Category Archives: Commercial Success

I Live in Doubt

Duran Duran has been a very successful band in their almost forty year career.  One does not have to look far to see statistics backing up this claim.  Wikipedia states the following, “Since the 1980s they have placed 14 in the Top 10 of the UK Singles Chart and 21 in the US Billboard Hot 100 and have sold more than 100 million records.[1][2]“. 

If that wasn’t enough, Duran Duran has been nominated for countless awards and won many of them, including lifetime achievement awards.  In an industry in which many careers are short lived, this band has been around for decades showing their staying power.  Clearly, they are not content to just sit home and enjoy their rewards as they spend months writing and recording new albums.  They still tour the world selling out arenas.

Despite this success, I’m willing to bet that Duran Duran experiences self-doubt.  I’m thinking about those times in the studio when they are writing and recording new material.  At times, they might think that they have found the beginnings of a great track.  At other times, they might decide that they can’t create anything new that is worthy.  Then, I’m sure that looking at current charts or album sales might lead to self-doubt.  After all, they haven’t been as successful, commercially lately in comparison to the early 80s.  Does that get to them?  Does it bother them?  If so, how do they deal with these feelings of self-doubt?

I have been thinking about this a lot lately in my own life.  Over the course of my life, I can’t say that I have been successful with everything that I have done.  I’m not that lucky or that good, but I have usually been successful when it comes to school and work (as opposed to my social life).  As a kid, I figured that if I worked hard and studied a lot then the good grades and high praise from teachers would follow, which indeed was the case.  Other students saw me as “smart” and “articulate”.  Teachers recommended me for various tasks, usually not given to students.  Academics generally made me feel good about myself, which continued through college where I earned accolades as well as attention from peers and administrators for my political activism.

After college, I immediately began teaching, which is the reason that I’m in my 19th year of teaching now.  I grew up very quickly and took on responsibilities in my early 20s while my peers typically were exploring relationships and careers.  Instead, I laser focused on my teaching career, determined to be the best teacher ever.  After a rocky start, I found myself experiencing similar success as I did as a student.  Principals filled my evaluations with positive comments and many students declared that they liked having me as a teacher.

This feeling of success stretched into the political world as I began campaigning in earnest in 2008 resulting in good turnout and high votes for the candidates I campaigned for.  Even here, I felt successful more often than not.  Our numbers grew as time went by. On top of that, people attended our events and expressed satisfaction in doing so.  All of this resulted in a lot of confidence on my part, at least when it came to my work life.

While I never felt great about myself, socially, I always had work to fall back on.  Lately, though, my confidence with work has wavered.  I have a couple of classes that are making me question my skills as a teacher.  My campaign team this year is much smaller than the past years.  Likewise, I am not sure that as many people are reading our blog as before.  I get few comments on the ones that I do write.  Now, of course, I can give reasons for all of this.  My classes are unbalanced with too many tough kids in just two classes.  This year features different candidates than in the past and a lot of people in Wisconsin are tired of campaigning.  We are in the midst of Duran downtime.  All combined, though, makes it difficult for me to dismiss my feeling of self-doubt.

Is this the same for Duran Duran?  Do the members experience the same feeling when they look at album sales or the chart positions that do not match what they once were?  Do they question their skills as musicians?  As artists?  What do they do with those feelings to keep going?  I wish I knew.  I wish I had a better plan to deal with my own self-confidence beyond just trying to make it through one day at a time.

I know that many Duran critics believe that their best is long behind them, that they should have stopped in the 1980s.  I have always admired Duran’s ability to fight this, to prove that what they do still matters.  Now, I would love to know how they do it because there are days lately that I have found myself thinking that my best days at work are behind me.  I would like to be like Duran, who refuse to listen to those voices that tell them to quit.

-A

You’ve Got That Thing Which Makes Us Smile

I’m still reeling from the video for Pressure Off!  Tell me that I’m not the only one!  I can see many, many, many fans express nothing but excitement and joy after watching it.  There are people who are making and posting screenshots and gifs from the video.  Clearly, it is a hit with fans!!!  Yes, I realize that there are a few people out there who might have tiny criticisms but, for the most part, there is nothing but praise from Duranies!  While I generally choose to focus on our fan community, seeing a new Duran video that is super fun, super sexy connected a very catchy song, I have to wonder.  Will it catch attention of the not-yet-converted, those non-Duranies-as-of-yet?  I think it could.  It definitely could.  It definitely should.

I think this is especially true as it seems that Duran is experiencing more and more commercial success with this album.  As we know, Paper Gods placed in the top 10 in the Billboard Album Chart after it debuted and just recently, Pressure Off entered the American Top 40.  I had to look.  When is the last time Duran placed in the top 10 for albums and top 40 for singles?
Based on what I could see from Billboard.com, the last album to hit the top 10 album chart was the Wedding Album.  Holy crap. Notorious came close in 1987 at number 12.  Then, I saw a tweet on October 17th from American Top 40, which stated, “.@DuranDuran debut at #39 with their 20th hit, “Pressure Off.” They pass up U2 (1984) as the longest charting act this week (since 1983).”  WOW!!!  This tweet came out BEFORE the video premiered.  Could Duran really be doing what people often accuse them of not doing, which is capitalizing on momentum?  If the single was already on an upwards trend, the video could only help, right?  That’s my theory!
I have often thought about what it would be like if Duran enjoyed the commercial success like they did in the early 80s or even the early 90s with the Wedding Album.  While, yes, I was around during both of those times, I wasn’t old enough (I’m a young Duranie and proud!) in the early 80s to really pay attention like that.  I just knew that I loved them and thought that everyone should!  Duh!  In fact, you can picture ME arguing with kids at the lunch table about how cool they were!!  I know that I used their commercial success (at least to whatever extent a 10 year old could muster) as part of my argument about how cool they were.  During the Wedding Album era, I was just about to leave home for college.  I was in too much of a daze.  Once I got to college, I really didn’t pay attention to much beyond trying to survive, academically, in my classes and getting to know people.  Then, for a long time, the post college me doubted that the general public would ever come to their collective senses to realize how fabulous Duran still is.  Now, though, I’m hopeful.
I know that Simon mentioned in that Yahoo interview last week about how Duran’s current success helps validate the longtime fans.  He’s right.  It does but I don’t know that any of us really NEED that validation.  I know that they are amazing and always have.  I don’t require others to tell me they are great in order to feel right.  I KNOW I’m right.  I appreciate that Simon is looking out for all of us.  I really do.  The thing is that I really do want them to have commercial success right now.  Why?  Two simple reasons.  First, they freaking deserve it.  That really goes without saying but I feel compelled to mention it a time or two.  They work hard at creating new music.  Clearly, they worked hard at making Paper Gods.  I am a firm believer that if you work hard, you SHOULD get rewarded for that.  On top of working hard, they created an amazing album.  Shouldn’t that get rewarded?  I think so!  While Simon is worried about our validation as fans, we are wanting the band to be validated.  The other reason I would really love to see them experience success is so they (the band) get the message LOUD and CLEAR that the world needs them around for a LONG, LONG time to come.  While, yes, I need them around for a long time to come, it has also become obvious that the rest of the world does, too.
So, come on world, let’s give Duran Duran the commercial success they so deserve!!!
-A

Just A Case of Early “Album” Nerves

It is coming.  Everyone in Duranland can feel it.  #DD14 is coming.  Pressure Off, the first single, is coming.  Perhaps, more show announcements are on the horizon.  Duranies knew this before this past week’s Katy Kafe but emotions surrounding the upcoming Duran happenings spiked in response.  Why?  Simple.  As part of the Kafe, Roger said that there were some surprises on the album, including a big one with a first name starting with the letter “B”.  This, of course, in typical Duranie fashion got the speculation running wild.  Who could it be?  Bowie?  Boy George?  Brandon Flowers?  Beyonce?  Bruno Mars?  While each of those guesses produced mixed reactions, an underlying feeling began to present itself.  The feeling?  A mixture of hopefulness, anticipation, and anxiety.

Why the anxiety?  Wouldn’t all big fans be excited for new Duran music?  Of course.  Fans can’t wait to hear new music.  We all can’t wait to see articles written about the band’s latest work and we so look forward to promotional activities and appearances!  That isn’t where the concern lies.  As we know, there are a ton of collaborations on this album.  Most of them are people who have been in the musical spotlight as of late.  Certainly, Mark Ronson, Nile Rodgers, Kiesza and Janelle Monae have all experienced a lot of success lately.  This leads to a myriad of thoughts and worries for many Duranies.

Why can’t Duran do an album just themselves?  Why do they need so many collaborations?  What is the goal?  Is it to make the best DURAN DURAN album or is it to make a hit?  Is commercial success the focus or is it the art?  Is it the music?   Will it feel like Duran Duran?  How will this album be marketed?  Will the focus be on getting new fans only or will hardcore fans who have been around for decades be acknowledged?  

There are just a few of the concerns I have seen, heard or even said myself.  I would guess that there might be even more out there.  Before I get the usual negative responses and comments, let me see if I could explain where these concerns are coming from, especially if you are a fan reading this that isn’t concerned.

I believe that all (or mostly all) fans want the band’s upcoming album to be one that is successful.  Of course, we do.  We want the band to experience success and we want to love what it sounds like.  This would make it more likely, I believe, for the band to continue beyond this album.  Yet, fans who have been around for a long time have seen albums not go as planned and ones that have created backlash. Goodness, just this week, I posted a poll with songs off of Medazzaland and Pop Trash and was told how those albums weren’t liked.  I won’t forget what it was like and still like whenever Red Carpet Massacre is mentioned.  There is division in the fan community about that album, like it or not.  All fans I know want to have an album that they can love and can be excited about.  There is just concern that this album won’t be one of those–that doesn’t mean it won’t be but just that there are concerns especially when there are so many others on the album and the focus seems to be on getting a “hit”.  Many fans don’t mind if the band gets a hit, obviously, but many want it to happen naturally because the band produced a Duran Duran song that just happened to get people’s attention and love.  Think Ordinary World.  As much as that song isn’t high on my list of favorites, I, too, can acknowledge that it was a genuine Duran song that just happened to find commercial success.  It wasn’t written solely for the hit.

Then, there are concerns about the marketing surrounding this new album.  Again, most fans I know are happy with Duran Duran getting new fans.  How could we not be?  We were all new fans once, right?  We all discovered them at some point, yes?  Yet, no one wants to be ignored or taken for granted.  After all, getting the diehard Duranies excited could help their cause, too.  I know that I, personally, have gotten non-Duranies to check out their music because of how much I have talked about them.  I know that I have gotten people to become fans by taking them to shows.  That happens all the time and can definitely happen with albums or singles, specifically.  Heck, it happens all the time with all sorts of fandom beyond Duran Duran.  How often do people go to a movie or check out a TV show simply because they have heard a lot of people talking about it?  How often do people check out new music for the very same reason?  It happens all the time.  In this case, Duran Duran has a built in fan promotional machine, if they just gave the fans something to work with.  If diehard Duranies got excited, REALLY got excited, we would talk up the new material in epic amounts.  The social media world wouldn’t really know what hit.  Look at how we got things like Duran Duran Appreciation Day to trend.  That was the fans doing that.  The fans could do that for this album, too, as long as we are included in the marketing package.  I’m not saying that the band and label shouldn’t try to get new fans.  What I am saying is that they should do something to have the Duranies help them sell more, too.  It would also help minimize the worries about the collaborations, too.  Fans would be too busy being excited and getting others to be excited that the concerns would simply be pushed to the back of minds.  This would reinforce Duranies’ fandom, too, ensuring that all of us stick around for a very long time, too.  To me, that matches everything I know about good marketing as well.  You want to keep the customers you have happy, while trying to get new ones.

It would be a win-win-win, for the band, for the label and for the fans.  Then, I suspect any and all worries would be wiped away.

-A

Spinning A Compass To Choose Your Way

Today marks the beginning of semester finals for my oldest. She is a junior in high school this year (which means she is in 11th grade and will graduate from high school next year), and as she has been reminded over and over by various teachers and school counselors this year – this year’s grades matter most.  Not at all coincidentally I am sure  – this has also been the toughest year for her academically. I remember  my own junior year of high school, and I don’t remember it being this stressful. Not at all. I went to school, did my work, played the football games (marching band), had a lot of fun, and my grades were fine.  It was relatively easy with a few hair-raising moments in between. I wasn’t a straight A-student, but I did well, and I certainly did not burn the midnight oil while doing so.

For my daughter, and probably most high school kids these days, that would not be an accurate description of her high school experience. She has had several “almost” all-nighters, she bites her nails to the “quick” worrying about tests, essays, etc.  She is involved on campus in the theater company for the high school – and the teacher who is the director of the company openly tells them that he “owns” them until June.  He did not give them time off to study for finals (they practice every day from 2:30 to 4:50 pm), and it’s openly known policy that they don’t dare miss a single rehearsal for any reason, at any time. So they don’t.  In the meantime, the kids struggle to keep their grades above water, and like every other high school in America, they’re told that they MUST take AP (Advanced Placement) courses in order to even be considered for college.  Those courses are tough, even for me as an adult – and I certainly don’t have a zillion other extracurriculars going on.  The pressure is enormous.  There isn’t even time left to search for colleges, much less decide where to visit and apply, which is why she has left the initial search for me so that she has less to weed out later.

As a parent, there are two sides to this nightmare. (and really, should it BE a nightmare?  This is supposed to be FUN for her!) On one hand, I push my daughter to do well. I know that in order to get into college AND get precious scholarship money (that we need) for her to be able to attend without taking out several hundred thousand dollars in loans (I wish I were kidding) – she has to have outstanding grades. She is not a straight A student – and to even keep the 3.7 she has currently, it is almost impossible.  It just doesn’t come naturally to her as it may for others. I see many of my mom-friends talk about their 4.0+ kids and how they’ve gotten into prestigious schools with full scholarships, and I just wince…the peer-pressure alone is enough to break someone.  On the other hand, I have started really asking myself if it’s all REALLY worth it. I mean, do I really want my daughter to stress herself out to the point of having anxiety issues all because she wants to go to college?  Is it really worth it?  What happened to working hard, doing well and keeping it all healthy?  What happened to enjoying life?  Are we losing sight of what it all really means to live without burn-out by 25?

This brings me, of course, to the band. I know I’m not the only fan who has read more than one interview from them as they looked back on their time at the top of the charts.  As successful as they were, there was enormous pressure to continue that success and keep going.  I don’t think the band would disagree with me when I say that I’ll bet at one point or another, the whole process stopped being about creating music they really loved and enjoyed and started being about topping whatever they had done last. It is a vicious cycle – kind of like the roundabout that doesn’t stop, huh?

As a mom, I continually fight the urge to lecture her about grades and buckling down (this semester has really been bad for her, and I think we’re about to see a big dip in the GPA – grade point average – as a result), knowing that somewhere out there, resides a school that would love to have my daughter. Not just because she’s a good student (which she is), but because she is vibrant, vivacious, smart, a natural leader, incredibly talented, and would be a great fit for that particular school environment. I hope that I won’t be serving mac & cheese to my family for the next seven + years  as we pay for that great college experience, too….  I think it’s safe to say that she probably won’t be attending Harvard or Yale, but instead a much smaller school – and likely one not many may recognize in name. (Just yesterday I came across a small college called Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania. That was a new one on me!) It will be the right place for her to grow and mature, and the experience she receives will take her much farther than having a prestigious name printed on her diploma ever could.  If I could only keep reminding myself that in the coming months….

I hope the band feels the same about DD14:  they’re fighting that pressure and the urge to try that “magical formula” (not that one actually exists, of course) for instant hits, hoping to outdo everything they’ve accomplished prior; but instead they are writing from the heart and soul, knowing that authenticity counts for so much more. I really believe that if they love what they’ve written: it comes through in the music, and the fans follow.

-R

Who Are You to Fail?

Whenever I try to describe a serious fan, I think about how serious fans seem to take any little event, memory, idea and more and relate to their idol(s) or to their fandom.  I am no different.  Just this past week, I took time to remember my little visit to Washington DC that took place a year ago at this time.  Why did I go?  Simple.  I was invited to attend the Inauguration of President Obama.  Not only that but I got to attend the official ball and got a tour of the White House, which led to my second meeting and picture of President Obama.  (If you want to read the blog post with details of this, you can go here.)  How come I got this tremendous experience?  I volunteered as a team leader for the Obama campaign from summer 2008 to the very end in November 2012.  I gave a lot of my time, my effort and my energy.   A year later and I still feel the same.  I feel so very validated by this.  The experience taught me that I was capable of quite a lot and it also gave me something that I didn’t realize until recently that I needed.  It gave me satisfaction in knowing that I was appreciated.  It was a big thank you.  I worked hard and I got something great for it.  I never felt so appreciated as I did as part of that campaign.  The staff I worked with directly always took the time to thank me and those volunteers working with me.  Beyond that, the top campaign staff did, too, as did the President himself both in person and in many, many of his speeches, including his victory speeches.  This idea of working hard, being appreciated and rewarded for it is something that I always believed even as a little kid.  I knew that I worked hard in school and did well in my classes because of it.  I can’t help but still believe that today as an adult even though that hasn’t always been my experience.

Recently, when thinking about my chosen career, teaching, I started to wonder when I became so frustrated at work.  This, of course, is a complex answer and one that I’m sure I don’t have the complete answer for.  Yet, in thinking about campaigning, I realize that part of it has to do with this core belief that working hard leads to being appreciated and rewarded.  I don’t feel that it true at my paid job.  It doesn’t matter how hard I work.  I have worked very hard for a very long time at my job, but that doesn’t seem to matter to people.  I am judged by test scores and by how well I control the behavior in my room–not by my effort at all.  In fact, it doesn’t feel like I’m judged as an individual much.  Instead, I am lumped into the large entity of “public education” or the large group known as “teachers”.  These two large groups often create a lot of negative ideas and feelings for too many people and for too much of the public, at large, as well as for those who pass laws and budgets affecting education.  In general, there is a lot of teacher blaming that takes place in a variety of places, in subtle and not-so-subtle ways from what I see.  It is the exact opposite of what I felt on the campaign.

This is when Duran Duran entered my thoughts.  How are they judged?  Like my test scores and behavioral referrals, they are judged on hits, albums sold and tickets sold.  Is this fair?  Is this the best way to judge them?  Of course, I would say no.  I would even say that they shouldn’t worry about their commercial success.  Quality music is what is important.  I try to say something similar in my classroom.  It doesn’t matter if I’m hitting some arbitrary number in the classroom as long as I am creating relationships with kids and helping them make progress, right?  Yet, just like Duran, I can’t help how I’m judged.  Now, I’m sure that people will point out how much they appreciate that I’m a teacher just like Duran hears how great they are from us, their fans.  Is that enough, though?  Is that enough to overcome those outside metrics by which judgement is made?  Is it?  I don’t know.  I know that I struggle with this, especially when I have experienced appreciation and reward.  Does Duran struggle like I do since, they, too, have experienced validation and public appreciation?  I, obviously, can’t answer the question but I know that in thinking about this, in comparison to what I have experienced, it has made me more understanding of their desire for commercial success.  I get it a little bit more now.

-A

Some Days Are Strange to Number

“This November Tuesday” marked the end to the 2012 election season.  I am well-aware that many, many, many people are relieved about the end–either due to the results or due to the end of constant political ads and constant commentary on social networking sites.  Trust me, when I say that I, too, am so very relieved that it is done.  Literally, my body couldn’t take much more.  The constant stress, the very few hours of sleep, the endless work days worn me down to the point where I was feverish and had lost my voice.  I’m slowly recovering, at least physically.  Emotionally, I have yet to begun to deal.  I need time to process, not just this particular result but to process the last 4 plus years that I have been campaigning.  As I start to come to grips with everything I saw, did and experienced, my head starts to drift to my other careers, teaching and being a professional Duranie (HA!  I wish!).  It seems to me that there are some parallels.

I’m sure by now you are wondering if sleep deprivation has finally warped my brain but stick with me!  I think there are two big commonalities between Duran Duran’s career and campaigning.  (There are commonalities with teaching, too, but I’ll keep it simple.)  First, I think there is an emphasis, fair or not, on numbers.  Numbers are often used to determine success.  Second, there seems to be a level of intensity that goes and goes and goes and then stops.  Now, obviously, other careers, I’m sure, also could fit these commonalities but I’m sticking to what I know.

Campaigns are obviously about winning an election.  This, of course, is done by having the most number of votes.  This isn’t new.  Yet, of course, there are countless types of numbers given by the media, by the results and more.  As a staging location director, I had to report numbers every 4 hours to the campaign.  What I reported might have changed but reporting did not.  These numbers I reported were used to determine if things are looking good or not in any given area and if there needed to be a shift in resources.  Success isn’t necessarily determined by just numbers, though.  For example, President Obama won his re-election and we can determine how many votes he received but we can’t know how excited those voters were.  The same is true for Duran Duran and their history.  For years, for decades, their success was determined by how far up the chart the single or album reached and for how long.  Success could be determined by how many copies of a particular album was sold.  Many Duranies still focus on this.  Do the numbers really tell us if they are successful or not?  For example, Duran sold a lot of copies of Seven and the Ragged Tiger but do we think it was as successful as AYNIN?  It is easy on paper to determine 7&TRT to be more successful than AYNIN.  Yet, some fans, I’m sure, would argue that AYNIN is way more successful.  Numbers are easy.  They seem objective and clear.  Yet, I don’t think they tell the whole story.

I guess I’m wondering this because I have been thinking about how I have experienced both the highest of highs with victories on election night and the lowest of lows on election night.  Were the numbers really all that was to it?  I don’t think they are.  For example, I lost the recall election in June, according to the numbers and according to who is still governor.  Yet, could I or should I think of it as just a loss?  I don’t think I can.  Yes, I didn’t get those numbers, those results I wanted then but I gained other things.  For example, our voter lists were seriously cleaned up, which helped this Tuesday’s election.  I also got to know some new people, including people who were essential for Tuesday’s election.  Would that have happened without the earlier election?  I doubt it.  Plus, did I learn anything from the previous election?  I like to think that I did.  I know that the campaigns here did.  Am I more proud of the wins?  Not really, actually.  I am proud of the elections that I worked the hardest on.  I’m the proudest when my team really came together with a strong community spirit.  Likewise, I wonder if the members of the Duran feel the proudest of the albums that did the best, commercially, or do they feel the proudest of other albums based on other criteria besides the numbers?

The other thing I noticed just a few days after Election Day is the very strange feeling of…going 90 miles per hour for weeks and then, suddenly, coming to an abrupt stop.  I swear I have whiplash.  Is this how some or all of the members of Duran feel after a tour?!  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not on vacation or anything.  I have a ton of work to do since I have a ton of grading to do for my actual paying job as grades are due and conferences are coming up.  Yet, it still feels like I’m shaken to the core by the sudden stop.  As much as I wanted, needed, pleaded for the end, it still feels SO weird to me.  To be honest, I’m feeling a bit empty, a bit lost.  I shouldn’t.  Heck, I’m excited to get caught up at work and I’m VERY excited to get back on track with our projects here at the Daily Duranie.  I’m sure that with time and some very much needed sleep, I’ll feel like myself again.  I wonder how the band does it.

Maybe this blog just proves that I think too much.  Maybe it proves that no matter how crazy the real world is to me, I can and always do relate things back to Duran Duran.  Maybe that is what I should do—combine my two loves, politics and Duran.  Could one of the members run for office?  I heard John was going for his US citizenship.  While he might not be qualified to run for president, there are plenty of offices he could run for.  I would be happy to be his campaign manager!!

-A

Ordinary World?

I have been sitting here for the last half hour trying to figure out what to write about.  I pondered writing about the announcement about promotional appearances in the UK, which you can read about here.  I also saw that the band posted a link about Duran fans from back in 1984 talking about their fandom then and now, which you can read about here.  I’ll be honest.  Neither one hit me to talk about.  I don’t think I have the brain power to critically analyze much today.  I’m recovering or something like that.  The campaign I was working on ended on Tuesday in an extremely disappointing fashion.  Since then, I have tried not to think about it too much and have tried to catch up on everything else.  This hasn’t been easy, especially since next week will prove to be tough, emotionally, as well, as Tuesday will be my last day at my current job as I’m transferring schools next year.  Thus, I’m on emotional overload.  In fact, I would go so  far as to say that I’m feeling numb and unable to process much.  I need to clean my house and get ready for a trip but all I want to do is sleep.  Seriously.  I know that it will take time to find my way back to an “ordinary world”.  I wonder how the guys do it after facing an overly emotional time or an overly busy, stressful time or a time like I’m in the middle of, which is both busy and overwhelming.

It seems to me that some people have jobs and/or lives that pretty much provide a constant stream of activity.  At times, this constant stream might become a little more busy than normal or a little less busy than normal but it never or rarely reaches extremes.  Then, there are those who have extremes.  These people are either extremely busy or not busy at all.  I think the band is in that category.  They have times when they have tons of things to do, when they can’t find more than a few minutes to sleep and catch their breath.  I’m sure that doing a lot of promotional work and/or touring would be like this.  Then, of course, now-a-days they also have the chance to relax some.  These stretches are or seem to be longer than what a usual vacation entails.  I think my life is in between the constant stream and the extremes.  During the school year, I’m consistently busy and then when I have added campaign work, that consistently busy extends to being insanely active.  Of course, then, I do have summers, which aren’t completely off with classes, professional development, curriculum planning, etc.  Nonetheless, summers are very different than the rest of the year.  As I’m facing an extreme shift in activity level like the guys do after a tour or something equivalent, I wonder how they adjust.  What advice would they give the rest of us?  How do they find their new normal?  What if their last project was horribly unsuccessful?  How do they use their time off to regroup?

Let’s face it.  Duran Duran, overall, has been a successful band but they have had projects, times that have not been as successful as they would have liked.  In some cases, when they have regrouped, the results have been more than they hoped for.  For example, the Liberty album wasn’t exactly what they had hoped for, both musically (not saying all the songs were bad but…) and commercially.  Goodness, they didn’t even tour that album!  How did they pick themselves up off the ground and give themselves the energy, the courage to try again?  Why didn’t they decide to call it quits?  Obviously, they were not only able to keep going but they were able to make an album (Wedding Album) that resulted in commercial success and converted a whole new generation of Duranies!  Likewise, Red Carpet Massacre wasn’t the success that they thought it would be but they kept going and made the fabulous All You Need Is Now.

I don’t have the answer to this question about how they continue forward after facing a roadblock.  Do any of you?  I would honestly love to know their secret as I could use a little of that now myself.  Maybe then, I would be able to comment on Duran news or move forward to find my new ordinary world.

-A

The difference between a wildfire and coals

Does innovation really count for much these days?  After watching what seems to be countless hours of mindless reality “entertainment” on TV these days, one might start to believe there’s just nothing new to be seen. It’s all about the flash, smoke, mirrors and creating good gossip.  This morning I happened to run across a video that is likely to go viral purely due to it’s innovation. (nearly 50,000 views since posted on May 18th, 2012)

This video, done by a group named j.viewz entitled rivers and homes, is a stop-motion video.  The original video was shot just as an ordinary video, and then the post-production team cut that video up into 2000 individual pictures that were then held up by fans during a recent tour of Israel.  Then those photos were put back together to create a stop-motion video.  The song itself isn’t particularly mind-blowing (although its actually very peaceful which in my house is a definite plus these days), but the video is fabulous.  Funny, I seem to recall a few other bands using innovation in video a few years back….and they became the greatest thing (in MY world anyway) since sliced bread.  Huh.  Take a gander for yourself!

So many times I catch well-intentioned fans discussing Duran Duran and wondering what they can do to re-create the 80’s. Granted, those aren’t the words that the fans use, but the intention is all but spoken. They want to spread the word, they want the band to succeed, to sell as well as they did before, to live a life that was a remarkable accomplishment the first time, much less have that same lightning strike again. Words such as “viral videos”, social networking, promotional fan-based organizations are thrown around in such circles, assuming that any one of those things will once again ignite the band into the stratosphere.

Truth be told, none of us have the magical answer(s).  All we know is that for the most part, we saw it all unfold once and we’d love to see the band reach that point again.  It’s my belief that those times weren’t all that they were cracked up to be, but I do understand the sentiment. (The idea of having to fight tooth and nail just to get a ticket to a show, much less attempt to try for the floor sections under the same circumstances of the 80’s doesn’t give me much of a thrill.)  It took a certain sequence of events to unfold in just the right way to account for the happenings of the 1980’s, and while I still have all of the faith in the world in the band, I also believe that it happened at the time it did and the way it did for a reason.  If we had the answers though, we’d be making the big bucks, wouldn’t we??

I suppose the moral here is that we really can’t ever go back.  I can’t count how many times the band has mentioned that they try not look back very often.  I’ve heard and seen the murmurs amongst some that this last album was a sad attempt to capitalize on Rio for a second time. I can’t and won’t agree.  Sure, the intention may have been to go back and use some of the techniques used to create that album – but make no mistake – All You Need is Now is all about the NOW.  For me, this album was a great lesson given at the precise time.  Call me crazy, but I needed this album, and I suspect that a good many of you out there did as well.  Is that not success?  Innovation??

As many of you know I live in Southern California, a place that is well-known for it’s wildfires. (and earthquakes, but that’s another blog for another day) The smallest of sparks can ignite a raging wildfire in the dry brush that resides on nearly every hill or mountain in our area.  The fires tend to move incredibly fast, and swallow everything in their paths.  Wildfires tend to burn everything around them until there is nothing left, and then simply die on their own.  Coals are entirely different.  Coals stay white hot, long after the flames themselves have died down.  They lay in wait until the time and circumstances are right, and once those needs have been met – flames can ignite nearly instantly.  While the wildfire gets instant notoriety and attention (and nearly non-stop news coverage….), coals can go mostly ignored, and then surprise everyone when the time is right.

Innovation is a little like kindling.  It might not necessarily be required in order to start a good fire, but it is much more difficult to create more than smoke on a thick, dead and dry tree trunk than it is to spark a flame with kindling and then use that kindling to light the tree trunk aflame. Then eventually that tree trunk becomes the coal to keep that fire burning forever.

-R

Disposable Culture

Last week, I brought up a couple of blogs I’d read where a bit of a How To was given on Superfans.  These blogs discussed how to create them, and how to keep them.  My commentary was based on the premise that to cultivate such a group of fans would feel completely synthetic and contrived. I still wonder just how successful the effort will be seen in the long term.  Will fans really stick by for 30+ years, or will it end up being a situation with many “flashes in the pan”?

Not long after writing those blogs, I watched an episode of America’s Got Talent.  It’s not my favorite show, but for whatever reason it was on our television that night, and it occurred to me that the idea of creating a “hit” or the “next biggest thing” is the prevailing drive in the industry these days.  Nothing is allowed to happen naturally.  Not the talent, not the music, not the image, and definitely not the fans loyalty.

It should make one wonder if maybe, just maybe, there isn’t a simple correlation between sales  in recent years and the history of such shows as American Idol, America’s Got Talent, X Factor,  The Voice and many, many others. (Research just how many “one hit wonders” we’ve had in recent years.  The numbers are astounding!)  We’re so busy creating stars, buying one or two songs from them and then immediately moving on to the next big thing that we’re completely missing the bigger picture at hand.

My curiosities about the current culture will only be answered in hindsight many years ahead, being both the beauty and curse of history.  I am certain that as my children enter their thirties and forties a band of historians will dissect this moment in time as we have done to decades prior.  Will my children and others in their generation have similar tales to tell about continuing to follow the same band(s) well into their adulthood?  How will future music listeners look back on the beginning years of this century? 

If Duran Duran were at it’s beginnings today, just how different would they be from the band we knew in the 1980’s?  The obvious mentions are of course the image and styling – assuming the band would still be as forward thinking, but would the process be nearly as organic for them, and would fans still be as drawn?

Thankfully, I never have to know.  -R

The Story Behind the Story

So by now it should be pretty clear that our little post on Sunday was an April Fools Joke.  Anyone who has been reading the blog with any sort of regularity over the past 18 months or so probably knows that I personally have extreme difficulty in even saying the name Justin Bieber without choking. Just imagine what it was like to be in my house on that fateful Sunday….

Originally, Amanda and I had a very different idea. I’m not going to get into that first idea because, well, I’m not interested in being publicly flogged, and I’m a little afraid of karma.  Maybe we’ll tell the the story in our “tell-all” book that will come out when we’re all about ninety years old or so. Regardless, the first idea was completely shelved rather quickly and we had decided to do a silly pictorial. Everyone needs a laugh, right?? If not at the expense of the band, why bother?!  As we were starting to get worried about finding enough photos of a couple band members (It’s simply fascinating as to just how many silly Simon photos there are out there. Does he pay to have a camera following him every single second?!? I just can’t imagine that paparazzi are THAT interested in a member of Duran Duran!), Amanda and I  conferenced via speaker phone. While we were chatting, my husband, who is never short on ideas or opinions (regardless of whether those ideas and opinions are good, requested…or otherwise…), suggested that for one day, instead of being Daily Duranie, we decide to throw our fandom for DD overboard in favor of another. This idea amused me almost immediately. Can you imagine coming to the blog and finding that we’d decided to become Timbaland fans or something??

I can see the men with the white coats showing up to my house right now…coming to take me away….hee hee… (yes, the pun to the infamous 1966 song by Jerry Samuels IS intended)

Of course, none of our friends would quite believe Timbaland, so the question became “Who?” My husband had plenty of really bad ideas, and finally I mentioned Justin Bieber.  From there, the idea morphed into what you should have read on Sunday (If you haven’t read that blog yet, give yourself a smack on the behind and go read it here.) Rather than go to the trouble of changing the entire blog, we felt it would be far more believable for us to set about trying to convince all of Duranland that we should get behind a petition to have the get Justin as an opening act for the US dates in August.

The way the writing worked was that while on speaker, we worked out the wording together, and I typed. Then I went back, read through the blog again for editing. Then I desperately tried to read the entire thing back aloud. The read-back didn’t work very well because I could barely get through a single sentence without laughing. My hand shook as I clicked on “publish”, and then Amanda and I both posted the title of the new blog on Facebook and Twitter. We said our goodbyes, and then sat back to wait.

Facebook is typically much slower to react than Twitter, partially due to the real-time nature of Twitter. This particular Sunday was no different, and for a brief time I worried that perhaps the blog would go completely unnoticed. That has happened before. (Yes, that means that a lot of you are missing some of our very best work. There are actually blogs in our history that have gotten VERY few views – and while I try not to be offended by that, I must say, you’re missing out!) In any case, after waiting for someone, anyone to notice enough to say something on Facebook, I decided to check out the action on Twitter. I was not disappointed.

As soon as I opened Twitter I could see that not only was Amanda online, but she had already begun getting tweets asking if we’d lost our sanity. While she and I really hadn’t discussed what we we would do to handle that particular situation, I think both of us realized that in order for the joke to truly work – we’d have to follow through and defend our work.  After requesting a very large, very dirty martini from my bartender (Thanks to my husband), I set about helping Amanda defend our opinions. It is amazing what a good Grey Goose martini will do to ease the inhibitions while you’re typing the words “Embrace The Beebs”. I really can’t tell you how many times I laid my head down on the table that day, laughing hysterically.

There were a few times that day when I had to admit that yes, it was a joke. There were more than one reader that announced they were going to have to unfollow us, and I couldn’t have that happen.  I can certainly understand why they felt that way. Other than those few instances, we stuck to our story, and I even tweeted the band – who are probably on a hiatus and will never read the blog anyway – just to see what would happen. By the evening, I was exhausted and the best part? We had exceeded our daily tweet limit and could no longer tweet back! I didn’t even realize there was a limit! I apologized to a few of our twitter followers through DM and excused myself for the night, knowing that we’d have plenty to deal with in the morning.

While writing the blog was very fun and reading the reactions and opinions was downright hilarious at times, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that at least in part, our blog was very true, and very realistic. That’s why so many fellow fans believed that we were serious, and that’s why our joke worked. (That and our fabulous acting skills I am sure.) It’s no joke that the band has not experienced a huge amount of commercial success from the album.  It’s also not a joke that the band does have an uphill battle in reaching younger fans. The question of course is whether or not those things are truly necessary in order to continue. I don’t have those answers, and once again I find myself thankful that those things are not a part of my job. I’m simply one of the many Monday Morning Quarterbacks out there, as is Amanda even if she’s the smarter one of the two of us. Speculation is part of my hobby, but I don’t hold any of the real answers. The beauty in defending our blog that day was reading and learning from some of the very poignant and descriptive reasons why the band shouldn’t care about that younger generation, why they should just concern themselves with their own craft, and even why some people feel strongly that certain songs on the album are simply just updated, re-mixed versions of songs like “Girls on Film” or “The Chauffeur”.

So the real story behind the story was that even though we set out to tell a joke, we learned something in the process. Not a bad way to spend April Fools Day, really.

-R