Wednesday, April 14, 2010

...FM radio: the key to your financial plan

I spend a lot of time listening to the radio and I don't have highbrow taste, and I don't care for Top 40. So by default that would mean I listen to the stations that play the catalog of 70s and 80s songs over and over again. When I drove across the country I found that every station across the nation (well from Nashville to Los Angeles) played the same songs too.

After seeing the stock market rise and fall, and the real estate market rise and fall and the everything market rise and thing stayed the same. These same tired songs still play over and over again. You never turn on a classic rock station to find they have replaced Journey and Foreigner with John Prine and Tom Waits. No matter what happens, as Led Zeppelin once said "The Song Remains the Same." Certain classic rock artists, like say Journey and Foreigner, also get play on other "genre" stations.

Please note this plan is not for people who want to be "legends" or "stars" like Elvis Costello (who now has to work hosting that show) or Elton John (who is still working all the time). This is the plan for results-oriented people, who want to cut their FM rock album and then just count the money. We're not looking to work hard for some silly pat on the back, we're the quiet ones who work smart.

Thus, forget the ephemeral (and unethical) world of financial trading, forget the auto business (I noticed GM's new board is filled with people that OTHER bankrupt companies under their belt) and forget computers (silicon is toxic): below is my NO FAIL financial plan. Outlined in several easy steps.

1. Go back in time to 1974

2. Make sure when you go back to 1974 that you are between the ages of 23-27 and male and white (alas this plan for financial greatness follows so many others). You can be gay but be like closeted about it.

3. Grow a mullet or long hair a la Louis Quatorze.

4. Give yourself time to get started in the music business as a rock band. What's great is that you don't even really have to in LA to get started. That was more an 80s thing when Poison and Motley Crue were all on the Sunset Strip. We could reference them, but then again...maximum wealth accumulation belongs to Foreigner and Journey, so like student in French Secondary school, follow the exact model.

5. Between 1976-1980 make sure you are signed and cut an album (notice the 4 YEARS you have to cut the album)

6. Maybe tour for about a year or so. Really, you'd really only have to go until about 1983, by then MTV and Duran Duran would have rendered you out of style.

6b. If you really want to get ambitious, cut a solo album in about 1987.

7. Move to an incredibly expensive place like Marin County, Newport Coast or Grosse Pointe or anywhere with draconian zoning laws and proximity to attractive natural features. Sit around said community and count your money.

Now you have to follow the steps this way and here's why. First of all, you can't go too far back in time because prior generations read more and weren't as loyal to certain rock artists. I mean Elvis is an exception, but who wants that much kitsch associated with their persona. Could Elvis live in Marin County? No, not really. You want a high quality of life. You want wealth not associated with an "estate" that produces collector plates and dolls. Also you can't go too late, I mean grunge artists like the late Cobain and Eddie Vedder get heavy rotation, but you aren't in this for semi-heavy rotation, you want maximum wealth accumulation. So think about who makes the most money- Journey and Foreigner. You have to tap the generation that grew up in that specific time.

Now you could go off and do one hit single, or even maybe 2, like Dale Bozzio and Missing Persons. But America is not a place for underachievers, according to the 2nd to last guy I went out with, Europe is the place for underachievers and the USA is where all entrepreneurs live. We're talking about building an empire here. Everyone else can go to the back of the line.

Now, let's get into how your album will create the most radio play. I will go ahead and give my personal secret plan away, this is like when Naomi Judd or Jane Seymour appear WITHOUT MAKEUP in their informercials to show their skin cream only I am making myself EVEN more vulnerable.

First of all the album has to have an iconic yet innocuous name. I chose for my album name "Chrome Bumpers" (now isn't that catchy?). Steal it and I will go back in time, pull up by you in my Conversion Van, get out, beat you up and drive off.

Okay let's get to how you are going to cut the widest swath through the different genre stations so that 35 years in the future, your money is still working for you:

You need a love ballad. Usually it would be about a rough and tumble girl who just makes you smile with love. (if your gay, either write about your dog like Barry Manilow did or let a lesbian write about her first crush, but if you're gonna take the latter route, make sure it's like a white-trash bike ridin' lesbian in a baseball cap, not some like Bennington/Vassar chick with a dog-eared copies of Bell Hooks and Susan Sontag.) You can just name the song after this girl. Kristina-Lynn is a good example. Most any 2 to 3 syllable name can modified with "Lynn" and it will work, as long as you're not trying some East Coasty/Highbrow sounding name. Alexandria-Lynn, Tracy-Lynn- BINGO!!!! If you really want to get exotic, trying using Krystie as the modifier.

You need a song about doing something loud and rowdy. Now that can be playing guitar, or driving or drinking but something that either creates overwhelming soundwaves, changes your B.A.L. or uses internal combustion. "Straight Whiskey" "Hard Driving all Night Long" "Strings breaking" (this can also be the title of your sad "I fucked up my relationship while on tour" song, but we'll get to that later) "Out the Window" "Walkback"is another one...listen people do I have to do the work for you?

You need a ballad that mixes in some other genre, this is a polite way of saying you need to find some talented unknown African-American musician or musicians and use their innovative talent within your crappy song and pay them a little fraction of what you make. Foreigner was really good at this after they used saxophonist Junior Walker for "Urgent" they found it worked so well they used a whole entire chorus of African-Americans for "I Wanna Know What Love is" and I bet those people got paid even less than Junior Walker.

Plus then they paid homage to the black community with that lovely video where they showed scenes of black people ironing things in maid uniforms and doing construction work then getting enthusiastically bussed in to sing with Lou Gramm plus they get to watch him reconcile with his 22-year-old rail thin girlfriend-BONUS!

Learn from Foreigner, people. A simple song will do for the talented underpaid black people will do all the work on the song. "Learning the Hard Way," "Aching" (titles like this can also be bought later by Tylenol, etc for advertising spots), "My Heart's Open Now."

Now getting to the "I fucked up my life on tour" song. Self-explanatory. Three girls snuck through the Sheraton and knocked on your door. They should make an exception in the vows for that one, but they don't. Again. Don't do real work here. You're looking to maximize your profits, minimize your work. Got a dead spot in the song. Just reference the tour bus or road in some way. "Passing Headlights" "Wheels Turn, Hearts break"...

Now, let's look at scenario B. And that's the best one OF ALL! That scenario assumes that the three girls made it into your hotel room and no one knows ANYTHING! you're just lonely on tour. "Awake (because I'm missing you)" would be a great title. The rule about referencing the tour bus and road still works. See how easy this is...

Angry song about the girl who did you wrong. To write this remember the ugly guy you were before you got rich and the date who wronged you. CHALLENGE: Think of a title on your own.

Now you have recession-proof plan for financial security. Get to it. Oh yeah, and don't forget to get excellent, honest representation while you are cutting this album, because all these tips are null and void if the record company is making all the money.

Friday, April 9, 2010


Sometime around December I got into what is called a funk. When in a funk, I typically goof off with the sort of dedication that Olympic athletes train. My latest athletic endeavor, before I began the climb back to something resembling responsible adulthood, was to watch all the episodes of Weeds on Netflix. First off, let me say that watching TV episodes on Netflix (especially on a laptop) is like eating from a package of Pepperidge Farm cookies. Specifically, both situations leave you with no choice but gluttony: the PF cookie bags force you to lift the little white card between baskets of cookies, thus forcing you to eat the next 3 cookies nested below, while Netflix forces you to watch the next episode by placing the arrow below the viewing screen that reads "more episodes." During my Weeds binge, I reflected on why the show was so addictive.
Weeds centers around a woman, Nancy Botwin (Mary Louise Parker) who does not really know how to take control of her life and thus keeps colliding into situations. She chooses a career that is morally void. Her life spins beyond her control, yet she just keeps bouncing right along. Nothing in her life has any center. The show has a buoyancy to it, but not a lightness. Nancy Botwin fucked up her kids whom she was trying to save, ruined her chances at a safe little (illegal) business and even destroyed her own hometown.
The critiques about how suburbia is fucked up are nothing innovative. However, to me they don't ring that true. People do have to work hard to buy those (not so) little boxes on the hillside. However, coming from a family of chaos and settling into an adult life of telesales craziness and nihilistic benign laziness, when I watch the show I escape into a world that mirrors my own (no I'm not selling pot). The world just...happens.
That is why I connect to the show and is probably why others do as well. Nancy Botwin's buoyant roll through the untreated sludgy waters of her pot-dealing life mirrors the life that most Americans have now taken on. Our 70% service economy delivers very few jobs with meaning and frankly most jobs in the last 10 years were built upon buying, refinancing and selling a dream that was built on nada. People are living in dazed denial. Unlike the protesting Europeans who take it out to the streets, but Americans mostly stay complacent. Rather than rallying together, we insulate ourselves into little microvillages of crazy. As Hillary Clinton says, "It Takes a Village." Jenji Kohan has built that little village on her show. And as we watch them forget their dreams, yet maintain their myths, we see the new American way.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

...The September Issue

Finally watched _The September Issue_ which is kind of like _The Devil Wears Prada_ except Andre Leon Talley is a big black man and not a little Italian Stanley Tucci. Just kidding.

Was struck by how calm it actually is at Vogue Magazine. The "meltdowns" did not seem that bad compared to the ones I viewed as an assistant (a senior agent chasing a junior agent down the halls of William Morris).
Grace Coddington is fabulous. To say how and why she is fabulous is to destroy the best part of the movie.
I didn't find Anna Wintour that toxic, just plastic and a bit sad. When sitting at her country house with her lovely daughter, Bee, she still keeps her sunglasses on. There is a moment where she compares herself to her more intellectually-oriented siblings, and somehow the trite way she sees her own extraordinary accomplishments comes through and it is sad. Even the sunglasses can't cover that.