For there to be ANY kind of traction, ANY paradigm shift, anyone with the power to bring about change, needed are powerful names- people like Quincy Jones, Jay-Z, Taylor Swift, Sir Lucian Grainge, Sir Paul McCartney, Sir Elton John- to band together and go to bat for other musicians.
But will they?
The business of what’s still known as “the music industry” seems to be fine. It still has or has sold or has licensed its various catalogues.
It owns all Mechanical and Publishing Rights. It has its cabal of lawyers and layer upon layer of deal makers and gatekeepers to keep retirement plans afloat and portfolios under lock and key.
Today, they’re everywhere. Conspiracy theories. It’s what especially social media has wreaked on the malleable psyche of the world.
Like all the other online clutter, it’s what feeds our head today. It’s definitely not the same White Rabbit that Grace Slick was singing about all those years ago.
Once upon a Beatlemania, the only conspiracy theory that mattered was whether Paul was dead and replaced by Billy Shears.
After all, the clues were laid out for us, especially on the Abbey Road album cover. There were the Beatles crossing the road with Paul in bare feet, apparently the Greek way of burying their dead, whereas George in denim symbolised the grave digger, Ringo being the priest and John, all in white representing- I think- the angel.
As always, the big get bigger, the headlines seldom tell the real story, and the oompah loompahs get quashed in all the big business deals that, at some juncture, involves them and their possessions, whatever these might be. But with no Robin Hood in sight or on their side, and suddenly deciding to try and learn as they go, the oompah loompahs are often bamboozled and sidetracked and overawed by buzzwords, huge dollops of name droppings and can’t see that the devil is often lurking somewhere in the details.
Last week, the music industry, which is another way of simply saying, Big Business as it no longer has anything to do with music and those who create this art form, saw the Chinese entertainment internet behemoth that is Tencent Music Entertainment (TME) announce three huge global deals in three successive days.
And now Carl Reiner is gone. Yes, he was 98 and no doubt lived a very full life surrounded by loving family and friends. But when the world loses one of these iconic figures, especially from the world of entertainment- and really think about this word and everything that it’s given and keeps giving the world- all of us lose a little bit of ourselves.
Some chicken soup for the soul is not only missing. It’s gone. And we’ll never have that recipe again.
We’ve lost something or someone who, during our lifetime, made us laugh or cry or feel an emotion. Maybe they helped create a special bond with our parents.
They also touched us with their special brand of magic. You remember exactly when and where it was and how whatever it is that they brought to this wonderful world of entertainment made you feel.
Yeah yeah yeah, you’d like to think that everyone has heard of them, but it doesn’t take you long to realise that few actually know ABOUT them- their songs, the backstories, their evolution through the years and heard on every new album released.
There’s the role that producer George Martin played in familiarising them with the recording studio and production techniques starting with recording on a four track machine, but which became a playground for experimentation.
There’s also been their influence on lives and how their music is the soundtrack to much of everything we’ve gone through and our continuing to go through.
Some might say, “Who cares? The Beatles happened another lifetime ago”. True, they did. But, especially for those musicians who have not completed their “education” on the Beatles, there’s a very strong chance that an important part of their homework is missing.
It was a track called “Into The Lillywhite” on the album “Mona Bone Jakon”, which, like many of his next few recordings was produced by former bass guitarist with the Yardbirds Paul Samwell Smith, that really introduced me to the work of the artist named Cat Stevens who was born Steven Giorgiou.
I had heard some of his music when with Deram Records- often over-produced and almost bombastic records like “Matthew And Son”, “I Love My Dog” and “I’m Gonna Buy Me A Gun” and the very honest “The First Cut Is The Deepest” written for singer PP Arnold for around thirty quid etc. But it wasn’t until he signed to Chris Blackwell and his co-founders’ then-fledgling Island Records, did I actually start to seek out the music of Cat Stevens.
For some reason, I never warmed to Elvis. No idea why, especially as I was so influenced to and by whatever my older cousin Tony was listening. And being a disc jockey, he was an Elvis fan. Perhaps even some Bobby Rydell. For me, it was the Dave Brubeck Quartet, especially drummer Joe Morello.
I was a weird kid, new to Hong Kong and from Ceylon where my old man had his own radio show. This was when I was introduced at a very young age to the music of Ella, Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington, Nat King Cole, June Christie, Julie London, Peggy Lee, Errol Garner and the music of Tin Pan Alley.
There was news today that Canto Pop superstar Aaron Kwok, one of this music genre’s “Four Heavenly Kings”, will stage and stream an online fundraising concert on Saturday. Being an actor and dancer, proceeds will go towards helping local dancers and film crews hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. It’s something to be applauded.
It’s also something that Hong Kong musicians who are not part of the Canto Pop fraternity should take on board with their present and future careers in Hong Kong in mind.
Without turning this into a history lesson on how and when Canto Pop happened- a term created by yours truly when writing for the American trade publication Billboard- this became the sound of Hong Kong and made millionaires of many- artists who, today are mega celebrities along with now-retired music executives, songwriters who wrote for all the big name artists, television and film executives who came along for the ride etc. It was big banquet of business opportunities. It was also pretty much a closed shop.
Everyone involved in keeping Canto Pop alive have enjoyed various slices of a very lucrative pie. Canto Pop is still very much alive and kicking and is well supported by the Chinese media and, of course, local audiences who grew up listening to its artists.
There’s that old chestnut about how out of chaos comes opportunity. This cannot be a better truism for horse racing at a time when the world is in lockdown mode and it’s the only game in town with, quite literally, a captive audience- and zero competition from far more popular and mainstream sports like football, tennis, rugby, darts, curling, lawn bowls…
Now, more than ever before, is the time to grab this opportunity with both hands and bring in some new troops- if possible. Those who have the creative and marketing chutzpah and are given the freedom to broaden that customer base.
Sure, keep Dad’s Army and the sons and daughters of Dad’s Army to plod along and warm up the same old porridge and feed it to those who are the (kinda) living embodiment of the saying that one cannot teach old dogs new tricks. That’s fine. But this customer group is hardly the future and shining beacon of where horse racing is heading- if it’s heading anywhere other than going around in circles and making neighing sounds.
With the world pretty much plateaued out and at Point Covid-19 together, old school mediums like television are making a comeback. There’s a very different online media landscape rapidly taking shape. And yet, horse racing still looks to be tippy toeing on eggshells and refusing to see how much the wants and needs of consumers are changing- and have changed.
Skype, FaceTime, YouTube, Instagram- they’re all being used differently and more creatively than ever before because we- you and I- have had to prioritise everything in our lives and adapt to the “new normal”. It might be one of the best things to come out of whatever it is we’re going through.
The human race might just have tired of being part of the rat race and are saying, Stop the world, I wanna get off.
With time on their hands, many are exploring new pockets of multi dimensional creativity and embracing change.
With blinkers firmly in place, horse racing is still too often about three talking heads, sometimes with masks on, positioned here and there to adhere to the very important need to keep their distance in order to quickly quell the spread of Covid-19, and from where they serve more warmed up waffles to their followers.
Add to this those self promoting boom bang-a-lang twittering tipsters, speed maps, websites where Han Solo would find difficult to navigate his way through and with everything often being about the punt and the punt and the punt and…Oh, please, enough is enough.
Having been in the music industry when the smug major music companies and those heading them refused to read the tea leaves, failed to look up and see the vultures hovering over them and invited in that online Dante’s inferno world that changed everything overnight into something unrecognisable today, horse racing should be aware of the Trojan horse that might be wheeled in.
Instead of playing with worry beads and chanting the mantra about how we’re living in very different times, it’s time for horse racing- and every other industry- to relook at their business models and ways in which to make their product relevant to the “new normal”.
The sheeples? They’re so busy sharing and caring and scaring the hell outta each other through information overload that they’ve lost the ability to think for themselves. But it might return given the circumstances we all face today.
There are those days when you feel you’re in the middle of one of those trailers for a black and white movie where a manly voiceover would scream out things like, “MORE FEARFUL THAN FEAR ITSELF!” and “A CITY UNDER SIEGE!” and “WHERE IS BATMAN?”
What Hong Kong has been going through for over a year is its own rocky and wobblyhobby horror show- peaceful demonstrations that morphed into violence and split a city apart.