We took an extended weekend holiday with the family, and since we have an 11 & 14 year old, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame seemed like a fun destination we all would enjoy. I have to say I got WAY more out of it than I ever thought. I got some perspective on where the music industry has been and where its going, and what it still seems to be missing, at least from a social media/web 2.0 perspective.
One of the more interesting parts was a movie giving an overview of the evolution of Rock & Roll. This is a two-part video, about 20 minutes total in length. The second half, which featured artists like Bono, Neil Young, Ann Wilson from Heart, and others talking about fame and what it was like to be a rock & roll star. Neil Young said “It’s better to burn out than fade away”, placing a lot of perspective on those who have died young from the Rock lifestyle.
But one of the more interesting bits was Ann Wilson talking about how the rise to fame is meteroic, with little time to think, but once you get there, you then have to figure out what to do, what to do next, and that’s often when the emotional problems coupled with the temptations can do people in. This resonated with me, as I see the people who started podcasting and playing with digital media in all forms four to five years ago, continue to try to evolve and reinvent themselves and the technology. Many people thought the attention was what they wanted more than anything else- to be heard and to be influential- and then they find this influence is more complicated than they ever anticipated. Our analogy at Podcamp that everyone is a rockstar may turn out to be more true than we ever thought- but does anyone realize what being a rockstar is really going to be like before they actually get there?
Another interesting bit was to hear Bono talk about being uncomfortable with the spotlight, and deciding to shine that light on others, on worthy causes, that seem to deserve the attention more. His words and tone conveyed to me not only an intent to try to change the world both through the language of music and the exchange of ideas, to try to make bigger change now that he had control of a microphone, but also of a discomfort with adulation and attention. It sounded like he uses his fame for good in part to take the pressure off himself and to dissipate the glare of the spotlight, and that the bigger issues he deals with are more important than himself.
Coming off the non-stop 24 x 7 media coverage of Michael Jackson’s death, seeing video of Michael and his brothers at the very beginning, you can look at Michael’s life as being a textbook example of how difficult fame and notoriety can be. Sitting currently about a mile away from Any Warhol’s museum, the man who coined the phrase “In the future, everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes”, it seems like fame is not something always to be wished for, because few people seem to wear it well, and for many, it’s a recipe for self-destruction under the weight of constant public scrutiny.
I don’t think there are any clear cut answers here at all. I don’t know if anyone ever successfully puts the fame genie back in the bottle. It is interesting to watch the rockers and rebels of my youth age and gain perspective, and at the heart of it, music is a business like any other, and even the creatives at the top of their game struggle with what comes next.
The most poignant moment in this Price of Fame theme was the Pink Floyd exhibit, where Roger Waters speaks about how Pink Floyd’s The Wall was really all about the band’s dealing with how fame was changing them- how having people claw at them, and Roger Waters finding himself once spitting on a fan, becoming appalled at his own behavior, spawned the idea of the wall and how do we separate us and them.
Lots to think about, especially how this affects the new generation of stars in all sectors.