Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Letter to a Myspace artist

(Originally published on MS, May 12th 2008)

Promoting yourself on MS seriously fucks with your identity as a musician.

I have a friend on here, who will call "Barlow". "Barlow" is not this friend's real name... Barlow is the name of my awesome friend who lives in New Orleans and lets me borrow his video camera from time to time. I am using "Barlow" instead of this other friend's actual name because I don't want to publicly criticize him, as I think he's a great musician. I do however, want to publicly discus what I have to say to him.

Anyways, I went to high school with "Barlow". He has since been doing music more and more and seriously promoting himself online. I talked to him on the phone, once and only briefly, since high school. Today I have no idea who this person is.

I'm making my letter to this individual public because it raises a lot of questions I'd like us to think about and maybe discuss (ideally not on here, but in real life). I'm thinking that myspace and the net in some ways might be more of a bad than a good thing for music. But that's a whole other story...

(A few other minor details have also been changed from my original letter for the sake of privacy, but this is 99% of the original).


Dear Barlow,

Ok... so myspace is weird.

Our identities are totally fucked up by it. Am I some badass industrial rock star because my pictures look like it, and on a few occasions I- who am usually introverted and don't approach women I think are really hot- have been helped with the ladies by having a mohawk? Or did I just spend all weekend studying Italian wine and food because I got a job at a restaurant because I don't make money off music? Am I a musical fuck up or musically up and coming? You can get paid really well in restaurants... if I made $28-$40k a year in one am I part of the modestly successful "middle class" or am I a fuck up with a worthless degree buried down deep in the service sector?

So much of doing music, and then getting on MS, is hype & bullshit. You gotta write your own press where you write about yourself in the third person because no one else is doing your website/PR for you. There's no accountability at all. When we were on tour we decided that we could have just stayed home, laid low, and "made up" a bunch of venues all after the other and say we toured, make fake press releases and flyers with fake bands' names on it and fake addresses of fake venues, and then try to fool people into thinking we were bigger than we were. We didn't do this, but if we did- we could have saved a fuck ton on gas money- and who at home would have been any wiser?

You're another example of this. I mean- I went to high school with you. We might have even gone to middle school together too- that is getting foggy. But I honestly don't know if any of your "bio" is true or not. A lot of it sounds fake, but some of it might even have been real. And the big parts I know about your life that are real- why aren't they on there? Why aren't you proud of who you are, where you're from, and what your life's journey has been?

Your music and voice sounds like it could be really powerful... but a lot of YOU that is public doesn't sound like it's real or from the soul at all. It sounds like a gimmick and fake and to me that really turns me off from wanting to hear what lyrics you have to sing about the world.

Your location says "Atlanta, NYC, Memphis, Vegas, LA, Miami, Montreal". But what does that mean? Have you ever been to Montreal? Did you go there once to play a show? Did you go to college there and were you part of a band? For all I know you could either be some super successful musician, or you could be living with mom and working in retail. You could have a $60,000 car or you could be taking the bus. I have no idea.

When I went to school with you, you were Barlow- this kinda geeky kid who plays the viola and talks about modern classical music. I never knew if you really felt the music that much and were really into the viola, or you just pretended you were because (seriously- who the fuck plays the viola?) it gave you some little bit of 'quirky', 'interesting' personality that might have helped you fit in a little better at a school. I certainly found my own pigeonhole like that to lie in with spiky hair, punk rock, and dark jackets...

But reading your stuff you don't sound like Barlow from Atlanta. You sound like a bullshitter from LA or Vegas. Like every other word out of your mouth is so uber-cool and poetic I wonder if it's covering for something. You talk about drinking a lot. I never saw you at a party or with a drink or even heard you talk about drinking in school. Are you an alcoholic aged beyond his years by the whiskey? Can you control your drinking, or do you have a long line of burnt bridges and pissed off ex-friends behind you? Or are you just playing with the hype?

I certainly talk up bourbon a lot and defend my liking of Guns N Roses, swimming in rivers, and shooting stuff, because a lot of times I'm worried someone is going to call me a redneck or look down on me for being from the South, so I put that up there as a way to deflect it. Whiskey is sexy I guess... it makes people seem old and wise, dramatic and potentially violent... like the Mississippi delta or the womanizing of Elvis Presley or Gary Thomas Rowe or the bootleggers who started NASCAR. There's something so sexually attractive about it's association with the South...

But at the same time... some of my best friends in the South are alcoholics or recovering alcoholics and I don't find that sexy at all. It doesn't make me want to have sex with them or go out drinking with them or party with them at the dance club or the concert... It makes me want to give them a hug, or a phone call, and have a serious conversation.

Your you-tube videos have a heck of a lot of hits... Do you have a full time publicist? Are you on a label with people that promote them for you? Do live in your mom's basement and spend 14 hours a day promoting them all over the net? Do you have a huge persona online but really only have less than five real life friends you can call when you need someone to talk to? Shit... My profile says I have "338" friends. My band's profile says I have "3390" friends, and my solo project says I have "527" friends....

But when I'm feeling down- usually over a relationship that's going rocky- I don't know a single goddamned person I think will let me call them any time of day and will help me out with an ear... Maybe there are like 2 people like that.... MAYBE... but still... my birthday came and went this year and I don't think I had anyone at all notice or call me. I spent my birthday not with anyone I care about but by being the only guy on I-85 driving from Atlanta to DC on New Years' Eve getting ready for tour. Clock struck twelve at the Kannapolis rest area and I saw more deer than people all night. Maybe I'm someone, even a little someone, on MS... I sacrifice my damn birthday and don't party at all for that band- for that image- and no one in real life gives a shit.

Your music is good. Your voice is really fucking good. I had no idea your voice was that good. And your guitar playing is very good. I had no idea you even played the guitar.

Part of me doesn't even believe it's you recorded there... like maybe those are someone else's songs and your whole music profile is just some big joke you made in your free time.

Your new post about having an EP out says it was produced by "Bill Palmer". Who the fuck is Bill Palmer? I don't listen to any of the artists you say he has also produced, so I have no idea if he's real or not. I did a search online and I find a Bill Palmer who's the Mayor of a city in North Carolina, a Bill Palmer whose a painter, a jazz pianist named Bill Palmer who taught for 30 years, and a Bill Palmer who's an executive producer of soap operas.

Finally after lots of searching I found someone by that name whose got a lot of pictures of them with a guitar in front of some crowds. That's probably who you're talking about. But even there, it says his age is 71 but he's obviously not that old. And I don't know if the pics are of him or if they're made up. Once again that's not really my music scene so I'm at even more of a disadvantage.

For all I know Bill Palmer is your cousin and does drums on fruity loops and records through a crappy Mic on a crappy M audio soundcard and mixes poorly on crappy M audio speakers. Or he's some famous touring guitar player who threw down a couple thousand for you on pro studio time (in which case why do so many of your videos look like you recorded them yourself at home and why is there any background hiss at all in them?).

So dude- buddy- Who the hell are you? What are you doing with the internet? What are you off the internet? Are you as confused about these questions as I am?

Your friend and fellow myspace artist,


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