It’s all anybody talks about, other than Airbnb. This exalted status used to be occupied by music. How did this happen?
Interestingly, Travis Kalanick, Uber’s majordomo, used to be in the file-trading business, with a company called Scour, you know how that turned out, the record companies killed file-trading dead and it took the better part of a decade for streaming services to put a dent in piracy, and now the artists who wouldn’t say boo about Napster are all up in arms about Spotify and if you think this is a good thing, you probably hate change and wish that you could have your old Doc Martens back, you know, the ones with the eyelets ripped out.
Uber is kind of like the Beatles. It came from left field, completely unexpected, there were early adopters, and then critical mass, yes, Uber was around for years before it was fully embraced.
And then people couldn’t stop talking about it, now even oldsters.
And what did Uber do best…STICK IT TO THE MAN!
Who’s sticking it to the man in music?
I’d opine that music IS THE MAN!
Yup, look at the price of concert tickets, look at celebrity endorsements/sponsorships, if you get all warm and tingly about musical artists either they have little traction or you’ve barely hit puberty. The rest of the public…shrugs.
Uber utilized new technology to upend the existing taxi system. Yup, Uber used a smartphone app. Whereas, as stated above, artists HATE Spotify, which runs cleanly on an app. Because artists are so stupid they can’t understand the concept of critical mass. That you build the infrastructure first, and then money comes raining down. They’ve got cable and wireless subscriptions, but to explain the financial investment is too much for them to understand, either because they’re too old and don’t believe in math, or they’re too young and don’t know it.
But just like Pro Tools, Uber understood the costs of production have gone down. Believe me, I’ll get an e-mail from someone lamenting the death of studios, what next, string sections? Hell, something is lost in every venture into the future, but that does not mean the mass will stay locked in the past. Actually, it’s always the mass which drives adoption of these new services, people catch on and can’t stop talking about them. Yes, the customer is driving adoption, if you think the enemy is Shawn Fanning or Daniel Ek you don’t know jack. The enemy is your own damn fans, assuming you’ve got them, they’re the ones who love streaming your music on YouTube.
And, interestingly, people love paying more on Uber for convenience. We charge people for VIP at festivals, but music is all about INCONVENIENCE! Lines to get in, lines to buy food, which is oftentimes inadequate. And it’s always someone else’s problem in music, it’s Ticketmaster’s or the venue’s or the lender’s, no one takes responsibility. Who is the Travis Kalanick in music, who actually drove an Uber car one night? I haven’t read about Michael Rapino going to a gig as a regular punter, nor Doug Morris writing a new song and trying to get signed. In music, everybody who’s made it is above the populace, whereas Kalanick is reachable and has a personality, albeit abrasive. Everybody in music has shorn off his rough edges, especially in country, where the music/scene is so smooth, many have troubling holding on.
And you wonder why everybody goes into tech, why everybody talks about tech.
Because in tech they’re pushing the envelope, in tech they’re breaking rules, in tech they’re making MONEY!
Where is the opportunity in music?
The label doesn’t want to hire you and give you upward mobility and there are so many rights issues that venture capital money is hard to get.
I’m not saying the VCs haven’t raped and pillaged along with those they’ve sponsored in music ventures, but I am saying this disruptive consciousness is the ethos of tech. There’s no disruption in music, other than some band no one wants to listen to because the singer can’t sing and the guitarist can’t play.
It’s always about hits, it’s always about artists. When you tell me you love your niche act that hasn’t made it, you’re part of the problem, not part of the solution. What we need are new mass acts, ones so good that they can reach EVERYBODY! Ones willing to test limits, get people excited, talking about them and their music.
And nothing I write here will make that happen.
What needs to happen is someone out in the field who’s really damn good and willing to do it differently.
But those people don’t go into music anymore. We get the same people who imitate Snooki and Kim Kardashian, the former of whom has already been forgotten and the latter of whom has brought down one of the great black hopes of music, yes, Kanye was willing to do it differently, until he got so wrapped up in his ego no one could identify with him anymore.
We want to listen, we want to talk about music.
But it all depends on the musicians.
And a business that is willing to forgo short money for long, that stops complaining and starts breaking rules.
Even Kim Carnes sang about breaking all the rules tonight.
Today country artists sing about their trucks, wishing for an endorsement from Ford and rappers sing about a lifestyle no one lives and popsters are so two-dimensional you’ve got to be brain dead to think they’re real.
But we once had the Who breaking rules. With a rock opera.
But what sold “Tommy”? A HIT! The indelible “Pinball Wizard.”
The band only got traction when they recorded “I Can See For Miles,” after “Happy Jack,” “My Generation” was a start but despite its vaunted status today, it got very little airplay back in the day, and sales…forget about it.
So if you’re off the radar, stay there. Or wake up and make music that’s challenging that we can all relate to.
Lift us out of the doldrums. It’s your responsibility.
And it depends on intelligence and skill and an ability to look at the status quo and change it up.
It’s like we’ve lost the keys to the kingdom…