Old Versus New

OLD MUSIC BUSINESS

Labels were searching for talent, they felt if you were good enough, even if nothing like anything else, they could find a market for you.

NEW MUSIC BUSINESS

They just want something they can sell, hopefully just like everything else that is successful.

OLD MUSIC BUSINESS

They built it.

NEW MUSIC BUSINESS

They want you to build it, their role is just to blow it up.

OLD MUSIC BUSINESS

You had to be true to yourself.

NEW MUSIC BUSINESS

You’re true to the buck, you follow it wherever it may go.

OLD MUSIC BUSINESS

The story was the music.

NEW MUSIC BUSINESS

The story is the story, who you are, what you stand for, who you’re dating, what tech companies you’ve invested in. The hardest thing to do is to get someone to click to hear your music. The audience is immune to hype. But people are constantly grazing for information, if you’re part of the discussion continually people will eventually click to find out what your music is all about. But you only get one chance. No one’s got any time. They want to know enough to form an opinion, but they don’t want to spend hours listening to your tunes to find out they don’t like you that much.

OLD MUSIC BUSINESS

It was about the music. Sure, money was important, but only the most successful acts got rich and prior to Tommy Mottola the exec was secondary to the performer.

NEW MUSIC BUSINESS

It’s about the money. And secondarily the fame. No one is interested unless you can generate bucks, right away. If you don’t have this ability, don’t bother to sell yourself, no one cares. Especially promoters. Used to be the labels subsidized club dates, building your career. But that went out with Napster…if you think the promoter wants to lose money, why don’t you light a match to a wad of bills, see how it feels.

OLD MUSIC BUSINESS

Let you find your way.

NEW MUSIC BUSINESS

Wants you fully formed, it wants no experimentation, no finding of your way on their dime. They’re only interested once you’ve proven the concept, data is everything, how many followers, how many streams, they want no one wet behind the ears,

OLD MUSIC BUSINESS

Believed in artist development. CREATIVE artist development. A business story, wherein you gain more fans and traction is CAREER development, don’t confuse the two.

NEW MUSIC BUSINESS

The acts come and go, the execs remain, they want to milk what you’ve got now as opposed to worrying about where you’re gonna be in the future.

OLD MUSIC BUSINESS

They wanted to sign no one who didn’t write.

NEW MUSIC BUSINESS

They want you to write with others. There’s too much money at risk to promote secondary songs. Furthermore, competition is fierce, with everything at everybody’s fingertips, the entire history of recorded music, you’ve got to be just as good as the classics, the bar is ever higher. If you think you’re good enough, you probably don’t know what great is. Furthermore, as much as you hate the pros, it’s their business to pick hits. The internet was supposed to unearth tons of unsigned talent that was gonna decimate the majors… It didn’t happen. Turned out the labels were good at flushing out talent and there’s only so much greatness to go around.

OLD MUSIC BUSINESS

You could say no.

NEW MUSIC BUSINESS

Everybody says yes all the time, otherwise their investors, their team, will have a fit. We live in a desperate decade, no one’s got any self-respect, everybody’s chasing the dollar and fearful there won’t be a seat at the table for them. Furthermore, there’s a backlash to this, fans trumpeting marginal talent to make themselves feel better. Don’t fall for it. If you’re not mass, you’re not relevant. It’s all about mindshare, and the audience has limited space. Respect this. Earn people’s attention. And know that everything is slower these days. Records take nearly a year to top the chart.

OLD MUSIC BUSINESS

The money was in recordings.

NEW MUSIC BUSINESS

The money is in touring and the penumbra…merchandising, sponsorships, endorsements, privates… Like Donna Summer once sang, you work hard for the money. People are using Facebook as Mark Zuckerberg sleeps, but unless you’re out working chances are the big money ain’t comin’ in. This will change, there will be more money from recordings as streaming subscriptions/revenue increases. And it will. Don’t prematurely shut down free, it will just drive piracy. The key is to addict people first and then make them pay for convenience.

OLD MUSIC BUSINESS

Radio reached everybody.

NEW MUSIC BUSINESS

Radio is an overhyped medium that does not satiate the consumer. No one wants to wait an eternity to hear their favorite track when it’s just a click away online. Which is why personality and story are key to the new radio, and no commercials. Sirius XM has got no ads, and Apple Music has story, but the previous has little story and the latter is laden with amateurs. The big winner? Howard Stern, who realizes story is everything and makes you feel included. Stars get more publicity than ever before, but they’re smaller in reach than ever before. Adele goes mass because she can sing and employs good songs you can sing along with. But nobody follows her lead, everybody wants to be Kendrick Lamar or a pop diva working with Max Martin. Want to go nuclear? Write hummable songs with good changes that people can sing along with, and deliver them with a great voice. Sounds easy, but it’s hard to do, and it’s not hip. But that’s today’s music world, everybody wants it simple and hip, and that’s not a formula for entrancing the world.

OLD MUSIC BUSINESS

TV sold records and built careers.

NEW MUSIC BUSINESS

TV is irrelevant unless it has a mass audience, and none of the traditional shows do. Which is why everybody fights for the mass audience events. They do the Super Bowl to sell tons of tickets and the Grammys so the audience can finally put a face to the name. Admit it, you didn’t know what some of the stars looked like until you saw them on TV last night.

OLD MUSIC BUSINESS

Upward mobility.

NEW MUSIC BUSINESS

The hit acts may be young, but it’s still the same old white baby boomers running the companies. And they don’t want anybody encroaching upon their turf. But like Scalia, they’re gonna pass, no one is forever.

OLD MUSIC BUSINESS

Run by rock.

NEW MUSIC BUSINESS

Run by pop, country and hip-hop. You can get your piercings and tattoos, run up the Active Rock chart, but the truth is the audience is laughing if it cares at all, you’re just one step away from a Civil War reenactor. Why don’t you break out your BlackBerry. Even better, why don’t you break out you 8-track tape! (And don’t buy the comeback of vinyl and cassette hype. We’re nostalgic for the past because the present moves too fast, but the truth is we don’t really want to go there. We may be addicted to and distracted by our mobile devices, but we don’t want to go back to the era of loneliness. It’d be like refusing to have an answering machine, back when we still talked on the phone… If someone says they’re gonna call you, that they’ve been on the phone all day, they’re an oldster destined for extinction. Millennials don’t want to waste that much time. In the era of plenitude as opposed to scarcity it’s all about deciding what you DON’T want to do, because you just don’t have enough time.)

OLD MUSIC BUSINESS

Got no respect and didn’t care. Warner Music was the engine that built the Warner cable system. Music was an outside business whose stars were more powerful than any politician or industrialist.

NEW MUSIC BUSINESS

Is constantly fighting for success and is full of brand extensions, looking for a way to make more bucks. If you’re not willing to leave some money on the table, you’re never gonna bond with your audience, which is struggling.

OLD MUSIC BUSINESS

Teed it up and the press said what it wanted.

NEW MUSIC BUSINESS

Controls the media, only gives limited access. And the doofus writers are sycophants, burnishing the images of the famous, as if fame and wealth made you and your music worthwhile.

OLD MUSIC BUSINESS

You spoke with your music.

NEW MUSIC BUSINESS

You feud in the media. When Taylor Swift disses Kanye West in her acceptance speech you know the end is near. When you’re that self-referential, you’ve missed the plot. Kanye just wants publicity. How do you fight that? BY IGNORING HIM! But no one can seemingly ignore him.

OLD MUSIC BUSINESS

Your handlers promoted you.

NEW MUSIC BUSINESS

You promote yourself, no one better than Kanye. Veracity is irrelevant, it’s all train-wreck all the time, we follow music like wrestling, everybody’s a cartoon character fighting for our attention and we know the game is fixed, just like America, we may bump asses to your tunes but the only people who believe in you are the uneducated nitwits with no future. How did we abdicate all our power? How did we lose our self-respect?

OLD MUSIC BUSINESS

Was a haven of self-promoting and self-dealing crooks.

NEW MUSIC BUSINESS

Is easing towards transparency, and the oldsters don’t like this. But the truth is anybody with success doesn’t like this either, the money is in touring and the acts don’t want the public knowing it can’t get a ticket because of Amex and Citi sponsorships and self-dealing. Ever notice how the stars don’t bitch? Because they’re getting paid. When someone like David Lowery complains look at his stature, how much money he’s making. Melissa Ferrick too. Has and never-beens can’t get attention with their music, so they sue. And if you pay attention to what they have to say you’ll get caught up in their backwater.

BOTTOM LINE

We’re never going back to the past. The good old days had advantages, but there was tons of inconvenience that today’s audience will not tolerate. To play in the present you must know it’s all about attention, garnering it and maintaining it. Financial rewards come after. Isn’t that the YouTube paradigm? They won’t build your audience, but if you’ve got one, you can make money. And when you’re building your audience know that unless it’s an ongoing relationship, it’s not worth much. You must continually feed people and you can’t burn anybody. But that does not mean you cannot have an edge, never forget, edges hook people and not everyone is gonna like you, if you’re not pissing off someone, you’re not doing it right. And know that today the only people who truly care about you are those who can’t help you. Everybody pledging undying fealty is lying. Society has changed, it’s coarser, people can’t pay their bills. They’re with you for now, but for the future..? The label just needs somebody, not necessarily you.

And we’re looking for heroes. A hero is not someone who is rich, although they may be. A hero is someone who does what is right, not what is expedient, even if nobody’s watching. You hook us with your music, but it’s your identity that keeps us attached. And in music we’ve got to believe it’s you, not the work of a handler. So if someone else is writing the material… You’re no different from Olivia Newton-John. And if that’s what you want to be, someone famous but with no center… We want the genuine article. We’re just promoting imitators because pickings are slim and everyone’s a slave to the money. “Uptown Funk” is catchy but meaningless. Neil Young can still sell tickets because he sells truth and soul, he does it his way.

Do it your way. Reinvent the wheel. Don’t be sour grapes. Don’t complain. If you’re great and you’re an original we’ve got unlimited time for you.

But few fit this paradigm.

~~~


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