Magic Jewball

all signs point to no


Listen up!

Filed under : Music
On January 25, 2007
At 10:50 pm
Comments : 11

I have three artists from my label in town this week so you can’t walk past any office without seeing some stranger in bohemian clothing doing a phoner. It’s also meant that I’ve had some sort of event each evening. My favorite of these types of events is the listening party, which, if you’re not familiar, is exactly what it sounds like. A bunch of people talking and drinking with a soon-to-be-released CD played over and over in the background. The band will be schmoozing and discussing it with people far more important than you, but you won’t mind as there is always free food and drinks.

In thinking about it, I realize that I’ve never actually been to a listening party for a successful album. I’m not sure if the listening party kills the chances of the CD or if they only plan listening parties for releases which have no chance of ever becoming successful. I mean, you don’t know it at the time. Everyone has such high hopes. The band and the record company and the journalists and the retail buyers and the radio promotion people are all having a grand old time and nodding as if this could be the best album they have ever heard.

I think it might be because most of these things are for the artist’s second album. The first one did great, maybe had a hit, generated buzz. This next one will be the breakthrough we’ve all known was in them! But sadly, the artist has had his/their whole life to write the first ten songs and just a year or two to do the second ten. And they’re often so heady from that bitty taste of success that they’re as full of themselves as the CD is lacking in quality. I remember one listening party for a band who’d had one big MTV hit (you don’t remember them, trust me) where pretension was practically the theme of the event. It was in a loft in Chinatown that some guy lived in and rented out (he wasn’t there but his bigass dog was; you can imagine how thrilled I was about that) and the band walked around barefoot and handed out their CD wrapped like a present. Ugh. I think it sold twelve copies.

The fanciest listening party I’ve ever been to was for a band with worldwide success whom you’ve absolutely heard of, unless you are my grandmother and she would have heard of them had she not passed away before they made it big. Anyway, it was at The Hit Factory which is now closed but which I remember chiefly for this party as well as its cavernous freight elevator (there’s nothing like going to a swank party in a freight elevator). This was the only listening party I’ve ever been to where there were rows of chairs like you were at a concert and once the music started there was no talking at all. It’s hard to know what to do with yourself. I mean, it’s not a concert and there’s nothing to look at (the band wasn’t there, they had filmed a video intro). Plus, the album took the band in a whole new direction and you could tell as you glanced around at everyone that they agreed with you that that direction was south. Needless to say, it was the biggest flop of their career. And naturally they subsequently moved to another label and won 27 Grammys with that record.

This last party wasn’t like that at all, though. It was in the backroom of an East Village bar and the food was burgers and fries. And I’ve already heard the CD and so I knew it was good. It was going so swimmingly that I thought I’d duck out early and not jinx this band, whom I actually like, with “The Curse of Listening Parties I Have Attended.” Plus the line for the bar was really long and I realized I’d never drink again. Unfortunately, I stepped on one of the bandmember’s feet as I walked out. Oops. But it’s a great record and I’m sure it will sell fifteen copies at least. Maybe even twenty.

Tears for Fears – Listen