Gang of Youths at the Moroccan Lounge

I didn’t get it at first.

Geiger says the streaming charts don’t reflect the culture, Greta Van Fleet has sold over 250,000 tickets worldwide, but their Spotify numbers are anemic, by modern standards anyway.

Danny Buch, a record guy, talks about the numbers done at live alternative shows, indicating demand, which does not show up on streaming services.

What is going on here?

Damned if I know, we’re all trying to figure it out.

First we went to dinner at Manuela:

Manuela

Downtown L.A. is a mystery to me. It’s undergoing a renaissance, but unless you live adjacently, and haunt its habitats on a regular basis, unless you make a special effort, you’ve got no idea what is going on.

Kinda like the Moroccan Lounge. I was invited to Tony Hawk’s 50th there, yes, he’s that old, but he can still skate, looky here:

Tony Hawk: 50 tricks at Age 50

but I was on a flight and couldn’t make it, this was my first time there.

And I’m always concerned with parking, it’s not the seventies anymore, where you can cruise and find a space, but the Moroccan website said there was ample street parking… HUH? Hell, people couldn’t even get into the parking lot at last week’s U2 shows but at this gig I’m just gonna pull up and park?

Yes.

Although I was early.

And walked to Manuela with Gang of Youths’ manager, who told me this Australian band was now living in London, but he was moving back to Sydney, since he’d met an Australian woman at one of their shows and was now getting married to her.

The restaurant was in a barn. Or a warehouse. Or a soundstage. A big open space subdivided a bit, the kind you no longer find in the metropolis. It edged into the space. Was not overcrowded and featured excellent food, especially not over-fried calamari. I can’t resist calamari, even though it’s fried, so I appreciated the light batter.

Anyway, at dinner, Danny started talking about radio restrictions. How you have to get to the chorus this fast and changes have to happen that fast and if you didn’t know better, you’d think stations were run by mathematicians, but they’re not. In other words, innovation is squeezed out.

And the representative from KCSN told us that the war was over video. They want to interview bands in the studio, but the labels won’t let them. It comes down to who is doing the monetizing. And at first it looks like a non-comm is not, but then you realize everybody wants the branding and in an era where labels don’t want to let revenue leak through the sieve, sometimes video is never made and never posted because of rights issues.

And Jen told us it was a hip-hop world, and the more we talked, the less we knew.

And about two-thirds of the way through our meal, David Le’aupepe, the lead singer of Gang of Youths, showed up to partake. But it was surprising how friendly he was, open, about his background, his Samoan blood, his love of the Dodgers, you’d never think he’s a star.

But he’s not, over here anyway, yet in Australia…

They play arenas.

Which is why the three Aussies behind us were at the gig, here in America for a three week vacation, you get four weeks off in Australia, never forget, the United States is the greatest country in the world! They were eager to see an arena act in a club.

Even though most of you have never heard of Gang of Youths.

That’s how hard it is to get started today.

And why was everybody there? It was sold out, last night and tonight.

Everybody was white. EVERYBODY!

There’s racism in music, never forget it. The whites might like the blacks’ music, but there’s little cross-pollination in reverse.

And so many knew the words, were they Aussies too?

And the audience was 25-35, and what motivated them to go out, never mind how did they know. Then again, this is Los Angeles and the band is playing a club, imagine the audience in the hinterlands!

So, it all starts with a thrash.

Here we go, I’m gonna have to stand here for ninety minutes and feign interest, I could bolt, but I don’t want to be that rude. I looked up data about the band on my phone, but could I then check the news, would I be judged?

And for three songs it was an aural assault. I’m wondering why anybody who didn’t care would. This is the fallacy of rock, they don’t understand why it won’t spread, it’s so derivative as to be unappealing to newbies.

But then the band slowed down, it was more like U2, and then you could realize, when it was quieter, that every member could play, well. This is the advantage of Australian bands, they’ve paid their dues, they’re ready.

And then there was a quiet acoustic number, the lead singer emoting his story in “Persevere.”

And then he started to DANCE!

Charisma, it’s why you sign an act, it’s why an act is successful.

This guy was writhing like Jim Morrison, he not only had the music in him, he had SOUL! Bono should give up in comparison. I was totally enraptured.

And he went into the audience and one could say it was all tricks, that it’d had all been seen before, but in an era of poseurs, very few have got the goods.

David Le’aupepe has got the goods.

Suddenly, I was interested. I didn’t want to look at my phone. My head was bopping to the music.

I got it.

P.S. Maybe the band was loaded with adrenaline at first, maybe that’s why it came across thrashy.

P.P.S. They were being scouted for festivals, hopefully said scouts lasted long enough to see David Le’aupepe’s charisma evidenced.

P.P.P.S. So is it a live business or a recorded business? Labels and agents/promoters will come down on one side or the other, but the truth is most of the money is in live, so is the record just a taste, a way to get you involved, and is the show the real thing? I didn’t get it on Spotify. But I truly get it live. Made me wonder if they just needed a tweak by Lillywhite or Spike Stent or…

P.P.P.P.S. The past is not coming back. But something is gonna come from left field and triumph. What that is…

The Curtis Sittenfeld Book

“You Think It, |’ll Say It”

You want to read this.

Ever feel alone, like no one understands you, like you’re an alien and everybody else is connecting but you’re not?

I do.

And then you meet someone who gets you…

It’s always a surprise, it’s always when you’re not looking, you get into conversation and…it just flows, you’re the real you, you’re riding an endless wave like Laird Hamilton and then…

The encounter ends.

That’s when you realize how special it was, when you exit and feel numb, start to tingle. Just when you’d given up hope, the universe delivers for you.

Now what?

To tell you the truth, I’m always anxious about the subsequent encounters. To the point I avoid them. I know, I know, that’s ridiculous. But what am I gonna say? How am I gonna act? I’m gonna be self-conscious and tongue-tied and it just won’t be the same, better to wallow in my memories of the connection.

But sometimes you continue to run into the person and it’s just as good, over and over again. And you’re wondering… Is this romance?

They might wink at you. Touch your arm. You can stay up all night on the buzz, thinking of them, what could be, imagining a whole life between the two of you and…

DO YOU SAY SOMETHING?

This is not your typical romance. Wherein you get signals and ask. This is serendipitous, you’re not looking for love, and neither is the other person, but could this be the real thing?

You’re looking for signals, signs. You share something you’ve rarely had before, maybe never.

I said something once. She used to call me for hours after midnight. She’d insist we go to gigs without her husband. I kept keeping her at bay, saying she was married, she’d send me postcards from vacation, telling me she was missing L.A. Finally she got the message, she disappeared.

And then a year later, she called to tell me…

She was getting a divorce.

And in the ensuing conversation, as she was driving in the hills, as the connection was breaking up, I said… “You know I love you ____.”

I never heard from her again. I wasn’t gonna reach out to her, in our conversation she told me she needed time, I was willing to give it to her. And then I became self-conscious, and then I went with my buddy to the all night electronics store and…

There she was. In her cowboy boots.

With another guy.

She came over to talk, but unlike previously, not forever. She was both flirty and distant. I managed, spoke earnestly, albeit with a bit of attitude, poking fun, but that was the nature of the relationship.

She e-mailed me a couple of years later, I did not respond.

I Googled her, I think she’s married with a couple of kids, even though she said she wanted none, but she’s got a somewhat common name, and she’s not all over social media, assuming it’s her, but who knows.

A few years later, I met someone I’d denigrated in print.

And…

The same thing happened, we connected, we made jokes, she invited me to events, she’d e-mail me her hopes and dreams, she’d whisper in my ear and this time…

I didn’t have the balls to confront her, to ask her, to profess my love.

And I thought of all this when I read the title story in Curtis Sittenfeld’s new book.

I loved “Prep.” I hated “Sisterland.” But reading “You Think It, |’ll Say It”…

We live in a culture where the inner voices is repressed. It’s the antithesis of hip-hop, if you’re talking about yourself, you’re a driver, you’re a winner.

And it’s hard to do inner life in filmed entertainment.

But in writing…

But today’s anointed books are all character development and little plot, like the new one by the unreadable Rachel Kushner, lauded by the cognoscenti.

And then you stumble on to something like “You Think It, |’ll Say It.”

I started reading slowly, I didn’t want it to end.

It’s short stories, so a few leave you wanting more.

Then again, you can’t wait to dive into the next one. For the peek into people’s souls.

We’re all broken, we all have hopes and dreams, we all have secrets, WHO DO WE TELL?

That’s what makes us feel so alone, the inability to share our stories, not the facts so much as the nuance, especially if you’re a guy, you can talk sports and money but emotions? No way.

There’s a morass of product and then there’s something like “You Think It, |’ll Say It.” That’s what people don’t realize in today’s world of art, that very little is truly great, that very little truly speaks to us, but if it does…

We just can’t get enough of it. We want more than the single, we want EVERYTHING!

And I will say it’s hard to cut through the clutter without marketing but…

The goal of art is to make us feel so not alone.

I haven’t felt this connected with art in years.

Read this book.

YouTube Music

It’s pretty cool!

Lyor says he’s on the side of the artists, if one streaming service wins it will be able to crimp compensation to rightsholders, he says that’s why he took the job at Google. And we can debate Lyor’s motivation all day long, but the end product…

Is gonna attract users.

It’s personalized. That’s what differs it from its competitors. No one is gonna see the same homepage. Furthermore, you get a different homepage depending upon your location!

Let’s say you listen to instrumental music at work, IT KNOWS THAT! And will suggest music to play accordingly. Ditto if you’re at home, or exiting a museum, it tracks the location and squares it against your history and creates a homepage on the fly.

And they’ve got a lot of history. That’s right, they’re incorporating all your viewing on YouTube to build your favorites. And if for some reason you’ve been living under a rock and have never been on the default video service, you can choose different acts to inform YouTube so your homepage can be populated before it learns.

And there’s a row of new releases based on your preferences. This happens to me all the time, I find a new release a YEAR after it came out. That’s the hardest thing to do in today’s marketplace, spread the word, especially to people who want to know. But if the YouTube app learns you’re a fan of an act or genre, it will put their new releases right on the homepage. Do you know Neil Young has a new release of his “Tonight’s The Night” show from the Roxy? I didn’t, until I read an article. I was listening to Supertramp and wanted to know if they were still touring so I went to the band’s homepage and found out Gabe Dixon was playing keyboards for the band. I LOVE Gabe Dixon, but I did not know he released a live album from Boston that I’ve got to write about, I’ve listened to it for days straight. Any service that puts this stuff up close and personal is attractive. Of course, the proof is in the pudding. Spotify does something similar, but I find its New Release Radar has too many remastered tracks, I already know them, I don’t care, I want NEW STUFF!

Speaking of which, for now YouTube Music does not feature Spotify’s killer app, i.e. Discover Weekly. They say they’re gonna put that in… And unlike Amazon, and now Spotify, voice control is not built into the app, then again, if you’re on Android, you can say “Hey Google!” and achieve the same result. And if you’ve got Google Home… You can call out and get playlists on the fly. Like I had Lyor ask his phone to play “Depressing Songs From 1987” and it immediately played U2’s “With or Without You,” this is Amazon Music’s killer feature, it creates personalized playlists on the fly, via algorithm. YouTube’s are not personalized.

But YouTube’s killer app is…YOUTUBE!

Happens to me all the time, I get deep into an act on Spotify and I want to hear live shows, see fan videos, I click over to YouTube, but now that’s BUILT IN! All the authorized and fan videos, and they pay at the subscriber rate, not the ad-supported rate.

As for trials… They’re just not sure yet. Right now they’re gonna have a thirty day trial, could go to ninety days, they’ve got carrier partners…it’s flexible.

Not that you can get much data out of them, that’s what’s great about Spotify, it gives you plays, it gives you so much data, whereas Apple and Google hold their info close to the vest.

So, playlists are created based on your listening habits, with as many as 500 songs, and they learn along the way, if you skip the track will not show up next time.

Once again, these are not generic playlists. Yours might have the same name as a buddy’s, but it will be slightly different, all based on your listening habits. But you can go deeper into the app and find the hand-curated playlists.

Also, there’s a feature where they list what’s hot. So, if Childish Gambino puts out a video the night before, you’ll be alerted right on your homepage, think of it as a news service for music.

But you won’t know until you try it.

The app is gonna have a soft launch on Tuesday, and then spread slowly thereafter. There will be promotion/advertising, and the first question you have, which is the same one I have, is…IS GOOGLE TOO LATE?

Timing is everything in tech, there’s a huge first-mover advantage.

And behemoths can be undercut and toppled. Hell, think of all of Google’s failed products, Glass, whatever their social network was called…

But, first mover advantage only works if you continue to improve and stay better than the competition. From what I can see, YouTube Music is a step ahead of the competition, it’s very fan-friendly, even downloads/synch are emphasized in a way that nitwits can figure it out.

And there’s those YouTube videos…

So it’ll be ten bucks a month, and if you want the YouTube Red stuff, you’ll pay a few bucks more for Premium, Red goes away, you can’t buy Red without Music.

And what we find here is all of Google’s machine learning and experience has been baked into this app. It’s the personalization that wows, the location services, you want to try it out.

Is there enough room for all services to survive?

I’m not sure, it’s a race for subscribers, and so far, most people don’t have subscriptions.

And if you’d asked me yesterday, I’d have said YouTube has no chance.

But today??

It’s quite possible!

Gilberto Gil-This Week’s Podcast

You may not know him, but he’s a superstar in Brazil.

He was exiled from the country, landed in London in the early seventies, and then came back to Brazil for his victory lap, further success and even a stint in the government as Minister of Culture.

Now Rio is a dangerous place. You can’t walk around willy-nilly and after dark the cars don’t even stop for red lights. Gilberto’s studio is on a hill across the street from the American School, just shy of the favela. The American School wants to move, but no one will buy the land, at least not at a reasonable price.

Gilberto now lives in an apartment building with security features after his family was accosted in his previous home.

But his studio, high in the hills…

Visiting it was like a fall day in Los Angeles. We got behind the gate, every house has a wall and gate, and walked through to a staircase that brought us down to the studio, which to label it “home” would be doing it a disservice. Gilberto was elegant and wry and went into detail about his career and… He wanted to do music, but first he got a degree to please his parents, but after being on TV his career blew up and…

You may not know him, but you’ll learn from his story. You’ll enjoy the discourse. You’ll be brought to a foreign land, which is always illuminating, but ultimately learn…

The music business is always the same.

A snippet:

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