There goes my hero

I promise today will be a long blog with many tangents. Here are the topics I will discuss – as this list will serve as a reminder for me as I write the blog and as a warning for you, my faithful readers: the excessive number of songs dealing with heroes and heroism, the excessive number of songs named Betterman (as a tangent), heroes specifically (and meeting one of mine), Andrew Finden’s amazingly well thought out contributions to my blog brought on by a nostalgic walk down memory lane, the advertising industry, the media, Kevin Rudd, Quality magazines, Big Day Out… a week of relative inactivity brought on by the absence of my nearest and dearest Townsville friends: what I do when I lack stimulation.

Songs about heroes
Once upon a time I was part of a hugely successful soccer team somewhat appropriately named Mitchie Mayhem. Our strategy was to reduce the opposition to our level of chaos (mayhem) and then beat them into submission. One particular year our team overcame improbable odds to make the finals – we were required to win a high proportion of our last few games to qualify. One week, to inspire our boys to victory I sang a song about heroes during the warm up. We won, and it quickly became a prematch superstition which was firmly entrenched by the time we made the grand final. By my count, and in my somewhat hazy recollections, there were 8 matches that required songs and there were no reruns. Off the top of my head there was There Goes My Hero, the Spiderman hero song, Wind Beneath My Wings… the list goes on. It looks like easy song writing fodder.

Tangent – Betterman
While we’re on the subject of easy song writing fodder – what’s the deal with the number of songs named Betterman? Robbie Williams, Pearl Jam, John Butler Trio… there are numerous songs out there – why can’t anyone just be content with the man they are…

What is a hero anyway? Someone who inspires? Someone others aspire to be like? Have you ever met your heroes? I’ve always been a little reticient to meet people who inspire me, or whose achievements I aspire to because of the fear I’ll be disappointed. Last night I put a face to a person who’d been a faceless hero of mine for some time. I appreciate good advertising. I appreciate wit. And as a result I’ve always been a fan of Virgin Blue’s advertising campaigns and corporate branding. Last night at a work seminar I met the man behind the marketing. He was talking about the advertising industry and had some really good things to say – no one had any idea that he was the Virgin guy until he brought it up in the last 5 minutes of his presentation. His approach to that account totally blew me away – in pitching for the role he basically told Richard Branson that there was no way he could be the face of an Australian airline because Australians know him as a crazy British guy who crashes hot air balloons – hardly someone you’d trust to fly you around the country on a budget airline. I can’t go on too much about this because of all the topics I have to cover. But I almost got his autograph at the end – that’s how cool I think he is. He also loves puns, when he said that I felt an almost instant connection to him. I’m very rarely in awe of anyone’s intellect or creative vision – but this guy was good. Except when he called himself a guru. That almost lost him points, even if it was slightly tongue in cheek. I’ve also always had a problem with the arrogance involved in labelling yourself as a “creative”. But I’ll forgive him that.

Andrew Finden’s comments
While I’m on the subject of inspiration, I was going back through the comments on some of my older posts, as I do, and I read through some of Andrew the Opera Singer’s comments. I’d like to congratulate Andrew on his always informative, well educated voicing of sometimes contrary opinions on the pages of my blog. One particularly interesting comment of Andrew’s that I’d like to query but didn’t actually do at the time was from the post on whether derivative art is bad art, he said:
“Does this mean that all these boy bands are ok? Heck no! The real problem with pop music is that it’s dumb. It’s like having a painting with a yellow panel, a red panel and a blue panel. It’s not hard to understand. It’s basic and simple. Good art is not basic, and is not always easy to understand. Mozart doesn’t repeat three chords over and over. It has intricacy and complexity.”

My question is this – is the statement that good art is not basic fair in an era where subjectivity rules and minimalism is the new black – can’t a 3 chord (or even a one chord) song with evocative (but not necessarily complex) lyrics be just as valid as a piece of art? Shouldn’t artistic value be determined by emotional response?… which segues nicely into my next topic…

The Advertising Industry
One of the things Mr Advertising Guru had to say was on the topic of corporate branding. Branding is bigger than your corporate logo. Branding is the “emotional response” people have to being presented with your company – it’s the associated feeling, the vibe, the connection people feel to your product or services. A good advertising campaign and established brand will communicate a positive message and evoke a positive response from your target audience. Being the media afficianado (I almost used the word guru) that I like to think I am, I realise that advertising is what makes the media world go round (unless you’re the ABC – in which case tax is what spins your world). Without advertising there is no content. Tourism Australia are moving towards campaigns without paid advertising. The basic premise is that because editorial content is more credible than a paid ad it’s more valuable to the customer. We work out the PR value of our editorial generated by multiplying the advertising rate by an obscene 9 times.

There are a number of problems with this model – without advertising there’s no editorial, there’s a very grey line between obtaining editorial coverage and the talkback radio “cash for comment” fiasco.
Following the Tourism Australia case study for a little while longer – Tourism Australia want editorial content to carry their key messages. (side note: Tourism Australia are doing what the government is doing and moving towards a user pays system). To justify all the travel editorial out there the media will need to find advertising from other sources for their travel shows, travel liftouts in newspapers, and travel magazines. This search will lead them to small businesses and the costs will fall on the heads of the little operators to fund. No media outlet will provide editorial without advertising dollars to back it up.

The state of the Media
Again, a natural segue from advertising to the media itself – I’m worried by the cross media ownership laws. Small country towns will suffer if all their outlets are bought by the same company only allowing the one “voice” to provide news and information. However, the concept of owning multiple media platforms is also quite exciting and I’m sure the different media outlets are salivating at the prospect of being able to sell advertising packages across multiple platforms. The buzz word for this is “convergence” and Nine are already doing it to some extent with PBL owning the Bulletin – having a local paper, or a national paper, where you can cross promote your content and bundle your advertising will make a lot of people a lot of money.

Quality Magazines (and Kevin Rudd)
John Howard has been in the newspapers this week speaking out on Quadrant – the intellectually stimulating but admittedly verbose and elitist culture watch magazine. The PM likes it. He doesn’t like the rest of the “left wing” media. There are a number of interesting magazines that I suggest you all buy because magazines are the coolest thing since sliced bread. These are: The Monthly (which this mo
nth features an article from Kevin Rudd on the mix of religion and politics which is well worth a read, I have a lot of respect for Kevin Rudd (who I also met this year) this article enhanced my respect for him), Quadrant, Rolling Stone, J Mag, The Bulletin (just for John Birmingham’s column really, and sometimes the cover stories are good), Dissent (for some lefty balance), The Quarterly Review. If you read all these then you too can be a well informed, self proclaimed media afficianado.

Big Day Out
I am most definitely going to Big Day Out next year because so are Muse. You should all join me. I also heard a rumour somewhere that Thom Yorke will be coming… but that could just be hearsay.

My Week
This week has taken way too long. Robyn, Tim and all the people who brighten the doors of JJ’s (my house – don’t ask what it stands for) are off on a camp. Dave and I have been spending some quality time, although mostly I’m playing computer games because they’re proven to make time go faster. Other people are still around in Townsville (Scooter is still here, and CB is around – but no one has really been providing me with any stimulus so I’ve created my own fun by killing France in Civilisation 3. That’s pretty rewarding actually – we should all declare war on France every once in a while.

So there you have it, over 1600 words of pure substance (as in it’s 100% the same type of substance – whether it’s gold or “other” is up to the reader to decide… that’s the nature of art – but this certainly isn’t minimalism)


Anonymous says:

If there’s one thing this blog proves, that has big implications for the rural and regional media/cross-media ownership debate it’s “content is king.”

The neat summary of the number of posts each month on the right pane of your blog prompted me to hypothesise that the number of comments is proportional to the number of posts. Common sense really.

If free market forces prevail, surely the regional radio station with the best and most relevant content will enjoy a competitive advantage. Do we need to legislate for local content as some National Party senators suggest, or will a niche local player outperform the “networks” who broadcast Gold Coast news to regional WA and SA, a la Macquarie?

Does the Federal government want media re-form or media reform?

What’s your thoughts Smiley?

I’ll nail my pants to the mast and take the boring approach – maintain the status quo.

mel says:

That was a huge blog, I almost read the whole thing, but skim read as soon as politician’s names were mentioned. Though Kevin Rudd seems like a nice guy, when he went on Triple J to confirm that he is not Xavier’s Father.

Nathan – Donna & I have been planning to go to the big day out for a while now. So you are welcome to join us, or perhaps we can wave to you from afar.. if Donna decides otherwise :)

Leah says:

lol. You just said not to ask about JJs coz you don’t know what it stands for, do you? :P

AndrewF says:

“is the statement that good art is not basic fair in an era where subjectivity rules and minimalism is the new black – can’t a 3 chord (or even a one chord) song with evocative (but not necessarily complex) lyrics be just as valid as a piece of art? Shouldn’t artistic value be determined by emotional response?”

Firstly, thanks for your kind words Nathan.
I think there is a difference between the “simple” music I was referring to and minimalism. Minimalism is a valid art form (and indeed, one of my favourite photographic styles). In minimalism, the artist is generally exploring the simplicity of particular elements (e.g line, colour, rhythm etc.) or using them to invoke a particular response or evoke a particular feeling. In pop music, it is rare to find such a reason for using minimal elements. The basic electronic pop beat is simple and repetitive so it is easily and quickly recognisable. In pop music, if any interesting deviations are made from that basic pattern, such as syncopation, they are generally repeated ad nauseum, just to make sure you got it.
I would argue that a good piece of minimalist art requires cognitive activity to appreciate and enjoy, most pop music doesn’t require much thought to process.
I think too, that even in the ballads and songs of only three chords to which you refer you would find subtle nuances, and the simplicity is, as you say, intended to evoke certain feelings and emotions. Combine this with poetic lyrics and it is just as valid as the most complex Bach fugue.
I don’t know if I’ve explained my thoughts particularly well here..

On the topic of what determines artistic value (emotional response?) – that’s really a whole big topic in itself.
My view is that God is the supreme artist, and that our definition of art should be taken from his view.
He creates with the intention of being understood – to convey, but is also not only about conveying in a didactic sense, but involves abstraction and aesthetics – take, for example, his description of how to build the temple – there’s abstract art in there!
I can elaborate on that too if you want…

Oh, and I can’t help but think that we are all wrong when it comes to John Cage and “4:33” I bet he just went up to his publisher one day and said “Hey publisher…. Nothing!”

Nathan says:

I have this idea for a band I’d like to start called “The Roadies” we wouldn’t record anything because we’d be a combination performance art/muscial improvisation group.

The basic premise is that our act would support major bands, we could come out on stage, set up the instruments, conduct vigorous sound checks, take a bow and leave the stage – the audience would watch the entire performance and be none the wiser. Then we could post the videos on YouTube and become instantly famous.

donna says:

Mel, i have no changed my mind about Big Day Out. Muse is going to be there, so therefore i want to be too. :)