Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Big Bang

All promotion is physics. Promotion is concentrated force at a point of attack. Promotion is the exploitation of time-space.


Gradualism is how everybody in the lit-biz does things. It’s the slow road. Usually it doesn’t get you very far. The universe consists of a lot of gradualism, but was created with a Big Bang.


The promoter needs to punch a hole in the universe, or at least in the culture. Ideally he should not punch, but blast the hole. With the ULA we didn’t jump through the hole fast enough. The dilemmas of time-space.


In this hypercompetitive world, extreme bravado is required. Lady Gaga-type bravado. Spotting an opening and having the bravado to move into time-space.

Promotion means seeing the field and doing the obvious.

Friday, December 24, 2010

More Beatles Thoughts

AFTER FIGURING OUT the amazing promotion and packaging of the Beatles, which helped make them the biggest p.r. phenomenon ever, there remains the question of their music. What about their music worked—and led, with the other elements, to Beatlemania?

First, for all the borrowings, the music was unique. Or, unique enough. It was presented to American audiences as like rock n’ roll, but different. That the band was foreign and looked foreign enabled this. Their first American hit, “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” sounded like no other rock/pop song that had come before it. It also presented a kind of “power pop” wall of sound which got the listeners attention.

Second, the music fit the needs of the target audience, which was, for the most part, sixteen year-old girls. The ballads of the band—the “lilting lament”—added just enough romantic softness to balance the band’s “big beat.” The Romantic and even medieval aspects of the Beatles and other early rock n roll acts was part of the great appeal. This is a key point. Another is that it didn’t matter if Lennon-McCartney were considered by peers and critics to be good musicians, songwriters, or even very good rock n rollers—as long as sixteen year olds believed they were, to whom everything the Beatles did was new and profound, and remained so.

The Beatles from the start mixed necessary elements, from upbeat fun (“I Wanna Be Your Man”) to soulful melancholy (“There’s a Place”) and everything in between.

New Pop fiction will likewise have to do all of this.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Why the Beatles?

Why the Beatles? What about them caused a huge cultural mania, an international breakout, instead of other bands? Their sound? Their manager?

This is a question I continue to ask. Why them, and not the Dave Clark Five-- Clark was an astute entrepreneur-- or the Shadows, or the Tremeloes-- who got the Decca contract the Beatles did not-- or so many others? Why them? That's the puzzle to be solved.

A Better Mousetrap

When I was creating the Underground Literary Alliance, I threw away the idea of a "better mousetrap" as far as the art itself went. I saw that writers thought all they had to do is write, and the world would find them. Editors and readers would "beat a path" to their door. The notion is clearly false.

I've come around to an extent, however. I now realize that, while promotion is all, you still need, in this hypercompetitive society, a better product. I'll have a few more words about that coming up.

Monday, December 13, 2010


There can be no one template for the new pop short story. It will require a half-a-dozen different templates. What they’ll have in common is being recognizable as pop; a noticeable break with the accepted model of the contemporary.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Understanding the Beatles

The thing to understand about the Beatles is that they were, indeed, mostly hype. The ultimate successful p.r. campaign. The critic who early on called them “70% hype, 25% hair, and 5% lilting lament” was more on than I’m sure even he would later admit. The Beatles were a good rock band, with personality and a unique look. They also had a great ability to churn out a mass number of new pop songs, which fed the hype. Time/space.

It’s to the Beatles credit that they struggled heroically to live up to the publicity, continually reinventing themselves in the process. Thanks to help from George Martin, they seemed to succeed at this. Their art appeared to be revolutionary. In some studio technical aspects it partly was.

When they did stadium shows, the Beatles noticed that the crowds weren’t there for the music. They were there for the event; for the show. The show! The would-be promoter can’t lose sight of this, or fully believe, about the art he creates, his own hype.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Billion Dollars

There’s a billion dollars on the sidewalk waiting for someone to pick it up.

It won’t even be that difficult. It would take a few years of very very hard work, then the momentum will take care of itself.

How can I say this? I answer with a question: Why was it so relatively easy, once he saw the open road, for Brian Epstein to create the phenomenon of the Beatles? Or for that matter, for a closer analogy, how does one explain Lady Gaga? Luck? But in both cases it wasn’t luck. It was making the right moves.

I look at early rock because that was the kick-off point. From 1955 to a little after 1980, the music industry multiplied in size and sales many times over. Pop music in its various forms became an integral part of everyone’s life. A huge success story.

My goal is to double or triple the literary biz. Very doable. There’s a great deal of untouched, unexplored territory. People who aren’t regular readers. You have to have ways, of course, to reach these people. You don’t do it by hitting them with Franzen’s “Freedom.” You instead need a product that’s cheap, fast, and very exciting.

The alternative is to try to squeeze in your little burger stand on an overdeveloped street where there’s already a few dozen. Or really, many times that..