Writing this with a repeat of Britain’s Got Talent flickering in the background and some random Spotify Playlist playing what could be described as “coffee shop music” while thinking about one particular well-known name dropping music blogger who is clueless about the world outside of America writing incessantly about embracing new technology and The New, but then goes on and on about the need for artists to tour and how touring gave the Grateful Dead their loyal Deadheads shows just how unfocused, hypocritical and confusing trying to make a career out of music has become. All the excitement and enthusiasm seems to have been sucked out and replaced with bland clutter and speaking in the vagaries of circles.
Trying to make a livelihood out of music today is almost an impossibility. Or so it seems. To those who’ve worked in music companies run as successful businesses by visionaries like Ahmet Ertegun and Chris Blackwell and grown up watching, and even getting to know, unknown artists become legends, it’s easy to come across being know-it-all windbags and dreadful bores in the process.
If, however, you know, you wish to share. If you don’t know, you listen and absorb what’s needed. If you believe you know better, that’s fine. As for the superfluous, kick out the toe jams and make room for the space to think. Time’s running out. Maybe it’s run out.
It’s hard for some to believe, but there are millions out there working in music today who have never heard Cream or Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Hendrix or Dylan, all the great Tin Pan Alley songwriters and many records by the Beatles- and don’t care if they do.
This is not clinging to the past, but appreciating, embracing and respecting the history of music and learning from some of the greats which just MIGHT make this art form relevant again- and also financially viable. Is there really much difference between the songs of Ed Sheeran and Cat Stevens? How many really know all the great songs from The Years Of The Cat?
It’s not about learning from Wikipedia, but from those who have actually been there- learning face to face and not through the online world with its one size fits all thinking and dancing lemmings. But have we come so far down the road where mediocrity is “liked” on social media by friends and family out of misplaced politeness and with many following blindly without seeing where they’re going?
Going onto Spotify is only to help me sleep. We’re all different. Though there are some extremely good singers, for some reason, almost every track I hear is a folksy cover of a one-time Top 40 hit, usually for Coldplay and Chris Martin’s preoccupation with stars and rainbows.
Why? No idea. Will these recordings make me a fan? No. There might be a passing interest in the track, but playing covers with no creative A&R attached to them offer nothing original. But where IS the originality hiding? It’s got to be out there. Somewhere.
Where are the knowledgable radio DJs who helped us new music fans and Rock writers like Nick Kent, Greil Marcus, Lester Bangs, below with The Boss, Ben Fong-Torres etc who for some of us were in many ways our teachers?
These days, most conversations are about the streaming of music. How many really understand how this even works? If you don’t, shouldn’t you? And instead of “getting your music out there”, what about the music itself? Producing good- really good music- would be a good start.
“Getting it out there” is hardly a problem. The problem is way too much mediocrity “out there” burying what might be very good. It’s why I once again escaped from Facebook. The gunga din of outta tuners doodling and play acting at being “social media rockers and blues men ” were suffocating me with contrived bullshit.
In the real world, meanwhile, there are always those “in talks” with Tencent and Alibaba in Mainland China, or else with this and that person from YouTube and Spotify etc etc yada yada yada. And? Talk is cheap and it’s never clear what it means and where it’s leading.
What do these online platforms REALLY want, anyway? Do they even have money? Is it all about owning as much content as possible for free as content buys numbers- for free- and it’s all about growing their data driven business model- for free- that we’re suddenly seeing come apart at the seams? Swimming with sharks has always been dangerous.
Swimming in uncharted waters with guesswork ends up going down that black hole of Calcutta. And if there’s no funding, what happens next? Let’s never forget the term “It’s the economy, stupid”, and how in this economy, investors are extremely careful about expanding their portfolios. How important is music to them? Or must music today be entertainment and even much much more than this?
Just releasing some music no matter how good isn’t enough. It’s in the entire packaging and going from being a multi media artist to becoming a multi media global brand. But we all can’t be Rihanna which leads to Mainland China and the creative talent there like the new generation of fashion designers who style Rihanna.
Mainland China might still be “potentially the largest music market in the world” and might never get away from this “potential”, but it also has Faye Wong- singer, actress, style icon. Financially, she probably richer than Rihanna and Beyoncé combined.
Her comeback concert last year in Shanghai sponsored by the Jack Ma-owned Alibaba Group saw two mega brands coming together.
Later this year, the two brands come together again. Where’s the music in all this? Faye Wong has a huge back catalogue. She might need 1-2 new songs to pad out a concert. Every established artist has a similar type of song list.
As for Mainland China with its Made In China social media platforms which are policed better and are hugely influential when it comes to reach and awareness, there’s a reason why Hollywood and Bollywood and big name film makers and actresses and singers are falling over each other to get there: Funding.
What about the still unknown artist? What about the unknown promoter who wants to create an EDM festival brand in Asia? Ideas remain pipe dreams without smart management with whom to work and even smarter partners able to recognise what’s next.
Add sponsors to this list of partners as they have the marketing dollars, but need the ideas. Again, it’s about doing the math and the homework and groundwork to create the groundswell. It’s about persuasive presentation skills. One needs to be Don Draper but with a Chinese partner with him.
It’s not about views and likes and the number of followers, hashtags and algorithms. It’s about keeping it real. It’s about feeding your head and emptying out the clutter of online stupidity.
#music #musicindustry #musicbusiness #business #socialmedia #Spotity #streaming #MainlandChina #FayeWong #Tencent #Alibaba #marketing