America’s Next Top Composer Is Dating Paris Hilton

Now I have seen everything. Inspired by how stylists take contestants from American Idol and remake them for public consumption, there is a new firm attempting to do just that with composers. Called New Music Images (NMI), the company has already amassed a list of clients and claims to be getting results.

NMI spokesperson Madeline Arthur explained, “As we see it, the reason the American public does not embrace this music is not because of lack of education, funding, or accessibility. It is all in the image of the messenger. The more enticing we can make the composer, the better. At NMI we utilize the skills of an entire team of in-house stylists, publicists, and product marketing specialists. We can take composers and, regardless of the ‘style’ of their music, attract the attention of the media and the public.”

To make her point, Ms. Arthur told me about one of their clients, a thirty-something composer who recently arrived in New York after an extended stay abroad. Though his music was gaining a steady audience and appeal outside the U.S., he had found it quite difficult to make headway in his own country beyond putting his music up on MySpace. In order to present him to an audience beyond the “traditional” self-contained contemporary scene, NMI redid every aspect of his image, from his clothing to his press materials to his social life.

They started by enlisting an ex-production assistant from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy to help in creating a new wardrobe and style for the musician. Upon looking at the before and after picture of the composer I was truly amazed. Gone were the sweater vests and the greasy hair. In place was a strikingly attractive person wearing stylish Ralph Lauren glasses.

Next I was shown samples of the composer’s music in the new promotional packets they had made. Along with a glossy photo, each came with a specially produced DVD showcasing his music. As for press clippings, in addition to his resume and reviews, there were articles from entertainment magazines that had mentioned the composer’s forays into the celebrity gallery and nightclub scenes, which NMI had negotiated. When asked why such measures were needed, NMI said that they felt the exposure made the composer’s image more accessible and interesting to the public.

The results of these strategies, according to NMI at least, have been impressive. Ms. Arthur says that they have been able to get radio play for his chamber works on dozens of stations not generally associated with new music and are in the process of having several of his pieces licensed for use in TV commercials, similar to how Moby marketed his music. They are even in conversations to have the composer be a guest in upcoming segments of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report.

So, is the only way for new music to become part of American culture to use the mechanisms American culture has devised to create itself? Should we all go to NMI and get a consultation as to how to attract listeners to our work? Seems some think it is the way. Can you believe it?

16 thoughts on “America’s Next Top Composer Is Dating Paris Hilton

  1. rfk

    Since you posted this on April 2nd
    ….I will have to presume that it’s not an April Fool’s Joke! Although the joke may be in NMI’s clientele.

    Reply
  2. mmcginn

    It feels like we’re all back in high school again. And if we don’t have the right hairstyle or the right clothes we’re not “popular”.

    Has this ever been an issue with new music? Did anyone ever tell Ligeti to comb his hair, how about Feldman to lose some weight, or even Penderecki to get hair replacement?

    Why should we want the people who are interested in Anna Nicole Smith and Justin Timberlake to listen to our music? Sounds pretty shallow to me.

    I’d be curious to know what this composer’s music sounds like.

    I don’t think I need any help, although judge for yourself: http://www.mcginnmusic.com

    Reply
  3. Colin Holter

    I was at a conference over the weekend, and somebody mentioned this company. Apparently it’s the secret of Eric Whitacre’s success.

    Reply
  4. Matthew

    My music is for future generations, anyway
    See, this is why I only post pictures of my dog. On the Web, no one can see your Hawaiian shirts and mismatched socks.

    Reply
  5. coreydargel

    from “The Culture of Celebrity” by Joseph Epstein
    (published in 2006 in The Weekly Standard)

    “[F]ame is something one earns – through talent or achievement of one kind or another – while celebrity is something one cultivates or, possibly, has thrust upon one. The two are not, of course, mutually exclusive… Fame, then, at least as I prefer to think of it, is based on true achievement; celebrity on the broadcasting of that achievement, or the inventing of something that, if not scrutinized too closely, might pass for achievement. Celebrity suggests ephemerality, while fame has a chance of lasting…”

    Reply
  6. scottgendel@hotmail.com

    Amazingly, I find myself disagreeing…
    …with everyone’s disdain for the idea that a composer might have a PR agent. Obviously, it could go too far, but the idea seems reasonable enough to me.

    Corey makes the distinction between fame and celebrity, a nice and useful distinction. But the fact remains that no matter how brilliant your work, it’s a lot harder to achieve the positive goal of Fame without anyone hearing and really listening to your music. And while the music would speak for itself in an ideal world, in this world presentation is a large part of impressing an audience enough that they’ll give your music serious consideration. It’s like applying for a job (a lesson I learned the hard way): Sure, there’s some chance that the CEO will hire someone with an incredible resume that’s delivered to them via ferret, and sloppily handwritten on paper napkins. But the same resume printed on fine linen paper, and presented with a firm handshake and a look in the eye is WAY more likely to succeed.

    Martin asks, “Why should we want the people who are interested in Anna Nicole Smith and Justin Timberlake to listen to our music? Sounds pretty shallow to me.” So you’re only going allow people who prove their spiritual depth to enjoy your music? I have numerous friends who closely follow the Anna Nicole Smith stories. Not my cup of tea, but I’m certainly not going to discount their point of view entirely, just because they enjoy celebrity-watching. I respect the opinions of people who don’t think like me. AND, I hope that my music can even be enjoyed by people whose opinions I don’t respect. Maybe more of them would come hear my music if they recognized my name from the magazines. That’s not the ultimate goal, of course… but the masses are never going to be won over by my compositions if they never bother to come hear them.

    I guess I’m just wondering why folks are so quick to mock this. It was my first instinct, too… and I think for me it’s because I HATE how image-based so much of the world is, so I try to deny it. But all the denial in the Nile won’t change the fact that I could name for you 10 acquaintances who don’t go to my concerts because they “don’t like classical music,” but who would undoubtedly go if they heard my music on a TV commercial, or saw me on The Daily Show, or caught my wife and I hobnobbing with Paris Hilton. I don’t think they’re right to think that way. But why not take advantage of it?

    P.S. This post may leave you asking, “then why doesn’t he hire NMI?” The answer you should be giving yourself is, “Oh right. He can’t afford to hire a cab driver to get to the airport, much less a PR firm.”

    Reply
  7. AlexRossNY

    Surprisingly, for a company alleged to be media-savvy, New Music Images has no internet presence, unless it is the side project of a guy who shoots photos of bands in Minneapolis. Nor is there any visible trace of a Madeline Arthur in the PR or music field. I think some people have been April Fooled!

    Reply
  8. mmcginn

    “you’re only going allow people who prove their spiritual depth to enjoy your music”

    I didn’t really say this. What I implied was the fact that people, in general, who are impressed or otherwise fascinated with these topics (Anna Nicole Smith and/or Justin Timberlake to name a few) are not going to be interested in new music, ever. Even if you have the glossiest photos and the slickest PR team in the world….never.

    Who cares about winning over the masses? If that’s your thing, go write music that sounds like Bjork, Moby, etc. Don’t write concert hall music and complain that no one listens.

    Reply
  9. belindareynolds

    “I think some people have been April Fooled!” -Alex Ross…

    Yes, Mr. Ross, you are correct. However, it is an honor to be outed by you!

    NMI is only a website for a free-lance photographer. And, the name Madeline Arthur comes from two of my three year old’s favorite book characters. A few weeks ago, I played with my husband’s head and had him believing this situation to be true. Upon realizing I had duped him, he told me to do it for the April 1 Chatter.

    So, yes, it was all in jest. But, it stemmed from real conflicts I and others have around this topic. And, I obviously hit a nerve. So, look for more around this topic in upcoming chatters.

    (And, pgblu, what makes you think I am mild mannered? Thank you!)

    Reply
  10. scottgendel@hotmail.com

    Count me in…
    …as a fool. Still, though, if anyone wants to put my picture in a gossip rag, please, go right ahead. Just don’t quote me on the part where I’m a fool.

    Reply
  11. CM Zimmermann

    Derridean Supplement
    Joke or no joke, is this scenario not the supplement to the new music imaginary?

    Reply
  12. philmusic

    I wasn’t kidding! I’m also: big foot’s love slave, the real Anastasia, Madonna’s first husband, the real father of Brittany’s 5 children, the Lock ness monster, I also put the “dot” in the dot com (and I’m not calm about that either!

    Phil’s page

    Reply
  13. Marc

    Fooled?
    So that journalist’s discount you gave me for the pictures was a lie, Belinda? Do I still get the pictures? Was there film in the camera?

    Reply

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