This is my daily post for Bridgewater State University’s Blogfest, which runs this week. Today’s topic is “technology.” We were asked to write about “What role does technology play to help or hinder relationships?”
When I think about Wheatus, I think about a tee shirt that was popular about 10 years ago – right around the time most other people were thinking about Wheatus. The tee-shirt simply read “My Band Is Huge In Europe.” (I also think about the band I’d like to have play my 40th birthday in 2013, but that’s another story for another post).
And aside for a brief moment of fleeting fame in 2000, that has been the plight of Wheatus for most of the past 11 years. They can still draw a crowd overseas, but struggle to find a following in their native U.S. You know Wheatus and, if you don’t, you at least have a vague recollection of their hit “Teenage Dirtbag,” which crossed over from alternative to pop charts in 2000.
For most people, that was it – a one-hit wonder whose major label never even bothered to release their second album in the U.S. But for some people – me included – Wheatus has become one of their favorite bands, churning out a string of albums that deal with deep themes of suburban disillusionment set to upbeat – yet often surprisingly dark – indie pop.
Wheatus is, for all practical purposes, Brendan B. Brown. He was the group’s founder and the only constant member dating back to said founding in 1995. And I think a big part of the reason why Brown and Wheatus can still create new, self-produced albums to keep people like me happy is technology.
Wheatus was the first band I followed on Twitter, and Brown has been tireless in promoting his latest efforts (while also posting the occasional random post containing a random thought) in 140 characters or less. We all want to sell out in our respective fields – if you say otherwise, you’re a liar – but for now (and most of the past 11 years) Brown seems content in sharing his music and building a small but loyal following, and social media has been a part of that effort.
Wheatus performed on satellite radio when terrestrial radio was over them yet satellite was still new and even risky. They adopted the “pay what you want” model for selling their albums, something that wasn’t possible when record labels and national retailers controlled the music supply line. A few months ago I was able to watch the band perform live when they Webcast a show from the U.K. I know they are the subject of an in-production documentary called “You Might Die” because of Twitter, and that film itself is made possible by the fact that film equipment is cheap enough that people who are passionate about a project can green light it on their own without waiting for the blessing of a big Hollywood studio.
And, perhaps my favorite Wheatus technology victory came just this past weekend. Using fans on Facebook and Twitter followers, Brown was able to get enough people to download “Teenage Dirtbag” back onto the U.K. charts 11 years after it last appeared there (topping out at #2). Throughout the week leading up to the close of the U.K. charts he asked people to download the single and when the charts closed this weekend, Wheatus had hit #35.
An affront to the chart system that shows a flaw in how the industry rates music? Or a testament to the power of technology and a few thousand, loyal teenage dirtbags?
And does it even matter?
Technology sometimes worries me. We’re all in this state of information overload and, increasingly, we have less and less common ground with the people around us as we all dart in different directions across the information landscape and consume different stuff that interests us. But, at the same time, I’m feeling less alone knowing I’m not the only one in absolute love with the music by a band that most everyone else I know has forgotten, and relieved that technology allows bands like Wheatus to continue producing and promoting its music.
Someday we’ll figure out how to process and make sense of all the information being thrown our way. But in the mean time, I’m just going to try my hardest to not go insane and enjoy technology and all the great stuff it throws my way each day, including songs that don’t make me feel like I just killed my mom and my dad.
Blogfest is part of Social media Week at Bridgewater State University. The event encourages student and faculty bloggers to write on a range of topics related to learning and social media. Themes we’ll hit on this week include:
Themes we’ll be hitting on during Blogfest:
Friday: The Future