Bieber Stops

The road kills.

Used to be you went on the road to promote the record.

Now you go on the road to make bucks.

Now let’s not make this about Napster, or Spotify either. The truth is if you’re winning on the road, you’re making more dough in adjusted dollars than you were in the heyday of CDs. Sure, you’ve got expenses, but have you looked at ticket prices? And sponsorship?

But the road is a slog. It’s like entering a tunnel. Ask me to go on the road and do the same thing 150 times in a row and there’s no way. What’s worse, even if you’re flying private, staying at the best hotels, it’s a grueling lifestyle. You get off stage and you can’t calm down. Oftentimes you’re with the same people you’ve hung with for years, and you’re not a star in their eyes, it’s all locker room all the time, and most musicians got into music to get out of the locker room. Then again, most people plying the boards today are not musicians.

This is not the Allman Brothers changing it up every night.

There are lighting cues and backups on hard drives, it’s more akin to a Broadway show, but at least on the Great White Way you get to stay in one place and the people come to you.

Which is why Vegas is burgeoning. With tons of infrastructure, it’s a good place for the people to come to you. Instead of moving on to a new city every day.

The road killed Kurt Cobain.

And it killed Chris Cornell too.

Cobain was in pain, his team should have said no go. But never mess with the power of money.

And do you really think that Cornell wanted to go on the road and play theatres? After playing arenas? No, he was doing it for the bucks.

I’m not saying there isn’t a high, just that the other 22 hours of the day are long and tiring and you never get enough sleep and…

My most creative time is around midnight. Do you think I can fall asleep after writing? Absolutely not, I’m trashed today. But I run on inspiration and you’ve got to follow it. Which is why music is not a 9 to 5 job, why the musicians work late at night and wake up at noon. They live in an alternative universe, different from the hoi polloi, I love when it gets dark and the e-mail stops, when the traffic is gone and the world is my own. You’ve got to throw off convention to upset the apple cart. What I mean is art, when done right, not only reflects society, it questions and changes it. Which is why people want to go to the show anyway. To experience that high, to get close to the other, to get away from their mundane, humdrum lives.

A working stiff gives it their all and comes home at 6 or maybe even 7 or 8. And sure, in this connected world they might get disturbed thereafter via electronic communications. But an artist? They’re firing all the time, from peak to peak, weekends are no different from weekdays, and when they show up to perform, they’ve got to be in top form. There are no off days when you’re a performer, string them together and your career is trashed.

So, artists cope with dope.

There’s all this talk about substances and inspiration. More it’s a way to cope, to fall asleep, to calm down after the adrenaline rush. Performing a show is like skydiving. You’re never completely calm, you’re always gonna get that rush.

So Bieber goes around the world satisfying fans and feeding the machine, making money. But it’s work. It’s not some investor sitting at home watching the market, counting their money. You’ve got to get up and do it again. And you can’t be a pretender. You’ve got to give it your all.

And it becomes too much.

A friend of mine toured with U2 and it took a year to recover. Truly.

It’s great that these people can make so much money, but if you don’t think there’s a cost…

How much money do you need?

Well, in a world where titans fly private and own islands, everyone is envious, especially those on the fringe of that number, like entertainers. They’re exposed to it, they want it. As do the percentage players, the managers and the agents.

Sometimes you’ve got to say no, to save yourself.

History is littered with acts that gave it all and then ended it all, whether directly or through misadventure.

Now if you want to go on the road, improvise, get drunk, get laid, see it as an experience, go ahead. Used to be by going to every town you reached people and spread the word, built your career. Most acts today build their careers online, the road is just a cleanup effort.

So kudos to Scooter and Justin for calling it quits.

The public be damned.

There’s never enough to satisfy the public. They want all of you, until there’s nothing left.

Electric Cars & CTE

Is there a connection?

In case you’re unaware of today’s JAMA report, 110 of 111 NFL players were found to have CTE, chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Now this is a select group, deceased players whose brains have been donated to Boston University, but if even every other dead player since the study began was found to be clear, that would still mean 9% of NFL players have dementia.

The stories are horrifying. Even Tyler Sash, who played safety for the Super Bowl winning Giants in 2011, had it.

How long before people stop watching football?

They’ve already stopped playing.

People think everything’s forever. Like the answering machine, like rock and roll, like baseball. I remember when football was a second-class citizen to baseball, when the latter was truly the “National Pastime.” Now I’m not saying baseball will disappear, the internet has taught us that everything marginal survives to a point, but I will say that the NBA and soccer and e-sports dominate the minds of millennials and younger, and the boomers refuse to accept this.

But the boomers gave up smoking. It’s rare to find a boomer who didn’t used to puff. But they stopped. When they saw it killed.

And these same boomers are racing to electric cars. Which conservative voices keep saying are propped up by subsidies and will never triumph.

Tell that to BMW and Mercedes, German companies who are doubling-down. And to Volvo, which is going all electric, albeit hybrid, soon. They got the message. Along with self-driving cars. When are the owners and the public going to get the message about football?

If you believe the values of football franchises are going to continue to rise into the stratosphere, you probably believed that real estate would never collapse in 2008. But at least people need places to live, real estate can come back, whereas football?

The same educated class switching to electric cars has already said they don’t want their kids to play football.

That’s what wrong about today’s society, the belief that the uneducated rule. They don’t, they might push back, they might need a hand, a leg up, but to appeal to their base interests is to be stuck in a backwater. Turns out the smart and highly educated triumph. Which is the main cause of income inequality. Sure, a Tesla is a badge of honor, but it also doesn’t pollute. And if you still say the power has to come from somewhere, you’re right, but the truth is electric motors are much more efficient than gas, and therefore there’s ultimately less pollution.

But I don’t have to convince you. You’re just a couple of years and a couple of changes behind me. You’ll wake up.

So when the news of this story spreads, will people feel comfortable sitting in front of the screen every Sunday? I’ll admit I enjoyed the Super Bowl, but it was the only game I watched last year. Because the NFL is going in the wrong direction in so many ways. Denying the truth as people lose their sensibilities. I loved Jim McMahon, now he’s a shell of his former self. It makes you wince and you want no part of it.

So, if I were an NFL owner, I’d wait a few months and then sell. You never want to appear desperate. And you don’t want to wait for the high, you’ve got to be willing to leave some money on the table, which is what great investors know.

And I’d invest in sports that appeal to younger generations.

And I’d acknowledge one effect of Trump’s election is the press has doubled down. Not the online headlines, but the traditional newspapers, mostly the “New York Times” and the “Washington Post.” And right wingers can decry these institutions as much as they want, that’s their prerogative. But the truth is the world runs on information. And these outlets with reporters unearth and disseminate that information. Which is why I still read the “Wall Street Journal,” which is a shell of its former self, despite hating the inane editorial page (did you see Jerry Brown’s letter in response, whew!) they still cover industries and stories that the “Times” does not.

Want to win in this world?

Read. TV news is a pale facsimile of print. Hell, how often does Rachel Maddow quote the WaPo?

And isn’t it interesting that Bezos saved the WaPo.

The bright and educated are still running the world. Don’t think otherwise. And if you believe the NFL is on the way up, you’re probably smoking a Marlboro right now.

“110 N.F.L. Brains. All But One Had Brain Damage.”

Jerry Brown and a Republican re cap-and-trade (unfortunately behind a paywall, but not everything in life is free, to succeed you’ve got to pay)

Is All Publicity Good Publicity?

No one talks about Uber anymore.

I was listening to Howard Stern interview Robert O’Neill, the guy who shot Bin Laden, and he got me, I fired up my phone and downloaded the sample chapter of his book “The Operator” to my Kindle. Previously the hype had slid off me. I’d seen “Zero Dark Thirty.” But I’m fascinated with physical feats, SEAL training, how your body gives out but your mind takes over. And one piece of advice O’Neill gave, which is so good, is if you’re gonna quit, wait a day to do so.

United’s numbers went up. That’s right, after they dragged that guy off the plane and everybody said they were gonna boycott the airline it didn’t happen. Now, of course, you can say the people had no choice, with the majors having divided up the airspace into tiny monopolies, but I’ll posit people just don’t care.

That’s the story of the year. That’s the story of the Trump election. The left wing is so wrapped up in gender politics that it’s missing the issue, which is primarily economic. Sure, women shouldn’t hit the glass ceiling, but can I put food on the table?

The last big Uber story was that they hired Bozoma Saint John away from Apple. Now other than seeing her last year in the Apple presentation, has this woman done anything of note? I’m not saying it’s a bad hire, but if she’s bonding with Arianna Huffington and they’re trying to make the company touchy-feely, I doubt that will work.

Because it’s never worked in the past.

Warner Music was getting excoriated in the press for Interscope Records. They sold the company back to its founders, who turned around and made a deal with Universal for beaucoup bucks. Jimmy Iovine has an HBO series made about him, Michael Fuchs, who ran HBO before he got control of Warner Music and made this decision, is less than a footnote, no one knows who he is anymore.

You don’t react to the publicity.

Dov Charney was fired from American Apparel and it went bankrupt. Now he’s restarted as Los Angeles Apparel, will he win?

I’d bet on him.

Founders are different people. They have vision. And rough edges. Steve Jobs gets booted by Apple and the company goes in the dumper. He comes back and it becomes the most valuable company on the planet. Coincidence? I think not. Furthermore, if Steve was still alive today would he be taking the same privacy tack as Tim Cook? I don’t think so. The money is in the data, and Apple keeps saying they’re not using the data, satisfying the public outcry but denying the fact that most people just don’t care that much and cough it all up. You love the services, you love the right recommendations, you say you don’t want to let someone know you, and then you do. It’s quite a conundrum.

And the founders of Google brought on adult supervision with Eric Schmidt, and then demoted him. He could make the trains run on time, but he had no vision.

Uber is a service. Dependent upon buzz.

Now all the buzz is at Lyft. Seemingly every day there’s a story about Lyft. Self-driving cars, the founder… Don’t you see what’s happening here? The press killed Uber. The board blinked and now it’s a second-class citizen that will probably never recover.

Sure, Kalanick was brash. Sure, there was a sexual culture.

But you had to applaud the guy who stood up to entire COUNTRIES! I’m in France and the cabbies are flipping out but I’m dialing up an Uber on a regular basis. Screw the establishment, I’m all for disruption, because every economy that tried to hold back the future failed. Which makes you wonder about the narrow-mindedness of the U.K. and U.S., thinking they can secede from the global marketplace. France was so busy protecting French culture that it became irrelevant.

One person makes a difference. A band rarely survives the loss of its lead singer.

It’s hard to define excellence, other than with results. You can’t replicate the winners of this world. They’re rough outsiders with laser-focus and oftentimes short tempers, and this irks the few while delivering pleasure to the majority.

Uber’s on a bad path. If the board were smart, and it’s not, it’d bring Travis back before it’s too late.

All that publicity, about people deleting the app, mostly it came from people not using the service anyway. One thing about Uber, IT WORKED! People will abandon your product if it’s bad. But you don’t swerve from success just because refs without portfolio start crying foul.

Remember when Beavis and Butt-Head were pariah number one?

Remember when Eminem was excoriated?

Remember when the Beatles broke and long hair was a taboo?

You can teach a young dog new tricks. Steve Jobs proved it.

You can rehabilitate Travis Kalanick.

As for company culture…

This was the same company that made ride-sharing a household word.

That’s right, you hobble the innovator.

The same people who called the election wrong are championing Kalanick’s ouster?

Their track record ain’t that good.

They’re wrong.

Garth Brooks At The Forum

It’s nine o’clock on a Saturday

Actually, it was sometime after eleven.

Garth Brooks could be the biggest act in America. But in today’s siloed world where everything exists in its own niche, you can be unaware of this.

Until you go to a show.

Tickets are eighty bucks. And Garth keeps adding shows until everybody can get in. He’s putting a dent in scalping, but not completely. And sometimes he does two shows. He can start as late as eleven thirty at night and continue until three thirty a.m. Sound like anybody you know? That’s right, the Grateful Dead. At the Fillmore East. And when every show is choreographed, oftentimes imprinted on the tour laminate, you never know what you’ll hear at a Garth gig.

Other than the hits.

He plays them and everybody knows the words. The only song in which the crowd was not deafening was the new one, which Garth put the lyrics of on the big screen, so they could sing along. And he hasn’t had a hit in years and his music ain’t on Spotify but if you were a fan of country before the bros took over, you know them all by heart. He’s the king of Wal-Mart and Amazon too. And if you’re in the demo and you were inside the building…

Your head exploded.

Now this is a funny crowd. Almost evenly split between men and women. Families. Young ‘uns. It looks like…America. You know, hot dogs and beer, and the flag waving too, before the right wing made patriotism a litmus test and the left wing seceded from the conversation, after bellowing at the blowhards, leaving many hard-working Americans lost in the shuffle.

I don’t see these people on the Westside. Even the San Fernando Valley. And there were a few African-Americans and even more Latinos but they all live in Southern California, they all are integral parts of society, and they all remember when radio was the driver and if you won there, you won everywhere.

That era is dead. We all don’t know the same songs and oftentimes we don’t know more than the hits. But if you made it before the internet blew up the paradigm, you’re an institution, you’re part of the audience’s DNA.

Now Garth is anti-charisma. He’s so different from the rock and pop stars. It’s not so much that he’s self-deprecating, but that he’s all out, fully available, he holds nothing back, he’s conversational and goofy and you don’t feel a barrier between you and him. It’s so strange, other country acts do this too, but maybe they’re just imitating him. And the more you watch him you realize this can’t be an act, this has got to be the real Garth. And then you realize you’ve never even been to Oklahoma, maybe you’re out of touch with a whole swath of Americans making up the fabric of this country. No, I’m not talking about the fictitious silent majority that Spiro Agnew and Sarah Palin can’t stop talking about, but people who are just living their lives, who are not consumed by politics, who think cooking and eating and drinking and playing and raising your kids is the essence of life.

Now when Trisha Yearwood takes the stage for her bit, she shows footage of her cooking show, from the Food Network. And you notice nobody’s skinny and they’re eating carbs and having a good time and you wonder if you’ve got it wrong, lionizing the thin non-eaters. I’m not saying obesity is cool, I’m just saying so much entertainment is out of touch with the audience.

But not Garth Brooks.

So at times there are five guitarists up front.

There are three backup singers.

Garth no longer flies, but the drummer is in a cage that lifts and rotates, but does not go upside down, although I was waiting for it to, I wanted to see Tommy Lee given a run for his money.

And everybody’s a long-termer. Garth is nothing but loyal. Which is strange in today’s society, where everybody’s looking to trade up. He goes with the guys he came with. Talks about working it out on Tuesday nights before he made it, yup, it’s some of the exact same people.

And he plays to the far reaches of the arena. Running around. And he’s a bundle of energy that never stops.

But the highlight is…

When he comes out for the encores.

Now you never know, he’s already given it his all. Done not only “Friends In Low Places,” but “The Dance.” All the hits are done. You can’t bitch that you didn’t get your money’s worth. You’re applauding and you expect the lights to come back on at any minute and then…

Garth reappears.

Just him and his guitar.

And he looks out over the audience and…

He starts playing requests.

He looks at the signs and whips off the songs. Ones he hasn’t played in years. Ones not even written by him! Someone asked for a Keith Whitley song!

And then there was the couple holding signs that their first date was at a Garth Brooks show and now they’ve seen three and they’re married with a baby on the way and Garth can’t help but do their song.

And it’s like James Taylor. All quiet and intimate and acoustic.

But without a script, without a set-list.

And you think this is a gimmick, a set-up, but Garth goes on and on, playing more and more requests, and you start to tingle, you’re experiencing a magic you can’t get anywhere else, the combination of music and emotion that is the elixir of the live experience.

And then Garth picks on the guy right in front of me! Who’s fifty eight and has been holding up a series of signs throughout the evening.

He wants Garth to play “Operator.”

But isn’t that a Jim Croce song?

It most certainly is…

Operator, well could you help me place this call…

Now I never saw Croce live. And I never liked “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.” But I do love “I Got A Name” and my favorite is “Operator” and how does Garth know all the words without a teleprompter? And he’s so sincere, he’s not oversinging, this isn’t “American Idol,” this is someone who lived through the era when singer-songwriters were king and he’s caught in his reverie.

But then Garth starts to strum and…

It’s indelible. You know the original. Which broke the act. Which was a staple of the seventies. Which begins with that acoustic figure…

I was a little too tall
Could’ve used a few pounds
Tight pants, points, hardly reknown

He’s playing NIGHT MOVES! It messes you up. He lived through this too. He’s been in a Chevy trying to touch the points sitting way up high. It’s like all of the arena, all of your life, melted into one soft ball, like being high on drugs, only in this case it was only music.

And then…

It was nine o’clock on a Saturday.

It’s a song about a piano man, but Garth is playing his guitar, and you can only stand there and beam, as you throw your arms high in the air and sing along.

We were all in the mood for a melody.

And Garth had us feelin’ all right.