Ah, man. I really have mixed feelings about this. As I often mention, I am a huge fan of Little Steven's Underground Garage channel on SIRIUS XM satellite radio. But I just don't agree with his take on the state of music and the music business here. He has launched fuzztopia.com, which I would like better if it were not so technically buggy still, and that it didn't seem like one big ad for his Wicked Cool label. From the cnn.com article:

"The idea is to bring together musicians of all styles and countries to do social networking and development, (Van Zandt) says.

“We’re going to have a part of the Web site that suggests that yes, you can sell your stuff if you want to, or you can choose development – and at that point you will enter songwriting seminars, producer seminars, engineer seminars, performer seminars, and go through a kind of a course,” he says. “And hopefully, that will … help professionals or people who want to be professionals.”

Details are still being worked out, he says, but one thing he’s focused on is selecting a handful of musicians to be personally mentored by experts. He talks about ideas like the old Motown charm school, which educated that label’s musicians how handle their careers.

“It is similar to that in that I’m asking people to think beyond writing a song their mother’s going to get a kick out of,” he says. “Let’s learn this craft a little bit and you’ll find it’s quite rewarding. … This whole instant gratification culture we’re building, we have to address it … and we have to address it in a real focused way.”


Now I am all for networking amongst musicians and grass-roots marketing and word-of-mouth and all that. I am SO not for the old-style "artist development" model. So so so so so so NOT. All that makes me think of is exploitation, and taking something and making it honed and all shiny and acceptable and big-market-friendly, and that is just not real rock n' roll to me. If you are determined to be a professional musician, yes, you need to learn what that means and what it takes to survive and/or thrive in an incredibly-difficult and broken business. But the whole idea of mentoring just creeps me out completely, I'm sorry. You should listen with an open mind to the opinions of professional musicians because they've walked at least part of the road you might be taking. But seminars on how to craft a song, how to perform...man, you either got it or you DON'T. No pro is going to make you unique or cool or give you some formula to be awesome. They can tell you how to craft something like something else that already exists, because many people like to buy things that seem familiar and sound the same. If you want to do this, have at it. But at that point, to me, you are a business person selling a product, period.

Little Steven, to me, starts with good intent but is hopelessly lost in a time long gone. Musicians want information and help and support in being successful, sure, but who the hell would want to go back to the heavy-handed paternalism of the Motown "charm school?" There's a reason creative people left Motown, you know, despite the success they had there. When you've got some Big Daddy telling you how to look, how to move, how to construct music to make it palatable to the masses, eventually you are going to lose whatever was truly original to you or you are gonna bolt.

Writing or performing a song that your mother would get a kick out of is cool. Ask Elvis Presley.