“Back In Black” was “the most important thing to happen to me as a young man.”
What is “popular”?
It certainly ain’t what it used to be. The music industry runs on the past, even though when done right the music it purveys pushes the envelope, arguably, that’s what’s wrong with the music today, it doesn’t, it’s retreads, it’s all a circle jerk that’s easily ignored.
Unlike the music of the past.
We start with the Beatles, we always start with the Beatles, that’s when the modern music industry began. Before that we had pop crooners and phenoms, but we did not have album-length statements, we did not have the largest segment of the population, in this case the baby boomers, enthralled with a sound, music was the tech of the sixties, and tech ain’t what it used to be, despite Apple hitting a trillion dollars. Hell, if Steve Jobs were still alive today he’d puke, he wasn’t about profits, he was about wowing you, giving you what you didn’t expect, what you couldn’t even conceive of, so now Apple’s a profit machine, that’s not interesting. And Facebook and Google and Microsoft aren’t either. Hell, the most interesting companies in tech are Amazon and Netflix. You never know what Amazon will do next, and whereas all the breakthroughs in music, which was the canary in the coal mine of entertainment tech disruption, were about distribution, Netflix is about content. Think about that, Netflix is like the album, your flat screen is like your stereo, you just can’t wait to sit in front of it and stream away. And Netflix, like the music of yore, knows no rules. You want it all and you want it now, just like Freddie Mercury sang, YOU’VE GOT IT!
And then came AOR. This was a big shift, suddenly everybody had FM radio in the car, it sounded better, it was stereo, and it was not jive like AM and it didn’t play the pop of AM and the acts were gigantic, playing stadia.
And then came MTV. Which made stars bigger than they ever were before, although they crashed to earth just as fast, this rule never changes, you may lament paying your dues, but the longer it takes you to make it, the more time you’ll have on top.
And then came Napster, which made us truly excited about music, it was a renegade operation.
And now comes streaming. Which is a coup, getting the history of recorded music at ten bucks a month, but no one knows what’s really going on anymore.
But one thing’s for sure, what’s big ain’t that big.
The media is not ready for this. The old farts who control the game are not ready for this. They keep telling us how many #1s someone has. Let me tell you, MARIAH CAREY WAS NEVER AS BIG AS THE BEATLES, NOT EVEN CLOSE! The statistics don’t tell the whole story.
Meanwhile, the paradigm has changed, instead of printing the Top Ten records, publications should be printing the Top Ten TOURS!
There’s very little hip-hop there. Oh yes, hip-hop dominates streaming, but on the road? Generally speaking, it’s a sideshow.
Yes, Jay Z and Beyonce do good business, but they’re the only hip-hop act in the Top Ten.
Taylor Swift is #1. She used to be country, now she’s pop.
As for #2, it’s the Rolling Stones, and then the aforementioned Jay Z and Beyonce and then Bruno Mars, U2, Justin Timberlake, Eagles, Pink, Kenny Chesney and Roger Waters.
Go to the next five and you’ve got Metallica, the Boss on Broadway, Dead & Company, Jennifer Lopez and Luke Bryan.
This is not the way it used to be, used to be you were only as big as your last hit, and after a few years you were playing oldies shows. But it’s the old acts that pull in the biggest numbers, generally speaking, and the country ones too!
As for country, it’s rock rebooted. Go to a show and tune out the steel guitar and the twang and it sounds like the seventies.
What is going on?
Well, not every hip-hop act is on tour all the time. And grosses depend upon the size of the building and the price of the ticket. But even Drake and Migos don’t go clean, can you imagine being able to buy a ticket for the Beatles?
And Eagles and Chesney and Metallica play STADIA!
Seems we’ve overcorrected, we’re overly influenced by streaming. Could it be that rock still dominates?
I know, I know, that’s heresy, and I don’t want to be racist, I just want to get to the bottom of the issue, make you think about it.
I’m not talking about the Active Rock acts, or the AAA acts, they’re positively niche. But if you’ve got good songs and good riffs and melody, it seems you never go out of style. THIS NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE!
Maybe the labels are chasing the wrong acts. Maybe the business is really run by agents and promoters. Maybe Eric Church isn’t the only one listening to “Back In Black,” hell, “You Shook Me All Night Long” could be the NATIONAL ANTHEM!
So in case you missed the memo, “Rolling Stone” switched up the formula. Instead of being biweekly and behind the times, it now comes out every month and it’s much more enticing. Read Amy X. Wang’s business analysis, which gets no hype, she’s the one who wrote the article about the labels chasing hip-hop potentially to their detriment: https://rol.st/2O39XLi
Anyway, cover boy for the second, enlarged, monthly “Rolling Stone” is Eric Church.
Who has opinions. Remember when we used to read the words of our stars to gain insight, to gain guidance? People unbeholden to the system who thought for themselves and were beacons?
I don’t agree with everything Church says, he’s a little too Trumpian for me, but he does like Bernie Sanders, and he does HAVE an opinion.
That’s another thing that’s gone by the wayside, opinions. You might piss off a potential audience member, you might screw up a sponsorship. But it’s the rough edges that hook an audience, and the people crying loudest are the ones who were never fans to begin with.
Church touches the gun issue.
HUH? That’s the THIRD RAIL! Especially in country.
But he was there, in Vegas, his fans were there, they got shot up, it affects you.
So he’s going on record. Gun shows, bump stocks, there have to be limits.
Forget the publicity that he’s anti-gun, anti-NRA, the press is dumb, it just repeats the headlines, Church’s take was well thought out, he took a risk.
And it makes you feel better about him, you want to be on his team.
Sure, he takes a swing at Garth Brooks for lip-synching at the CMA Awards, but the interview is not about him slagging others, but more about going on his own path, not caring what others think. ISN’T THAT WHAT A ROCK STAR IS SUPPOSED TO DO?
Take the politics out of it. Yes, too many of the country radio hits are paint by number, just change the name and the face. But then there’s Chris Stapleton…Stapleton’s more rock star than anybody on Active Rock.
You see the cheese has been moved, and no one who’s got a job is willing to take a risk, they just want the past to endure, when that never ever happens. Kinda like the bozos lamenting the loss of local newspapers. You don’t solve the problem by propping up the past, trying to save what couldn’t live on its own, you reinvent the wheel.
And maybe reinventing the wheel in music is getting back to the garden. Maybe it still is about three chords and a chorus. Maybe you are better off imitating the Eagles as opposed to Drake.
I know, I know, you can’t say anything negative about hip-hop in today’s music world.
But just maybe the industry is going through another twist. Hip-hop owns streaming because it embraced the internet when rock and country did not. Kudos. But is this forever?
I’d say country and rock are the last dying gasp of white America, but…
But it’s hard to argue with the grosses.
And those numbers are put up by people who’ve paid their dues, who’ve been doing it for seemingly ever.
Like the Eagles.
Like Kenny Chesney.
Like the Dead.
And hell, Jay Z and Beyonce are not newbies.
Maybe the audience is telling us something, maybe they’re ahead of us once again, like with Napster. Maybe you have to stop being afraid and take risks, know that honesty is at the root of hit music and careers.
Like Eric Church.