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You’re On Your Own

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There is no brass ring. There is no gold star. All the trappings of making it in the past are gone. Today, you make it in your own mind, and that’s all that counts. The scoreboard has been blown apart. And we don’t even pay attention to the same statistics. You’re charting your own course. If you’re in it for the glory, for the world domination, you’re delusional.

Let’s start with the Oscars. They lost touch with the public to such a degree that they had to institute a new “Popular” Oscar, aka “The Popcorn Oscar.” Baby boomers, who control the Academy, were operating on a past paradigm, one wherein movies drove the culture and winning was an acknowledgment of your peers that you were great. Today television drives the culture, and unless you make superhero flicks you’re gonna have a hard time getting financing. The studios want something dumbed-down, that will play around the world, in multiple languages. So you can go for the money or…make a movie that might receive awards that no one sees. Kinda like all the recent “Best Picture” winners.

And then there are the Grammys. Forget Neil Portnow’s tone-deaf comment about “stepping up,” anyone can make a mistake, but the fact that Portnow was not up to speed on #MeToo, could not read the changing of the guard, could not see that women need to be respected and included, is a demonstration of how out of touch the organization is. But that’s secondary to the awards themselves. Used to be you got a bounce, in the age of streaming that’s nonexistent, everybody who’s interested has already heard your music. Furthermore, the Grammys have a long history of giving the awards to the wrong acts. Always behind the times, anointing name recognition rather than artistic merit. As for those competing in the lesser categories, they are truly delusional, they think that Grammys make a career, but the truth is you make a career in your mind, as I stated above.

And then there was the story in “The New York Times.” But today forty percent of the public believe the “Times” is biased and evil. And forty percent believe the same about “The Wall Street Journal.” There is no paper of record in the public’s mind. And only a few million people are paying attention to either of these outlets. Youngsters don’t read the newspaper, whether it be physical or virtual, they get their news on the fly, from multiple sources, where it originated does not matter. The point being a great review in a major newspaper has to satisfy you only, because the rest of the world is unaware and doesn’t care.

Same deal for TV news. Most people don’t see it, check the ratings, they’re miniscule. And the entertainment programs…people know those are bought and paid for talking heads, they’ve got no credibility. Hell, TMZ has more credibility than “Entertainment Tonight” or wherever you get your gossip on the flat screen today, at least TMZ is unafraid of offending anyone. But it’s a small subset of the public which tracks the gossip anyway.

And then you’ve got the “Billboard” charts. They’re adjusted for reality, only their adjustment remains years in arrears. The only thing that counts is total number of streams, but that’s not what they count. As for albums, if you trust that chart you make ’em, because it’s got little connection with the real world.

And the Spotify streaming chart, true data, shows what is popular on the service, but it doesn’t necessarily correlate with what’s happening live, where the true bucks are. Spotify won’t truly tell you the hottest acts in America.

As for road grosses… Not everybody’s on the road, not everybody plays the biggest buildings and not everybody charges the same for tickets. Furthermore, people lie. They paper the house, all kinds of shenanigans so they can say they’re the biggest, but the public has realized there’s something rotten in Denmark, and MSG and Staples too.

As for a record deal… Labels don’t sign you and keep you, unless you’ve got continued success. Furthermore, you’ve got to prove you’re worthy on your own before they’re interested!

All the trophies, all the achievements of yore, mean very little today.

And if this depresses you you’re missing the point. The point is we’re only going into the future. If you complain about streaming, if you complain about high ticket prices, if you bitch about the way things are and argue for a return to the past…the past is never coming back. And the ball always moves, the landscape always changes, fifteen years ago it was all about piracy, heard much about piracy recently?

So, if you want to know if you’re on the right track, ask yourself.

If you’re compromising to appeal to others, stop, they don’t really care.

Your goal is to gain an audience of a size that satiates you and take people on a trip.

You get to decide how many people is enough. You get to decide how much money is enough. You get to decide what to play. There are no rules, especially in a world where the gates are wide open. If you don’t make hip-hop or pop music terrestrial radio doesn’t care about you, and you should not care about them.

This is a complete change from what came before. Used to be it was a pyramid, with a very defined, narrow top. Now, get in the game and you realize the top has been blown apart, there are a zillion roads and they don’t meet at the same center. It’s not doing blow in the eighties, where it’s all about getting into the bathroom with a small coterie, no one even knows who the coterie is anymore, it doesn’t exist, there are many coteries!

And you’ll hear contrary opinions, from those propping up the old game, being paid by the guards of the old game. But they’re to be ignored.

Used to be you could promote yourself to success. But today, when everybody’s being spammed to death, that doesn’t work.

As to being famous for nothing, like Paris Hilton and the Kardashians, they did it and you can’t repeat it. Kinda like Radiohead’s “In Rainbows” name your own price promotion, one and done.

You create your own game and decide whether you’re winning at it.

It doesn’t matter what people outside your game think.

And people will inundate you with markers, compare you to others, don’t fall for it.

This is the new normal. Endless choice. Endless routes. Endless cottage industries.

Don’t mistake this for the “long tail.” Everything might be available, but that does not mean anybody is interested. You can create it and no one cares. You’ve got to be great, you’ve got to resonate, this is no time for amateurs. And the amateurs drop out and are forgotten anyway. Even the social media/YouTube stars. That paradigm is dead. It’s too hard to maintain attention when there’s nothing at the core, you’ve got to set yourself on fire for people to care, and you’re working around the clock. So you’ve got to have a talent, that’s hopefully unique, and you’ve got to build it brick by brick. This is not the eighties, when if you got on MTV you’d made it. Now you can be on MTV, Fallon and the nightly news and you still haven’t made it!

Think about that.

And know you’ve got to go your own way with your own markers and you can succeed, but only a few do, in any enterprise. It’s easier than ever to play, but harder than ever to succeed.

But you start by knowing the landscape.

That’s the first thing they teach you in sports, the rules.

These are the new rules.

Abide by them.

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