Art Vent

Letting the Fresh Air In

Arcade Fire, even more

August 15, 2010 - 8:33pm -- Carol Diehl

In the Times today, an article by Ben Sisario, “Amazon Digital Discount Helps Arcade Fire Hit No. 1,” discusses the marketing techniques that (he says) helped Arcade Fire’s “The Suburbs” edge Eminem off the top slot this week. Sisario cites rave reviews, sold-out shows, and their YouTube concert live-feed as well, but nowhere does he suggest that Arcade Fire might just be good at what they do.

After all, nobody twisted my arm to get me to sit and watch them in front of my computer last Thursday night.

As soon as something (or someone) becomes popular, there’s this assumption that it’s all about marketing. This is what has MFA students looking for gimmicks, the hooks that will insure instant attention, rather than developing intuitive resources that could sustain them through a lifetime in art. 

Not that music popularity isn’t vulnerable to hype, but at least (since SoundScan began tracking actual sales data in 1991) it's measurable—we vote with our dollars when we download songs or buy concert tickets.  In the art world, however, we’re still at the mercy of the gatekeepers (curators, gallery directors, editors and writers) who insist that Richard Prince is the bee’s knees, while most artists I know couldn’t care less. 

Of course everyone knows Eminem is a marketing phenom—and it’s just a coincidence that his bestselling album, Recovery, is really good too.  


so setting Mr Prince aside... which someone should do, I'll be sharing this with my students, who all think fame is at the end of a gimmick and not at the end of work... actually they don't really believe artists DO work. saddest of all. that's an over generalization of course, but somedays it feels like the truth!

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