The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'self-promotion'
A few days ago, the hipster-electropop duo YACHT posted a plaintive note to their Twitter feed; the note announced, in a sombre, contrite tone, that, some years ago, the duo (Jona Bechtolt and Claire Evans, who are also a couple) had made a sex tape for their own use; now, apparently, someone had stolen it and posted it online. The note ended, imploring YACHT's fans to respect their privacy and not look at it.
Only there was no sex tape; or rather, there was a contrived promotional video for the latest single, “I Want To Fuck You Till I'm Dead”, from their last album. The whole exercise was a publicity stunt; the following day, they were to, with feigned resignation, put up a website supposedly selling their homemade sex video, though one which always gave an error at the time of payment; ultimately the truth would come out, and fans would push the album to the top of the Spotify charts, all the while praising the artists' clever, subversive conceit. It was to be, in their own words, “a slowly-unveiling conspiracy”, referencing The X-Files and The KLF*.
Unfortunately, they miscalculated. What they weren't counting on was the mass outpourings of public sympathy at them apparently having had the privacy of their intimate lives violated. It turned out that the public, by and large, weren't grabby jerks hungry for celebrity skin; they were strongly susceptible to what millennials call “the feels”, and almost painfully empathetic with their sorry heroes. Which was a problem, as, all of a sudden, YACHT had committed the offence of obtaining sympathy under false pretences. Not quite in fake-cancer-blogger territory, but the difference is a quantitative, rather than a qualitative, one. As the truth emerged, they issued a weaselly non-apology, followed a day later by a genuine apology, for both the stunt and the non-apology. But the damage was done. Perhaps ironically, the exercise has left YACHT revealing a bit more of themselves than is entirely flattering.
While this is the most problematic of YACHT's public projects so far, it didn't come from nowhere; they have form taking hot-button issues and using them as superficial aesthetic elements, much like extreme violence in a Quentin Tarantino film. Witness their most recent album, I Thought The Future Would Be Cooler; it was in this blog's records of 2015, and it is a finely crafted piece of infectiously fun chopped'n'screwed electropop, albeit with pretentions above its station. As its title suggests, it is somewhat of a concept album about technological ennui; the actual execution involves taking a number of ideas about how our high-tech world, you know, kinda sucks, and mashing them together, like a selfie-stick-era We Didn't Start The Fire; thus, the Snowden revelations and extrajudicial executions by drone are mentioned within a breath of crappy ads on the web, corny Internet-of-things gadgets and Tinder being a bit lame, like a focus-group brainstorming exercise of some sort. (Needless to say, there is no time to discuss, say, the issues of privacy or trust in the digital age, the potential implications of data mining, or whether, say, the internet's convergence into corporate-run proprietary silos is bad for human development, democracy or civil society; this is pop music, not a Cory Doctorow blog post. Onto the next snappy soundbite!) The whole point of the song is that our technological age kinda sucks, in a nonspecific way that anyone can agree with. It's pretty close to content-free and a brilliant piece of marketing.
And marketing is YACHT's stock-in-trade. They appear to be relentless self-marketers, classic Frommian Marketing Characters, chameleonically superficial, as sexy, edgy or profound as you read into them. To the Marketing Character, depth is a liability that compromises one's ability to self-promote. This superficial engagement with the world in the mode of marketing also jettisons any distinction between critique and complicity; we have seen this with their marketing tie-in with Uber, making their then-unreleased album streamable when surge pricing was in effect; which is on one level a criticism of Uber's exploitative business model, and yet isn't, any potential critique being defanged into mere “edginess” of the sort ad agencies have thrived on since the days of OK Soda in the grunge era. Yeah, Uber, surge pricing, it says, with an affected vocal-fry of exaggerated ennui: but hey, have a listen to this awesome album! And I'm sure the edgily back-handed endorsement didn't hurt Uber.
From surge pricing to leaked sex tapes may seem like a leap, but it's not a huge one; in both cases, newsworthy exploitation is used as a vehicle for self-promotion; in the latter, YACHT don't merely reference the exploitation, with an edgy ambiguity that is well SugaRAPE, but actively concoct it, leaping onto a topical issue (revenge porn) and using it as a marketing gimmick. But hey, there's no such thing as bad publicity, right?
* Let's see: The KLF came up with a formula for gaming the pop industry, used it to score a hit, then when invited to
Top Of The Pops the Brit Awards, got shock-metal band Extreme Noise Terror to play with them, and poured buckets of pig's blood onto fired blanks into the audience, and then finally incinerated a million pounds in banknotes, negating any business value their exploits may have had. I somehow can't see YACHT doing anything so gauchely self-destructive or blatantly anti-commercial.
Reports from the sleepy Pyrenées village of Bugarach, which, according to various mystics, was to be either the only place that survived the Mayan Apocalypse or the centre of the dawning of a new age of cosmic enlightenment. The village itself attracted the mélange of kooks, attention seekers and free-floating oddballs that one might expect:
As the village bells struck noon, the moment at which the Mayans had supposedly predicted the world would end, Sylvain Durif was calmly playing the panpipes for a vast crowd of jostling camera crews. "I am Oriana, I embody the energy of cosmic Christ," he said. "When I was five I was abducted by a flying saucer belonging to the Virgin Mary. I'm here to get my message to the world, that there will be a regeneration."
When two men dressed entirely in tin foil with silver bobbles on their heads walked into the village swigging beer, TV reporters immediately surrounded them. Aged 25 and 40, the men said they had driven down from Lille as a bet with friends that they could get on to the top of the world news bulletins. It worked.Meanwhile, some who weren't particularly concerned with matters cosmic or apocalyptic took this as an opportunity for self-promotion:
An American musician, Jeff, based in Belgium, had driven from Luxembourg and was planning to set up outside in the village and perform his act as a one-man piano and trumpet band. "I came because it's the only place in Europe anyone's talking about," he said, talking of an "astronomical event that should bring light to the world, open people up". He added: "I might get some gigs out of it."And now that the world hasn't ended, the ancient Mayans (who turned out to not be so cosmically enlightened after all) will once again be forgotten. Perhaps 21 December 2012's Mayan Long Count association will end up in the occasional pub quiz, or eventually as a marker of retro-ness in fiction set in the 2010s (Remember the 2010s? Wasn't that a wacky time, with brostep and iPads and stuff, and everyone thinking the world would end?), but otherwise it's unlikely that the peculiarities of the Mayan calendar will feature in public discourse again.
And now, interrupting regular (or even irregular) blogging to introduce a side-project I have recently been working on: The Postmodernism Generator for iPhone. This is an iPhone port of the venerable Postmodernism Generator, which has been around the web, in various forms, for a decade and a half. The iPhone edition runs on the same engine, albeit slightly extended and cleaned up (aside: stopping a 15-year-old command-line C program from leaking memory enough to run acceptably on a phone involves considerable work), with some improvements (you can adjust the target length of essays and, optionally, use surnames from your address book in authors' names). Additionally, the grammar has been updated somewhat, with new content (for example, it now knows about Lady Gaga, Slavoj Žižek and Quentin Tarantino films made after Jackie Brown); these changes will be ported to the web-based version shortly.
The Postmodernism Generator for iPhone is available from the App Store, here. It's priced at the lowest price point (US$0.99/£0.59/0,79€/AUD1.29), which gets you a virtually infinite cornucopia of dense verbiage at your command, with or without a network connection, for amusement, befuddlement or plagiarism*.
Note: The Null Device does not encourage the use of the Postmodernism Generator for plagiarism.
This past November, Your Humble Narrator participated in National Solo Album Month; a challenge similar to NaNoWriMo, only involving recording an album's worth of music in one month. This time around, miraculously, I managed to cross the finish line. Granted, much of the album is unpolished and, given more time, some of the tracks would have more work done on them, but that's expected for such things.
Anyway, the album is here.
Apparently a key difference between the British and the Americans is that Britain has eccentrics where America has exhibitionists:
The British enjoy eccentricity. Americans do not, because it is a quieter state, and to be quiet is to set oneself on the road to anonymity--arguably the condition from which Americans shrink most sharply. A good place to note this difference is in literature. I can think of no memorable eccentric character in American literature; yet from Ahab to Huck Finn, from the Cat in the Hat to Tom Wolfe's Rev. Bacon, there is no dearth of exhibitionists.
Those reading this in Sydney can hear an ambient electronica track put together by Your Humble Narrator whilst commuting on the London Underground, using only a personal organiser*. I am told that The Random Numbers' "Fluffy Space Rocket" will be making its Australian radio debut tonight (Sunday night) on Utility Fog, on FBi (94.5 MHz), sometime between 10pm and 1am.
* actually, a Palm Tungsten running Bhajis Loops.
I'm having an exhibition of digital photographs and autotraced prints thereof over the next month or so at the Empress Hotel, 714 Nicholson St., North Fitzroy. (Not a bad choice of venue; they also have some decent bands playing, fairly good food and Guinness on tap.) The exhibition is partly live-music themed, with a number of photographs from gigs, as well as some others. It opens this Sunday the 29th, and runs until the 26th of June.