Even More Imogen Heap

I’ve yet to listen to her new album.

But it wasn’t made for me.

It was made for her fans.

All the words written about Ms. Heap’s tweeting and YouTubing have focused on her marketing efforts.  She did it to sell her record.  Hell, you’ve got marketing blogs, seers deeply analyzing the effects, correlating them with SoundScan numbers, as if music were a sport, and you could boil all efforts down to statistics, a ranking of winners and losers.  But that doesn’t appear to be why Ms. Heap interacted with her fans on social networks, she did it because she was lonely, she needed the connection, she needed focus, she needed to be rooted and inspired.

The hysteria in the wake of the MTV-era gives the impression that musical artists are akin to the Hollywood royalty of yore, prancing around the world in fabulous clothing, leading a life of luxury.  You wonder why we’ve got shit music?  Blame people like Mariah Carey, who are busy being stars as opposed to people.  Even Michael Jackson…once he needed to outsell "Thriller", as opposed to making a great album, he was history.

And then there’s Jay-Z.  However great a rapper he might be, his audience reveres his business accomplishments.  They too want to grab a toehold in music and turn into a conglomerate.

But what has this got to do with artistry?

An artist creates because he has to.  Is willing to starve if his efforts don’t engender commercial success.  Historically, recording artists have been in bed with their record company, and radio and concert promoters, those left out of the loop were the audience, the paying customers.

A label’s interests often diverge from those of the artist.  The label wants something that sells, they don’t care if it’s goose farts, as long as people buy it.

Radio will blow smoke up your ass.

The concert promoter is one guy, who ultimately brings along thousands of faceless people.

What if you could suddenly have contact with these people?  Instead of thinking about the marketing opportunities, think about the emotional component.  Artists may execute in a vacuum, but they do so to be connected, to feel at one with the audience.  What if social networking fed the soul of the artist more than his bank account?

You don’t want to toil in oblivion.  You want reassurance that you’re on the correct path.  It’s not only sales numbers, but the reaction.  You gauge the excitement, the intensity…  Sometimes extreme negative reactions fuel the artist’s fire, he knows he’s challenging convention, but if no one reacts, he’s missed his mark.

In today’s "Wall Street Journal", Imogen Heap says she "needed to know people were there and waiting for it."  You write and record an album, go on the road to promote it and then…  Has the audience forgotten you?  You need inspiration to create new music.  "Tweeting and YouTubing made me feel like I was taking steps forward."  In other words, like in that old Dan Fogelberg song, the audience was helping Ms. Heap.  It was her surrogate boyfriend.

This is a harbinger of great music to come.  Instead of tools of the corporation being forced to render what gatekeepers will flog, that will generate instant revenue, true artists are being inspired by their fans, to continue to create, to test limits, to wow and fulfill them.

Every artist is concerned what the public thinks.  You’re almost never sure what you’ve done is any good.  Only by bouncing it off listeners can an artist know whether he’s on the right path.  Rather than take three years off to record an album no one wants, better to interact with your fans, take their temperature, gauge their reaction.  I’m not saying to bend your music to their desires, but only by hearing what someone has to say can you clearly define your path.

Bottom line is Imogen Heap was lonely, she needed companionship, help getting inspired and following through.  It’s only those who took business courses in college, who are desirous of becoming Internet entrepreneurs, of building a business on the backs of artists, who are focusing on the financial rewards.

It all comes down to the artist.  The artist leads the way.  We’re in a great era for artistry.  We’ll calculate winners and losers further down the road.  But right now, people are taking chances, they’re following their muse, knowing it’s possible to directly connect with their audience on the Internet.  Executives might say the lunatics have taken over the asylum.  I’d say the artist has rightfully reclaimed his place at the top of the pyramid.

One Response to Even More Imogen Heap


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  1. Pingback by First New Heap Video « Some Kind of Genius | 2009/08/29 at 19:56:50

    […] rambling about her example being the future (which I do truly agree […]

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  1. Pingback by First New Heap Video « Some Kind of Genius | 2009/08/29 at 19:56:50

    […] rambling about her example being the future (which I do truly agree […]

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