RZA and The Wu-Tang Clan Are Huge Geeks (You Read it Here First!)

Earlier today, I watched this interview (embedded below, via BoingBoing) with RZA from the Wu-Tang Clan, in which he talks about how much of a geek he is and how that influenced his music.

"I'd rather raise nerds than raise gangsters", the hip-hop star says as he talks about his interest in new music-creating software, and that hip-hop has a lot of geeks amongst its ranks.

I've been saying that the Wu-Tang Clan were huge needs for a while now. Last year, I wrote that that they were huge nerds ("36 Chambers of Social Media") due to the fact that they were obsessed with Kung-Fu movies and Voltron, and I'm glad that the RZA has confirmed my thoughts.

For examples of some of their music and its relation to nerd culture, check here.

A Round Table of Music-Blogging Knights

Via The Hype Machine's blog, I came across an interesting round-table discussion on The Morning News among a group of music bloggers. It's interesting to hear their thoughts on the relationship music bloggers have with the Public Relations people in the record industry, and there is definitely some take-away for all PR pros there.

Matthew Perpetua, who writes Fluxblog.org, says, "I am glad to get records sent to me because sometimes I get something that I really enjoy." However, as a hat-tip to the growing importance that PR pros are placing on reaching bloggers rather than traditional media, Perpetua adds, "I work for the regular press too, and aside from my experience with New York Magazine and Pitchfork, the difference seems to be that no one really cares about what I write for money, but they are sometimes very invested in what I do for free."

When asked if they read other music blogs, the panellists said almost universally that they did not. I feel like this kind of mentality is what has set them apart from other music bloggers and is similar to my suggestion that PR props stop reading PR blogs.

And as great as all that is, I think that this round-table discussion is more important to understand the opinions of these bloggers about giving away content for free and the future of the music industry.

It is slightly depressing to hear Andrew Noz complain that CDs will "be all but unattainable to towns with only one Wal-Mart" without him acknowledging that a) the CD is essentially a dead format and b) thanks to blogs like his, people in towns of all sizes have access to way more music than they would have ever discovered before.

I also disagree with Sean Michaels and David Gutowski, who both think that the future of music is in paying for subscription services packaged with our phone and internet plans. To think that the way for artists to make money off of the art they make (whether it is music or film or writing) by sharing their revenues with wireless and internet providers is ridiculous. All that does is replace one inefficient middleman (today's record companies) with another.

However, some of the bloggers do seem to get it. "I believe pretty strongly that the next frontier lies in monetizing live performance", says John Seroff. In fact, his suggestion that perhaps we'll see something "along the lines of $20 for an album, four live shows and access to ongoing projects" sounds pretty Masnickian and forward-thinking.

Andrew Noz and Oliver Wang seem to support this line of argument by saying that physical products in the form of deluxe or limited editions of albums will help fund artists' careers.

Later on in the discussion, as the topic veers towards the "free culture" movement, John Seroff does a great job of comparing his writing being shared online with the way music is being shared online: "I figure anything I write or make that ever hits the internet is gone and I don't resent people doing what they want with it... that's the internet, and that's how it works." He also goes on to say that, although some artists might not like this new way of doing business (giving away their content freely, making a profit on things like live performances rather than individual CDs), "it might not jibe with your professional/creative goals, but thus has it ever been."

His basic point is that you should adapt to the new internet economy. Things have changed, and artists should change with it.

The whole discussion is worth a serious read, as these guys talk about everything from their favourite music, to their actual blogging process (and how to avoid burnout after 5+ years). Read the Music Blogging Roundtable on The Morning News.


The Future Of Music (It Was A Good Day)

It has been fairly obvious that the record industry is in decline, has been for years, and will probably continue to decline for some time. That's because the RECORD industry is based on a decades-old business model of selling discs of either the vinyl or laser-read variety. The music industry, it seems, has never been better.

Artists and record labels that have embraced the internet and new ways of doing business are being rewarded. Imogen Heap, a 31-year old recording artist from England (formerly of the band Frou Frou) is a great example of this. As a recent article on the Telegraph website says, she  "has a lucrative sideline in “sync deals”—licensing her songs for use on television and in ads and film soundtracks."

I truly believe that this sort of licensing of music will be the future of the music industry. Fans will still get to hear and share the music they love and artists will still be rewarded for their hard work. The difference is that it will be companies paying the artist's salary via these licensing deals. The more popular an artist is, the more choices they'll have when it comes to aligning their music with a brand.

A great example of this in action can be seen in this ad from Nike SB featuring pro-skaters Paul Rodriguez and Eric Koston, basketball superstar Kobe Bryant, and music from Ice Cube (SB is Nike's surf/skateboard/snowboard brand):

(Yeah, you can watch it here on BlogCampaigning or your RSS reader, but I highly recommend you watch the full-screen version with the sound on.)

I was out riding my skateboard through the streets of Toronto's Little Italy neighbourhood within two hours of seeing the video. I had that song stuck in my head (and will forever associate it with Nike), and although I was wearing a pair of Nikes, they're two years old and the video has me thinking about buying new ones.

I've never been a fan of Ice Cube's music, and didn't even know that the song in the video ("Today Was A Good Day") was was by him.

The result of this video was that I was entertained by a commercial so much that I watched it a few times and shared it with some friends. I became a fan of Ice Cube's song, and he probably got rewarded by Nike for having it play along with the video.

36 Chambers of Social Media

I've been listening to a lot of Wu-Tang Clan lately, and the similarities between these verbal Shaolin Swordsmen and social media are uncanny. For those of you that don't know, Wu-Tang is a rap group that formed in New York in the 80s and has since their album Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), they've gone on to create a multimedia enterprise consisting of a clothing line, and even their own line of drum machines and samplers. Oh, and they also just came out with another critically-acclaimed album.

As hood as the members of the Wu-Tang try and seem, they're actually huge nerds. How else can you explain their obsession with Kung Fu movies, their frequent references to Voltron and the fact that they made their own comic book?

(If you need further evidence, you need only look at the Bobby Digital concept album that RZA (one of the Wu-Tang members) put out in 1998. In it, RZA takes on the role of Bobby, some sort of crime-fighting cyborg pimp from the future. This guy was 1337 and pwning before anyone even knew what that meant, and he gets nerd points for mentioning Johnny Mnemonic) It should come as no surprise that even back in 1993 when 36 Chambers first came out, they knew how things were going to work. I've taken some of their lyrics from that album and dissected them here.

Shame On A Flack For Trying To Run Game On A Hack

The actual wording of this Wu Tang song is a little bit more offensive (and, apologies around, my paraphrasing is as well), but the the message is the same. PR pros need to be open and transparent when dealing with the media. One need only look at case studies like the Edelman/WalMart fiasco to see what happens when someone tries to "run game". They might not get "their teeth knocked the f*ck out," but its the corporate reputation equivalent.

Killah Beez

As if they realized the power of user generated content and crowd sourcing, members of the Wu Tang continually make references to swarming bees. The Wu knows that the power of their brand is in the hands of their fans and supporters, and by supporting them as part of the Killah Bee Army, they'll get just as much support back.

The Shout Out

While this one isn't unique to Wu Tang, a particularly good example of it can be heard on the track "Clan In Da Front." For approximately the first minute of the song, the RZA can be heard naming a number of his colleagues. This is the equivalent of linking to someone, putting them on your blogroll or otherwise acknowledging them and pointing others in their direction. Just like this: Props to Chris Clarke for hooking me up with a ticket to the RZA concert here in Toronto a few weeks ago.


"Cash Rules Everything Around Me" is another Wu-Tang anthem and it is the hip-hop equivalent of ROI. As great as it is to be part of the "conversation," everyone is still here because they are making money, and its no different for corporations. As Colin McKay recently wrote, "companies under the gun, facing the knife, don’t really give a f*ck about what the public has to say."

And finally...

Make sure you own your own domain name. Otherwise you're going to end up with something silly like WuTang-corp.com for your homepage instead of Wu-Tang.com (I'm not even going to link to it).

Well, that was a fun Saturday. By next week I'll be talking about Nas and SEO.


French President's Son Is Secret Hip-Hop Producer

I'm really interested to see how the current president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, will respond to the recent news story that one of his son's from his first marriage has secretly been producing hip-hop songs under the name of "DJ Mosey." In his previous position as interior minister,  Sarkozy  "initiated cases against French rappers...for defaming the police." I'm mostly fascinated by this because as soon as I read this story, I started thinking about what is going on with the French presidential media team. They're probably working overtime over the next few days to field statements from the press. Or did they know about Mosey's work in advance, giving them time to prepare statements and positions?

Meanwhile...DJ Mosey just got a ton of publicity and since most of the stories published the address of his MySpace page, I'm sure he also made a lot of new friends.

And now all of this thinking about media and PR-spinning has reminded me that my vacation is over in only a few more days...