Typing this on Felice's new 24" iMac with the low-profile keyboard.
Thought I'd dislike it, but I'm thinking of converting. With one's
fingers traveling so little, there appears to be less fatigue.
Contemplating taking a few days hiatus, feeling over-revved and
burned out, I've been reading newspapers and magazines in her living
room. Just about ready to call it a night, I cracked "Explorations",
the brochure from Lindblad, the travel company.
You see Felice has got a hankering to go to Alaska. And Betsy, my
physical therapist, told us to check out Lindblad, that her parents
and kid had just gone with them to the Galapagos. And I'm turning
the pages in the brochure, getting excited about the wide open world
we live in, and I find this quote from Charles Darwin:
"It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most
intelligent, but the one most responsive to change."
One gets one's best insight when one isn't paying attention, when one
isn't working. I guess that's why vacation is so valuable. Reading
this quote I had a eureka moment, I just had to connect with you,
because this is EXACTLY what is going on in the music business.
The record labels were the strongest of the species. Everything
flowed from them. Agents were secondary characters. In the
nineties, all but the most major of managers went to work for the
record companies. Back when creating a hit was painting by numbers.
But those days are through. It's not only piracy, but a change in
focus, in exhibition.
I was positively flabbergasted to find nearly 15,000 people at the
Hollywood Bowl for tonight's Hall & Oates gig. And this was the
second night of the run! They're not on the radio, they're not teen
favorites like Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, but there's demand far in
excess of that for the acts the major labels and the mainstream media
TELL us are the stars! Hall & Oates gave up recording because of
Clive Davis' controlling input. Now Clive's charges can't sell out
theatres, and this cast-off act, playing with a real string section,
is doing boffo at the b.o?
Maybe it's the venue itself. One of America's most storied.
Or maybe it's the music.
Or maybe it's the talent.
Or maybe hits don't mean that much anymore. Or not many people are
listening to Top Forty radio. Did you read that WSJ article about
the People Meter? Turns out urban and Spanish stations have been
rated artificially high. We live in a rock world. At least in
Philadelphia, where the new radio ratings system has been rolled
We're living in a changing environment. CDs are on their way to
extinction. Apple rules the online universe today, but the future is
up for grabs. The new winners won't necessarily be those presently
wielding big sticks, nor those with Ivy League educations, but people
who are informed, who are aware of the changes not only in media, but
life. Street teams were hip a few years back, now they're almost
worthless spam. Make an expensive video for a television channel
that doesn't PLAY videos? Complain about not selling records,
needing to get paid, when the only sure way to riches is going on the
To survive you've got to know today's temperature, you can't focus
solely on tomorrow's. We've got an industry clamoring about
subscription, but unless it includes ownership, it's a sideshow.
Rhapsody-type services might rule in the future, but ownership is
where it's at today. Taking all the money today is probably cutting
an act's revenue in the future… The classic Pearl Jam paradigm.
If your label, manager and agent are telling you to do things that
don't feel good, they're probably NOT! And who knows more, the guy
in the office, or you, who came up from the street, and by playing
live and going on the road are STILL ON THE STREET?
It is like playing live. Get that instant feedback and you tailor
your show to the response. Like a comedian you know what jokes work,
and you tell those. You play the material that gets a reaction,
you're in bed with your developing fanbase.
MySpace has peaked, Facebook isn't a full replacement and is social
networking really even the future? Virtual reality has never taken
hold. And we're still waiting for the flying cars…
We're all networked. Whether you're watching cable TV, reading the
newspaper or dining with friends. Use this stimulation as a gateway
to your business future. Music is not baseball, not a game with
rules. Hell, it works best when the rules are BROKEN!
Don't listen to the carping. Tune out the railing about the perils
of P2P and the death of the album. Nothing the bullies in power have
to say about them will make a difference. Because the public, which
is in control, isn't listening.
Not that you should forget history. Study Peter Grant. And Albert
Grossman. And Bob Krasnow. The man who created a record label where
none of the acts had anything to do with each other yet ALL were
successful! It was less about the number of attempts than finding
good stuff and nurturing it. A label with the Gipsy Kings and
Metallica? You had to believe in that.
Question authority. John Lennon's legend lives on because he spoke
the truth, the Beatles WERE bigger than Jesus.
But Britney is not. MTV doesn't have that search for excellence
Elektra possessed, and Jimmy Iovine is not Bob Krasnow. Krasnow was
an autocrat, but it wasn't about his fame, but the music.
Make it about the music. If it's good enough, riches will come your
Don't do it Clive's way, but your way. Don't repeat a formula,
INVENT a formula, using pieces from the past. But only those
There's never been a better time to be either a player or a
businessman. Unfortunately, there's no book to guide you, you'll
have to write your own.
All of the continents may have been explored, but that doesn't mean
people don't want to go on journeys, don't want to be made to feel
alive. Music has got this power. It's your move.