Working on Maggie’s Content Farm

(I wanted to embed Genaside II’s Revolution Revised til I realised that criminally it wasn’t on YouTube – so I made a quick and dirty video for it which you can see above, it’s the video component of this blog post hence the Gaga steals)

Reading this article about AOHell and creating content for an uncaring corporation that just see creatives as peons and they don’t care for the quality of their work, it reminded me of several things.

The first is remembering how little has changed, from the first internet boom from which AOL and Compuserve benefitted then lost out. I was working at PA Consulting, a place that really struggled with the new technologies at that time and itself internally. Frustrating to be lowest in the stack and questioning the strategy and messages against your own training and knowledge and to be constantly stonewalled. Sadly these bigger companies never learned from the new technologies other than dodgy SEO ‘magic’ and informatrion architecture snakeoil, and hence myself  freelancing at smaller companies for the last 7 years.

The other is a wider one, and more appropriate for this blog – this desire for quick easy earch/headline friendly content is not restricted to the written word, this desire is across all media including music.

Hence this endlessly recycling culture has been using mashups and remixes for years to try and serve up the same old slop…and making me more and more wary over the years as I get sent more and more far too professionally produced ‘virals’. It makes me uneasy, and it takes away the radical and underground aspect to serve our paymasters with the very ideas meant to escape them? You know who you are…

It’s also not restricted to corporates, as talked about in ‘ All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace’ (must watch the rest of that) the concepts of self-branding and selling of self in social media are legion. (The excellent section about Humdog’s rant, which interestingly was about social interactions being ‘sold’ on corporate websites like AOL – so even play and ‘free time’ and your online persona is being monetised).

I know people do create mashup combinations with Google hits and blog traffic and press in mind, that’s not a totally new phenomenon (see all the tongue in cheek mashups around MJ’s arrest, for instance) butthere is a difference between a rare quick cheeky topical mash and churning out 10,000 Gaga mashes cos she’s popular of never ending shit-glistening combinations (for the record I like Gaga but her latest is a turd that would resist Gold Leaf Wonderspray in large quantities).

It does seem a lot of the mashups I see scrolling past in the last year or three are of the sort Popular Artist vs Other Popular Artist or Celeb vs Popular Artist, not very musical or interesting combinations meant to crowdplease or gain traffic…and I hate to think how many of them have a PR or plugger secretly behind them (or record label or film producer – don’t tell me it doesn’t happen, I know it does), or is it much worse that this endless celeb and fame numbers game is so internalised by the masher or remixer that it’s all self-censoring and self-perpetuating? Into a Cult of ADHD-3D?

As an aside this is why I tend to be very wary what I post here – the Rise of the Virals and unregulated advertising on the internet has consistently blurred the line between content and advertising – in a sense made many blogs and content ‘advertorials’. Partly because I spend my time working on adverts for money I value my time here and don’t want to ‘sell out’ my editorial voice to flog tshirts or books or Amish dating sites or whatever…but it does seem quaint the idea of ‘selling out’ since everyone is doing it to some extent.

I do scrutinise what I post for hidden advertising, a music video is usually as about as ‘commercial’ as it gets around here. I do get a lot of spam from promotion companies though, and it’s clear from reading music blogs that a lot of content is repurposed press releases in the same fashion as that AOL writer. It’s why I mostly avoid hype and stuff that’s pushed to me unless it comes from the artists themselves. I do subconciously follow my Dad’s old-school mantra of ‘if it was any good they’d not need to advertise it’ – not totally true in this hyperinformational world where overload means you can miss something really good, but there is a grain of truth in that.

I was trying not to write a ‘not as good as it used to be post’ but working in the creative industries I do see a lot of similarity here across media; that it’s all quicker-faster-harder-stronger (Gleick was so right about this) but always at the fall of quality, the optional element – and truth and honesty. It disturbs me, but that’s capitalism in a nutshell.

What disturbs me more is those who take those tenets to heart and do the same in their own ‘free’ time they could be spending on creating something new or different, but recycle the same old and become a mashup mouse in the proverbial wheel.

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