Rhinofy-Buckinghams Primer

Who?

Young people may not know, but every baby boomer does. From back when we were all addicted to AM radio, before FM infected our brains, when a well-executed pop song was not criticized, but embraced.

KIND OF A DRAG

Oh, listen
To what I gotta say
Girl, I still love you
I’ll always love you
Anyway, anyway, anyway

And there was the magic, the chorus sealed the deal. Then again, every bit of this two minute opus triumphs, even the skating rink organ in the instrumental break. That’s how they used to be made, crisp and compact, back before the FM giants exploded the formula. Unfortunately, too many of today’s acts hew to the FM formula and add no innovation atop it, boring us all the while. The Buckinghams never bored us.

DON’T YOU CARE

After the initial hit, the band hooked up with James William Guercio, who steered them to further success, once they parted ways with them they were history, on the chart anyway.

Mmm, my, my, my, my baby

The track is good, and this little excerpt makes it superlative!

And sure, the lyrics were relatable, but even more it was about the feel, the plaintive vocal, this was the opposite of the hip-hop heroes, this guy was on the losing end of distance, back when we lived in the dark ages of the pre-feminist era but we still acknowledged the power of women, especially in relationships!

You said that you’d believe me
Then why’d you ever leave me
I’m standin’ here all alone
Without a girl of my own

And there’s nowhere a guy would rather not be, especially if he wasn’t flying solo previously.

MERCY, MERCY, MERCY

Yes, the Joe Zawinul song, but with lyrics attached.

This is probably the best thing the Buckinghams ever did, it swung back then and it still swings today.

There’s no way you could listen to this without shimmying and singing along. Come on…

She got the kind of lovin’
Kissin’ and a-huggin’…

HEY BABY (THEY’RE PLAYING OUR SONG)

The one we used to hear when we used to get along

I couldn’t believe they said that in a song, it was so conversational!

My sister bought the single, as a result this is burned into my DNA. You used to play them over and over and over again. Actually, that’s the way it still is, singles rule, the listeners know, the makers oftentimes do not.

And, of course, the classic lyric:

It made us feel so groovy
We fell in love, just like in the movies

Sophomoric, but resonant nonetheless!

SUSAN

The final hit.

Susan, do you have to be confusin’?

Huh? Haven’t heard that word in a song since.

No, Genesis did “Land Of Confusion.” But that was different, it wasn’t about a girl but a situation. And when you’re young especially, the opposite sex is so confusing!

This bounces along, it’s a trifle, but it does have that hip break and the explosion thereafter, barriers were being broken, “Society’s Child” was a topic of discussion, but the ending mantra, “I love you, yes I do, I do”…I love all these songs, and there’s not much more you can say about them, other than they were joyful to listen to and they still put a smile on your face every time you hear them today.

Rhinofy-Buckinghams Primer

Bilbao

It’s all about the pintxos.

So I flew on an A380 from LAX. Whew! Have you been on one of these double-decker Airbuses? Considering its size, I figured it’d leave the ground inches from the end of the runway but this gigantic bird had amazing lift and then it was like flying in your living room, big and quiet with more moisture than most planes. However, I can’t give a big thumbs-up for Air France. The seats don’t lie completely flat, the remote control was cracked and they didn’t turn on the water in the bathrooms until just before take-off, the plane was moving while I was washing. It’s the little things that count. And the food was far from memorable, but the people were great, the passengers I mean. The French have such style. And they do it with minimalism. They don’t overwhelm you like Americans, never mind South Americans, just a little accent here, a way of carrying themselves there, they’re so cool.

And so was Paris. I forget it’s fall in the rest of the world. It was cloudy and in the fifties and if that was my final destination I would have been worried. But they’re having a heat wave in Bilbao, it’s in the 80s, and it’s oh-so-comfortable.

Bilbao… What do I know about it other than the Guggenheim Museum?

NOTHING!

That’s just the kind of American I am. Turns out it’s 15km from the sea, so it’s a port. And it’s surrounded by mountains, not Rockies, but not bumps, and it was an industrial city that collapsed and was reinvigorated by the aforementioned museum. Just like a tech firm, the whole city pivoted, to services, and it worked. They tell me every other Spanish city has tried to do the same thing, but has not succeeded.

As for the Spaniards… Nobody’s fat!

You know the ugly Americans, who look like they’ve spent their lives eating Doritos on the couch watching television. I noticed it at the museum today, like one of every hundred people is overweight, if that, and none of the kids.

So there’s an old city and a new. And I’m staying in the new but it’s only a ten minute walk to the old. And the thing you do is eat pintxos. You pronounce that PINCHOS! It’s a Basque spelling. That’s a whole ‘nother thing, there’s a Basque language, it’s like a whole ‘nother country. The PR person at the museum was telling us 90% of the attendees were foreigners, I figured that meant non-Spaniards, but it turns out anybody outside the Basque region is a foreigner! So pintxos are what you’d think of as tapas, but they’re not. Pintxos are something, usually meat, fish or vegetables, atop a piece of bread. Or maybe a little sandwich too. Every bar has them. You’re worried they’ve been sitting out too long, but I was told they’re constantly replenished. And what you do is hop from pintxo bar to pintxo bar, sampling the wares. And the first night we traveled from the new city to the old and back, hitting four of these bars, eating anchovies and squid and shrimp and ham and it was all
good and fun and there’s no street food, there must be a law, everybody’s driven to the pintxos.

So I’m here for this conference entitled BIME. And what’s interesting is the link between Spain and South America. You see it’s the language, there’s a direct connection. And sure, there are the usual topics, sync and gaming and all the ways you monetize music these days, but since the repertoire is just a bit different, it’s all interesting.

And today we got a tour of the Guggenheim. Culture revitalized Bilbao. And it’s infectious. I spent half the day there. What were the highlights… Oh, this one room with nine movies of people playing the same mum song. It’s hard to describe… It was done in upstate New York. Everybody’s listening to the track on headphones and then adding their own component. A guy in the bathtub strumming an acoustic guitar, a guy on a bed playing an electric guitar, a woman bowing a cello, another woman playing an accordion, you get it. But what’s really cool is when you approach each player you hear them soloing.

You have to see it.

And that’s just the point. You have to leave your house to experience stuff, it’s inspiring. I’m thinking I could live in the museum, not to make some bad caper film, but for the inspiration. We’re all so caught up in marketing that we forget art is at the core and we have to get into a special space in order to create it. You see the abstract expressionists and the pop artists and the minimalists challenging convention, testing limits, and it illustrates the possibilities. That’s one of the problems in music, no one’s testing the limits, they want adulation and instant remuneration when the truth is artists are always ahead of the game, confounding public and critics until they ultimately accept their work. Life is about progress, when you remain stagnant you die.

And the wi-fi is touch and go. And it was amazing being in the Bilbao airport after the one in Paris. There’s a step down in infrastructure, a step down in maintenance. And despite so much English, many people do not speak English at all, it made me wonder, if I lived here for a while would my high school Spanish training come alive.

Now I am a museum guy. I can go to two a day every day. But that’s not the kind of place Bilbao is. Bilbao is more for the living. And I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by people who know how to do so. Everybody’s open, everybody has a story, and now I’ve got to leave you to go to a cafe by the river for cocktails.

Adios!

Guggenheim Bilbao – Ragnar Kjaransson: The Visitors

Pintxo Routes

BIME Conference

Apple Notes

iPHONE 6

Everybody thinks I have an Android.

Malcolm Gladwell told me the problem with e-readers is no one knows what you’re reading, and for an author that’s anathema. The cover of the book sells the book, but if no one can see it…

No one can see I have an iPhone 6. I purchased the Apple case, but it’s grey and the Apple logo is very subtle and with my hand around it no one can see it, but to be truthful, I can barely see it.

So, if you want pride of ownership, evidence that you laid down your cash and are a member of the cult, the iPhone 6 disappoints.

One could posit it would be different with the 6 Plus, but the truth is that too looks like a Samsung product. It’s kind of like cars before BMW blew up the paradigm and then Hyundai ran with it. They all looked the same. Buildings too, until Philip Johnson took a chance with the AT&T building.

Are phones now a commodity?

Or are they evidence we live in a software society, and it’s utility that counts. It’s not what you own, but what you have access to, what you rent.

iPAD

Speaking of utility, are larger phones killing tablets?

It appears so.

The excitement and wonder have worn off tablets. They’re good for watching Netflix, but if it’s data you want, a large phone will do ya. And if you want to type, why not get an ultrathin laptop, like a MacBook Air or one of its Windows competitors.

Ain’t that the way of technology, what was new and hip seemingly minutes ago is suddenly passe.

It’s All About The Data

1. DIY is done. You need a partner who knows the game.

2. The game is trolling for fans on social media. Today it’s Facebook, Twitter gives few results, tomorrow it may be __________.

3. Established companies have ongoing relationships with Facebook and Spotify, all the data generators. And these entities share the data with the major labels. And having money is not enough, you’ve got to have hits, because Facebook doesn’t want to foul its site and Spotify is all about what is being played.

4. You want to attach yourself to that which is already getting traction. Someone with their own YouTube channel with a ton of subscribers who spend time at their site, even eight minutes a week, is very valuable. Someone with a Spotify playlist that has subscribers is very valuable.

5. You use these new platforms to find out if you have a hit. That’s the first step, turning something into a hit is next.

6. You’re looking for a reaction. Without it you’re dead in the water, you move on, the data doesn’t lie.

7. What looks instant to the mainstream is a long time in coming.

8. The rich are getting richer. Those with relationships and money to spend are increasing market share and the acts that gain traction are getting even bigger.

9. Data is directing the music business. The future is here.

You’ve got to work it.

I’m in Bilbao, and I just had the most fascinating conversation with Scott Cohen of the Orchard at BIME. I love learning things.

Scott says it’s a game, it’s the same as it ever was, the big labels rule, because of the DATA!

Let’s go back to Lady Gaga. It was all driven by Google AdWords. A guy in Boston who bought them there and when he got a reaction he moved it to different cities. And then it blew up.

But that paradigm is dead. Now it’s all about Facebook.

You start a campaign. And if you get no reaction, Facebook blows you out, tells you to change it. Everybody ignores the ads on the side of the page, it’s about being in the News Feed, and getting a reaction. That’s a start. How many people Like or watch a video or..? We’re talking a percent or two, that’s a good number. And then, if you’re smart, you slowly reel these people in, offering them more and more, turning them into fans. Sure, you can immediately spam them and ask them to buy the album, but that’s a mistake, you want to be in it for the long haul.

But let’s go back to One Direction. It was the social media that told them they had something. You’re always looking for a reaction. And when Syco got that, they fed these fans, with images, tools they could use. Teen print is dead, it’s all about teen sites. And you don’t pay for this info, then again, you do, remember indie promo? It’s all about the relationship with the site. Sure, you might ultimately buy ads, but the goal is to make it look like news, to make it look real. And as a result, One Direction can sell tonnage the first week. That’s just indicative of what was happening behind the scenes, that most people were ignorant of. You see there are no overnight successes.

It’s the same as it ever was. You pay to play and only a few succeed. And if you don’t pay, you’re out of the game. Used to be radio promo, then it was Google AdWords, now it’s Facebook, tomorrow it’ll be…

Who knows!

They’re already working Spotify. The key is to get on the playlist. Not only the NME’s, but the punter’s with a 100 fans. You’ve got to work it at both the top and the bottom. So some people think it’s cool and others drive by and all start spreading the word. You’re nothing without a hit, and nothing is a hit without it.

The days of “Gangnam Style” are dead. Everything is being worked. Nothing just spontaneously generates. “Royals” never changed, but the campaign made it ubiquitous.

The major labels are privy to more data than you can conceive of. And they’ve got money to try out campaigns. And just like it’s always been, only one of many tracks hits, but when they get a bite, they work it hard.

How do you know that you’ve had success, that you’re on to something? Wikipedia hits! That’s the first thing a new fan will do, go to Wikipedia to learn more. And they only go once, so you’ve got to be paying someone to get that info when they do. Next Big Sound will give it to you.

Everybody’s looking for a reaction, everybody’s paying for a reaction. And tons of work is done before most people ever know about something. Isn’t it interesting that you hear about a band and check the track out on YouTube and find out it’s got 10,000,000 views. How did that happen? The campaign!

And in this new world of streaming listening is different. Something like the album may be coming back. Because it turns out people who like one track might listen to more. And it’s all about the time spent. But it’s not about the album, but the body of work.

Once again the music business is at the forefront of the digital revolution, only this time the usual suspects have their eyes open. The barrier to entry may be incredibly low, but the barrier to success is higher than ever.