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.