Being the oldest person in the room is becoming an increasingly common occurrence. Being the oldest person in a movie theatre was a new experience. That I wasn’t the intended demographic was clear from the coming attractions which were in no particular order:
a movie about a teenager who has to defeat 7 previous ex boyfriends to conquer the pink hair girl of his dreams;
a movie with Adrian Brody (who won an Academy Award, for gods’ sake) about a game park where the protagonists are the game;
a movie where Angelina Jolie is first blonde and good and then brunette and dangerous all the while completing fast and improbable stunts;
a movie with Bruce Willis, Sylvester Stallone, Mickey Rourke and a cameo by Arnold Schwarzenegger with a plot incomprehensible to anyone with an IQ.
Really – who sits in those cubicles and comes up with this crap?Just when I was starting to feel disheartened and regretted the $11.75 admission price (I am actually starting to look forward to the senior discount..) Russell Brand appeared on the screen – he makes me laugh. I could bear to watch the otherwise forgettable movie “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” one night on tv just because he had a small role in it and I couldn’t wait to see him again on the screen. In “Get him to the Greek” he reprises the same role which is at the center of the plot, essentially a spoof on the music industry.
The Harry Potter’s references were beyond me but I couldn’t help recognizing some truths in the characters depicting music biz executives. If, by the time I entered the industry, no one was really running around trying to score heroin for the artists, in good conscience I can’t say we didn’t look the other way when drugs were involved and we all walked the same tightrope, squeezed in between the desire to tell the honest truth and the duty of blowing smoke up the artists’ass to make them acquiesce, cooperate or just keep them on the road for one more day.
I do believe that everyone, from the lowly interns all the way to the CEOs, joined the industry because of a pure desire to help music, our favourite music, break barriers – we all started as fans essentially. And, along the way, we had to contend with budgets, radio formats, uncooperative artists, interminable production delays – but now and then we would come across a stroke of musical genius and it was all worthwhile. As everyone who has worked with artists of every kind (and not all musicians out there merit the title of artist but let’s skim over that one) writers, actors, dancers etc, when your marketing product is able to talk back at you and has very personal opinions (and rightly so) on how his/her work should be treated, the job of the poor industry exec becomes more akin to a diplomat or a mediator than a music fan. It’s easy to make fun of it but I would challenge anyone to spend a week on the road with any musician – you will know what it means to become best friend/mother/pimp/traffic cop/psychologist all in the space of a day, and still be pleasant to anyone you come in contact with.
Fame comes at a very high price, one I could never pay. Loss of privacy is just but the easiest one to deal with. Such necessary oversized egos are often frail, they develop a need to keep proving themselves and it becomes difficult to trust when everyone around you wants something. The bigger one gets the more out of touch with reality one becomes – how could it be otherwise when a string of minders attend to your every need? I met people who wouldn’t have been able to make their own plane reservation or take their clothes to the cleaners. It takes enormous strength to be famous and stay that way – it’s a job in itself. And the most successful ones strike that balance and can keep on being genuinely creative.
The old timers lament the good old days of rock n’ roll when artists were “really bad”, abused substances of all kinds and partied hard, destroyed hotel rooms, had incessant sex and sometimes died prematurely. Maybe. I miss originality. Music is by nature derivative of what came before but never more so than today – I can’t think of an “ultimate” rock band that came after U2. Radiohead are great but lack the charisma, same with Green Day and Coldplay don’t even come close. Could it be that rock has really reached the end of the road? I’d like to spare a good word for the lowly music business person whose ears will perk up while listening to some computer file and hear greatness behind a rough wall of sound. Because if it is true that the Internet has changed the business mode,l it’s equally true that every great talent, no matter what the art form, had a mentor, a believer who smoothed the path and helped along the way, be it a book editor, an art dealer, an agent or, why not, the dreaded record industry exec.