Apple is the Beatles of tech.
Once upon a time, the youth of America looked forward to the new releases of their favorite bands. Now they look forward to the latest from Apple.
Why is this?
1. Apple Surprises Us
A band would make the iPod and give up. Tour incessantly on the fumes of a ten year old device, charging us up the yin-yang for the privilege of reliving our youth.
The iPod is dead. It’s barely advertised. Like a band in the seventies, Apple’s playing its new album live, with only nodding reference to the hits. Why is it tech fans are interested in the new when you can’t get them to sit through anything they don’t know live? Furthermore, we’ve trained them not to want it live, to have it canned, so it’s perfect. Tablets are inherently messy devices. You install apps, you customize them, you get frustrated, you make them your own. Whereas every show of the major act is the same whether you see it in Detroit or San Diego, Tampa or Seattle. In a land where it’s all about having it your way, in music, the customer has no control.
2. Apple Innovates
The Beatles analogy fits because the band never repeated itself. We could not foresee “Sgt. Pepper” after “Revolver”. Great artists take chances. No one takes chances in music anymore, they just repeat what they’ve done successfully, endlessly.
3. Bean Counters Come Last
Tim Cook may be an efficiency expert, but he knows he’s subservient to designer Jonny Ive and the engineers. It’s all about new products and risk. Whereas it’s all about the money in music. Every member of the infrastructure, from label to manager to agent, focuses on cash first. Do that endorsement! Take that sponsorship! Play in the biggest hall you can! Musicians are playing for their handlers as opposed to vice versa. Somehow, Clive Davis and Jimmy Iovine became bigger than the acts. Innovation is scary. Only creative people are willing to make the jump. To believe the suits will endorse your exploits is like believing your mother will be fine with you dropping out of college and hitchhiking to find yourself. But it’s when you’ve got your thumb stuck out, with the wind in your hair, that you learn, that you become inspired.
4. The Money Is Secondary To The Products
What I mean is everyone talks about the value of Apple stock, but it’s AFTER they speak about the products. Most people know about U2’s tour grosses, but they couldn’t care less about the band’s new music. Bruce Springsteen puts out a new album that’s dead on arrival. Our favorites have ceased to amaze us for so long, most of us have stopped paying attention. It’s like being excited over a new HP release, or caring about a new BlackBerry. Our trust has been eroded, we’ve given up on the past, we’re interested in the new.
Sure, everyone uses Apple products, red state and blue, rich and relatively poor, young and old. But once upon a time, everyone knew who the Beatles were, and were aware of both the Stones and Louis Armstrong. And you can credit the Top Forty radio of yore, but still the acts have abdicated their power. They got in bed with MTV, they became beholden to the labels, they bitched about people stealing their music, they completely marginalized themselves.
As for the newbies yelling loudly without talent… We see that game in tech all the time. We’ve started to tune the pronouncements out. Just like we won’t give your music a listen. We only have time for great, do you sell great?
And we want cool. Features we could not foresee. Like the ability to find your lost iPhone, iPad and Mac online. Apple didn’t need to include this feature, nor did they need to provide free iCloud services, but the company wanted to blow our minds, keep us paying attention and in the fold. Whereas all we hear from musicians is who they slept with and where they went on vacation.
The acts have to give up on the money. They lost that battle. Until America realigns, no musician can make the kind of money Tim Cook does, never mind Lloyd Blankfein. But instead of complaining about this, musicians should realize that power is not merely money based. Music has more power than any amount of cash. But it must be honest and true and new.
Lady Gaga marketed her second album better than she made it. Imagine if it had been an improvement upon what came before. If we didn’t hear Madonna’s “Express Yourself” in the single, but something that was completely unfamiliar.
But Gaga didn’t do this. And despite all the hoopla, most of America just doesn’t care about her. She’s the biggest of the marginal. Like the endlessly repeating himself Jay-Z. Kanye takes a few risks, but he’s such a narcissist, we’re turned off.
As for the rock acts… They’re repeating a formula, growing their hair to look the part. Huh? We’ve seen that movie before, we don’t care.
As for country… It’s just bad rock and roll. Country music sales dropped precipitously when the audience got computers and the sphere will be hugely impacted when terrestrial country radio tanks, which it will.
The Apple iPad announcement is bigger than any album this year. Bigger than Van Halen, Springsteen or… People were waiting for it, salivating. They talked about it. Anticipation was palpable.
This is the way it used to be in music.
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