Book review – A music mogul’s mediocre vanity project

2014-04-22 14:00

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Sold Out! The Story of The Parlotones

Raphael Domalik


168 pages


It took me all of six hours to finish Sold Out! and my first thought was to draw up an invoice and charge the author for wasting my time.

I will never get those six hours back!

The author is Raphael Domalik, who is also The Parlotones’ record label boss.

Then this overwhelming feeling of dread overcame me, as I remembered Domalik’s pronouncement on page 162 that this was only part one of the story.

Part two was yet to come.

Woe is the music writer who works in an industry so beset by mediocrity.

Why are our true artists, our true ­visionaries, not celebrated in books worthy of their grandeur?

Mind you, if this book was judged to be a representation of The Parlotones’ artistic grandeur, then their own “brand” of lowbrow pop is probably quite a fitting influence for a book this common.

At one point, Domalik addresses the “haters”, the people who accuse The Parlotones of being “not true to their art”.

You know the type, the people who bitch about The Parlotones KFC meals and wine branding, and the fact that the band recorded a song for a German broadcaster during the World Cup in South Africa in 2010.

“They’re the ones who couldn’t make it themselves, and they call The Parlotones corporate whores and sellouts,” writes Domalik.

This seemed perplexing to me. ­Firstly, Domalik chose to title his book Sold Out! Secondly, within its pages are a detailed account of how through ­various brand and media company deals, he managed to sell the band to consumers the country over.

He details how a magazine like ­Cosmopolitan threw editorial independence out the window to exclusively promote his artists as the best in the country and how pay TV operator MultiChoice used the band’s music to sell their product, while giving it free airtime on the DStv bouquet to punt the band to an all-consuming middle class.

“All the haters saw at this stage was The Parlotones becoming a commercial machine and making money wherever possible,” writes Domalik. “We did not realise that this was an actual crime.”

While reading I felt myself wanting to retort: “It’s not, Raphael. The only crime here is to call what The Parlotones do art, which is a criticism you fail to ­address in the whole book, the key ­tenant of the so-called haters’ gripes.”

Domalik’s book was certainly not written for Parlotones fans. It’s not about the band or their music, in so much as these things are just cultural productions around which the business strategy is implemented.

So we shouldn’t be surprised then to find out that this is a self-published book, a vanityproject if you will – or to be more precise, a memoir of how a ­music industry mogul reached the ­“toppermost of the poppermost” to quote John Lennon.

John Lennon was a visionary artist.

Raphael Domalik is an unreconstructed white South African male, who refers to South Africa’s most used means of transport as “black taxis” and calls other South African music ­“cultural and world music”, even when it is playing in the same pop space as The Parlotones.

Domalik paints himself as a genius ­visionary who against all odds has created his own little fong-kong Starsailor/Coldplay/U2 clone and this book is his way of rubbing it in everyone’s faces.

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