Thursday, April 23, 2009

2 Minutes To Stardom

Imagine this scenario. You're part of an indie rock group that's been playing the fringes of the big-time for several years now. An appearance at SXSW once. A late night Coachella venue. You have some hometown notoriety. You've produced a few records on a local label and are subject to a growing (but cultish) following. Then, a movie studio uses your song in a trailer for one of their upcoming movies and, suddenly, the rivers are parted and you're the 'next big thing'.

Several bands certainly call that fictional scenario a reality. Case in point: Montreal indie band The Arcade Fire. Now, I'm not suggesting that The Arcade Fire needed any help. They were already far along their path to international success before Warner Brothers prominently featured one of their best songs in the trailer for Spike Jonze's "Where the Wild Things Are". But listening to XM radio this week, they claimed that The Arcade Fire shot up very high in their Top 10 down loadable artists last week... the first time this band has been in such a list since debuting their masterwork album "Funeral" almost two years ago. How's that for instant regurgitated success? Part of me loves the idea that a two minute trailer spot can expose a well-loved niche band to the mainstream currents of pop culture. And then the musical snob in me recoils at the fact that this band- which I've regarded as a well kept secret for two years now- is finally being discovered by this same mainstream current.

Still, The Arcade Fire are not the first band destined for greatness via viral campaigning... and they certainly won't be the last. Indie bands are popping up on trailer spots all over the place. Muse (for it's placement in "The Watchmen"), Sigur Ros (for, take your pick of any number of trailers including the new Disney Earth or my personal favorite from "Children of Men") and MIA (Paper Planes) and Cat Power are some of the latest crop of artists to gain popularity from the movie industry. And then there are the X-Box video game spots which have added tons of new fans for bands like Devotchka and sent people scrambling for the various covers of the song Mad World. So what do we owe all of this? Is it studio and movie executives making a deal with the devil to even further proliferate their billions of dollars profit? Nah. Not likely. The simple answer... certain music lends itself naturally to visual images. How many times have you listened to a song and suddenly gotten flashes of a visual image that seems to rhythmically blend with the sound? Or is this just me? The common denominator in all these above mentioned trailers and ads is that the music does seem to enhance and embellish the images. Before the trailer, I really had no interest in seeing Jonze's latest. Now, my interest is piqued to say the least. Two minutes of success for the The Arcade Fire, and nine more dollars from my pocket to Warner Brothers later this year. Seems like a good trade-off, no?


Fletch said...

"So what do we owe all of this?"

Here's the answer. Video game makers.

Yep, the makers of the Madden series started putting more obscure indie, hip-hop and rock acts as the soundtracks to their games years ago, and when that translated to increased sales, record execs took notice, as did other marketers, who saw that the songs were giving the games an air of hipness that they didn't have previously. Then there's the iPod commercials and Hyundai commercials and on down the line, to where indie music is being used all over the damn place.

Either way - I like it.

Joseph B. said...

Good call.