Sunday, 9 September 2007

Folksy but Fake

You've got to wonder why this is 'okay'.

Last week it was revealed by the Wall St Journal that Marie Digby, the girl made successful by Youtube homemade videos with 2.3 million views has been signed with Hollywood records since 1995. Whereas on her myspace page until last week (when the label announced 'just' signing her) it said she had 'Type of label: None".

I know how it works culturally; she's pretty, the videos look and sound good and now she's famous and faking things is in some ways quite sophisticated, almost transgressive (like the banned video ruse)... so she's 'the next lonely girl fifteen' and any criticism and feeling betrayed is more than balanced by the fact she is a star.

But I dont know why it works legally. Isnt it blatant dishonest advertising. Not even the grey area of her blogging that ""I NEVER in a million years thought that doing my little video of Umbrella in my living room would lead to this . tv shows, itunes, etc !!!" when it's a two years in the making viral campaign by her label. But the outright lie of saying she had no label...?

I believe the technical term for this approach is astroturf (fake grassroots). The accepted line is it doesnt work. But apparently it does. Now YouTube will be inundated with fake (ie real, high quality, major label-grade) folk acts. And in a dramatic twist a 'real' (ie crap, unsigned) one will be 'exposed' as a fake, creating a paradoxical hit. And so on.

There's a real question lurking in here somewhere which is, should the media which are (only apparently) uncorporate and created by the people be exposed to corporate manipulation. Wikipedia thinks not and is rooting out PRs writing product puff pieces, a task made easier presumably by now being able to trace and track the source (the CIA on wikipedia story). If YouTube can remove anti-islam videos, pornography & so on, why not videos from 'fake real people'? just a thought - although the place where the most blatant lying was done was MySpace, but same argument applies. If when advertising something in the classifieds you fail to mention you are trade rather than a private individual I believe you can actually be prosecuted. Does MySpace constitute a classified advertisement...?

I'm going to put up a myspace page soon with some music I've been making over the summer in lieu of blogging (sorry about that but everyone needs a break sometime). I am not remotely tempted to invent a fake biography that rivals fatboy slim. Well okay remotely tempted, but I cannot tell a lie.


from wsj


Phil said...

You got to question the advice she's been getting from her record company. They should have considered the possibility that their guerilla strategy might work and that there would be a lot of media interest. Pretty naive really.

Still, nice to see that folk music is so popular again - remember that piece you did last year on folksy culture?

David MacGregor said...

Aside from the fact that the performer adds nothing significantly improved over Jewel's style (is that over 10 years ago?) one thing bothers me about this story…

I recently reviewed a book for Idealog magazine called The Cult of the Amateur. The premise is that media should be left to people who know what they are doing - the pros. The democratisation of media is, according to Andrew Keen, the book's author, destroying culture and the economy. I couln't agree less. Changing - yes. Killing no.

Here's the thing. When the pro's behave under the guise of being amateur it subverts the premise entirely. Professionals, apparently know what they are doing. I'm not so sure.

I have yet to encounter a marketing client who 'gets' web 2.0. I still get requests to make something 'viral'.
Often the thing to be spread is little more than an ad. The pros know. Yeah, right.

Anyone who has read the classic book abut he music industry wil hardly be surprised by these kinds of shenanigans. It is an industry that has always used desperate underhand methods - and simply crummy ones too (like giving a Cadillac to a black performer in the 60s as reward for a hit -the rental company would take it back a few days later …and don't even get me started on payola.

David MacGregor said...

Sorry forgot to add book titleHit Men
by Frederic Dannen - 4.5 out of 5 on Amazon