Friday, June 27, 2008

The Nick Hornby Influence

I've been noticing a trend in books by male authors about their work experience: they all must must be faithful fans of High Fidelity. I can site two recent reads: Then We Came To The End and Rock On. One tackles working in the high tech sector as the Internet bubble is bursting, the other captures the end of big spending at a major record label. Both try to inject the humor that Nick Hornby does so well, but it seems forced in both books. Rock On depicts Dan Kennedy's year and a half in the marketing department at Atlantic Records circa 2003. Although the names have been changed to monikers like Ms Chocolate Chip or Rush Hair, I recognized some of these people from my time managing Athenaeum. His depiction of a label marketing meeting seems pretty accurate. An executive tried to pump everyone up on the latest signing who is there to perform for the staff. Everyone has to look interested and excited, whether they like the band or not. Granted everyone is not going to like every act, but it did seem like too many artists were getting signed on the strength of one and only one song, therefore, lacking substance. It's hard to rally behind that. I remember going into meetings at Warner Brothers around 1992 when the people that worked there couldn't wait to tell you what was coming out and how you had to have an advance of this record and pay attention to this new artist. At this time they released: Kiko by Los Lobos, Automatic for the People by REM, Blood Sugar Sex Magik by the Red Hot Chili Peppers to name a few. Warners was THE place to be if you were a musician. That creative spirit was slowly squashed.

The author does a good job of pointing out the absurdity of the Jewel video Intuition. I hadn't seen the video, but of course it's on YouTube and he's right, it's absurd. There is a lot of truth in his book about what when on at the labels and it held my interest as I knew the players. I felt that Dan Kennedy tried a little to hard to add his Nick Hornby to this book-there are plenty of lists- and it just didn't connect the way High Fidelity did. If you want insight into a microcosm of the influence of last days of the major labels, this might be the book for you.

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