I’ve never been to an Amway meeting, but now I think I know what one must be like. I was invited to a “VIP event” for an online venture called BurnLounge, and though the invitation was in the most flattering terms – “We’d love to have someone of your stature in the local music scene introduce BurnLounge to Orlando” – I was nonetheless hesitant to attend. Mainly because this event was being held on the day after I returned from South By Southwest in Austin, but also because the aforementioned flattery led up to an “invitation” to become a BurnLounge investor.
Roping in new investors seems to be what BurnLounge is all about. It’s a music-download service that works much like those “storefront” online operations: You pay some money, pick some titles and bust your ass to get people to start spending money at “your” store, for which you’re rewarded with a percentage of the profits. If you get more people to sign up (hence the reason for this VIP event), you get a cut of their profits too!
Oh yeah, music downloaded from Burn-Lounge can’t be played on iPods. To me, a business model that excludes the single most popular music-playing device on the market is probably flawed. Just saying.
The event at Tabu was attended by hundreds of people, and I’d wager that less than 10 percent of them own iPods and even fewer than that are computer literate. No, these folks were lured by potentially easy money, encouraged by tempting buzzwords that invoked the twin sucker bets of “the music business” and “technology.”
Unsurprisingly, these folks were actually motivated by a many-feet-tall guy in a cowboy hat talking about people making “$10,000 a week.” Hearing him say “This is about money” made me sad. Hearing him say “If I could be a plumber and make $10,000 a week, I’d be plumbing” made me leave.
This crass cynicism was the last thing I needed after spending a week at South By Southwest. Thankfully, people in the “biz” tend to actually like music. That’s why we’d queue up with our badges and party invites to see bands. That’s why we’d kill our feet and livers pounding the pavement and the bars, trying to make it from show to show. It was because we wanted to see music.
Some SXSW superlatives:
Best Orlando band: New Mexican Disaster Squad. Opening the Jade Tree showcase at Emo’s, the boys were on fire, captivating the attention of the 100 or so people in attendance with their provocative, propulsive hardcore. Band Marino did well at their sparsely attended showcase, but NMDS did better.
Best story: Aaron Abraham from Whole Wheat Bread stepping up to Dashboard Confessional’s Chris Carrabba – at Carrabba’s own party – and asking him: “You’re in that pussy band, aren’t you?”
Second best story: It involves a hotel room and a publicist who was terrified that her washed-up, on-the-verge-of-revival clients would have their coked-up, degenerate condition revealed to the world. As if that would be a bad thing.
Best oasis: The “Japan Traditional Nite” showcase, which featured a more pensive and folky brand of Japanese music than the freaks over at my regularly attended “Japan Nite.” I could actually sit and listen to the music, rather than deal with crowds. What a concept.
Best surprise: Debris Inc. turning out to be St. Vitus. When they played “Born Too Late,” my head nearly exploded.
Best surprise that wasn’t, but then was: The unannounced Flaming Lips show. Everyone was talking about the covers of “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “War Pigs.” Me? I was more tickled by “Love Yer Brain,” a song originally recorded by a great noise-rock band from Oklahoma.
Best band I missed: Witch, repeatedly. They were always playing – whether a scheduled showcase, a “special guest” slot or at a party – right after I left. But that did mean I hung around J Mascis a lot.
Best party: The Arthur magazine party, held on the verdant grounds of a museum. The bands were good, especially the swirling dreampop of Philly’s Mazarin, but lounging around on the grass drinking one-buck PBR’s was gooder.
Best intro: Afrirampo’s “flamingo pee-pee on the rainbow” chant.
Best show with surprisingly poor attendance: Th’ Faith Healers.
Best blush: Me, when Amos Lee introduced me to one of his band members as “this is the guy I was telling you about.” And he meant it in a good way.
Best comedy: Eugene Mirman.
Best unintentional comedy: Morningwood’s entire set at some party.
Second best unintentional comedy: The excellent Band of Horses making their way through a slew of technical difficulties at the Sub Pop party.
Best quote: “If this band were any good, they would be great.” (OK, I said it.)
Other goodness: Astronautilus, Burning Brides, Jean Grae, Hologram, Kalas, Midlake, Voxtrot.