The Hot Air Balloon

Pay heed, O ye artists: The next time you choose to foist another of your “projects” upon the world, don’t start off with a bio which reads like this: “The Whores of Babylon are an eclectic collective of musicians forging unique sounds and charting hitherto undreamt of frontiers with their groundbreaking blend of electronica and jazz“. Using words like “eclectic” automatically qualifies you for a cunt; besides – I don’t know if it’s ignorance, or hubris, or both – carrying on about yourself like that won’t make you any friends, not if you haven’t the beans to show for it.

First. Stop bigging yourself up. Nobody cares about you or your record, and they won’t no matter how many adjectives you throw in. I’m not a pothead left-wing hippie, and I don’t think of “marketing” as an ugly word – it’s crucial, as it happens – but it involves knowing clearly what you want to achieve. The only people who fall for press-kits are the pubs and the press; the music press in India doesn’t shape tastes, and never will, and playing the pub circuit won’t get you any farther than the dinner-and-drinks uncles and aunties. You should be working on subverting that whole system instead, and trying to win the love of those people who might like an evening out, but can’t necessarily tell between jazz and R&B. (If you want the NME to fawn over you, on the other hand, then heaven help your provincial near-sightedness.)

Second. Selling your wares involves competing spiritedly: You’re supposed to be fighting for a slice of the plebs’ attentions against the movies and the IPL, things that normal people actually care about. Putting up egomaniac writeups on Facebook is the opposite of selling to the public. A designer logo, a name card on handmade paper, and forty days and forty nights of weeping over the correct choice of font is all very well, but unless your music actually catches the ear, and unless you keep churning out stuff steadily enough to hold interest, you’ll condemn yourself to failure. This will either be the blatant failure of jaded middle-age, with your friends patting you on the back and telling you what a bad country this is that doesn’t recognise your genius, or failure of the more subtle kind – like what has happened to Peter Cat or the F-16s – wherein you’re stuck in a closed loop, playing the same set in the same clubs, over and over, for the same praise from the same journalists, all of whom have your cool punk-rock logo bumper sticker on their cars, whilst the rest of the world carries on oblivious.

Pop musicians in India spend way too much time thinking about, writing about, and – eventually – whining about themselves. And they do this instead of putting real work into the tiresome business of making records, which is why not a single group has broken its way out of the bog of pothead fuck-ups who consider themselves fit to dictate tastes to the country. And this, hand in hand with the pretty young things fresh from college, who prance about inventing “business models” and new ways of “monetising” music, not one of whom have been able to think beyond the narrow limits of the pubs-and-festivals-and-music-magazines scene, the whole lot too either too stupid, or too caught up in themselves to do anything more than rehash the same broken ideas about what they can build, or who they can reach.

If that’s the highest form of success you can imagine, you may as well dream about death.


4 thoughts on “The Hot Air Balloon

  1. I’d also sleep with you in a heartbeat, but there’s no knowing if you’re male or female so that thought has to be put to rest. Killer article. Went straight to the heart of the problem which is the musician-with-a-glass-ceiling

  2. From the house of Peter cat since 2011 there have been the following releases

    Pcrc albums
    Wall of want

    Lifafa album ‘lifafa’

    Jamblu ‘depth training’

    Begum album to debut by jan

    And for their live shows I know for a fact they just play the best songs cuz the audiences ain’t that aware/tasteful.

    Easier to talk than walk my boy.

    1000 kisses for you

  3. I’ve been following your blog and the bands you frequently mention for a long time now. I know I can always count on your posts for a good laugh (that only good writing can bring about), but very rarely, if ever, for insight or originality of thought. I suspect you believe your opinion on the scene (as they call it) is brutally honest, so I thought you deserve the same:

    Independent bands (not “indie”) don’t and should not have to “fight for a slice of the “plebs’” (the irony of your anti-elitism) attentions against the movies and the IPL”. “Trying to win the love of those people who might like an evening out” will get them nowhere, because my (and my friends’) idea of a good night out is watching a band play their own music and say “this is who we are, fuck you if you’re not into it” rather than “try to win my love”. The Ska Vengers are alright for a laugh, but if I want to listen to a real good, “independent” band, I’d be forced to look elsewhere. Calling yourself a ska band because one guy in the band plays that tchang- tchang ska rhythm, and another fellow plays the role of the indian counterpart to the guy in the specials, does not make you one. That’s merely a marketing gimmick. Playing an Elvis Presley song simply because your audience looks like Elvis fans is perfectly alright; on the other hand, it’s utterly idiotic if you do so while calling yourself an “independent” band, or worse, a “rock n roll” band.

    I’m not a pothead left-wing hippie who thinks of marketing as an ugly word either, but making a grave, grand statement such as “nobody cares about your record, it won’t matter” just because a hundred people listen to it as opposed to a whopping gazillion Stones record buyers, is ridiculous. The Stones aren’t a great band because of their billion fans (they’re.. no they were* great IN SPITE of that), they’re great because their music is strong enough to mean a lot to the people who invest their time, effort and money in it. I speak for myself when I say PCRC are great, they have the ability to do same. I expect music fans and music writers to think and speak for themselves, rather than try to guess (that’s all it ever amounts to) what everyone else is on about, because THAT is what I consider a healthy scene. A healthy scene has nothing to do with numbers and stats. When I sit down and listen to Peter Cat, I know I’m listening to a great fucking record. What’s that have to do with their poor marketing strategies? Would you prefer a slick little bon jovi or foo fighters to a ramones or a sex Pistols? A real band?

    What our independent scene needs is more imagination and honesty. You can’t fool anybody by pretending you’re the next Jagger, foolishly aping his moves (on-stage and off, when he’s marketing guru/ neo-fascist, SIR MICK), won’t turn you into the next Rolling Stones. Any real rock n roll fan knows and understands this, as do the handful of decent bands around. If I’m sitting down to write a record, I shouldn’t have to worry about how many people are going to buy it, because that’s the only way I’m ever going to write a good record.

    I mean if my only idea of success is to make it to the cover of NME, being globally acknowledged as a band that’s made it, I may as well dream about death.

    And I do.

    (Actually, I used to. Now I’m already dead and turning in my grave. It’s small and uncomfortable.)

    Right, on that note, I’ll be off to market myself as the new Mark Prindle for folks who want to spend a jolly good evening on the internet.

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