Mixerman and the Billionheir Apparent - Book Review
Oh...the satire that is the music industry
by Chris Loeffler
A decade ago, The Daily Adventures of Mixerman, a collected publication of message board posts from anonymous user “Mixerman,” skewered the music industry from behind the mixing console. Arrogant, questionably talented musicians, meddling and insane producers, and the moneymen of artist marketing populated Mixerman's “identities changed to protect the guilty” true story about the sausage factory that churned out radio-ready “product” in the early-00s. It was instant hit in engineering and musician circles, and truly a product of its time, with big label hubris blinding the industry to the fact that they were already, much like Wile E. Coyote, treading air ten feet beyond the edge of the cliff, waiting for self-awareness to initiate the inevitable plunge into the canyon (cue slide whistle). Funny, ironic, and incredibly insightful, The Daily Adventures of Mixerman combined industry and engineering information in an easy-to-digest format for casual readers through a an involving story and solid narrative beats. Long-since outed as producer/engineer Eric Sarafin, Mixerman began publishing chapter-length blog posts on his site in 2015 that are now collected in the 304 page hardcover novel #Mixerman and the Billionheir Apparent, published by Hal Leonard.
#Mixerman and the Billionheir Apparent stars the same narrator/author as TDAoMM, but this time fully embraces fiction to tell the very real story of where music production was at in the year 2015. The story can be summarized as such: Mixerman agrees to mentor the son of an Indian billionaire in exchange for a fat paycheck and gets involved in a financially risky race to create a 5 million dollar hit… shenanigans ensue. The narrative and pace are solid and engaging, and like TDAoMM, the characters have voices and personalities that are quirky yet grounded in reality, but the narrator’s journey is really just (satisfying) trappings for a bigger story; the state of the music industry, technology, and even Western Culture. In a post-CD world, profits are siphoned by streaming services, digital piracy, and more. Radio and television ad dollars and audiences shrink to nothing as people now have access to every song in the world and curate their own, personalized music experiences. Recording that was cost prohibitive even a decade ago has given way to digital solutions that are 1/100th the expense and so fine-tuned that even the value of expertise is called to question, as anyone with a smart phone can now record a song. The record industry is a very different place in this novel, and the days of “throw money and cocaine at the album until we have a money-making hit” have transformed the landscape into a scrappy, small risk/smaller reward place where irrelevant dinosaurs exist solely because the inertia and propped on the crumbling infrastructure of the music industry’s heydays.
There’s a weariness to Mixerman’s perspective that veers towards cynical and even caustic at times, made all the worse by the fact that, fictitious as the story may be, the broken industry that drives the story is very real. Political insight also informs the narrator’s perspective, and the 2016 primaries clearly weighed on Sarafin’s mind as this story unfolded, yielding a surprisingly prophetic vision of how the US, as a nation, would land on the other side of November 8, 2016. Whether you agree with the narrator’s views or not is mostly irrelevant to the enjoyment of the story as a whole, but some people who are especially sensitive to those types of ruminations may be put off at times.
#Mixerman and the Billionheir Apparent continues Sarafin’s ability to juggle a narrative, attempt to make sense of a non-sensible industry, and celebrate the kooks who make it all happen. It's not a perfect novel, but it is entertaining, informative, and thought provoking with a singular voice. Unburdened by having to (mostly) stick to facts and emboldened by the reception of TDAoMM, #Mixerman and the Billionheir Apparent is a journey anyone interested in the state of music today should enjoy, and Mixerman is a hell of a driver.