness and our ease with some words is being diluted so that the sentence with more than one clause is a problem for us, and the word of more than two syllables is a problem for us.”

Fiennes, one of today’s best actors, was at BFI to premier his movie directorial debut, Shakespeare’s Coriolanus. Strange that Fiennes believes that while one can change the setting of Shakespeare (the film is presented as a present tense modern warfare story), language must remain static.

Are we really suffering from our lack of iambic pentameter and stretching out our thoughts with multiple words? Isn’t there a difference between every day direct communication, and poetic language that purposely heightens a moment? In fact, don’t you think that the more concise we are in our normal exchanges, the more we can appreciate the power of poetry and the language of art?

For example, two young kids meet at a dance. The everyday exchange would start with the guy saying, “Hey. Nice to meet you.” Now, to make that brief moment one of artful romance: “If I profane with my unworthiest hand/This holy shrine, the gentle sin is this:/My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand/To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.” Now, that’s a memorable opening line. Heightened language increases the stakes and our connection to the moment.

Fiennes is caught in the same trap as believing that photography ruined art: Why look at a painting’s interpretation, expansion, or focus when we can have a photo to see it exactly how it is? Both photography and painting are art forms that focus attention in different ways, just as our quick and direct language on social networks focusses the communication in a different way from theatrical exchange.

Fiennes also seems to be oblivious to that other art form - irony. After all, the star of Clash of Titans I and II shortened his own name. While his full name might be more poetic, it certainly is not one to use on an eye catching poster or marquee: Ralph Nathaniel Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes. (Now, that’s poetry!)

And, how does Fiennes promote his Coriolanus film? Why, with short catchy phrases, of course. His trailer tells you the story:

FROM THE ASHES OF WAR, HE WON GLORY.
AT THE HANDS OF HIS PEOPLE, HE WAS BETRAYED.
IN THE ARMS OF AN ENEMY, HE WILL CLAIM VENGEANCE.

His trailer also quotes the critics to convince you to come see the flick: “Stunning”; “A Triumph”; and, “Rousing and Primal”.

Want to promote Coriolanus? Fiennes has given us pretty good Twitter phrases, don’t you think?

- Bill Reichblum

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Beauty & the Bull: The Image that Inspired Occupy Wall Street

Monday, October 17th, 2011

Wall Street Poster

The protest movement all began with the image of a ballerina on top of Wall Street’s bull.

Kalle Lasn and his colleagues at Adbusters came up with the startling image, the question, “What is Our One Demand?” and the hashtag, #OccupyWallStreet, as in “#OccupyWall Street, September 17th, Bring Tent.”

As Lasn told Sam Eifling in The Tyee, “To me it was a sublime symbol of total clarity. Here’s a body poised in this beautiful position and it spoke of this crystal-clear sublime idea behind this messy business. On top of the head it said, ‘What is our one demand?’ To me it was almost like an invitation, like if we get our act together then we can launch a revolution. It had this magical revolutionary feel to it, which you couldn’t have with the usual lefty poster which is nasty and visceral and in your face. The magic came from the fact this ballerina is so sublimely tender.”

Lasn is no stranger to inspiring cultural movements. His first “culture jam” began in a supermarket parking lot. Lasn was angry that he needed to rent a shopping cart, so instead of dropping the quarter into the machine, he jammed it so that the machine would not work.

He co-founded Adbusters in 1989 to create responses to an advertising campaign for British Columbia’s forestry industry. Other Lasn social marketing campaigns have included “Buy Nothing Day” and “TV Turnoff Week”. He continues to campaign against “arguably the most destructive product we humans have ever produced”: the car. (Want more? Read Lasn’s book: Culture Jam: How To Reverse America’s Suicidal Consumer Binge — And Why We Must.)

From his home in Vancouver, the art of Lasn has inspired a global movement.

#OccupyWallStreet is now about more than one park in downtown Manhattan. As Lasn sees it, “It has grown beyond anything I thought was possible in the early days. The mood changes every day, and this realization that all of a sudden it’s a nationwide movement in the United States and now it’s even creeping into Canada. That’s — what can I say? It’s beyond anything I imagined early on. I’ve been sort of running with it day by day, and now it feels like anything is possible. It’s a good lesson for me. I’ve always been reticent and careful and doing a lot of planning and stuff. For me personally it’s told me, don’t hold back. Just go for it. You never know what’ll happen.”

Who could have predicted a ballerina would change our view of global finance? No wonder so many are dancing in the streets for a cause.

- Bill Reichblum

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Pride of the Music Biz: A Shout-Out for Bridge Records

Monday, October 10th, 2011

Guitar

Photo by Toni Blay — Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved

Bridge Records, led by guitarist David Starobin, should be an inspiration to the music business and to music fans.

Here’s an indy music company that is thriving and maintaining a brand that stands for something: genuine quality.

Allan Kozinn in the New York Times provides the background on Bridge’s catalogue and approach to staying current. The article precedes an upcoming Bridge retrospective anniversary concert to take place in New York on October 20th.

Over the last 30 years, Bridge has released 361 records, all of which are still available. (No small accomplishment in and of itself.) As an independent label, Bridge has produced major classical and modern recordings.

Bridge’s story is fairly simple: artist takes control to produce his own recordings; artist inspires other artists; artist facilitates business opportunities for other artists. What started as an outlet for Starobin’s own recordings expanded to become a remarkable platform for players and composers.

In addition to their recordings, Bridge is also in the business of artist management. The company is kept in the family. Starobin’s wife and two kids each work in different sides of Bridge’s business.

Unlike so many large companies that market test ideas, analyze social network penetration, and look for commercial tie-ins, Starobin’s approach is to record and manage artists he likes. That’s all there is to it. (He’s in good company. As Guy Kawasaki pointed out, Apple’s market research was only about what Steven Jobs’ thought the customer would like.)

Sometimes relying on one’s social sphere feels like a closed loop, where the same information and recommendations go from one to the other until the circle is complete and it begins again. The challenge is discovering something outside your circle, even outside of your comfort zone.

Bridge provides an old fashioned but essential model: a brand you can count on to discover new music. The music might not be the most popular, the most promoted, or the most hip. However, when you buy a Bridge product you know your music world will expand.

- Bill Reichblum

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Music’s Future: Discovery, Engagement, Content, and Context

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

Till

Photo by Curtis Billau — Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved

Forget about free music.

As posted in KadmusArts’ culture news feed, Michael Nash understands the past and has seen the future. In an interview with Greg Sandoval at CNET, Nash reflected on his years at the center of music’s digital life.

Nash is leaving his position as Executive Vice President, Digital Strategy and Business Development for Warner Music Group. He has been at WMG since 2000. Previously, Nash was the executive director of the Madison Project, an industry-first secure digital music distribution trial, the CEO and founder of Inscape, an interactive entertainment and games publishing joint venture with WMG and HBO, and director of the Criterion Collection.

What’s his advice? As he told Sandoval, “Free didn’t work before. It was once used to drive engagement with ads. What we’re looking for now is for free to drive engagement with subscription services.”

In other words, forget about the drive-by grab of free music. That’s unsustainable and, even more importantly, unfair to the artists. Subscription services, on the other hand, can be about building a relationship between the product and the user, and between the artist and the audience.

The successful artist-to-audience services will maximize the sweet spot of all businesses and all arts: Discovery, Engagement, Content, and Context.

The best kind of online platform helps the consumer discover talent; engage with the talent and their community; easily access content; and, be able to dive deep into the context of an artist’s work and its connection to other work.

Don’t worry about losing something that’s been free. Be happy that there’s going to be something with more value. That should be music to everyone’s ears.

-Bill Reichblum

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