The Artist On The Rise – The Seriousness of Comedy pt 2 of ?

I watched Fred Armisen’s Stand Up For Drummers and it kind of solidified a “theory” I’ve had rattling in my brain for the past couple of months. My theory was just powder gelatin and now it feels more like a jello mold moments away from being finished and ready to consume.

I’ve talked to a few people about the special. Everyone has their thoughts on it but I think they are looking at it as it’s being packaged to us: A Stand Up Special. But it isn’t a stand up special*. It’s a night with Fred Armisen. The closest thing to generalize it with is a stand up special but this kind of labeling is reminiscent of when Metallica and Jethro Tull both went up for a Grammy for Heavy Metal more than 20+ years ago (which Jethro Tull won).

What I took from the entire thing, other than the fact that Fred is a brilliant reverse engineer of character nuances, is that we are in a dawning of the return of the artist.

For as long as pop songs began to have a formula, the business man has been looking for the outline of perfect hits. If you’ve ever read the script writing book, Save The Cat, you know exactly what I mean (and you know how hard it is to just watch a movie after reading it). The minute millions of dollars could be made off of talent and art is the moment that business men searched for a playbook to cash in on it. Boy bands, kid’s movies, family sitcoms, so on, are all products of some supposed golden formula that pays off pretty big, pretty quickly if you hit all the right marks.

So the formula was find an artist, shape them into the golden plan that has been outlined, use your network influence to expose this artist and watch the money roll in.

Now, the artist still had to create the art to be seen. But you only had to make noise on a local level at the very least to prove your value. The big business man just had to put different clothes on you and expose you to the world. They got you the interviews, help you shoot the press kits and put you in all the right places to be exposed. Don’t get me wrong, this system is still in play and still works.

And for many years, that balance was sufficient. I develop my talent, you tell your audience how talented I am and we make money (sometimes you get more than I know about but one day I’ll have a big enough audience to move on and maybe raise someone myself.)

So what changed? Social Media! The ultimate “chemical substance”. Much like ecstasy, acid, cocaine, basically any drug that can be manufactured, social media was almost a pill that if you mixed the ingredients right, you were cashing in on huge money with very little development cost. But much like those drugs, there really is no precise formula. There are all cut a little differently. Cooked by different minds. You could end up with the ultimate high or nothing that can be sold.

Since there is no real formula, business men leave it up to the artist to figure it out. Go get them hooked, show us the numbers than we can go into business. The artists are not the field workers cutting the coca plants, we are the drug maker, the mule and the dealer. Don’t get me wrong, it was a little bit like this before but you didn’t have to have half a million followers in order to just get a meeting.

The lazy business man is killing the old formula of developing an artist. Because not only do they not want to jump in and help, they use old play books to judge your process as if they are experts themselves. The lazy businessman is not an expert, he’s a fantasy league player. He has a head full of stats, stories, tips and examples that are not his own. He sponged these ideals off of coffee room chats, business lunches and reading online articles about how to be successful. He’s the guy that might not know the storyline of a movie but can tell you how much it made in the box office. Don’t get me wrong, it was a little bit like this before but the real experts still had to go into the field to get work.

So what does this all have to do with the title of the blog? Although it’s very frustrating to be an artist on the rise, the challenge is there and the reward is bigger for the artist. What the lazy business man doesn’t realize is that by making the artist go out completely on their own, develop and sell their product and amass millions of followers or fans is you are giving away your power as a business man. After the artist gets his audience, what does he need the lazy business man for? Especially when the lazy business man only has borrowed intelligence and the artist has actual field work done.

Social media has also created networks that are completely off the grid of traditional avenues of exposure. Twitch, Soundcloud, Instagram, Youtube are all advance versions of the mixtape, the bootleg video, the mom and pop shop. Then technology made everything easier. Final Draft, Premiere Pro, Frooty Loops, Pictogram, Viva Video. You studio is in your phone as a start up. The only thing that the lazy business man can provide is a connect to people with money. But with costs of everything going down and the reach a person with money has in finding this talent themselves, well where does that leave the purpose of the lazy business man.

What else has changed?

The fact that people don’t have to buy a full album to hear a hit. Platinum albums became harder to obtain because of the fact that people could buy the one single they love online. And after decades of being burnt on shitty formulaic songs, people understand the benefit of just buying one song. Oh no! You can’t have an album full of fillers anymore.

The documentary of Comedian of Comedy showed the grassroots benefit of just doing your own tour. It helps to have two people with a name that can get you some exposure but you don’t need the big venues. You don’t need Ticketmaster. Especially since stand up is getting more exposure every day. People know of it. Many scenes around the world are just under a decade old but that’s how vast this exposure has been. The boom of social media introduced countries that had no clue to what stand up comedy was and now they have their own stand up celebrities. So many niches started to get filled. Bye bye to the stand up formula. There is an audience for every type of comedy. You can even get as niche as shooting a stand up special only for drummers.

You want your whole album to sell, make it a concept album. DAMN by Kendrick Lamar. 4:44 by Jay Z. Remember when Beck sold an album as sheet music? Remember when Prince gave an album away in newspapers? Force the audience to buy and listen to each track to fully enjoy your art. Make each track exactly how you want it to be. Release music videos that would never fit on TRL. No need to censor your tracks anymore until you get asked to perform it on TV.

Get Out is a great example of a movie that probably would have been shut down by studios 10 years ago because it didn’t fit their play book.

I could go on.

Is there a downside to not having the checks and balances of the right business team? Yes and we’ve seen it recently with what happened to Logan Paul. But he still has most of his followers. Maybe gained a few more. Sure, he lost sponsors and Youtube has been holding his videos but the big checks are in the bank. And it cost him nothing to be Logan Paul. It cost nothing to start the Youtube Channel. It cost very little to just shoot and upload the beginning videos. If you calculate the profit versus the cost of everything he’s done online, you’d see a trajectory that only prescription companies get when they introduce a new drug.

Is there really a social media formula? There’s plenty of experts that claim there is. But “Chewbacca Mom” didn’t need a formula. “Selfie Kid” didn’t need a pitch meeting. “Damn Daniel” didn’t have an outline. “Tide Pods” did have a marketing team but they weren’t marketing it the way it’s being received now.

So how is the artist on the rise, Nick? Well, like I’ve told many of peers, since we are forced to go find out audience, we can try to imitate what is out there and ride the quick wave or we can develop our product, our artistry, our exposure exactly as we like and let the audience that we want in the first place find us. We can be NWA slinging cassettes out of a trunk. We can be Big Brother Magazine. We can be Super Meat Boy. We can be complete artists with our niche fans. I mean, it really doesn’t take much money to be happy with your art. But to be happy with your art is worth everything.

Need one more example: All the shitty DJs. There.

* To market something like what Fred Armisen did as a stand up special not only does nothing for his product, it also doesn’t help stand up. It’s like placing “Little Ms Sunshine” in the Comedy Movie Category next to “Duston Checks In” which coincidentally is what Netflix does a lot.

« « The Seriousness of Comedy (pt. 1 of ?) | She said… » »

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *