That’s forty one, if I can still decode Roman numerals.
The best part of this two hour and fifteen minute zoomcast was the very end, when the camera pointed at all the attendees…THEY WERE SO NORMAL!
I do it for my fans…
Fans have become caricatures, people with no life, who will talk nonstop about their faves, post hate to naysayers online…and there are some of those, but they are not the majority, by far, and you need a fan base to keep your career alive. A fan base is more important than a hit, you can have a hit and no fans, but chances are you won’t have too large of a fan base if you’ve never had a hit.
Steven Page has had hits, with his prior act, Barenaked Ladies.
Then again, BNL were from Canada. Which is a giant high school. Try to act like you’re cool, better than everybody else, and you’ll be put in place by your peers. Then again, Canada outpunches its weight in music because the government supports it, and the country has a great safety net. Let me set you straight, with national health care you can leave your job whenever you want, whereas in the States, if you’re not a gig-worker to begin with, you’re married to your job for the health insurance.
And since content supersedes flash, since the interior is more important than the exterior, BNL built a fan base and then even ended up having hits, which was so unpredictable, then again, even twenty years ago Top Forty had a much broader playlist, “One Week” could not triumph on the format today, then again it’d be killer on TikTok.
Seymour Stein signed BNL. As much credit as Seymour gets, it’s still not enough. As much money as he’s made, it’s still not enough. Mo Ostin said so in the new book “Sonic Boom,” which charts the history of Warner Brothers Records, not that I can wholeheartedly recommend it. Its author has written a string of music books with little fanfare, because there’s seemingly always another one much more authoritative, with access, that supersedes it. But the problem with “Sonic Boom” is Peter Ames Carlin’s writing style. When he sticks to the facts, he’s great, but he too often extemporizes, creates images out of thin air trying to replicate a feeling decades prior. If you want to do this, write fiction. There’s a bunch of interesting stuff in “Sonic Boom,” but if you paid attention and lived through it not much of it is new, read Stan Cornyn’s book, then again, I always thought that Mo’s parents changed his last name, turns out he did, from Ostrofsky, back when he was at UCLA, as bad as anti-Semitism is today, it was even worse then. But the shocking thing about “Sonic Boom” was how long ago all that was, even though some of the acts still have standing. Bob Morgado ruined the Warner Music Group twenty five years ago! Remember when we were all glued to the saga? Probably not.. I spoke to a music business class last week and as I was telling my story I realized…most of the students weren’t even born in the days of Napster, time fades away.
So, Steven Page left BNL. Not that so many people even knew who Steven Page was, but if you were a fan of the band…
And now Steven Page is doing his best to make the internet work for him. That’s what you’ve got to do if you made your bones in the pre-internet era, you’ve got to use the new tools to cobble together a living and stop complaining that Spotify stole your cheese. Back then you could only sell music and go on the road, now you can do so much more!
So, every weekend Page has an extravaganza, not only on Zoom, but Patreon too.
Here’s the deal with Patreon… You can make money on the platform, but you cannot grow your career. If you’re fine with that, cool, but too many are not. It’s a closed system, it’s an echo chamber, since the material is paid for, it cannot be displayed anywhere else, unless you want to undermine your subscriber base.
Now the great thing about Page’s Patreon is it’s CHEAP! You can’t think from your perspective, how much money you need to make, you’ve got to look at it from a fan’s perspective, how much they’re willing to pay. Page’s prices are three, five and ten dollars a month. Most people have uber-expensive tiers, not realizing those who sign up end up looking like pariahs, they’re the definition of income inequality, or people who are so into it as to be out of it. It’s about the community, not the dollars. If you have a community there’s always a way to make a buck.
As for the live show I just watched?
It’s eight bucks. And that’s nothing, you don’t worry about the price if you’re interested in going, and two hundred fifty people were. And almost all of them watched the entire presentation, two hours and fifteen minutes worth, because they paid! If you pay you have an investment, if you don’t…you have no problem clicking off. Even so, a hundred thirty five minutes is a long time. But what else do you have to live for, especially when your fave is performing right in front of you!
Yes, this show was for fans only. If you’re not a fan, you won’t be interested. You need to know the songs to make it work. Sure, Page threw in tidbits, like a few bars of “God Gave Rock and Roll to You,” but he said he was influenced by the KISS cover, not the Argent original. Then he speculated that the song had made Rod Argent rich. Um, no. If Argent is rich at all, it’s from those Zombies songs. And “Hold Your Head Up.”
And this was an all request show. And he played twenty four songs, you can see the set list here: https://bit.ly/3ulseIP And he sat down at the piano, after standing with his guitar, and suddenly I realized…HE’S PLAYING “BABY SEAT”
That’s my favorite BNL song. You should check it out:
It’s melodic and hooky, and even has a forceful descending riff, but it’s the lyrics that put it over the top. THEY’RE CLEVER! And their cleverness does not detract from the song. Page is not showing off, he’s evidencing intelligence, remember when that was a characteristic of music, before it was only about sex and good times?
And there was a Zoom text thread. Where the participants could interact, community is everything. I bet the return rate is extremely high.
But during the final song, “Brian Wilson,” when the camera switched to the attendees from Page I truly became elated. Because these people…
Were just like me.
They weren’t dressed up for the disco. They didn’t focus on their look. They might be fans, but they were bringing home the bacon too, they had jobs, they had lives. And Steven Page made their lives that much more special, worth living. And since the show was not made for everyone, just the core, those who knew the songs by heart, it was even more special. Going on Twitch and playing to millions might be exciting, but twenty five years later tell me how many people are gonna pony up to watch you on screen anywhere.
These people on screen were the bedrock of music culture. There’s this fantasy that everybody in America is cool, or struggling to be so. But that is completely wrong. Sure, most people care about money, but mostly they care about being comfortable, having a life.
So let’s do the math. Two hundred fifty people at eight bucks a head is…two thousand dollars. Might seem like chump change to you, but it’s all net. Oh, Steven had some musicians play along with him at times, but if they got paid at all, how much could it be? And Steven played from his own home. Zoom costs are de minimis. Not many people can clear two grand for just over two hours work. There were no road costs, no travel expenses, no hotels and no meals…
But the major label system enabled all this. Without those BNL hits, Steven Page would have a hard time cobbling together this audience and sustaining it. But he is a beneficiary of what once was. Now you’ve got to build it yourself, and that’s a very slow process.
So, there’s a paradigm here. Maybe it works for you, maybe it doesn’t.
But it works for a lot of fans. And without fans you’re out of business.
Steven Page has fans.
P.S. I was totally wrong about Page’s Patreon price levels. Turns out if you scroll down the page you can click on a button that says “See all 7 levels.” And then you find tiers for twenty five dollars, and fifty and a hundred and two hundred. But, like I said, this smells bad to me. It replicates the income inequality which has ravaged our country. Make it democratic, make it feel like everybody’s in it together. Then again, I must admit, there are people who just can’t help spending all this dough on you. But, the truth is you don’t want to know them, which the act has to to charge these prices. You’ve got to give access, that’s part of the deal. And there are some superfans who are great, who can become real friends, who know where the line is. But most of them are delusional and crazy. They think since they spent that money they own you, they’re entitled to more, and if you don’t deliver, they’ll scream to high heaven that they’ve been ripped-off. As for the opposite paradigm, look at Garth Brooks, who charges less than any superstar and plays in a city long enough to satiate demand, killing scalping. Garth is forever, too many acts are not.
“Sonic Boom: The Impossible Rise of Warner Bros. Records, from Hendrix to Fleetwood Mac to Madonna to Prince”: https://amzn.to/3aBvic8