Rock and Roll is Dead

Barney and the rest of the band are in this little cocoon where the label feed them information that makes them feel like they are special and are ‘going to be huge’ if only they do x y and z. But nobody ever says ‘you guys are massive, relax, it’s all cool’. 

Rock and Roll is Dead -- Steve Lawson

Rock and Roll is Dead — Steve Lawson

I am deadly serious about us having fun. — Michael Franti

Music is more precise than words — Igor Stravinsky

To pub musicians, everywhere. Especially those longing for an escape route… — Steve Lawson

This is unbelievably bad. Steve Lawson is an excellent musician, writes an excellent blog that is a joy to read, and yet Rock and Roll is Dead is turgid crap, it would make 50 Shades of Crap look like a good read, plus it is an e-book and I find no joy in reading e-books.

Or at least that was my initial reaction.

But that criticism to one side, it does contain good ideas, and that is really what it is, a book of ideas, only the format is wrong. He should have written something along the lines of Manual of the Warrior of Light, a suitable summary, followed by the details.

We start with a band that does pub gigs. They wake up one day thinking is this life, is this really what we want to do for the rest of our lives, plays gigs in pubs, the same old crap night after night to bored punters who do not give a toss?

That is the dilemma, a career in music, but what is that career. Is it playing night after night the same old crap, or is it playing what you enjoy playing, even if it is not your day job?

The drummer seems to have got it right, he plays drums, but also does IT, he enjoys both and does not have to worry abut money. When the music is slack, he does more IT, when he is playing music, he is doing it for the joy, he is not having to worry how is he going to pay the bills.

So where do they go from here? Instead of practice, they jam, try out a few ideas, see where it goes.

Then Gem throws a spanner in the works, a chance to go on tour with a band as a backing musician.

The dialogue is incomprehensible. As though written for a low budget film no one will watch.

In fact it actually reads like a script for a stage play, and would make a very good stage play.

A bit like The Archers, every day story of country folk with thrown into the story line advice on farming. Except this is an every day story of music folk.

Weird. Dialogue, sms text messages, ….

It was the weirdness that kept me reading. At first it was, it cannot be this bad then the weirdness.

What is success? What is music?

Is success being on X-Factor. Is music what is in the Top Ten?

Much of what people like, or what they think they like, is actually dictated to them, in the same way as fashion is.

Why do not people dabble, try out different music, see where it leads them, find out what they really like, not follow the rest of the lemmings.

Is success selling lots of records, being on a record label?

What is great about a record label that criminalises the people who may like your music, that wants to see them punished if they share your music with their friends, that rips you off big time because they were able to con you into a contract when you were too naïve or maybe too desperate to know or care what you were signing, but sold you a myth that does and never has existed?

Rock and Roll is Dead does for music what The Winner Stands Alone did for fashion or Two Caravans did for industrial food or Dickens did to expose the Victorian underclass.

“Very little that’s happening in rehearsals is undermining my conspiracy theory. Barney and the rest of the band are in this little cocoon where the label feed them information that makes them feel like they are special and are ‘going to be huge’ if only they do x y and z. But nobody ever says ‘you guys are massive, relax, it’s all cool’. There’s always more pressure, more made up shit to try and get them to strive further and inevitably to OK more expense that the label can take out of their advance for the album, that’s already over budget, apparently. They really do have the shittiest deal ever. They make the Stone Roses look like Ani DiFranco I can’t believe that a bunch of guys in their 30s would have bought into all this crap.”

There is nothing wrong with playing what other people have written, but focus on good, not correct.

When Jimi Hendrix performed All Along the Watchtower, he did not slavishly follow the original.

I heard a jazz quartet play a tribute to Blue Note, but they improvised.

Shadowboxer play their own stuff, but when they play other stuff, they use their own interpretation and do a better job than the original.

Or Crypt Covers, recorded literally in a crypt.

The Crypt Cover Project once a month invites musicians down into the crypt and within a day they record a song and get it on-line the next day. The song selections are crowd sourced, then random selection used for the final choice.

All bands need is a blog, and twitter, and if they record anything then release it on bandcamp. My Space is for losers, you do not need a record label. And please if you do upload something to youtube or vimeo, do not upload what your mate recorded on his phone at your gig in the pub, cos it looks and sounds crap. And if you do blog and use twitter, please not juvenile drivel. If you have something interesting to say, folks will sit up and take notice, they may then be tempted to listen to your music, they may even buy it, turn up at a gig.

If you have a website, it doesn’t need everything bar the kitchen sink. It has all that crap because some web designer has conned you into paying for it. And please, do not auto play your music.

I talk to musicians, and they say we know best, we are on all these different sites, we are not interested, you can play music on our own website, you can download. And know what, when I look, it is crap.

The ending is The Devil Wears Prada, the book not the film, where the record label is told to go and fuck themselves, but you knew that anyway.

Rock and Roll is Dead is essential reading at every music college, and especially for every X-Factor wanna be. And as it says in the book, there is more to life than Simon Fuckin Cowell, who has done more single handed to destroy music than anyone. If it is not on your reading list, ask why?

If you know anyone dumb enough to sign for one of the major record labels, tell them to read Rock and Roll is Dead, then talk to a lawyer.

Except music is not dead, it is alive and kicking, what is dead is the major record labels, it just has not got through to them yet.

What I found as interesting as the book, was the way in which it is being distributed. Originally given away as a free PDF file, Steve Lawson has published on LeanPub, yeah I know, sounds more like a pub than a publisher.

I have felt for some time there is a need for a platform for e-books and writers and publishers what bandcamp does for music. It is not a good as bandcamp, but the best I have seen so far.

I do not know if what applies to Rock and Roll is Dead is true for all their books.

A minimum price is set. But you do not have to pay it. You can move a slider up and down. You can pay more, you can pay less. Whatever you choose it tells you how much is going to the writer (90% less a nominal fee). You can choose more than one copy. You can download in multiple formats. If you do choose zero, because you do not know what you are buying if you like, I assume there is nothing to stop you going back and downloading again, this time paying. You can share with your friends, similar to the share button on bandcamp. If you do not like a book, you can get a 100% refund, but it would seem a lot easier, to down load free, then if you like, download again and pay (which is only fair as the writers have to earn a living).

The share is nowhere as good as bandcamp. Ideally a share button, with one click post onto a facebook wall, and the ability to add comments.

The embed does not work either. If it did, it would appear here and it doesn’t.

As I was reading Rock and Roll is Dead, I discussed it with my lovely friend Annie. A bit of a one way discussion as I would not tell her what I was reading, but she was intrigued, and wanted in.

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One Response to “Rock and Roll is Dead”

  1. Andrew Clayton Says:

    I can’t say I found the dialogue that bad to be honest, and reading it on my eReader it made sense. Mind you, I have a thing for narrative flow which this book satisfies in a big way.

    Leanpub is a great idea in principle, and it seems to be perfectly decent in fact.

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