The Failure Of Logan Lucky

You just can’t get the word out.

This is an important story. Just last week I got a call from a major news outlet asking me if major labels were over.

They’re not.

We live in a cluttered society where it’s impossible to reach everybody with your message. The internet explosion which we watched for twenty years has crested and the new normal is…

The established companies rule and good luck competing with them.

This is primarily seen in tech. Five years ago we were still excited by breakthroughs, seemingly every week there was a new site or app or product that became part of the discussion. But now we’ve just got Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google and if you try to compete with them you’d better be ready to sell out, because if you hold out, you become the rapidly failing Snap.

That’s right, ignore the financial press. IPOs are a way for initial investors to get their money out, they are not an indicator of future success.

So for a while there, back when “The Long Tail” was our bible, it looked like if you made it, they would come, at least in enough quantity to keep you alive.

But that was before you could post your song on Spotify and never get a listen. Back before there were so many marketing messages that if you don’t have dollars to spend and relationships to lean upon, your story does not travel.

So Steven Soderbergh is one of our foremost filmmakers. He decided to do it on his own. Isn’t that what technology and the internet promised? You could make and market all by your lonesome and leave the big boys and gatekeepers behind?

But despite great reviews, “Logan Lucky” failed. It did not meet expectations.

#1 was the poorly received “Hitman’s Bodyguard,” which grossed $21.6 million. It scored 39% on RottenTomatoes.

Whereas “Logan Lucky” scored 93%, but grossed only $8.1 million in approximately the same number of theatres, just over 3,000.

So what went on here?

Well, Soderbergh thought he was smarter than the industry, he only spent half the usual marketing dollars, $20 million instead of $40 million. And he’s going on about how the film is in profit and other hogwash but the truth is his experiment failed.

And artists always want to reach the widest audience.

It turns out longevity matters. Catalog/library/backlist carries you through. And being in the marketplace every day is important.

That’s right, you think you can succeed alone. But you only come to bat every year or so at most. Whereas traditional companies are competing every damn day.

So what this means is we are in the great consolidation, where fewer players have more power. I’m not saying you can’t eke out a living on the bottom, but that’s where you’re going to reside. Either you’re a winner or a loser, the middle class of art projects has failed, just like the middle class of life.

So we live in a marketing economy.

First and foremost your wares must be excellent. Shy of that, forget about it. This is an absolute rule, especially in an open marketplace. Theatrical distribution is a closed world, there is not an unlimited number of cinemas. But there is unlimited real estate online. And when that is the case, the public flocks to the winners. And even in limited marketplaces it’s a winner-take-all economy. Usually only one, maybe two of the films of the thirty released every week succeed.

So the powers-that-be are getting more powerful.

This is a byproduct of the age of clutter.

And it’s no different in entertainment than it is in tech.

You’ve got to gain traction as an individual. But once your project has legs, you’ve got to make a deal with the devil to push it over the top. Otherwise, you stumble, you plateau, because you just don’t have the muscle and reach to get your message heard.

Look at it from the customer’s perspective. Who has time to listen to all this dreck? You expect me to wade through millions of songs, scores of playlists, to find what I like? No, I gravitate to the winners, that which is known.

So, you want to sell out.

There, I said it.

The internet promised independence.

But today independence is death. Because you’re just another jerk with a megaphone and even if your product is great it’s being drowned out by the hype for that which is not.

So you need someone who can huff and can puff and can blow the house down.

And that’s a major movie studio, a major record label, a major book publisher, a major tech company.

Don’t focus on the exceptions. There are always examples that break the rules.

But the trend is opposite. The door is closing. You want to get in before it shuts.

And you do this by aligning yourself with the usual suspects, the winners with power, they may not be able to dominate like they used to, get everybody to experience/purchase their wares, but the wind is in their sails and you’re living in an airless aerie if you don’t align with them.

“‘Hitman’s Bodyguard’ is No. 1, as ‘Logan Lucky’ Disappoints”

Dave Morrell’s Book

“45 RPM (Recollections Per Minute): The Morrell Archives Volume 3”

He shits on Clive Davis.

I received this in the mail with a note from a friend saying “Arista Part, MUST READ!”

So I did.

Didn’t take me long. Hell, I finished the whole book in less than two hours.

But I did read it, because I remember when.

I’ve got no idea who Dave Morrell is. And to tell you the truth, the book is not well-written and the mistakes will make you wince, but I could not help but turn the pages, because the stories are from my era, when music ruled the world and radio was the midwife.

Most labels still believe this to be true. Now I don’t want to shit on the majors that much, they’re more clued-in than you think they are, but they believe in taking the path of least resistance, which is radio. Radio’s got the most mindshare, it’s the easiest way to break a record.

For now.

So Morrell’s friends with John Lennon and tells tales of doing dope with Mick Jagger and much less famous people but if you’ve been around the music business you know this guy, if not this particular one. The truth is the guys, and it’s almost always guys, running these labels get all the press, and the people who get the work done don’t. Furthermore, after dedicating their lives 24/7, they get kicked out, go independent, rely on scraps, if they didn’t get out early and go into the video business, now defunct, or real estate, where the promotion person’s skills really shine.

They can sell anything to anybody. They’re always upbeat. And they’re always up for a good time. They’re a special breed. One which needs little sleep that delivers on deadlines and is always working.

Used to be it was a free-floating party, with players moving from label to label, but that was before the great consolidation. They’d change the label head and he’d fire everybody and most, but not all, would find jobs at a new company. It was a game of musical chairs, with the most networked ending up with new gigs.

So Morrell is a singles promo man at Warner Brothers. He goes on how James Taylor and Maria Muldaur and America all had hits with him, but none after he left. And this is factually true, did he make the difference? Possibly. You’d have to reconstruct history to prove it, and no one’s gonna do that. You see history is left to those who write it down. And generally speaking, no one is telling the tales of the worker bees. Except for every outcast who believes they’ve got a book in them, I receive them all the time, self-published, available on Amazon, and none of these people can write, which is a prerequisite for a book, but they all have amazing stories, like Morrell.

But this is less of a starfucking adventure than a business tale.

He talks about the acts that are willing to work, like Melissa Manchester, who calls Bob Dylan for advice after Clive insists she record a song she doesn’t want to, and John Denver, who sends him a personal note, and rags on pricks like Lou Reed who gets him to toke up and then reports him for it, but mostly it’s about the slog, working for the man, and the points he puts up on the board.

He references Rick Sklar, the most powerful man in radio, whom I saw at the Century Plaza at four AM after staying up all night with promo people, Rick said he kept himself on New York time, wearing a suit and a smile, just months before he died on the operating table. Morrell got records on WABC and got no thanks. And I know how hard that was.

Took Scott Muni out with Bobby Bare to get the former to add the latter’s country novelty song and Muni did, after bonding all night over alcohol and military tales.

It’s all people I tell you.

And most of them are forgotten.

Unless they insist on being known.

I’m shocked at all the people in this book I know and wonder where they are today.

And I’m shocked at all the people with big gigs I never knew, like the guy who got fired by Clive in the northwest… Did the guy ever get another job in the record business?

That’s what’s so strange. The acts remain, the workers do not. Except on the live side, where everybody’s a lifer. You get your picture taken with household names, share a joke and a toke, and then you’re out on your ass with no access shortly thereafter, even though you were a big part of their success.

But successful acts know the game, they’ll kiss up to anybody who can get them ahead.

So Clive is clueless. He drones on and on, boring his troops while unaware of their achievements.

What’s the truth?

I don’t know and it doesn’t even matter.

But what does matter is you cannot believe everything you read.

But usually you only read it from the winners, who’ve been working their reps. Like Jimmy with “The Defiant Ones.”

Morrell is playing on a smaller scale. He brushed up against greatness, but it didn’t stick. He worked Elvis’s records, but never met the man.

And all this happened decades ago. When music drove the culture and we all knew it and wanted to be in in it.

Those days are through.

Music still remains.

But it’s not like it used to be.

Morrell is talking about what once was.

And if you were there, you will remember.

And feel old.

P.S. Morrell quit Arista for a job at Capitol, so this isn’t the usual sour grapes, or is it?


Judy – Spotify

The song misses, the vocal is imperfect, BUT THE GUITAR PLAYING IS OUTSTANDING!

My best listening is done now. Long after midnight. When the rest of the world is asleep and I have room to move around, physically and mentally, when it’s my planet. I don’t get the competition to sleep little and get up early. First and foremost I can’t do this, i.e. write, unless I’ve had a good night’s sleep, and sometimes the highlight of my day is my dreams, and I find the sunrise creepy. The whole world waking up. I prefer the fade-out instead of the fade-in.

And to tell you the truth, my day was upsetting. But it started to turn a couple of hours ago when I heard myself referenced on the WrapUp Show. I’ve never had the experience of driving around and having my song come on the radio, never will, but when Howard or Gary mention me I’ve got to believe it’s somewhat similar.

And then I listened to Paul Schrader on the Bret Easton Ellis podcast. It’s intellectual in a world where every other show is middlebrow, or below. Ellis doesn’t pander, it’s all about concepts. And I preferred the episode with Peter Bogdanovich, who doesn’t seem to realize how smug he comes across, but Schrader said something absolutely brilliant. That films stopped mattering when they no longer gave us answers, told us how to live. That’s right, those of us who lived through the second golden era, from “Bonnie and Clyde” to “Heaven’s Gate,” learned how to behave from watching movies. Hell, everything I know about sex I learned at the cinema, truly. Same deal with the music. Used to be we listened for insight, that was the essence of the golden era, classic rock, we believed the acts were more experienced, knew more than we did, and by listening a path would open for us to walk down and live our lives. That’s why everybody went to Woodstock, not to graze and be seen like at today’s festivals, but to get closer to the music, to be with like-minded people on an adventure.

And in 1969, Crosby, Stills & Nash were burgeoning. They didn’t peak until they added Young and released “Deja Vu” the following March. And then the band imploded and some of the solo albums were stellar, but there was never that exquisite peak again. To the point where young ‘uns are completely unaware of the magic. And I’m not sure “Judy” will close them, but it will give them a glimpse of what once was, when being a skilled axeman was key, when arrangement still mattered, when music was sweet instead of sour.

But not too sweet.

I knew Stephen and Judy were on tour. But I didn’t know there was a record. Hell, I never know there’s a record anymore, not even a show. I just read a review of Willie Nelson at the Shrine, who knew he was in town?

But honestly, I didn’t need to go. The truth is there’s nothing new with these oldsters, if you’ve seen it, you’ve seen it. Not that fans will tell you this, the same fans who go to every Dylan show, huh?

Now to tell you the truth, the track that blew my mind at this hour this week was the Barenaked Ladies and the Persuasions doing the latter’s “Good Times,” it was on my Discover Weekly playlist.

“Judy” was on my Release Radar playlist.

And I was gonna do a whole post on the Barenaked Ladies/Persuasions album, yes, that’s right, there’s an entire LP, quite appealing, did you know the Barenaked Ladies also have a live album from Red Rocks?

Like I said, we’re all out of the loop. We used to need to keep up. But then music stopped driving the culture and we lost the need, even though a great song still resonates so, but how do you find them?

I want to be pointed to them.

And this week’s Release Radar, fresh tonight, opened with a Yusuf song that I only had to hear once, not even all the way through.

And then the same thing with this London Grammar track. It was good, but did I ever need to hear it again?

And then Thomas Rhett’s “Grave” was close to spectacular, with production you rarely hear in country tracks, I’m not sure if it’s a hit, but I marveled, this guy has talent and range.

And then I got to “Judy.” And it was right in the pocket.

Maybe you’re not a rock fan. Maybe you’re into beats. But for those of you who grew up in the AOR era, who love a good change, who remember when music came before money, you’ll get it.

How can this be?

All the classic acts put out execrable LPs every couple of years. They overpolish crap. It’s creepy.

And then we get “Judy.”

And Stills’s voice is a bit creepy. Not as bad as it can be live, but nowhere near as good as it used to be.

But Judy Collins’s harmonies are exquisite, if buried.

But the PLAYING!

It’s one thing to have technique, it’s quite another to put the notes together with melodies and changes such that the end result is appealing.

Now fall is coming.

And if you went to college back in the seventies, you know the drill. The first thing you do when you move into the dorm is to set up your stereo. And then you put on a new record while you unpack. And then people come over and you sit around and get high in front of the speakers, nodding your noggins to songs that are not quite foreground yet not quite background, they’re integral to the experience, like oil in an engine. And you’re sitting there and all of a sudden you lock on to the sound, it’s like you can see into the speakers and see what the act is doing, you wonder how they do it, how they came up with this stuff.

And then you go to the show and have the religious experience.

And it’s not about selfies, it’s not about being a member of the group, it’s solely about you, in your own mind, bonding with the music.

That’s the experience I’m having right now.

“Good Times” – Spotfy

Tina Fey On Weekend Update

They’ve got Ann Coulter and the bimbos on Fox.

But we’ve got Tina Fey.

I oftentimes wonder, do those people on Fox really believe what they’re saying? Like Tucker Carlson, interrupting guests like his predecessor Bill O’Reilly, if you got him alone, in the basement, after a game of pool, would he really be spewing this right wing hatred? Is that the world we really want, where it’s every person for themselves and the government is out of the equation? Government, and taxes are bad. And what is good? The winners of this world? Should we call them “Deacon Blues”?

Now I’m one of those who believe SNL hasn’t been good since the original cast left. And don’t criticize me for being an old fart, did they ever find a new Beatles, huh? It’s old wave media rallying around Lorne Michaels but the emperor has no clothes. A lot of set-up and no jokes. But Tina Fey…

She could have starred next to Belushi and Aykroyd, held her own.

And she never fails.

You’re watching this clip thinking it’s not that funny, and then you burst out laughing, about Donald JOHN Trump tearing down statues to build condos. And did you know those statues were built long after the Civil War? It’d kind of be like erecting Hitler statues in Germany today. Or Richard Nixon sculptures in Vietnam. They’re not antiquities, just reinforcements of white power.

Then again, did you see what Jon Stewart’s said?

“White supremacists, man. I don’t know what to tell you. It’s a free market. If you guys feel like you’re losing out, fucking work harder. I don’t know what to tell you. If you’re a white supremacist, if you think you’re the master race, how come we’re all kicking your ass so easily? You’re the master race! How come you’re not winning everything? Why aren’t the Olympics dominated by you? You’re the master race. What do you have left? Golf and tennis, maybe, maybe. And even then, the first black people you came across, you’re like, ‘We can’t play this game anymore.’ Williams sisters, Tiger Woods. Okay”

They keep saying the left has no sense of humor. I beg to differ. We’ve got almost all of the comedians. Hell, Dennis Miller went right and now we never hear him anymore, he’s probably doing privates for the Koch Brothers. That’s the truth, if you want to go right there’s untold bucks in it. Whereas left wing comedians earn their money the old-fashioned way, on innovative yuks.

Fox girls bleach their hair, put on the pumps and primp and you can’t focus on what they say because you’re too busy ogling them. And if they had any self-respect, they’d rebel. But other than Megyn Kelly, none of them has. It’s like Roger Ailes is still alive. Is this the equality Gloria Steinem, et al, fought for forty years ago? And don’t decry Gloria and her Ms. followers, all women are following in their footsteps, taking advantage of the openings they created.

And there were women comedians on SNL prior to Tina Fey.

But none of them were quite this funny.

Tina can hold her own with the boys. She makes those two johnny-come-latelies on the set look like high school students.

First and foremost she comes out in a sweatshirt and glasses. No contacts, no blond hair. She’s gonna close us on her brain. And boy, does she. Only an insecure, inadequate man would prefer a Fox babe.

And she owns her truth! She admits being a virgin at UVA, if you read her book you know she didn’t have sex until 24. Has anybody made love to Ann Coulter? Unless it’s a hate ____?

Oh, don’t get your knickers in a twist, humor’s supposed to be edgy. If you don’t occasionally go over the line, you’re not doing it right.

And Tina holds our attention for six minutes, you can’t take your eyes off her. In a short-attention span era she’s long-form.

Calling Trump “gorgeous,” that’s the cutting humor only a woman can get away with. Assuming she’s willing to go there, and the great thing about Fey is she is, she’s not holding back like the apolitical, non-swearing Seinfeld, she says Donald John Trump is a “jackass” name. That’s right, a woman who’s not afraid to get down in the gutter, be like the boys, is the one who wins our heart.

As for right wing rallies in New York City, unlike the Democratic elites, trying to apologize for their status, cowering, Tina talks about drag queens kicking the protesters’ ass. That’s a New Yorker! One who will take no shit! Who will stand up for what they believe in! That’s why New York is the greatest city in the world!

Although I prefer to live in Los Angeles. But with all the millennials moving to the metropolis, when can we stop paying fealty to those left behind in the hinterland, remember what Sam Kinison said about starving Africans? Don’t send them food, send them SUITCASES! They’ve got to MOVE! TO WHERE THE JOBS ARE!

Then they whip out the cake and Tina digs in and she’s channeling the physical comedy of Lucy, but there’s not only facial expressions, but continued quips. And like the right, and unlike too many on the left, she calls out the enemy, talking about Ann Coulter crawling out of her Roach Motel.

But the piece-de-resistance is:

“And also, who drove the car into the crowd, HILLARY’S E-MAILS?”

If you don’t burst out laughing you still believe Hillary is single-handedly responsible for the deaths in Benghazi and that’s much worse than anything Trump has done. And there you’ve got the problem right there, false equivalencies.

And she’s really eating the cake, in our skinny-minnie culture wherein every woman is supposed to be full when they’re silently starving.

And then calling Paul Ryan a “pussy”… What is he gonna say, how is he gonna respond to a woman, she’s nailed him right there.

And she goes on and on, with a dig at Hollywood and audiences at the end.

And all you can do is marvel. Her six minutes are far superior to ANYTHING that’s aired on SNL this decade. And the two guys next to her look like real life Waynes and Garths, you just sit there and say WOW!

That’s the power of Tina Fey.

That’s the power of entertainers.

Unlike Hillary Clinton, we have to own our strengths, our positions, not pussyfoot around them, not give in. Hell, the one thing Clinton had right was too many of these people on the right ARE deplorables, she shouldn’t have apologized, she should have DOUBLED-DOWN!

Now screw those two guys. Tina Fey should have this spot every week. Maybe on HBO with Amy Poehler. A counterpart to John Oliver and Bill Maher. Because HBO stands for freedom, anything goes, there are no ads and no one blinks.

Or maybe even Netflix.

Or if Google truly wanted to win, YouTube.

But not Apple. Where mediocre crap sits behind a paywall as smug old men tell us they know better.

No, sometimes a woman knows better.