Tuesday, May 5, 2015

DVD Review: Welcome to the Machine

Text © Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 2015
Images from the Internet

Welcome to the Machine
Directed by Andreas Steinkogler
MVD Visual
90 minutes, 2013

 The catch phrase of the documentary is as follows: “The 12 Commandments of music business in one film. Become a star just by watching it!” Okaaaaaayyyyyyy…

There have been the odd times my life where I read some self-help books. They were huge in the ‘80s and ‘90s, and each one had a single point of focus: do this and you will have success. The same is true with philosophy: It’s either “people are good” or “people are bad.” The thing is, there is no one way for anyone, because everything is causal due to both spacial and temporal components. In other words, what happens is effected/affected by where you are and what is happening in culture at that moment. There is no “here is how you do it” primer for success in any media, you just have to plug at it. But this German / Austrian film begs to differ.

The “lab rats” of this is a German band called The New Vitamin (pronounced VIT-amin). The supposition is that by the end of the film they should be big stars if they follow instruction. I have a music promoter friend who is also a musician, and he often tells me “if so-and-so wanted to be a star, he would do what I said.” Well, he’s certainly not a star; does he not follow his own direction? But I digress, though I make a point…

So, The New Vitamin is mix of rock and DJ-fueled techno, so yeah, it’s awful. But that’s not the point, which is whether they get successful or not. As for the States, well, I never heard o’ them, but I’m not aware if it had any success in Germany. Oh, speaking of which, before I forget, this film is in English and German (with subtitles).

But then the film drowns the information by trying to give too much of it, without having any real content. Broken down into different chapters (if you haven’t devised that from the “12 Commandments”), including early live gigs, dealing with the record company, publicity, genres, and using media, from the Internet to music videos.

What is impressive is the sheer number of musicians from around the world of multiple genres that Steinkogler interviews, including (and this is just a small sample, in no particular order) Peaches, Nada Surf, Adam Green (still trying to figure out his popularity), Xiu Xiu, Nada Surf, Megadeth, Steve Akoi, Flogging Molly, the great Suzi Quatro, Kim Wilde, and even anti-musician Lydia Lunch.

Many of these artists tell of their own experiences, rather than saying, “Do this,” which contradicts the whole message of the documentary. Not only that, the film does not even give stories, it’s a 90 minute series of 15-seconds or less soundbites with absolutely no cohesion, therefore there really is no central message on how to do anything, but instead aligns with what I said in the first paragraphs.

One topic discussed, which actually came close to interesting was that as digital music rose in prominence, downloading went way up, but money to musicians went to shit, because of the ease of digital piracy, though the majors are raking in billions (using piracy as an excuse not to pay their artists?). But what does this have to do with becoming successful in the music biz? Dunno.

And The New Vitamin, who formed in 2008? Well, I noticed that their last post on Facebook is dated June 2013. That does not bode well, and it seems they haven’t followed the “advice” of this documentary and played the machine successfully.

Whether you like one of the Legion of musicians here or not, there is so much partial and muddled data that the end result is that there is no useful information in the long run, so this DVD defeats its own purpose by overkill. Pretty to look at, nice to see what Suzi and Kim look like now, but mostly this is an example of a failure of its purpose. Shame, though.


Bonus Video:

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