This morning an email crossed my screen. In it was a link to a blog post by Seth Godin who had created a list about how and why people choose to spread ideas. It wasn't one of his best but it ended well on #20 - I spread your idea because I'm in awe of your art and the only way I can repay you is to share that art with others. Arguably Seth's list could have started and stopped right there. Like a mission statement.
Serendipitously, the next email in my inbox was a press release from the Columbia Records PR department with news about the latest release in the Bob Dylan Bootleg Series - The Witmark Demos and Original Mono Recordings. As a musician myself, if there is any musical artist in the world that I revere and admire the most it's Bob Dylan, so great news. And as per list item #20 mentioned above, I am sharing the details of this new release with you.
With a twist though. I noticed in the Godin post that 651 people had hit the 'Like' button and it had been retweeted 1,211 times at last glance. I find deep irony in that. Why do all those people feel the need to spread Seth's list instead of making their own? Did they read the list and realize it would be ironic to share it without pausing to consider the action of sharing?
I think I have an answer to that question - the post is being shared because it is easy to do so and it requires no consequence or responsibility by anyone to click on those two buttons. I would also guess that if people were honest they shared it because of list item #2 ...because I feel smart alerting others to what I discovered.
Fair enough, there's no harm done of course yet I consider it an "engagement" problem, an echo chamber. Clicking on those two links does not require any other action. Seth's list gets spread around social media, traffic comes and goes to his blog, people may or may not read his list, and on it rattles across the web like an astronaut accidentally untethered from the Space Shuttle. It feels more like disengagement.
Unless you live by lists. Or you are a social media "expert," and as those Likes and Retweets grow in number you can hail them by pointing to those low bar metrics as a measurement of "success."
So, you may be wondering, what has all this got to do with Bob Dylan? Well, if we consider our offline social world, y'know IRL, it might be fair to say that music ranks pretty high as a social activity. We gather in rooms and halls to celebrate with musicians and bands that we admire, we share our wealth with them in common transactions when we purchase tickets and CDs [less likely these days, I know,] and we can get very passionate about attempting to convert our friends into being fans of our favorite musicians. You see where I'm going with this, right?
Compare what I have written above to what you do when you "Like" a brand on Facebook. That is all.
I plucked a few quotes by Dylan that are oddly prescient upon reading them, given that they precede the web:
"I consider myself a poet first and a musician second. I live like a poet and I'll die like a poet.
What good are fans? You can't eat applause for breakfast. You can't sleep with it.
I don't break the rules, because I don't see any rules to break. As far as I'm concerned, there aren't any rules."
Dylan let's his music and lyrics speak for him. In other words he lives and works by his actions. He demands nothing in return. That's why I'm a fan. No "Like" button required.
As I complete the writing of this post Godin's post has now garnered 724 "Likes" and has been RT'd 1323 times.
To read about the new Bob Dylan box set release, click on the more link below. BOB DYLAN’S THE WITMARK DEMOS SET FOR OCTOBER 19 RELEASE ALONG WITH FIRST RE-RELEASE OF THE ORIGINAL MONO RECORDINGS
Forty-Seven Original Demos Recorded For Dylan’s Early Music Publishers Highlight First New Volume In Famed Bootleg Series Since 2008
Artist’s First Eight Groundbreaking Albums Available In Limited Edition Box Set of Newly Mastered Mono Versions
Available For First Time On Compact Disc and 180-Gram Vinyl
Columbia Records will release Bob Dylan’s The Bootleg Series Volume 9 – The Witmark Demos on Tuesday, October 19th, in conjunction with Columbia/Legacy’s release of the artist’s first eight long-playing albums in a box set titled Bob Dylan – The Original Mono Recordings. Both sets have been long sought-after by collectors and fans worldwide, with The Witmark Demos seeing their first commercial release nearly five decades after they were first recorded, and The Original Mono Recordings returning to the marketplace for the first time ever on Compact Disc, as well as on fully analogue 180-gram vinyl. Both are available for pre-order now at SonyMusicDigital.com/bobdylan and Amazon.com.
The Witmark Demos features 47 Bob Dylan songs recorded by the artist – accompanied only by his acoustic guitar, harmonica and occasionally piano – for his first music publisher, Leeds Music, in January 1962, and for his second publisher, M. Witmark & Sons, between 1962 and 1964. Listening to these recordings, one can trace Dylan’s dramatic growth as a songwriter from early traditionally-styled songs like “Man On The Street” and “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Willie” through the social commentary of “Blowin’ In The Wind, “The Times They Are A Changin’” and “Masters Of War”, and the groundbreaking lyrical genius of “Mr. Tambourine Man.” All of these songs, and all the others on The Witmark Demos, were written – and their subsequent demos recorded – before Bob Dylan turned 24 years old.
Among the many gems found on The Witmark Demos are 15 Bob Dylan songs that were recorded by the artist only for these sessions, and which have never been officially released to the public until now. These include the plaintive“Ballad For A Friend,” the civil rights era-inspired “Long Ago, Far Away” and “The Death Of Emmett Till,” and the poignant “Guess I’m Doing Fine.”
While many of these early songs on The Witmark Demos found their way onto Bob Dylan’s own albums, much of the world’s first exposure to them was through their recordings by others, including Peter, Paul and Mary and Stevie Wonder (“Blowin’ In The Wind”), Judy Collins (“Tomorrow Is A Long Time”) and The Byrds (“Mr Tambourine Man”). It’s a testament to the lasting cultural impact of these songs that they have been covered by more than a thousand artists in the nearly fifty years since these demos were created.
The Witmark Demos also features a deluxe booklet featuring in-depth liner notes by noted music historian Colin Escott, as well as rare photographs of Bob Dylan captured during the same period as these early recordings.
The Original Mono Recordings is comprised of Bob Dylan’s first eight long-playing albums, painstakingly reproduced from their first generation monaural mixes as the artist intended them to be heard: One channel of powerful sound, both direct and immediate. While stereo recordings had been available as early as the mid-1950s, mono was still the predominant – and often preferred – mode of recording and mixing by the top artists of the 1960s. As a result, artists like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan devoted their attention to the mono mixes, leaving the stereo mixing process to studio engineers.
The Original Mono Recordings are accompanied by a deluxe booklet, featuring vintage photographs of Bob Dylan and an expansive essay from renowned author and critic – and longtime Dylan aficionado – Greil Marcus. Each disc in the set comes in its own individual jacket which faithfully replicates the original album artwork, complete with labels and stickers that were found on the original 1960s releases.
These eight albums – spanning the artist’s self-titled debut in March 1962, through John Wesley Harding released on December 27, 1967 – are universally regarded as some of the most important works in the history of recorded music. Together with The Witmark Demos, they provide the public with a wide-ranging view of Bob Dylan’s work during the 1960s, and chronicle his amazing evolution from fledgling songwriter to one of the world’s most inventive and singular recording artists.