Moore, Spurlock, and Marketing By Outrage

As it turns out, MTV is willing to air ads for Morgan Spurlock’s anti-McDonald’s documentary/diatribe after all. In fact, the whole dust-up appears to have been one of an increasing number of “the-world-is-against-me-whatever-happened-to-free-speech-for-the-little-guy” marketing blitzes, a technique used with great success by Michael Moore. “The episode offers a glimpse into the new world of documentary marketing, in which controversy and big-league publicity gambits are increasingly part of the strategy for box-office success.”

Saatchi Fire In Perspective

Eric Gibson isn’t ready to declare the Saatchi warehouse fire a disaster for art. “Art disasters normally have a visceral impact. Such incidents as the looting of the Baghdad Museum last year and the ravaging of Florence’s art treasures by floods in 1966 set the mind reeling at the thought of pieces of man’s cultural patrimony permanently lost or damaged. This time, though, I was strangely unmoved. It’s not that I think incinerating art is a good thing. It’s just that the work of these artists–as of all contemporary artists–is too new and untested to have acquired the cultural heft that makes it seem an indispensable part of one’s existence. I regret the fire happened, but I can’t quite see it as a body blow to civilization. Listen to the wailing that followed the conflagration, however, and you’d think the world had come to an end.”

John Paul: America Must Fight Against Becoming “Soulless”

Pope John Paul II is concerned that America is turning into a “soulless” nation. “To fight this, the pontiff argued, the U.S. church must study contemporary culture to find a way to appeal to youths. He made his remarks to bishops from Indianapolis, Chicago and Milwaukee who were making a periodic visit to the Vatican. The American church ‘is called to respond to the profound religious needs and aspirations of a society increasingly in danger of forgetting its spiritual roots and yielding to a purely materialistic and soulless vision of the world’.”

Seattle Book Festival Folds

“Bookfest’s board of directors has decided to discontinue Seattle’s embattled fall festival of books and authors. The festival’s office will close June 30, and its two remaining staff members will be let go. Many factors contributed to the festival’s demise, but the final blow was the requirement to come up with the $220,000 needed to mount this year’s festival, which would have been its 10th. Bookfest successfully eliminated its deficit — as much as $60,000 — during the last two years, but faced the prospect of going back into debt if it attempted to produce another edition of the festival.”

Big 5 Recording Companies Regroup

The world’s five largest recording companies are taking different approaches to dealing with their changing business models. “Five companies — Universal Music Group, EMI Group PLC, BMG, Sony and Warner — sell more than 80 percent of the industry’s music. Universal is the largest, capturing about 26 percent of the market so far this year, according to Nielsen SoundScan, which tracks music sales. BMG and Sony are second and fourth, respectively; a merger would make them No. 1, with more than 30 percent of the market. Warner sits in third place, with about 15 percent, and EMI trails all, at about 11 percent.”

Getting Culture On The Agenda In Canadian Election

Canadian arts advocates are trying to make sure some consideration of arts policy is included in the country’s national election next month. “While organizations like the Heritage Canada Foundation and Friends of Canadian Broadcasting say they know the issue of culture won’t make or break an election campaign, their tactics are designed to ensure it becomes part of the general political debate.”

A Really Big Show

Producers are billing an Ulster-Scots epic “On Eagle’s Wing,” being staged in Belfast, as the biggest theatrical production in the world. The show “has a distinctly international flavour with a 100-strong cast and crew, as well as a choir of 300 and an orchestra. Featuring West End star Peter Corry and Scotland’s Alyth McCormack, the musical traces the journey of the Scots-Irish to the US and examines their influence on American music and culture. More than 400 costumes will be worn during the show which is set on a three-storey, 4,800 sq ft stage, using one of the largest light sets ever constructed.”

Is Censorship Killing Music?

“Many countries around the world, including the US, censor music in various ways, according to the Free Muse organisation, which advocates free musical expression around the globe. Censorship is particularly severe in a number of developing countries, where music can have a big impact on those who hear it, they say.”

WWII Memorial – Love To Hate?

“The new National World War II Memorial in Washington DC is the latest memorial that critics love to hate. It is built in a monumental style that makes many people uncomfortable in this age of irony and ambiguity. It somehow manages to come off as both self-important and self-conscious. It treads on the hallowed National Mall. And yet, it is neither thoughtless nor bombastic, as some have argued.”

Artist Pension Fund Forming

A company in New York has started a pension fund for artists. “The fund, called the Artist Pension Trust, is designed to offer some retirement security for a fairly select group of up-and-coming visual artists now in their 20s and 30s. Instead of investing money, artists will contribute their own artwork to a trust. The artwork will be held for a number of years, then sold, with the proceeds going into the trust, from which artists will draw their pensions.”