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The Rich Will Get Richer

The Rich Will Get Richer

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This is what streaming has wrought. The new income has lifted all boats, but the ones of stars much higher than those of the hoi polloi.

Used to be a fan bought a star’s album and played it incessantly but there was no more income past the sale. Now every time a fan streams a track there is payment.

Whereas fewer fans purchased the albums of journeymen, and oftentimes didn’t play them as much.

But a sale was a sale was a sale.

Now you’re not gonna make much unless your fans are streaming your songs tens of millions of times. So, if this is not in your future, don’t plan on making tons of money from recorded music. Sure, you can still sell souvenirs at your shows, vinyl, etc., but look to other income streams, like synchs. And if this frustrates you and has you feeling like a loser remember, I’m just the messenger and in a world where everything is available at our fingertips people gravitate to the most popular and well known, which is why Amazon is a juggernaut.


In trying to capture secondary market revenue many acts are pushing up the price of close seats, and knowing those in the upper bowl are less desirable, they’re dropping the price of those. This is still a story in progress, but unless you’re willing to pay top buck for the exact seat you want, your best bet is to wait until the very last minute to buy your tickets. You may miss out, but you may get an incredible deal. Personal scalpers, i.e. the general public, buy the hype and overpurchase with the intent to resell. And once the show plays, the brokers’ tickets are worthless. So, if you can wait, you just might see a price drop.

As for transparency…

Forget about it. The music industry doesn’t want it. It likes subterfuge, it likes trying to maximize revenue whilst pointing fingers at everyone but itself. The brokers are just filling a market hole. The ticketing company is just doing what the act tells it to do. The act likes the pre-sales. And never forget, by time you get to the public on-sale fewer than a thousand tickets can be available at the arena.

Buying a ticket is a gauntlet that is challenging to the customer.

But then there are many shows where they can’t give away the tickets.

And then there are people bitching about the fees. You like the fees, you’re cheap. StubHub went to all-in pricing and sales went down, so they reversed course. They’re not really fees, they’re just part of the package, they’re costs. It’s a way to get more money without blaming the acts. That’s right, the ticketing company is paid to take the heat.


It’s a consequence of the hip-hop resurgence. Tracks start on Soundcloud, YouTube and Spotify, and oftentimes they don’t even cross to radio, why do you need a label, to get on the “Today Show” your fans don’t watch and think is a joke?

The truth is if you license directly to the streaming service, you’re making a ton of dough, why share that with the label without transparency whose business model is theft?

The major labels control radio and TV, both of which are in decline.

The acts themselves control the internet.


It’s what’s building hip-hop. There’s a scene. Other genres have to duplicate this, cross-pollinate, promote their heroes. Instead of bitching about streaming and the internet they should join in. Americana lives off the radar. If it went online, maybe Jason Isbell could be a bigger star. NPR and the NYT are echo chambers with limited ceilings, whereas if you can break through to the Spotify Top 50, you’ll reach everybody.


That’s name brand playlists, curated playlists, like Rap Caviar, the most important driver of consumption extant. Credit Tuma Basa, credit the power of Spotify, credit hip-hop. Expect more powerful playlists in different genres. Apple said they were going to deliver this, but none of their listmakers have gotten traction. Streaming services need to promote their listmakers, they’re the new deejays, like the old free-format deejays, picking the tunes themselves, evidencing their credibility.


Did you catch Echo/Alexa sales over Christmas? You get a free version of Amazon Music with your device. And you can upgrade to full, on demand capability. It’s like having a salesperson in your own home. Ask Alexa to play something it can’t, and it will urge you to upgrade. Amazon always plays a long game, and usually wins. We’ve evolved from iPods to iPhones to voice-controlled speakers, we are never going back, only the tweaks are gonna lift the tonearms and be involved in manual play. He who owns voice owns music, and right now Amazon is the leader by far. Sure, you can integrate Spotify and other services, but most people can’t figure that out.

Meanwhile, Apple is left in the dust. Apple appealed to all of its credit card holders, where is it going to get new customers for Apple Music? Both Amazon and Spotify have free tiers. Furthermore, Apple’s HomePod is so late in delivery it will be dead on arrival. You don’t have to have first-mover advantage as long as you’re better than competitors and they stop innovating. But the HomePod is a me-too product and Amazon keeps innovating. This is how Apple lost its power in music, by being late to streaming. Apple is hitting a wall while Amazon is coming on strong. Meanwhile, Spotify is the big kahuna, and its success is based not only on market share and free tier and first mover advantage, but technology. Spotify has traditionally had bad marketing, but the best product. Its Discover products have pushed it so far ahead of its competitors it will be difficult for them to catch up. We live in a software world. It’s all about features. But they must work and not be superfluous. Spotify has won by being young and tech-oriented, the old boomer swagger with attitude players have been eclipsed, can you hear me Jimmy Iovine?


Will tour to prodigious numbers, especially now that so many players are dying, but hits will be rare or nonexistent. It’s too late, times have changed, they’ve moved on. If a classic rocker wants a hit, an almost insurmountable challenge, they must concentrate on one song and tie it into an outlet that bangs it constantly, like ESPN or a commercial.


We were expecting it to look like the old hootenanny, midsixties anti-Vietnam era stuff, but in this case all the movement comes from rappers, who are speaking up against the government. Never underestimate this power. Someone will have a hit track. And culture, especially music, has power, people are influenced by it.


In this phony, sold-out culture, people need something/someone to believe in. If you don’t tie in with the corporation, if you don’t hang at the club, if you don’t flaunt your wealth, but you speak truth in a hit song you could win the jackpot.


Album tracks are in hope of people streaming the playlist, most people only want to hear the hit, no matter the genre. So, forget the detritus, focus on excellence. You know it when you hear it, if you play it for someone and they don’t ask you to play it again, start over.


Pressed cardboard my dad used to call ’em. Thin bread with little filling. That describes today’s pop records, massaged by the usual suspects with bland messages that don’t resonate. The Mariah Carey paradigm is dead. It’s not about pipes, but what you do with them. If pipes were important, those “Voice” winners would be all over the hit parade, but they’re not. Character is key. And honesty. Speak from the heart. When you get fifteen people writing a song you lose this. Your personal connects with people most. Don’t try to second-guess the audience. Pop drove itself off a cliff by losing its heart.


Rarely hurts, only when it’s overdone in extremis, but has little effect. We’re overloaded, with too much product. We’re moving towards a great consolidation, the music world is incomprehensible. And the new sounds will come from the bedrooms and streets, dare to be different, but also dare to fail.


Music is music. Something new will come along. But it probably won’t sound like what came before. Then again, the English cats were influenced by the delta-bluesmen, will youngsters be influenced by classic rockers and come up with new sounds? I wouldn’t hold your breath, it’s like waiting for that jazz comeback.


The electronic sound rules. It’s still new and different. Akin to those sounds you used to genuflect to coming from the Stratocaster and Marshall stack. When it’s all been done before, it’s the new and different that appeal. Deejays are big producers.


It always comes back to this. He or she who writes songs we can relate to and sing along with triumphs in the end. Once again, honesty is the best policy, sing from your heart and people will want to hear you testify forever.

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