Tuesday, April 07, 2009

MAPS - 'Desolation Row'

As part of the very popularMAPS series’ here is part two, the Tower Theater in downtown Los Angeles. The Tower was built in the mid 1920s, a fertile period for the kind of construction that is a boon to music videos hungry for production value.

Downtown LA has a couple streets and corners that can convincingly play the role of a big city on the East Coast – one of the reasons that lots of videos get shot in a handful of blocks. The recent economic downturn might be bad for the recent condo-splosion and loftapalooza going on in the formerly deserted-after-dark downtown core of the city – but maybe empty buildings will make it easier to get a permit. Nearby the Tower are some other spots that get even more ‘work’ – but we’ll get to them later.

I picked out a couple videos that have been shot at the Tower, but I am sure that many, many others have used the moody, yet ornate interior to great effect. Feel free to post any other links you can think of in the comments below.

The recent My Chemical Romance clip off the Watchmen soundtrack was shot inside and outside the Tower. The decrepit but grand interior does a good job of complimenting the MCR performance, and the neighborhood definitely adds to the 'Desolation Row' vibe. My impression is that they are giving Mr. Zimmerman the flavor of the punk group Generation X – Billy Idol’s original band. Gerard even breaks out the Madonna-esque faux-Brit accent. Outside the theater the kids get all aggro.

You can see even more of the Tower’s look with some Watchmen EPK, behind the scenes footage.

Chris Brown’s “With You” uses the streets around the Tower (one would assume) as well as the vertical marquee as the backdrop for the main performance. As the camera circles over and around Breezy you can’t see the handcuffs, but you can see the Tower in the background and the director’s name added onto the outside of the theater.

Poke around on the Tower Google Street View and I bet you can see all kinds of music video hot spots near Broadway and 8th.

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Thursday, April 02, 2009

I Don't Wanna Grow Up ...

I know, two posts in a week. It's like the old days.

Idolator linked to this post on Tripwire about a super-indie band called Team Robespierre and their recent, failed, efforts to get one of their videos played. The video has a very, um, “home made” quality to it – but apparently MTV was allegedly going to air the clip on Subterranean. The post is a blow-by-blow of how the band got the run around and felt abused by ‘the system.’

Here is a quote from the Tripwire article:
So a year after the record came out, over six months after the video debuted on Pitchfork, three months after it’s initially scheduled MTV2 air date and lots of wasted money we were given a “maybe” in early 2009. That was until we got the news that the person we had been dealing with was laid off in December. Now, not only was the status of the video up in the air, but we had no one to talk to about it.
Most of the commenters on Tripwire and Idolator have ripped the writer, who is not in the band but somehow helping them get their video not played. This does come across as some pretty spoiled baby stuff and it made me think of lots of articles I have been reading about employers, back when the economy had ‘employers,’ needing to adapt to deal with the self-absorbed attitude of recent college graduates.

This is from the Daily Mail:
Others expect to be pandered to and lack initiative, according to the report, based on responses from 217 graduate employers including investment banks, law and accountancy firms. In one case, a new recruit to a transport company was overheard on the phone to his mother saying: "I have got to go to London tomorrow and they haven't even told me how to get there."

Certainly the band misunderstood many, many things about the video airing process. All videos on television must be close captioned. Mean ole MTV didn’t make them do that – the FCC did.

The MTV programmer that liked the video enough to push it forward was replaced and the new person was not enthusiastic. Oh well, sometimes you drop your ice cream cone on the sidewalk and Allah/Jesus/Iovine doesn’t magically grant you new one.

Yes, there were silly standards and practices edits that seem hypocritical coming from he network that airs Tila Tequila. But you know what kids? Your Mommy and Daddy say you shouldn’t drink – but they (gasp) do it themselves. I could go on and on about how these kids don’t get it (too late, I know).

Obviously, Team Robespierre has already gotten more attention off this ‘scandal’ than they would have if their video had actually aired on MTV. So good for them, despite their ‘poor little hipster’ whines.

The larger issue, in my eyes, is this intersection of the amateur and the professional. Getting your band’s video up on Youtube is easy – you just post it and it is there. Granted, even YouToogle has Standards & Practices and rights issues. Once the video is there, who says it will rack up any more views than grandma’s birthday party.

As long as artists want the benefits of the professional end of the music industry – they are going to have to play by the pro’s rules. And with AMTV suddenly showing (shocker!) music videos on MTV – there might be more opportunity there.

The recent crumbling of the music label empire has made going amateur the rule – in recording music and in making music videos as well. We could argue about whether or not Team Robespierre would ever get signed to a ‘real’ label, and I am sure that the band might reply with, ‘We don’t want your smelly label, old man!’ But when the young punks want their precious video on the old man’s MTV, a label might come in handy.

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