Justin Bieber may very well hold a record of over two billion views on YouTube, but is this an accurate reflection of his true popularity? According to Alister Newstead and Anna O’Bryan, this notion brings to light just one of the many questionable, underlying characteristics of the limiting, commercialised nature of the music industry of today. It’s a shared frustration the pair explore through a high-energy, informative comic performance entitled Al’s Music Rant: Fear of a Blog Planet.
From the get-go, it was apparent that Al and Anna sure knew how to work a crowd, issuing a host of tongue-in-cheek digs at numerous singers currently in the media spotlight. Having attracted a full-house for their debut performance of Fear of a Blog Planet, the talented duo wove their way in and out of hilarious satirical skits, mocking various facets of the music industry, which they argue has lost focus of what’s really important—the musical capabilities of the artists. O’Bryan’s Lana Del Ray impersonation was particularly memorable.
The fairly alarming facts and figures especially did well to support their argument, drawing attention to some issues that have not been given overwhelming media prominence, like artists’ demands of venues and the shockingly frequent concert cancellations for a venue’s failure to meet such requests.
The ongoing references to music-related quotes encouraged the audience to contemplate the ‘good old days’ back before the internet, social media and pop-up advertisements hampered our intuitive consumption of music. The performance climaxed as Newstead and O’Bryan braved singing and strumming their way through 60 nineties songs in a little over six minutes, with the smooth transitions from familiar tune to sentimental lyric serving up a nostalgic reminder of a time when music was commonly appreciated in the physical form of a record and didn’t play a part in defining you as a person.
The considered structure of the performance itself (with pre-recorded audio segments of ‘music streaming advertisements’ occasionally cutting in to quite purposefully interrupt the show) further emphasised the invasive nature of the online sphere.
As for their aforementioned concern of social media hits masquerading as a measure of popularity, Newstead and O’Bryan respond to this in the form of a montage of vox pops whereby they ask members of the public about what they are really listening to as they walk down the street. This reinforces their earlier assessment that the content of our iPods does not necessarily align with the coolest-of-cool bands we have liked on Facebook. The audience discovers that people’s musical tastes are actually far weirder and more diverse than we might assume.
Often speaking with a wonderful amalgam of unrecognisable foreign accents, Newstead and O’Bryan suggest that ironically it is we, the consumers, who are ultimately the ones feeding the commercialisation of the music industry. Addressing a very topical issue in a colourful and highly theatrical manner, Al’s Music Rant: Fear Of A Blog Planet will lead you to experience genuine non-stop laughter, and you might just learn something too. It’s a well-researched piece by two intelligent, accomplished and underrated musicians.
Al’s Music Rant is playing 18 to 28 September at the Melbourne Fringe Festival.
Alana Mitchelson is on Twitter @AlanaMitchelson. She also has a blog at alanamitchelson.wordpress.com.