I am thrilled for David that he will get an opportunity to broaden his horizons, but the two things I really like about the McFly tour are the clear indication that David’s management is not as narrow-minded and unimaginative as previous decisions might indicate, and the sheer showmanship of McFly as a terrific master class for David’s stage skills–not hoping for anything from David remotely like what the McFly boys do (that’s just ridiculous and creepy), but it’s an area where David has some room to evolve, and I suspect he will benefit handsomely from regular proximity to a bunch of rabble-rousing, freewheeling performers.
Although I remain deeply disappointed that money is winning every argument in decisions about the U.S. market, saddling David with image risks and compromises that could take years to undo, the international leg of his ’09 tour is likely to have more of a positive impact on his image here than it might otherwise have, say, a decade ago, all because of our beloved Internet. News is fast and global, now, especially in entertainment, and the fact that David is touring with a band that has been favored on some of the smartest sites this side of Gawker–particularly and especially on gay sites (gay opinion is a powerful driver of what’s cool in the young-adult opinion-maker markets; I’ve said before that David would be wise to cultivate his appeal there)–is good news indeed.
I would still like to see more imagination in PR and marketing stateside. I’ve been asked a number of times to share my views on possible solutions, rather than just constantly playing Casandra, so, here goes. Music marketing is not my specialty, there are much more experienced folks than me to turn to on this, but off the top of my head, here are just a few ideas:
Surprise cameos at smart gigs. I am clueless as to who exactly these smart gigs would be, but I’m talking about up-and-coming performers, singer-songwriters, small combos, who are cultivating young adult audiences with a clear predilection for authentic, skilled, interesting music. The point of this is not to gain wide appeal or to sell albums but to generate buzz in the right quarters and seed the alternative press and blogosphere with a clear message that David Archuleta intends to be taken seriously as an artist and not just an American Idol alumnus with records to sell. Let David pick the gigs and a few acoustic songs. These smart, hipster audiences will be gleefully shocked at how impressed they are with him.
Surprise cameos on cool shows. The quickest and best way for David to become cool without sacrificing one iota of his already fabled conservatism is by making fun of himself. Appear suddenly in a skit on Saturday Night Live as a Boy Scout in the middle of a tawdry backstage party. This kind of thing writes itself. It’s easy. It’s hilarious. And it will confer upon David instant cool cred.
Artistic photography in fashionable magazines. David is gorgeous. Period, end of story. This should be celebrated and captured in beautifully artistic and interesting ways in publications like Paper Magazine and Arena Homme Plus. The reaction of the Elle Magazine readership is both utterly unsurprising and tangible proof for anyone blind enough to miss this.
Here’s the thing. None of these ideas are anything that David’s PR and management team don’t already know and haven’t done a million times before for other artists. David is undoubtedly being told that these strategies can be implemented later, once the kiddie market has been exploited. They’re probably telling him that he should in fact not engage such opportunities now, for fear that he would only have to repeat them later, and which would allegedly be harder to do.
Bull. The only reason they’re not doing them for David now is that they don’t provide instant cash by selling albums. They are part of a long-term strategy to build an image for David that will not only place him in a far better position to cultivate the audiences he deserves, but which will better reflect the full and true dimensional range of the man. David doesn’t yet have enough cred to get on the cover of Paper Magazine. But if they don’t start cultivating that direction soon, he may miss the chance altogether.
It’s easy, of course, to engage in armchair marketing. David’s people would be justified in their resentment and dismissal of those of us who constantly tweak their very able and, I suspect, for the most part well-intentioned noses with how things should be done. But David isn’t just any young new artist, and despite the fact that every über fan of every artist probably feels that way, even an objective reading of David’s attributes will reveal an extremely unique individual indeed. I hope David’s people can find it in their hearts to forgive us for blathering on about how much we care and how much we think we know.
We love him, that’s all.