Saturday, August 27, 2011

15 Minutes – A Review (Sort of)

Barry Manilow’s first CD of original music in ten years was released on June 14, 2011.   Titled 15 Minutes, the CD has the theme of fame, asking on the cover “Fame…Can You Take It?” Barry and his management team pulled out all the stops in getting the word out about the CD release. This was especially important since 15 Minutes was released on the Stiletto label making it an independent release. Personally I think they did a great job. My sister who cares nothing for anything Manilow knew Barry had a new CD coming out just by watching daytime television. Barry made all the rounds of talk shows on TV and radio. I thought the Travis Smiley interview on public radio and CNN’s Piers Morgan were very well done interviews. Even now, over two months out from the release date, Barry continues to promote the CD in interviews.

Like a good Manilow fan, I purchased two copies of 15 Minutes. I ordered the QVC CD with the bonus CD and then Starbiz hooked me. I fell right for the idea of getting a surprise with my CD. While I didn’t get Vegas tickets, I did get a Live at the Greek DVD, which I am very happy about and a snow globe from The Paris. Some very good things came out of getting the word about Barry’s new CD. Barry is now using Facebook to connect with his fans, as well as a video blog on YouTube. I am so glad to see the use of the social media to get the word out about 15 Minutes. TPTB reached out to the fans, treating them as the valuable asset they are. Fans united behind Barry and 15 Minutes. The result was a very good chart showing for the CD’s debut week. I hope this means TPTB discovered that being nice to fans brings good results.

If you are looking for the polished professional sound of Barry’s recent decades CDs, then 15 Minutes will sorely disappoint you. The vocals are rawer, to fit the storyline of 15 Minutes. Listening to the CD in one sitting works to get the full effect of the fame theme of 15 Minutes, and there is a theme. The story has a beginning, middle, and an end. It is not a new theme. In fact, the story of how people deal with fame is a story that has been told over and over. What makes 15 Minutes stand out is the fact that it is a story that Barry has lived. It’s personal. So personal that in some songs, the feeling comes through that Barry is holding back for fear of revealing too much about a painful time that maybe he went through in his own career. I see 15 Minutes becoming something of a cult CD, much like a cult movie.

People, mostly young people, trying to gain the success the guy in 15 Minutes achieves, will relate to the CD. They will find their way to 15 Minutes because it describes exactly what they are going through, or will go through. All the emotions that goes into getting talent recognized and making it, is expressed, as well as the underside of what that fame fought for so hard can do to a person. Could there be a sequel to 15 Minutes? The “he” on the CD is assured on the last cut that after losing his fame, “Everything’s Gonna Be All Right.” Does he regain his fame and does he do it right the second time? Barry has the experience to speak to that theme too. Just an idea.

To be honest, when I put my ear buds in to listen to music at work, 15 Minutes does not get played. It is too intense to be background music. When I listen to Manilow Radio, it jars me to hear 15 Minutes cuts. That’s just me. 15 Minutes may drop off the charts but I feel it will find an audience for a long time to come, not only among Manilow fans but among people struggling with the same problems the songs on the CD address. One thing I hope is that Barry’s audience doesn’t have to wait so long for his next CD of original music.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Good-Bye Manilow Network

I got suspended from My Manilow Network. Don’t know why. Since the only items on my page over there were a link to my blog, I would guess that is the reason. Probably I will never know why. The blog is not on the Manilow Network itself; I never could get the folks over there to understand that, because I did not want it pulled by the administrators over on the network. I’m not a fan of their idea of free expression.

To be honest, I lasted longer over there than I thought I would. Why anyone would care enough about my views on the Manilow world to complain about me is beyond reasoning. Since I don’t always follow the party line, so to speak, I guess that’s the reason for my demise on MMN. Not that I really mind. Bullies are not my favorite people to hang with.

The joke is really on the folks over on the network. My suspension doesn’t affect my blog. It is still doing business at the same old places’ over on blogspot at and on Facebook at Sue’s Manilow Blog. Come visit. Read all the vile things (LOL) that got me suspended from MMN.

Just for good measure, I dropped a note to the administrator of MMN. In my note I asked why I was booted and could I get a refund on my BMIFC dues since I assumed being a member of MMN was included when I paid. Don’t think I’ll ever hear back from them but what the heck? It’s not like I have anything to lose. 

Being suspended does not change my feelings about Barry Manilow. He is still the same talented, kind, generous man I have always known him to be. Nothing could change that. Now I have one less place to check on the Internet every couple of weeks. Good-bye Manilow Network. I won’t miss you.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Language of Manilow


Barry Manilow has postponed his Australian tour dates set for April, 2011. Of course Australian Manilow fans are disappointed; even more so because they don’t exactly understand why Barry isn’t coming down under in April. This is where the language of Manilow comes into play. Manilow language is a curious sort of American English designed to convey as vague of a message as possible. Using Australian hotlines and press releases is a good example of how Manilow language is designed to give what appears as information while actually saying nothing at all.

A hotline dated February 10, 2011 announced that due to “current conditions” Barry’s April Australian tour dates had been postponed. Everyone living outside of Australia assumed the conditions, referred to in the hotlines meant the weather. News reports from Australia had been full of stories concerning problems rain had caused in various parts of the country. Fans in Australia quickly informed their counterparts in other parts of the world that weather was highly unlikely to be a factor in the postponement of Barry’s concerts. (Now if you check any of the official Manilow sites, no mention of weather not being a factor or disappointment of fans at this postponement will be evident. It’s all been purged. The cult in action but that’s another blog. Check the archives.)

So if “conditions” weren’t the weather what other “conditions” is the hotline speaking about? First thing that comes to mind is,does Barry have a condition that would prevent him from going to Australia? That happened once before. Shows were postponed in Vegas with vague language but that time fans got a translation from Barry himself. Remember that infamous note Barry wrote that was posted for a short time on a couple of official sites announcing his upcoming surgery? Barry’s health doesn’t seem to be the problem this time since the hotline that announced the postponement of the Australian dates also included the information that Barry will be adding the April dates to his Vegas schedule. Safe to rule out health issues, as all good fans should be concerned about Barry’s health at all times.

Australian fans cited another condition – economic conditions. Tickets were not selling well for Barry’s Australian concerts. Aussie newspapers seemed to agree with the fans. When the press release was sent to Australian news organizations the wording was changed from what had been sent out as a hotline. “Current conditions” became “due to unforeseen circumstances.” Enterprising journalists went to the official Manilow sites to gather more information, which caused them to pick up on the different wording. As good reporters do they dug deeper coming to the same conclusion as the fans -Barry’s postponement could be a case of simple economics.

The Sidney Daily Telegraph ran a story on February 12, 2011 about the performers scheduled to play in Australia around the same time as Barry. None of these acts postponed due to weather conditions. Maybe Barry’s management team felt it would be better to put the concerts off until another time when people didn’t have so many performers to choose from. What artist wants to say that they can’t compete against other artists? Barry may not even be aware of other concerts factoring into the postponement. Management’s job is to keep the artist happy. As the Aussie newspaper said, seems like Barry can’t sing in the rain but must keep high and dry in the desert. Maybe that’s what it takes to have a happy Barry.

That’s a short example of how the language of Manilow works. Another word that Australian fans may want to try to translate is “postponed.” The promoter claims that they hope to re-schedule Barry’s shows later in 2011. Some California fans are still holding on to postponed concert tickets that are close to a year and half old. Not only do I hope the Aussie fans get their shows in 2011, I hope the people holding the California tickets get their shows. What is always pointed out is that ticket holders can get their money back at any time. That’s not what it’s about for fans. Barry and the TPTB never seem to understand that part. Maybe they will one day but right now one word that needs a lot of work in the language of Manilow is “fan.”

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Fifteen Minutes of Promotion

                      15 min clock

The buzz throughout the Manilow world is all about Barry’s new CD, Fifteen Minutes. According to a recent hotline, a listening party for the CD was held. Attendees were employees and friends of Barry’s. Not quite an objective audience so the comments included in the hotline about the project were, not surprising, praising the CD. A week or so earlier, Garry Kief, Barry’s manager, asked on his Facebook page for ideas from the fans for promotion of Fifteen Minutes. Was this listening party an off shot of the ideas fans put forth? If so, it seems the Manilow team needs to make-up its mind about what audience they want to market the CD to and then embrace that audience.

Most of the suggestions made by fans had the marketing of the CD aimed at Barry’s loyal fan base. Just a few people thought outside of the box, away from the fans. Fans tend to think of themselves as being a big group. Maybe Barry’s base is large as fan bases goes but it must be remembered that Barry’s loyal fans are a sure thing when it comes to buying his CDs. Especially since this is a CD of original music. That’s something Manilow fans haven’t had since the 2001 Here at the Mayflower. Promotion should be aimed at a wider audience. Who is this wider audience?

If the Manilow team wants to target a younger audience then an up-to date method must be utilized. That means going viral. In the past Stiletto has pulled clips posted on YouTube and Daily Motion without their permission, which would be all the Manilow clips on the sites. Going back to embracing the audience, these tools would have to be used to attract younger listeners. This is how promotion is done nowadays. Fifteen Minutes is said to be a concept CD that tells a story. Barry has said in interviews that the CD tells the story of the handling of fame by a young person. That’s an interesting as well as a relevant storyline. Tell the story.

Copyright is a concern. At some point a decision has to be made: is Fifteen Minutes only going to be sold to the fans or should it be marketed to a larger audience? Viral is what creates a buzz in the music industry at this point in time. Other sites besides YouTube could be used maybe Podcasts of vignettes of the story with the music being the main focus. As bad as it sounds, it might be better if the music sold itself and the emphasis is off of Barry.

Reading the reviews of Barry’s Florida shows in January is a good example of why the emphasis should be on the music. Some people can’t get past the Barry of the 1970s or certain personal issues to give the music a fair chance. Making videos of the songs would get people emotionally involved with the music and lyricists. How many times do people hear a song and say, “oh, I love that song!” but never add the name the performer? Not many. It’s the music that draws people so let the music do the selling.

Then the question comes to mind, how feasible are any of the suggestions the fans made? Things like using Manilow TV or doing concerts for the fans sound like great ideas to the fans but are they doable? I have no idea. I think reaching out to a wider audience than the fans is the best way but I could be wrong. This is not an area I know anything about. My daughter-in-law knows about this stuff- she works in marketing for a record label. Hey, there’s a good suggestion, listen to the people who do marketing for a living, even if they want to step out of Barry’s comfort zone.

Guess we’ll just have to wait and see what type of promotion is used for Fifteen Minutes. It’ll be interesting to see if any of the fan suggestions are used. As for me, I don’t need to be sold. I already plan to buy the CD. Can’t wait. What I’d like to see happen is my friends and co-workers wanting to go out and buy Fifteen Minutes. I hope someone comes up with a way to make that happen.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Barry Speaks from the Heart

Barry was on the Anderson Cooper AIDS special on CNN a couple of weeks ago. Maybe I don’t go to the right places in the Manilow fan world but I saw very little, if anything written or discussed about this Barry appearance. Granted, Barry’s screen time was very brief: he was on right before a commercial to answer a question that was asked to quite a few celebrities who appeared in the same fashion Barry did. The question was along the lines about when AIDS really came to mean something in the life of the person. Barry chose to speak about Elizabeth Taylor. He related Taylor calling him to ask him to perform at one of her AIDS benefits for the first time.

Time has passed. Elizabeth Taylor asking Barry Manilow to appear at an AIDS benefit seems like nothing today but back in the 1980s, this request was a very big favor to ask of a performer. People today may not be aware of how courageous Elizabeth Taylor was in not only raising money for the AIDS cause but also speaking out about AIDS in public. At the time Taylor started her AIDS work little was known about the disease. A stigma was attached to anything connected with AIDS. Elizabeth Taylor ignored what the public would think. She saw a need from not just a private point of view but from a very public point that she could fill. Taylor forged a path for others to follow. Barry was one of those people who followed Taylor’s lead. She probably changed a lot of people in the public’s eye perception of what they could do to help with the AIDS crisis.

Seeing the respect Elizabeth Taylor gained in her public crusade to raise awareness and money gave performers like Barry the comfort to publicly support the AIDS cause. Over the years Barry has appeared at many AIDS events. He has helped raised large sums of money for the AIDS cause. Talking about Elizabeth Taylor took the spotlight off Barry and allowed it to shine on a person Barry thinks deserves credit for leading the way in the AIDS fight. In the short time Barry was on the Anderson Cooper AIDS special, he managed to convey a powerful message. At some point someone has to lead the way. Barry made us understand that Elizabeth Taylor showed him the way to do something about AIDS. Isn’t that usually the time when something means the most to us, when we find we can do something? This television appearance by Barry may rate right up there as one of my all time favorites. I’m glad I saw the show.

barry and et