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Archive for October, 2010

Recently, I stumbled on an article that spoke briefly about The Johnny Cash Project, a website that is currently collecting portraits of the late country music icon to make a video for the final studio recording he made. The unfinished video for “Ain’t No Grave” is available for streaming on the website, and is already very cool. This concept of fan interaction is of course easy for an artist of Cash’s stature. The power of his music and persona makes it possible for people to contribute to a project like this almost a decade after his death. But, this concept isn’t necessarily exclusive to big name acts like Cash— or at least it shouldn’t be.

Ever since the social media phenomenon began its stranglehold on music marketing, all I’ve been saying is interaction, interaction, interaction. If an artist can find a creative– if not monetarily significant– way to interact with the people that love their music, that bond can only get stronger. Although the idea of “breaking the fourth wall” is a little imprecise in this context, it is a conceivable way to think about it. Artists don’t have to be these untouchable heavyweights (or prima donnas like a lot of young acts are these days). But rather, take themselves less seriously and try to gain something from their fans that isn’t just dollar bills and/or blog posts.

In the Johnny Cash Project’s case, it was the fans who took the initiative and created some tributary art. And that raises an even bigger question of importance in the Fan/Artist relationship—and who is more important— but that’s neither here nor there. I just believe that this Project is a great example of fans showing some creative love for their fallen hero, and if young artists/fans can follow in a similar direction, that fourth wall won’t seem so unbreakable after all.

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Converse, the company that basically invented Hi-Tops and whose shoes have been worn by nearly every rock band since the 70s, anounced earlier this week its plans to open up a recording studio. Converse Rubber Tracks, which will open in Brooklyn (duh) hopefully by the end of the year, is being operated by Cornerstone, a New York based media and marketing company that has a history of patronage within the arts. The studio will be recording mostly underground artists that will be competing with each other — via demos and local buzz— for studio time. And the best part about the studio is that they’ll be recording the artists for free, with hopes of positive recognition for the company by the artists, as well as from the entire underground community.

For a company like Converse, who is by no means in financial trouble, this is a smart move. They’re using a model (recruiting underground artists and using their ‘cool’ to the company’s advantage) that has already proven to be successful by companies like Levi’s, Apple and VW. For the most part, those companies have used this niche indie artistry in their advertising and marketing campaigns; with this studio, Converse is taking this model one step further by actually saving the artists money, while simultaneously giving media exposure to both sides.

This will no doubt establish good business relationships between younger artists and the company, and Converse is smart for reinforcing a cultural bond that has been pretty strong since the 70s. So, with Converse Rubber Tracks, we have a situation whose good intention is pretty hard to argue with, and the short term and no-artistic-control deals that Converse will be handing out should also abolish any “sell-out” chatter. Well done, boys.

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