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?