Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The thicke end of the wedge

Much has been made of Robin Thicke’s indifferent album sales figures, hundreds in this country as opposed to hundreds of thousands for his last effort. We all love a bit of schadenfreude but the sheer quantity of glee could easily be pronounced professional trolling (by proxy?).

Politically-correct commentators seem keen to attribute his downfall to the backlash against the divisive ‘Blurred Lines’ and its borderline-‘rapey’ lyrics and dated misogynistic video but this is unlikely to be the case. The backlash started early and did nothing to diminish the vast sales of that mega-track or its accompanying album. If anything they contributed to its all-encompassing vastness. The well-deserved criticism also seems to have done little harm to the global domination of song-collaborator Pharrell yet Thicke gets to wear it like a crown of thorns.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Extreme indifference

Earlier this month I was at The Cornbury Festival where, for the past four years, I’ve helped in organising and managing The Absolute Radio Comedy Emporium. I also named it, casually ignoring the minor details of archaic terminology and factual accuracy.

In that four year period I have worked with the comedian & writer Max Dickins and, through a process of trial and error, we finally seem to have got the balance right. We put on family-friendly comedy and cabaret during the day and bigger names/upcoming talent later on. In one of this year’s cabaret segments we’d booked Phil Blackmore, a juggler who had appeared on Britain’s Got Talent. As he specialises in dangerous juggling acts – barbed wire wrapped baseball bats, chainsaws and fire, sometimes whilst riding a unicycle – we described him as an ‘extreme juggler’ and promoted his 3pm Sunday appearance around the festival site.

This ‘promotion’ resulted in a few people seemingly making a special effort to get over to the tent by 3pm which was lucky as he started slightly early with the fire juggling. He then proceeded to do a dangerous-looking trick with a Samurai sword, a bowling ball and a jelly baby whilst making a few jokes with the audience. He’d been on-stage about ten minutes when a woman left her seat in the marquee and made her way over to the steward by the entrance. She paused and asked ‘Do you know what time the extreme juggler is on?’

I tell you this partly to amuse and astound but also to indicate that clearly some things are not as obvious to everyone as they may be to you. You can make a mistake in under-estimating the audience but also in over-estimating them.

This is partly why marketing exists, the fundamental belief is that it is there to create a desire for something you didn’t know you needed, but it’s also there to remind you of what you’re getting. If an MC had come on stage at five minute intervals during Phil’s act shouting about how great the extreme juggling was then it might have achieved two things – it would’ve hyped up the audience and resolved that woman’s doubts.

Hype and signposts, that’s what it’s all about, you can survive without them but you may not excel. You can be as creative as you like, a true original, one of a kind but unless you (or someone else) are shouting about it then few will get to find out.

It’s a lesson not easily learned and often fairly difficult to achieve. Can you stand above the crowd without stepping on the heads of others? Sadly talent in itself is not enough, you may not believe the hype but you definitely need it.
 
When the chips are down, are you extreme enough.....