Trolls and Weenies

 

kroq-weenie

Image property of KROQ.

Being a passionate music fan is both profoundly personal and extremely subjective. You like what you like, regardless of other people’s opinions of it, and that makes it yours. When someone decides to tell you that you have terrible taste in music, that’s when you realize you may not need that person in your life, or at the very least, in your Facebook news feed. Speaking of Facebook, we all know how much smaller the world has become, thanks to the ever-evolving world of social media. We now have access to more information, from more sources, than we ever have before, and that is why I now find myself reading random articles, stories, and blogs just because they seemed interesting at the time. Consequence of Sound and Pitchfork are great resources to keep up on music news. Sadly, not all of this content ends up being worth my time and, in some cases, it just ends up infuriating me. I could write a whole piece about social media trolls and how they can ruin a perfectly good status update or article, but, instead, I want to focus on one particular “review” that I stumbled across this week.

Anyone who knows me knows that I love concerts, especially the grandiose, multiple-artist festival shows. I grew up with the WBCN River Rave (R.I.P.), evolving from a free show at the Hatch Shell in Boston to a ridiculously oversized multi-stage extravaganza in and around Gillette Stadium. The same radio station used to stage the 3 or 4 night X-Mas Rave shows throughout Boston. We used to have Lollapalooza and OzzFest come screaming through the area every summer. This is where we got to see the bands we loved, while also finding out about new bands that we may not have heard of before (and in some cases, would never hear from again). This is where you found out if someone was great on record but sucked live. To put it simply, this is where the magic happened. Odds are, if you were at a festival show, you were gonna have a good time and find at least one band, if not a few, that made the day worthwhile. Having lived through many of these shows, I was intrigued by this article, by one Philip Cosores, posted to the CoS Facebook page this week, reviewing the recent KROQ Weenie Roast, which is similar to the aforementioned River Rave, with the notable difference being that it still happens every year. I was also drawn in by this teaser written about the festival, “[T]his year’s edition, however, was just awful, and we blame the fans…” which, as you’ll find out if you read the “review” (notice the quotes), really was just a tease.

Now, I have a number of issues with this article, some of which probably stem from my jealousy that this guy presumably was paid to go to this show and write about it, which is pretty much my dream job. However, after reading, I’m thinking he’s not the right man for that job, which just infuriates me even more. The writer just seems miserable, and tries to cover it up by basically saying the show was fun, even though the bands were awful. From a fan standpoint, this whole article is a complete waste of time, and not even remotely a review of the show itself. It’s an opportunity for him to say how bad he thinks the bands are and how easily the fans are brainwashed to follow along. In my day, we used to call that having a good time, but apparently, that’s not cool anymore. The only thing missing from this hipster propaganda piece was a diatribe on how bad Macklemore is, or has that gone out of style by now?

For the record, I’m not coming at this from the perspective of defending one or more of the bands on the bill. I, personally, don’t know most of them that well, and some, not at all, although I am excited to hear more from Bastille and Bleachers in the future. For now, I’m merely trying to understand why this individual was chosen to attend a festival show that he clearly had no interest in and then write about it. I don’t know if he was paid for it, but for argument’s sake, let’s assume he was. Wouldn’t it make more sense to send someone who cares and would actually have a good time and be able to review the performances rather than the perception of the bands themselves? I find it hard to believe that this miserable anti-fan was the only one available for the job. While I don’t know the exact date, I’m guessing the lineup was announced well in advance of the show, giving the powers-that-be plenty of time to find a more suitable writer to cover the gig. That being said, even if he was the only one available, shouldn’t he have done his due diligence and maybe listened to some of the bands in advance to have some context? Isn’t that a writer’s responsibility, to know the material you’re tasked to write about? There were even a few acts that he couldn’t even bring himself to bother writing about. It’s sad, really, because I’m sure there were thousands of people at that show that would have jumped at the chance to write this article, and they probably would have done a much better job.

Tell me what you think. Do you agree or am I being completely hypocritical here and turning into a troll, myself?

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Throwback ’13

“So, this flannel thing. Is that a nod to the crispy Seattle weather or are you just trying to stay warm in front of the refrigerator?” ~ Cher (Alicia Silverstone), Clueless

Forget about #throwbackthursday. 2013 has been a throwback year for me, and I’ve been loving every minute of it. While my goatee may be a little greyer, my love of music is barely out of puberty and still on the prowl, like it’s 1997. I’ve always been a lover of nostalgia, so that could be a contributing factor here, but I like to think it’s more of an appreciation of the finer things in my own little world. Many of those finer things just happen to have grown out of rain-soaked Seattle soil and donned some flannel at one point or another. Let’s dig in a little deeper to what I’m talking about here, with a 2013 concert recap, and please remember, I only said “some” of these were products of the great Northwest. I don’t need a geography lesson. Speaking of high school subjects, though. I’m going frame my year in shows as if it’s a high school day, which seems fitting, considering the topic at hand, so here goes!

Weiland1

Weiland at the Wilbur. Image property of author.

1st Period: Scott Weiland @ the Wilbur (read my less than stellar review here)

2nd Period: Soundgarden at the Palladium

3rd Period: Social Distortion at the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom

4th Period: Weezer at Hampton

5th (Lunch) Period: Summerland (Everclear, Live, Filter, Sponge) at Hampton

6th Period: UPROAR Festival (Alice in Chains, Jane’s Addiction and others) at Great Woods (Yes, I said Great Woods)

AIC_UPROAR

Alice in Chains at UPROAR Fest. Image Property of author.

Last Period: Nine Inch Nails at the Garden (this Friday)

In the interest of full disclosure, this is not an all-encompassing list. My year in shows was not limited to only artists from the era of flannel and moshpits. I took in some shows of newer artists, and discovered others at some of the above shows. Those can be the topic of a future discussion, though. This is all about keeping the 90’s alive and if I’m alone in my desire to do so. Also, the shows listed that I’ve attended are, by no means, the only 90’s bands that have taken to the road this year. There were other festival tours like the Under the Sun fest that included such hitmakers as Sugar Ray, Smash Mouth, Gin Blossoms, Fastball and Vertical Horizon. (Great blog post here, poking fun at the bands that “asked” to be part of this tour). There were co-headlining bills like the Matchbox 20 and Goo Goo Dolls tour. There were even pop star package shows like New Kids on the Block, 98 Degrees, and Boyz II Men. Live Nation went as far as posting a “90’s Now” gallery on their One Nation blog.

Clearly, I was not alone at the shows I attended, and they were booked for a reason. However, was I the only one at ALL of them? Is my preference for the 90’s more of an isolated incident than a widespread epidemic or is the plague of comebacks and throwbacks a sign that this is what people want? Also, are these tours making money? Although some of my tickets were gifts, I know they ranged from about $30 a ticket to upwards of $100. I look forward to Live Nations year-end report of all things concerts for this year, and I hope there’s a section dedicated to this very real breakout of 90’s pox.

So, did you love or hate the 90’s and all the wonderful chaos they ushered in? Did you go to any of these shows or other throwbacks I may not have even thought of? If you did, what did you think? Do the classics hold up? Did presumptuous bands try to sprinkle in new material? If so, did you like it? Or were you more like Homer when he yelled at (to?) BTO, “Oh No! No talking, no new crap, Taking Care of Business! NOW!”?

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Future Implications

The future of social media is similar to the present. It’s evolving at a rapid pace, and companies need to be aware of the constant rate of change, while at the same maintaining the strategy that got them there in the first place. Effective listening is still going to be a key factor in any social media strategy. Fast Company’s 36 Rules of Social Media, below, will still apply. The continued evolution of social will involve increased reach, as a result of the World Wide Web continuing to become truly global, as well as increased Internet usage and social networking by the aging population in the US. These increases in overall social media presence, and therefore increases in potential relationships, are expected to result in a 121% increase in global social networking revenues by 2016, according to Strategy Analytics, a market intelligence firm. Companies and their respective brands will need to be ready to capitalize on these market opportunities. Leveraging existing relationships, and the strategies that built them in the first place, is a good place for a company to start.

36-rules-social-media

Courtesy of MediaBistro/Fast Company

Companies also need to remember that social media isn’t just jargon. It is a social medium, and people, by nature, are social. However, these same people also have a natural inclination to get bored, sometimes. A recent study by the Pew Research Center uncovered some interesting statistics about Facebook.

–       61% of current Facebook users say that at one time or another in the past they have voluntarily taken a break from using Facebook for a period of several weeks or more.

–       20% of the online adults who do not currently use Facebook say they once used the site but no longer do so.

–       8% of online adults who do not currently use Facebook are interested in becoming Facebook users in the future.

Further digging by the researchers unearthed a number of reasons for this Facebook fatigue. Many of the responses (21%) were simply that they didn’t have “time to spend on the site,” while other reasons included “a general lack of interest in the site itself” (10%), “an absence of compelling content” (10%), “excessive gossip or “drama” from their friends” (9%), and “concerns that they were spending too much time on the site and needed to take a break” (8%). These are just a few hurdles that companies will need to face as they proceed with their social networking strategies across all platforms. While effective listening should help companies see these symptoms in time to counter with engaging and relevant content, it will also be vital to be up to speed on the new and upcoming technologies, networks, widgets and tools that fatigued fans may turn to as an alternate social outlet. Vine is the perfect example of this. It is a service offering the ability to create and share short videos. Within days of the release of a Vine app for Android platforms, it was reported that it was already more popular than Instagram on Twitter, based on 2,966,979 Vine shares on 8 June compared to 2,471,044 shares for Instagram.

Basically, what it all comes down to is that the future of social media is eerily similar to the past. Companies need to ensure that they are listening to, and, when appropriate, participating in, the conversations on their networks, continue to build and maintain the right relationships, and ensure they are up to speed with the latest technological advances while not shortchanging those that got them here in the first place.

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Viral Marketing Initiatives

There are a number of attributes that will make a marketing initiative go viral. In order to achieve this sought after goal, the effort needs to be compelling and relevant. It should be easily sharable, in order to spread the virus with ease. Interactivity is also key, in that it allows viewers to like, retweet, +1, share, or simply comment on the content held within. Humor can’t hurt, either. One company that created a video encompassing all of these things is Dollar Shave Club, whom I recently stumbled upon, thanks to a share on Facebook. The video, which can be seen below, shows the founder of the company, Michael Dubin, extolling the benefits of working with his company while making some risqué comments at the same time. The video is quite funny, while also tackling an issue that I, personally, find very relevant; the cost of maintaining a high-priced razor.

The company’s Web site makes the video the hero by showing it at the top of the main page, and offers the interactivity of social buttons, allowing visitors to like them on Facebook and Tweet about them on their Twitter feed, right from the home page. I feel that I am right in Dollar Shave Club’s target market, as I am not a fan of paying for replacement cartridges every month for my “insert brand name here” razor.  My immediate reluctance to take the plunge is somewhat assuaged by Business2Community’s Brendan Schneider who gave the company a shot and reported here that “[w]hen I received my first shipment from DollarShaveClub.com I couldn’t wait to give the razors a try to see if they were any good. You know what? They weren’t good, they were great!”

Dollar Shave Club is hitting many of the “viral” best practices with their pitch video. The overall concept is quite compelling to those of us who are not keen on the cost of replacement cartridges for our 3, 4, or 5 blade super razors. I can’t be alone in this, as the video, when initially posted, “crashed the company’s server in the first hour” and has since been viewed over 10 million times, on YouTube alone. Interestingly enough, the YouTube page for the spot does not currently allow comments, which could be seen as a detriment for a viral video, as the interactivity of comments can be an important factor in a video becoming viral, although it doesn’t seem to have been detrimental to this one.

The humor is this video is its main attraction, in my opinion. While the product is relevant to the intended audience, the humor is what keeps the viewer engaged and, in my case, interested in subscribing. The video uses an offbeat and, to some, risqué style of humor to get the viewer interested, and, in doing so, makes the overarching offer of a subscription service, that much more compelling. I am not a fan of the cost of replacing the cartridges of my “brand name” razor, and if Dollar Shave Club can provide me an affordable alternative, at a level of quality that I can accept, then I am certainly interested in learning more. How did I hear about them in the first place? It was thanks to a video that became viral and ended up on my Facebook feed. How much more (electronic) word-of-mouth can you get?

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Differentiation

During my formative years, two of the foremost authorities on the music scene, at least on a national level, were the magazines Rolling Stone and SPIN. Both of these periodicals are still in print today, although many of their industry counterparts have either died out or gone digital-only. A prime example is Newsweek, which announced in October, via Twitter, that the final printed issues in the U.S. would be the December 31, 2012 edition. (http://bit.ly/OKSGF3) Both Rolling Stone and SPIN offer digital versions, in an effort to keep up with the times, but also remain in printed form. In addition to digital formats, they are both very active with social media.

Deftones

Post on Rolling Stone Facebook page

While they are both still magazines, I struggle with continuing to call them that, because they exist on so many other platforms at this point. In addition to the print and digital mediums, they are both present in multiple social arenas. They are each active on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Youtube. The Facebook pages for each of them appear to follow similar strategies. They use some of the space to refer to articles in the current editions of the “magazines,” but also use the immediacy of the platform to share current events and industry news with the public, that is far fresher than what was news at the latest print deadline. Current examples of this include each page paying tribute to the late Chi Cheng, bass player for the band the Deftones, who passed away on April 14th, as well as updates and stories from Coachella, which, if you’re unaware, is a music festival that is currently taking place in California. The Twitter feeds are also similarly handled, although I will say that the SPIN feed is far more robust, with many live updates and pictures from Coachella, where Rolling Stone appears to focus more on links to articles and interviews.

SPIN_Coachella

Post from SPIN Twitter feed

One area where they are taking vastly different approaches is the Youtube channel. In my opinion, Rolling Stone’s channel (http://bit.ly/134LirV)  is far less robust than that of SPIN (http://bit.ly/brvvit), and seems to be focused very narrowly on, of all things, movies. While there are some music-related videos, the volume of movie, actor interviews, and Best of/Worst of lists is far greater. Aside from a particularly entertaining interview with Christopher Walken, I was not impressed by the selection of videos posted on Rolling Stone’s channel. Where they are known for covering a range of media topics, including music, movies, and current events, I expected a more varied video selection, and the lack thereof seems to be not only a missed opportunity, but potentially injurious to the brand altogether. When I hear Rolling Stone, I think of them being on the cutting edge of music news, and would expect to see a lot more videos like those on SPIN’s channel. SPIN not only has a much more music-focused channel, but it is also much better organized. The main page offers clear category options, including videos of live performances and Q&As with artists.

As companies functioning in an area where many brands are dying off, Rolling Stone and SPIN are taking great steps with their social media strategies to stay relevant and keep their audiences informed and entertained. With their Facebook and Twitter feeds being very similarly handled, if I was forced to choose a frontrunner in the social media space, I would give the edge to SPIN, based on their superior Youtube channel, however, there is one major area where both brands have the opportunity to improve their overall standing by leaps and bounds, and that is the conversation. Both brands post valuable and relevant content for their audiences, and I can’t dispute that. I can, however, say with confidence that there is no back and forth, no conversation. The content is put out there and left to be consumed. The public is taking care of that consumption and leaving their thoughts and feedback, and engaging with one another. There appears to be no further engagement from either source, though. Comments may include thanks and praise for quality content, follow-up questions, and the inevitable negative statements and inane banter. In any case, there is plenty of opportunity for those that are responsible for the content to engage with the end users moreso than just posting a link to an article and leaving it out there to hang. People love to talk about their passions, like music, movies, and pop culture. Rolling Stone and SPIN need to realize the value in talking back.

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Waiting and Watching Weiland at the Wilbur 3.7.13

I wish the waiting was the hardest part.

I wish the waiting was the hardest part.

Writer’s note: I wrote this a couple of weeks ago and posted it to a Ticketmaster review site, at their request. Subsequently, I was informed that it was practically impossible to find my review on their site. I tried and confirmed this to be true. Feel free to try for yourself, if you want to go on a wild goose chase: (http://bit.ly/16RsRdk). Long story short: sorry for the delay in posting this here. I’ve learned my lesson.

I guess I’m naïve. That must be it. That’s the only reason I can come up with for why I had high hopes for the Scott Weiland show on Thursday night at the Wilbur. The odds were stacked against it, but I refused to believe it. He was just unceremoniously removed (again) from Stone Temple Pilots last week. Feel free to see both explanation-free Facebook posts here: his – (http://on.fb.me/10rhBU6) and theirs – (http://on.fb.me/13Lr5ur).You could also read the follow-up Rolling Stone blurb (http://on.mtv.com/WzbH1Z), which just makes the whole thing murkier.

Everything started off pretty well. The opener, Miggs, came on right around 8, as expected, and played a pretty good set of originals, with some snippets of covers sprinkled in, ranging from Zeppelin to the Righteous Brothers. They were quite impressive, actually. Overall, a strong opening act, reminiscent of 90’s one hit wonders, Oleander. They left the stage around 8:40, and that’s when the pain began.

9:00 came and went. OK, he’s gonna be a bit of a diva and make us wait. 9:30, nothing. 9:45, still nada and now I’m pissed. I took this opportunity to do what people do when they’re upset nowadays. I shared my frustrations on Facebook with a picture of the empty stage (http://on.fb.me/WPXh8t), and a reference to Axl Rose.  Some amusing comments followed and then, finally, at 10:00, the band took the stage…without Scott. They jammed for a few minutes, and are a talented group of guys, for sure, but that’s not why we were there. Finally, he came out. Could all have been forgiven with an amazing show? Probably. Did that happen? Not exactly.

The opening salvo was Crackerman, a classic that should be able get the crowd going, unless, of course, the band plays it too fast and the singer doesn’t remember the words. Not a great way to set the tone for a show that was already starting a good hour later than the fans were expecting. There were a couple of other absolutely dreadful performances on the night, too, including a reimagining of the Core track Naked Sunday, which he tried to explain as an improvement due to advances in technology. The lowest point of the evening, in my eyes, was the mind-numbingly bad karaoke rendition of Creep, one of STP’s all-time best songs. These two were in succession and only songs 4 and 5 of the night, so I was getting wary about what was still to come, and what other pillars of song would be brutally torn down. It was clear I wasn’t alone, too, as I noticed people start walking out after the third song, and not the going to the restroom or getting another beer kind of walking out, either.

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He did eventually show up, for better or worse.

Surprisingly, the experience wasn’t all bad, which is really what led to my confusion. I could understand if the whole show was terrible, but it wasn’t. The strangest part about it was the songs that ended up being the highlights. The first truly good song of the night came in the form of an impressive cover of David Bowie’s Jean Genie. That was followed by one of the best performances of the night, in Kitchenware & Candybars, a track buried at the end of STP’s sophomore album (and my personal favorite) Purple. It’s not a song you walk in waiting to hear, but last night, you walked out loving it, or at least I did. The important thing to realize here is that there was hope, at least, for the show to be salvaged after a very rough start. The show continued with some more great covers, including a version of the Doors’ Roadhouse Blues that would have made Jim Morrison proud, and more STP favorites, although there were some suspicious absences.

The setlist, as noted below, is almost identical to the one from the previous night in New York (http://rol.st/ZmrfkY), with the notable exception of Vasoline. The most glaring omission to me, though, was Plush, the rock radio staple and the song that put STP on the map. Not sure how you pay homage to Core without including that little ditty.

I can’t say that I regret my decision to attend this show. It was definitely an experience, especially in between songs when he would try to tell a story. Each time, it began lucidly, seemed like it was going somewhere, and then went down in flames. The whole show borught up more questions than it answered. How does a guy forget the words to his own songs and remember those from someone else? How does a setlist get written with deep tracks and covers, but without some of the biggest hits? How did I get through this entire post without accusing him of being drunk or high? Now, faithful reader, you see where my confusion came from. Did I enjoy myself at the show? At times, I would say yes. At others, I literally held my head in my hands. Would I go see him again? I don’t know. Maybe. I am naïve, after all.

Were you there? Have you had a similar experience at a different show? Let me know and we can share notes.

Setlist:

Wildabouts Jam (pre-Scott)

Crackerman

Wicked Garden

Paralysis

Naked Sunday

Creep

Jean Genie (David Bowie cover)

Kitchenware & Candybars

Where the River Goes

Mountain Song (Jane’s Addiction cover)

Big Empty

Can’t Stand Me Now (Libertines cover)

Still Remains

Interstate Love Song

Encore:

Roadhouse Blues (Doors cover)

Sex Type Thing

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Becoming a Better Blogger

I have long wanted a forum to get my thoughts about, and love for, music down “on paper,” as they say, and it’s looking like my high school history teacher’s prediction was wrong, and I won’t be the editor of Rolling Stone anytime in the near future. But don’t fret, my friends. For the benefit of the world, I’ve started this blog, and I don’t intend to put my proverbial pencil down anytime soon. While my mind churns with a plethora of ideas, I struggle to determine which ones are worthy to make it on to the page. During this process, I’ve learned a handful of things, from reader feedback and from my own research, which brings me to my first tip. You need a title that will make people want to read on. This goes for the blog itself and for each individual post. It needs to grab the audience and draw them in. My titles, thus far, have all incorporated an alliterative theme, repeating the first letter of each word, or at least most of them. Have you noticed this about my posts? If you haven’t, then perhaps I need to consider a different strategy. Another reason to focus on your title is that, according to About.com’s Marketing folks, “search engines love blog titles.” (http://bit.ly/XjpeZZ) You definitely want search engines on your side when you’re trying to gain an audience and drive traffic to your blog.

My next piece of advice comes from feedback I’ve been receiving from the kind folks that have been reading my posts. I’ve heard this from more than one reader, too, so I’ve been actively trying to act on it. Be yourself and write like you talk. This may be different for everyone, and it will also depend on your subject matter, but the base idea will stay the same. Use your inherent skills to your advantage. If you’ve got a reputation for having a great sense of humor, let that show in your posts. If your friends think you’re funny, maybe the world will too. On another hand, if you’ve got a passion for charts and graphs, and they would be helpful to strengthen your message, you should definitely be incorporating them into your posts. This will help you out in a number of ways. Once you start to drive traffic and gain readers, you need to maintain those relationships, and you do that by being yourself, being genuine, gaining trust, and, as a result, keeping the audience coming back. Your posts shouldn’t read like a book report or encyclopedia entry. They need personality and should be one side of a conversation, encouraging your readers to become the other side.

My final tip is the result of a personal pet peeve, but it’s nice to see I’m not alone, as it made this list also (http://bit.ly/12mks27), which very simply states:,” Write well.” You are putting your thoughts down with the intention of sharing them with anyone on the planet who chooses to read them. That being the case, it should be fair for them to expect you to use proper grammar, complete sentences, and, at the very least, spell check. I always get a little chuckle when I reading an article or an actual printed book, and I find simple errors that should have been caught by any of the editors that almost assuredly reviewed it before it went to press or print. Remember, as a blogger, you probably don’t have your own editorial staff to review your work, but you most likely have the tools on your computer to do most of it for you. Please use them, (I look forward to comments pointing out any mistakes I’ve made in this or prior postings.)

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Image courtesy of Warpaint

What music-related blogs have I found, enjoyed and learned from? You may or may not have asked yourself that already. In either case, I will share. There are some great lists of blogs out there, for music and otherwise, including these helpful “Best Of” pages  (http://ti.me/161dG0C) and (http://bit.ly/15rtvfP). However, my favorite that I’ve found, so far, is StereoGum. They have exactly the type of blog I would like mine to become. They’ve got music news, concert reviews, interviews, and music to sample. They’ve got some catchy section titles, too, including my favorite: “Shut Up, Dude” (http://bit.ly/YMPhXE ), which is a collection of the week’s best and worst comments.

In short, blogging is an art form, but can be helped along with some basic tips, some of which I was able to impart here, and others that I could have continued on with for pages and pages. The key is to get your audience engaged and keep delivering on that time and time again. How else are you going to keep them coming back?

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