Barbra Streisand
Barbra Streisand's Walls (Columbia)

Barbra Streisand

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What kind of bizarre world do we live in where the hype is bigger than the music?

Welcome to 2018, when ancient artists depend upon the press to do their bidding and their new music has no impact. Talk about adjusting to the paradigm…they don’t. Just like the rockers decrying streaming payments as they fade away into irrelevance.

We’ve got to train oldsters, rockers, to get on board with streaming, it’s the only way to have an impact in our society. The first thing anybody does is look at the numbers, and on YouTube and Spotify, Barbra’s are positively anemic. “Don’t Lie To Me” has been played 281,253 times on Spotify and viewed 582,333 times on YouTube, evidence that when a tree falls in a forest, it definitely does not make a sound. As for sales, which are completely irrelevant, only propped up by “Billboard”‘s bizarre chart formula, Streisand’s new LP released on Friday is now #4, but that’s like saying a horse is number four out of the gate, when the race is over, where is he or she? In this case, way down the pack. In a matter of weeks, Barbra’s album “Walls” will be so far down the chart as to be essentially unfindable. But she’ll get to be on the chart for one week in the newspapers, whoop-de-do! This is the same b.s. trumpeted when an ancient kacher gets another number one and then goes straight into the dumper. Remember the Neil Diamond album that went straight to number one this century? Nobody else does either.

But Barbra broke the number one rule of 2018 music, “Don’t Lie To Me” is not a hit! If you can get through the entire track without shutting it off you’re a better person than me, or work for Barbra or deaf. Mediocre has no place in 2018. It’s either great or we tune out. Forget short attention spans, we’ve just got incredible crap detectors in this overwhelming world where multiple choices are confronting us every day and we don’t even have enough time to watch all the television programs we want to. Fifty seven channels and nothing on? That was a time and place, now there’s too much on. And the Boss has gone small ball. He plays to a few on Broadway every night who overpay for the privilege and he’s going to show it all on Netflix soon, going where the eyeballs are, knowing how the game is played, as opposed to going to HBO, where the average viewer still thinks it’s appointment television, not knowing how to use On Demand or knowing how to download the app, never mind enter their name and password and use it. Kaepernick aligns with Nike, Streisand aligns with the usual suspects. Does her audience, now at retirement age, into their trappings, even have CD players in their late model cars? Did you see that Whole Foods even ripped out the CD racks from their checkout lanes? He or she who plays in the past is destined to remain in the rearview mirror, growing ever smaller until they disappear from view.

Babs still thinks the old model still works. That if she comes down from the mountaintop radio will play her work, even though no one listens to the radio anymore, despite terrestrial radio and the record industry continuing to pay fealty to it. Yup, that’s right, labels are addicted to radio like the brain dead enterprises they are. And Sony has no clue how to sell Streisand’s new work, other than to employ the old playbook. Look at the Chiefs, who with a new quarterback have altered play in the NFL, and I know that even though I haven’t watched a single game all year, it’s in the air, it’s the buzz, everybody’s talking about it.

First and foremost if you’re an aged act you have to know who your fans are. So you can reach them directly. Does Streisand have a mailing list? Her acolytes are addicted to e-mail, and unafraid of coughing up their identifying info. Instead of spending all this money on press, she should have spent it on young ‘uns finding out who her fans are and then signing them up. And if all these fans listened to her music, and there was something worth hearing, they’d tell everybody they know. Word of mouth doesn’t only work with kids, it may be slower with adults, but they need fodder. No one is listening to “Don’t Lie To Me” and telling their friends they have to play it, otherwise they’d lose all credibility. And the President may be full of crap, but on a personal level all we’ve got is our credibility, and we’ve got to protect and nurture it.

Meanwhile, Babs gets credit for standing up to Agent Orange, only her efforts have not moved the needle. She comes from a different era, where acts have power and money is secondary, and it flows from your power anyway. Today’s young stars are all about the Benjamins. They’re not about music, but money. And they don’t want to hurt their career and the records are just a building block to a brand empire. Sure, Streisand branched out into movies, but she started on the stage, but she never stopped doing it her way, not worrying what anybody else thought, she’s a beacon for women.

But beacons emanate from the art. And Babs bunted here.

Now even if she had written a stone cold smash what would have happened?

Not a whole hell of a lot more. You see the system is broken. We keep trying to quantify music success and all those in power focus on the wrong metric. Records are now secondary to live. All the emphasis is still on labels when it should be on agencies. You not only make your money on the road, that’s where we find out who truly has fans, who has impact, who can not only sell tickets but merch. Insiders know this, the press still hasn’t caught on. If Barbra truly wanted to have an impact, she’d SING! LIVE! Pop up wherever there’s a political battleground, singing an anthem, which “Lie To Me” is surely not.

The oldsters don’t remember how they started off. Woodshedding, off the grid. They think they’re entitled to the attention, they’re not willing to go back to the garden and build it again. They just want to remind us who they once were and what they’re entitled to.

The game is gonna change. Used to be multiple genres of music got attention, now it’s only hip-hop, when the truth is a giant swath of the public never listens to it. This is not the MTV era, where if it was on the service all Americans were aware of it, this is the last gasp of an old system of quantification.

So I applaud Barbra Streisand for weighing in on the political situation. But she did not need a whole album to make her mark and have an influence, she only needed one song, which she could promote and fans could bang until it reached public consciousness.

But “Lie To Me” is not it.

Music drove the world. It does not now. But the power remains. If you harness it, if you realize the game has changed.

She’s still Barbra Streisand, but she believes it’s the same as it ever was. It’s not. Bad attempt poorly executed.

But in the modern business your failures don’t hurt you. Here’s how you do it Babs, you cut one stone cold smash. Or you play the easy way, and are featured on a rapper’s track. Believe me, tons of acts would say yes, if for no other reason than they’d want to reach your audience. And what a topsy-turvy idea, instead of utilizing a rapper in a break, use a singer, a legend, one of the best of all time!

But Babs believes she’s entitled to win just like Hillary Clinton.

And we all know how that turned out.

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