Yesterday’s New York Times Magazine featured a lengthy article on how technology is changing the way some musicians interact with fans; while much of the piece focuses on singer-songwriter Jonathan Coulton–who spends almost as much time on the computer as he does on stage–it also examines one of the less-sexy aspects of new-media semi-stardom: While the Internet might provide you with a loyal fanbase, it can also take away any chances you might have at cultivating a rock-n’-roll mystique.
And, as with all articles written about music-scene trends within the past year, this one invokes the Hold Steady:
[The Hold Steady guitarist Tad Kubler] regards fan interaction as an obligation that is cultural, almost ethical. He remembers what it was like to be a young fan himself, enraptured by the members of Led Zeppelin. “That’s all I wanted when I was a fan, right?” he said. “To have some small contact with these guys you really dug. I think I’m still that way. I’ll be, like, devastated if I never meet Jimmy Page before I die.” Indeed, for a guitarist whose arms are bedecked in tattoos and who maintains an aggressive schedule of drinking, Kubler seems genuinely touched by the shy queries he gets from teenagers…
Yet Kubler sometimes has second thoughts about the intimacy. Part of the allure of rock, when he was a kid, was the shadowy glamour that surrounded his favorite stars. He’d parse their lyrics to try to figure out what they were like in person. Now he wonders: Are today’s online artists ruining their own aura by blogging? Can you still idolize someone when you know what they had for breakfast this morning? “It takes a little bit of the mystery out of rock ‘n’ roll,” he said.
Indeed, there’s little mystery left about any performer nowadays: Big-name stars are analyzed in-depth by the tabloids and countless TV shows, while lesser-known acts commit every single semi-relevant detail of their daily lives to the Internet; as a result, there are only a handful of artists about whom we can maintain more than five seconds of passing curiosity. For proof, check out this Mystique-O-Meter:
STILL SOMEWHAT INTRIGUING
LOSING INTRIGIBILITY DAILY
NO LONGER INTRIGUING
The Gallagher brothers
WE CAN’T EVEN TELL ANYMORE
Sex, Drugs and Updating Your Blog [NYT Magazine]