Eddie and Felice

Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation – CNN

My favorite Van Halen track is “And The Cradle Will Rock…”

It used to be “Runnin’ With The Devil,” but I got hooked on the remastered version of “And The Cradle Will Rock…” on 1996’s “Best Of Volume 1.” I drove around in my BMW with the Alpine changer in the trunk and the ADS speakers all around and cranked it up and it made me feel so good when I had more questions than answers. And the funny thing about Van Halen records is when you hear them you can’t stop playing them, kind of like “Unchained.” Which was featured in the CNN clip above, I had to pull it up in Spotify and now I can’t turn it off.

Change, nothing stays the same

Ain’t that the theme of the day.

But a great record, when done right, is FOREVER! Even if poorly recorded and heard through the speaker in the dashboard, when the magic is encapsulated on wax you can’t resist it. Which is why classic rock maintains. But the Beatles were in the sixties, Zeppelin the seventies, but by time we hit the eighties, the rock saviour was…

Van Halen.

Which is kind of surprising. It’s not like they were a secret, they played at the Starwood endlessly. Gene Simmons even cut a demo. But it wasn’t until they got signed by Warner Brothers and got hooked up with Ted Templeman that they became a household word.

And never underestimate the cheekiness of David Lee Roth’s lyrics. But what puts Van Halen over the top, makes them sensational, is Eddie Van Halen’s guitarwork (and keyboards too, come on “Jump”!) And when Eddie wanted to donate 75 guitars to the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation, I felt the two worlds Felice and I grew up in, from “Moon River” to “Eruption,” had finally come full circle and were complete.

So, when I was talking to producer Ben Bamsey in the green room at CNN before an appearance and he told me he wanted to feature musicians talking about charity I told him about Eddie and Felice.

It was the easiest pitch I ever made. Ben was all over it. And last night they did it.

And the funny thing is you think you know everything and then you learn something new. I didn’t know that Eddie and Alex played on the boat over from Holland. And you see we want to know everything about our heroes, we want to fill in all the holes, for they are family members.

And when I’m on CNN I hear from some people tuned in.

But when they featured Eddie and the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation, donations started to come in, the rock press covered it in droves, because that’s the power of Eddie Van Halen, that’s the power of music.

The thing about music is it’s limitless, it allows you to express your innermost feelings, your angst, your happiness, your questions, your answers, you can do all that through your instrument.

And in a world where we’re told what to do every damn day, who to be, to color inside the lines, that’s positively a revelation.

Which is why the arts are so important. They set souls free.

But we live in a country where the bottom line now rules. Music is seen as expendable. But it’s the most powerful force other than sex, just look at social media, it’s ruled by players.

And I had no plans to write this, but when I clicked on “Unchained”…

The first thing I had to do was turn it up.

And then I thought how the guitar in the intro sounded like a sweet chainsaw.

And when Eddie started throwing off those notes at 1:49 and Dave was asked for a break I felt like my whole life wasn’t wasted, dedicating it to this music.

It’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock and roll.

And when I talk to Eddie and he still evidences the same intensity of yore, is still passionate about the sound, it gives me hope.

These are our leaders. Not the bloviators in D.C. Nor the billionaires eviscerating our jobs. But the musicians. With the power of their playing who transport us into the stratosphere, even though our rear ends are firmly planted, who set our minds free, who illustrate the possibilities, who give us hope.

No, I don’t ask for permission
This is my chance to fly
Maybe enough ain’t enough for you
But it’s my turn to try

LET’S FLY!

Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation

Unchained

P.S. The above CNN video plays best in Chrome or Firefox, but if you must watch it in Safari, read this:

Fix for SnappyTV issues in Safari

Vail Buys Stowe

“Vail Resorts to buy Vermont’s Stowe ski area for $50 million”

This is a story of disruption.

Ideas are everything, but execution is key. Rob Katz, Chairman and CEO of Vail Resorts, retweeted Guy Kawasaki’s link to a story about this just a day before the deal closed:

“Sorry But Successful People Don’t Care About Your Brilliant Idea”

Ideas are a dime a dozen, but what are you doing about them?

Rob Katz worked for Apollo, in New York City, and then the twin towers fell and his wife said no mas, so they moved to Boulder, Colorado, where he sat on the board of Vail Resorts, an Apollo asset, which they picked up in the bankruptcy of its previous owner.

Then they gave Rob the executive reins.

Skiing is a moribund sport. Burgeoning in the heyday of the baby boomers, skier days have remained essentially constant for years. Now it’s about market share.

But those running the resorts are old school, they’re too deep in their vertical, they’ve got no vision.

Sound like the record business?

And the old paradigm had hit a wall. The old paradigm was make it on real estate, like the record industry made it on CDs. But the real estate market crashed back in ’08 and hasn’t fully recovered. There’s little new construction in resorts.

So Rob Katz came up with a new plan. He was gonna make it on lift tickets.

And the key was volume.

Now mountains cannot be standardized, but services can. What Vail does is buy your resort, throw a ton of money at infrastructure and upgrade the experience. To the point where others can’t compete. Because once you’ve ridden modern high speed lifts, slow ones are anathema.

But the linchpin of Vail’s success has been the lowering of lift ticket prices.

Used to be a season pass was nearly 2k.

Now you can buy unlimited skiing at all Vail’s properties for under a grand.

The Epic Pass started less than a decade ago at under $500. Now it’s in the $800 ballpark. Because when you provide something people need, they’ll endure price hikes.

This is what those in recorded music can’t understand. That prices go up after people are hooked, and you make it up on volume.

Vail Resorts sold 650,000 passes this year. Eclipsing the number of all its competitors COMBINED!

So, after lowering the price for a season’s pass, Katz went on a buying spree. Not only legendary resorts like Park City, but molehills in the midwest. And the biggest ski resort in Australia. Because…

If you can ski on the same pass for free out west, that’s an incentive to buy one!

That’s right, Your Afton Alps or Perisher pass, thousands of miles from Tahoe, Colorado or Utah, works at Vail’s resorts in those other locations. It’s a no-brainer.

And break even is less than five visits. So, if you’re gonna make a trip to Vail or Breckenridge or Whistler, all Vail resorts, you might as well buy a season’s pass, you’ll save money, and if you want to take another trip during the season, where are you gonna go?

Because lift tickets are expensive. Over a hundred bucks at any resort of size.

But they’re highest at Vail Resorts. $189 a day during peak season at Vail itself. Because Katz wants to incentivize you to buy the season’s pass, he wants to lock you in.

And of course there are other revenue streams. There’s food, and retail.

But the essence is lift tickets. Which get you to the mountain and get you to pay more for the extras, like ski school. Furthermore, you lock your money in before the season begins, so if it’s a bad one…you take the risk and Vail Resorts survives.

Because the ski industry is littered with bankruptcies, weather can be fickle.

Now this sell low and make it up on volume theory was hiding in plain sight.

It’s just that Rob Katz had education and experience where his competitors did not. They were operators. They couldn’t see beyond their noses.

So what we’ve learned here is outsiders can triumph, because their perspective is different. This is what happened in the music business. If you’re criticizing Daniel Ek, you’re missing the point. He had a vision and executed it. That’s what disruption is all about, that’s what making money is all about. The usual suspects are usually too inured to the old ways.

And the other resorts hate Vail. And the denizens of the other resorts hate Vail too.

But Epic Pass buyers, season pass holders, LOVE Vail.

And no one is stepping up to compete. No one is rolling up ski areas and creating a competing offer. And now it’s like the web, where one company gets 70% of the market and dominates, like Google, like Amazon.

So as you sit there at home know that you too can compete.

But it takes brains.

And the power of analysis.

This is what education is supposed to teach. You can look up the facts, but how do you put them together? Most people don’t know. They read the book, but they don’t analyze the concepts.

And everybody will say you’re doing it wrong, that you’ll fail.

But you soldier on despite the naysayers.

And of course there’s risk, but you’ve learned from experience not to do it the wrong way. There was a previous roll-up in skiing, at the end of the last century, but Les Otten’s American Skiing Company died as a result of too much debt and too much reliance on real estate, which Katz has avoided.

So even if you don’t ski, this is the future. Of not only online, but brick and mortar too. Don’t forget, McDonald’s eviscerated the local burger shop and Wal-Mart wiped out downtowns and…

You may lament those interlopers. But they’ve been eclipsed by Shake Shack/Five Guys, i.e. upscale burgers, and Amazon. Because the wheel keeps turning, you’re never safe resting on your laurels.

And I’m not sure what the future of skiing holds in an era of climate change.

But I do know smart people are going to continue to revolutionize industries while those presently in charge claim sour grapes.

Don’t be one of those complaining.

Be one of those disrupting.

Eric Church Cancels Tickets

“Eric Church’s Manager Explains How He Cancelled 25,000 Tickets Held By Scalpers”

This is not about letting 25,000 fans in.

This is about letting fans and potential fans know that Eric Church is on their side, and we haven’t had that spirit here since the MTV era, not in someone who can sell out arenas.

The acts are all about the money. They say they’re about the music, give lip service to their fans (and God!), but the truth is they’re eager to climb out of the trough of the nobody and into the land of the billionaire, go to charity balls and live the high life. When did music become about the economics as opposed to the tunes, when did it become about fame as opposed to the music, when did it become about subterfuge as opposed to honesty?

And the truth is not only can you not get a good ticket to a show at face value, by time the public on-sale happens fewer than a thousand tickets can be available. After the fan club and credit card pre-sales, the holdbacks, anybody who goes on a regular basis knows you don’t wake up and click on Ticketmaster on Saturday morning in your underwear, that if you’re complaining about not getting a ticket then you’re an amateur.

To tell you the truth, dedicated concertgoers prefer StubHub. Because they can wait until the last minute, when they know they’re free, and get a good ticket. People are willing to pay beaucoup bucks for that, as indicated by Church’s $260 platinum tickets being sold for much more on resale sites. The problem isn’t money, but ACCESS, AVAILABILITY, people just want to be inside, the cost is secondary.

But the game is rigged. All insiders know this. It’s about extracting the most dollars as opposed to transparency. The acts hate the labels for false accountings? They should look at themselves regarding concert ticket sales. All the kickbacks, the credit card dollars…

Is this the future, Church’s solution?

Each and every story about this mentions the cost involved, the labor. Nobody else is willing to put in the effort. And there you’ve got your modern music business right there. The acts don’t want to spend a dime. That’s why the major labels still exist, they’re willing to open their wallets, managers are not. If it’s hard, and it doesn’t go straight to the bottom line, today’s acts are out.

But Church is playing a long game. One wherein he knows it’s about good will as opposed to upfront bucks. You want a career, right? You want to be able to do this forever, right? So why are you whoring yourself out to the corporations as opposed to your fans?

It’s not that hard to break the paradigm. Hell, Church released his last album without pre-fanfare, the endless hype we all abhor, and shipped it initially to his fan club members. Forget what’s in the grooves, this bonds listeners to you.

We all want people to believe in.

We used to believe in musicians.

But now they’re seen as part of the endless rigged system.

When they used to be a voice for truth, justice and the American Way.

Milo Yiannopoulos

Don’t fly too close to the sun.

Milo Yiannopoulos was playing the fame game. And in that world, what you say is unimportant as long as they spell your name right. And to the media’s credit they did. He’s now famous, and toast.

This is what happens when your desire to be known exceeds the strength of your content. This is what has been happening in music for over a decade. You can make it at home, put it on streaming services tomorrow and then spam everybody and ask for attention.

But attention is our most precious commodity. We guard it and give it up sparingly. And if you demand our time we’re critical. Milo thought we were in on the joke, but we’re not.

This is not about free speech, this is not about campus protests. This is someone playing by the new rules who believes the old don’t apply. Rise instantly and people are gonna be gunning for you. Especially the old straight media, which doesn’t like its anointed path to progress messed with.

Then again, it was Milo who blew himself up. With his comments about thirteen year olds and sex. He wasn’t ready for prime time. You can have a slew of Twitter followers, be the king or queen of social media, but when you try to cross over to the real world, beware.

Kind of like PewDiePie, who turned out to be featuring anti-Semitic content in his videos. Google and Disney ran from him immediately, because no one likes controversy. Look at Travis Kalanick… Having played his cards wrong with Trump, he jumped on the sexism at Uber controversy right away, said there would be investigation, appointed a “special prosecutor.” Because in the big bad world of reality there are rules.

Taylor Swift got caught in this net. She self-promoted, hiring a photographer to shoot her July 4th party so she could look cool to fans and then Kim and Kanye took a swing at her, as did her old boyfriend Calvin Harris, and since then it’s been radio silence. You see, Taylor Swift lives in a bubble, just like Milo and PewDiePie. They think their fans are with them, not knowing the rest of us abhor them and are aiming for them, waiting for that inevitable faux pas committed by someone who thinks their doody doesn’t stink.

So let this be a lesson for you, be famous for your work, not the penumbra. For the essence, not the marketing. Because people hate ads, and they hate ads for yourself even more. The look at me culture has limits, get big enough and there will be a backlash.

But the problem with most famous people today is there’s no there there. Milo Yiannopolous was not famous for his work, but outrageous comments made to get attention.

Will this same correction factor apply to President Trump, who believes if it comes out of his mouth it must be true?

But now that Trump is under the microscope it appears he watches cable news and tweets and talks with no further investigation, like a teenager, and those in the know keep crying foul.

You see it’s hard to play out of your league. Because it’s so hard to get to the top of anything and when you do arrive you don’t like upstarts crashing the party.

So, what we’re learning in the teens is society is not flat. Social mobility is just like economic mobility in these United States, i.e. not very fluid. Just because you’ve got a phone and some social media accounts that does not mean you deserve and can maintain fame. Better to dig down deep and do something worthy.

But that’s so much harder to do.