It wasn't your father's arena show.
You remember the baby boomers, the ones lamenting that today's music sucks? They weren't in attendance. Nor were their children. I'd put the average attendee at a bit over 16, the children of Generation X, who might be aware of Led Zeppelin and Fleetwood Mac but don't even remember when MTV played videos, never mind when Michael Jackson thrilled the world.
This business might be run by old men, but youngsters are running away with it.
Yes, Louis Messina might be the promoter, but there was no one Louie's age in the building. Then again, Louie's loaded, but he's still living the rock and roll lifestyle, burning the candle on both ends, sitting in the bus strategizing with Ed into the wee hours.
That's how Louie got Ed's tour. He opened for Taylor Swift. And the audience is the same, and they behave the same, and if you've never been you'll be shocked, THEY KNOW EVERY WORD!
And they sing along as if they were carefree in nursery school, unburdened by financial challenges, embracing the art of someone who does it himself. Yup, Ed Sheeran might sing about the A team, but artistically it's just him. Yup, Ed Sheeran played Staples ALONE!
Forget calculating the bottom line, with no hotel rooms or salaries for any performers but him, it's astounding that Ed could keep the assembled multitude in thrall with just his voice and his guitar. And they were on the edge of their seats, when they were not standing. And singing.
This is not how we used to do it. Baby boomers worshipped the acts. They sat in rapt attention. If they sang at all, it was only for the hit. And as the years passed, people only wanted to hear the hit. That's the bane of the Top Forty artist, once you get beyond the hits…there's no depth, there's no fandom.
But Ed Sheeran's fans were rabid. They knew EVERYTHING! In other words, whether they bought them or streamed them, Ed's fans played the albums and learned them by heart, because they spoke to their heart, they were necessary items, riding shotgun on the highway of life.
Proving if you're a superstar, and Ed is, at least amongst his demo, fans want to dig deep. Feel free to put out a lot of material. Even albums.
But if you're not…
Go to a classic rock show and if the act deigns to play something new the audience starts to chitchat and goes to the bathroom en masse. But the young 'uns want to go deep. A show is not a hard drive experience replicating the hits, it's something unique. Ed was nothing if not alive. How he does it, I have no idea, he must not come down for HOURS!
It's a funny world we live in, everybody's yelling for attention and after the initial burst of noise they instantly fall off the radar screen. This gives one the impression that nothing lasts, and if you don't overhype you've got no chance.
But that is not true. Ed Sheeran isn't Ariana Grande, he's not flavor of the moment. And although there was a burst of publicity when his album came out, that's died out, plowed under by the endless tsunami of new releases fighting for attention. So a follower of the media would get the impression that he's not happening.
But that would be untrue.
The truth is no matter how big you become today, it's about playing to your core, no matter how large that might be. Playing to the media is a fool's errand. Because the media is in a different game, selling clicks, whereas when music is done right it's not about trickery, but honesty, to the point where you don't want to go somewhere else, but stay right here, basking in your favorite.
In other words, the country is not in the throes of Sheeranmania, but it could not have been more palpable inside Staples Center last night.
And these people are not only fans of Ed, but others. During the encores Ed said he was going to play a cover of a song he wish he wrote. This is time for a Motown number, right? Or some classic rock chestnut. Instead he played Snow Patrol's "Chasing Cars" and Gary Lightbody came out to sing along. Would you recognize "Chasing Cars"? Do you have any idea what Gary Lightbody looks like?
I doubt it.
But you should have heard the whoop of recognition when Mr. Lightbody took the stage.
Because it's not your father's music business anymore. The younger generation, who never knew CDs, who never knew MTV, who never knew any of the classic rock constructs, are embracing a whole slew of new acts that speak to them about their personal experiences, and they identify. And that's what built this city known as rock and roll…the honesty, the identification. Yes,
it's got to be catchy, it's got to grab you immediately, but it's got to SAY SOMETHING! And the true stars say and perform it in a way everybody else does not. You can buy insurance from Max Martin and Dr. Luke but it's like Jennifer Grey getting a nose job, you might now look sleek, but you've lost your identity, you're unrecognizable.
So I'm here to report from the front lines of the music business that we're experiencing a rebirth, that everything's healthy, because you can't keep the younger generation down. You need no degree to make music, you only need to be on the planet to experience life, and if you can fuse music and lyrics to tell your story you can gain a huge fan base that rains down dough.
What could be better?
P.S. Louie only represents one new act a time, he builds and promotes it around the country. Each of his acts has a team. From Taylor Swift to Eric Church to Kenny Chesney to Ed Sheeran. Because despite consolidation music remains a personal service business. And one man on a mission can achieve more than any faceless edifice.
P.P.S. In case you're unfamiliar with Ed Sheeran's music, here's a playlist for you to check out: http://spoti.fi/1zMYZdG