Apple Music-Day Three

1. It’s about the money.

Never lose sight of this. Apple Music will only be a success if ninety days in, a great proportion of those kicking the tires pay to subscribe. And this is doubtful. Because most people are cheap and the only way you can compete with free is to provide a service you can’t get elsewhere, that is so good people clamor to pay for it. As long as music is free on YouTube, as long as Spotify has a free tier, Apple Music is screwed.

2. All the buzz is about the radio station.

Conversation is about Beats 1, not the on demand streaming service. And this is death for Apple, because Beats 1 may be good for the music industry, it might break records, but it does not generate cash, it does not help Apple’s bottom line. And if you don’t think that’s all Apple cares about, you’ve never sat in on an earnings call, you’ve never been the victim of a Carl Icahn or Daniel Loeb attack.

3. No explanation.

We had a WWDC introduction, but no advertising campaign illustrating what Apple Music is and why we need it. To assume the public knows is to assume they’re aware you can synch tracks to the handset such that no cellular bandwidth costs are involved. Most of the public still doesn’t know what on demand streaming is. It’s dubious whether most of the PRESS knows what on demand streaming is. In the wake of the Apple Music launch, numerous publications have posited the question whether the public needs streaming music, each and every one of these has included Pandora as an option. Yes, you stream Pandora, but Pandora is like the school cafeteria whereas on demand streaming is like a grocery store. Everybody hates the cafeteria, you get limited choice at best and then endless repeats, whereas the supermarket lets you purchase whatever you want. Furthermore, in music, you don’t have to cook it! But you do have to find it.

4. No online tutorial.

You’re on your own, even though you’re paying. What is this, video games?

That’s right, video games come with no instructions, no manual, you’re supposed to figure it out by yourself. Many do, a lot don’t. Which is why video games have a wall around them, you’re either a gamer or you’re not. And profits have been hurt by the move to mobile gaming, which is not only cheaper, but usually less complicated. Apple Music is a maze you can’t get out of, that most people don’t want to get into!

5. Wrong target.

The scuttlebutt is whether Apple will beat Spotify. That’s like asking if the Brewers will beat the Rockies. Only the hardest core will care. So far the story is too inside baseball. Those not already paying attention won’t.

6. Steep learning curve.

If you can use all the elements of Apple Music, you work there.

7. Lack of functionality.

You can’t import Spotify playlists, even though Spotify allowed you to import your iTunes library upon launch. You’ve got to take a big tent approach, you’ve got to satiate the talkers.

Apple Music will win or lose on buzz.

Wait a second, as I established above, it can’t win, it’s gonna close everybody out of their free account after ninety days, what a disaster. But to the degree it wants traction it’s got to get everybody talking about Apple Music, the on demand streaming service, the one people pay for. Hell, the company can’t even leverage the artists! There’s no “I Want My Apple Music” campaign. And, Beats 1 is too cliquey, a club that not only most people feel left out of, but most acts. If you didn’t get an invitation to host a show are you really gonna talk up the service? Fans respond most to acts, but they’re beholden to their wallets.

So we’ve got a worldwide radio station, whoopee! As one online commentator wrote, isn’t that what internet radio is, haven’t we had that for eons? The only difference is we’re supposed to believe in Zane Lowe, and most people have never heard of the dude until just recently.

We live in a customizable world. Apple Music on demand streaming allows this. But it’s not so easy to use and the company is mum on how to use it.

Is this any way to run a business?

Bobo Banned!

I’m sick of Amy Schumer, but I can’t get enough of Bobo.

Can we just see “Trainwreck”? Do we have to endure another three weeks of hype?

Amy Schumer was a less than Whitney Cummings beauty who made it on caustic remarks. She was the girl in your class who you hung with and suddenly wanted to make love to. She was America’s sweetheart.

Then she made a movie with Judd Apatow and we haven’t stopped hearing about it since. Howard Stern interviewed her on Tuesday.

Welcome to America, where we have to endure endless hype for a momentary affair. At least the Super Bowl has commercials to go with the game, they have a longer lasting appeal. But these movies and records? They rarely live up to expectations and they’re gone almost instantly.

Kinda like the Alabama Shakes LP. They put it out and people stopped talking about it.

Will the same fate hit Beats 1? Is it the new Turntable.fm? We had weeks of notice, building up to a three day frenzy, and now no one is talking about Beats 1 anymore. But at least it’s on every day, maybe it will flourish. That’s the game today, to be in it constantly, to put your head down and do the work.

I know Amy Schumer’s story. How she studied theatre in Maryland, how she switched to comedy in NYC, how she screwed a wrestler and doesn’t get as much sex as we think. She’s repeating it again and again, playing to the deep seats. We early adopters are everything.

That’s right, you can only rely on your core, like Bobo.

Bobo is a retired driving instructor who wears a wig. His IQ is challenged, but he is married, he does have children. He’s Howard Stern’s number one fan, and he got banned.

Did you see that Howard ankled AGT? A worthless show that paid dividends for Mr. Stern. It made him warm and fuzzy for America, showed his soft side, he leveraged his visibility to get A-List guests on his radio program. And the interviews are the nougat that keeps the show newsworthy.

But Bobo and the rest of the Wack Pack are the nuts and bolts that hold it together.

Bobo sold out the show.

That’s right, he made a deal with “General Hospital” to mention the soap opera five times in a phone call. But it was a prank, and he got banned for fifteen shows, until September 21st.

Howard’s only gonna do fifteen shows until September 21st? How am I gonna cope?

Even worse, how’s BOBO gonna cope!

I didn’t think I cared, but I do. Because Bobo lives for the show. And it’s amazing what people will do for fame and money, never mind love.

We all want a piece of the action, we’re all just a breath away from selling out for something better. We live in a giant “Let’s Make A Deal” nation where we want what everybody else has got, why are they living a life so much better than ours?

The torture.

Even better, the bit.

Everybody weighed in on potential judgment. Howard rendered the sentence. Ralph is going to be the probation officer.

And…I thought I didn’t care when I did.

That’s your goal, to get us to care. The content is secondary to the delivery. I’d heard Bobo had been banned for days. But when I heard the evidence just now, when I heard the courtroom drama, when I pondered Bobo’s fate…

I smiled.

And that’s all I’m looking for in this life.

A little connection and a little laughter.

Discovered On Apple Music

“Long Way Down”
The SteelDrivers

I forgot it was Chris Stapleton’s previous band.

I downloaded three playlists to my phone. “Singer/Songwriter Highlights 2015,” I wanted to catch up on what I might have missed, “The A-List: Singer/Songwriter,” since it’d had been so rewarding at home, and then “The A-List Country,” because I like the faux rock. But then I didn’t want to hear any of them and ended up listening to the “Undisclosed” podcast. Are you catching this? Turns out “Serial” was professional broadcasters doing a cursory number, but once you get professional attorneys and investigators involved they uncover things that make all the difference, like everything that was supposed to happen on the key day didn’t, despite prosecutors introducing evidence to that fact. Bottom line, you need money to persevere, to win in America, to hire those who can get deep into the weeds and exonerate you, or flummox the opposition to the point where you skate.

But when I got home I was in the mood for music again. So I pulled up “The A-List: Americana,” now that I was in a wifi zone.

I heard a song off of Neil Young’s new “Monsanto” album. I loved that someone cherry-picked it for me, the full album was too daunting.

And I liked the Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard track, “It’s All Going To Pot,” which I’d read about and hadn’t listened to. Furthermore, the hype on Ry Cooder’s playing on Sam Outlaw’s LP was well-deserved, but Sam has got the voice of a songwriter, if you know what I mean.

But then I discovered the SteelDrivers.

Funny thing about music is you know it when you hear it, kind of like what Potter Stewart said about porn, being able to discern what was obscene when he saw it.

That’s the problem I’ve found with most of the Spotify playlists, too many tune-outs, I feel like I’m panning for gold in a stream that’s been panned out, where people have planted imitation gems in order to frustrate me. Whereas I find the hit to shit ratio on Apple Music’s curated playlists that much better.

“Long Way Down” sounds like an outtake from “O Brother.” Only in this case, it’s an original. At least I think it is, there are no credits on Apple Music. Stuff like this is never gonna make the radio, but it’s the kind of music you play at home that satisfies, that makes you want to see the band live to immerse yourself in the sound and enjoy.

It starts off slow and easy, as if the band is tuning up, or the guitarist is waiting for everybody else, it’s anything but the balls to the wall intro featured in the pop and rock we hear on the radio.

And then the rest of the band falls in and it starts to swing. You’re enraptured immediately, taken back to that cabin in the woods, where the squirrels traipse and AT&T provides no signal.

The verse has melody. The fiddle is not superfluous, but integral, it adds flavor.

But then comes the piece-de-resistance:

So far down that it ain’t got a bottom
Thought you had wings but I guess you ain’t got ’em
Fallen angel don’t look now…

I started jitterbugging in my seat. I couldn’t stop. Still do, every time I hear the track, and right now I’ve got it on endless repeat, it sounds as good as last night, which is the mark of true greatness.

The album was cut in Muscle Shoals. Actually, that’s the name of it, “The Muscle Shoals Recordings,” so I’m even further intrigued, I suspect authenticity.

So I just pulled up the LP. But I couldn’t get past the first track.

SEE IF YOU CAN!

The Muscle Shoals Recordings
The SteelDrivers

(This is the link Apple Music renders. Unfortunately, it takes you to the traditional iTunes page in your browser and when you click on “View In iTunes”…nothing happens. Well, I tried it again and iTunes did launch, but it’s synching my iPhone and iPad for the zillionth time today…I haven’t got time to wait to see if the track comes up in Apple Music.)

So…

View it here on YouTube: The SteelDrivers – Long Way Down (where it’s free and easy, literally…)

Or listen on Spotify: The SteelDrivers – Long Way Down

P.S. The video almost ruins the song, it eviscerates the magic. Maybe, when music moves to streaming services, video will retreat to the back seat, where it belongs.

 

E-MAIL OF THE DAY

Great feedback on Apple Music. Totally agree with so many of the UI issues. Thank you for letting us know where to find the playlists. You’re right – they are a highly valuable part of the service and I didn’t find them until your instructions. I can’t imagine why they buried them like that.

Here’s another one that’s bugging me – I can go to an artist and select “Follow.” What does THAT even do? Does it affect customization under “For You”? Is it the same as inflating the bubbles twice? Does it add content to Connect? I can’t tell.

Jarrod Kopp

Gray Day

We don’t get them too often in Southern California. And never during the summer.

I didn’t move to Los Angeles for the weather, but it’s a nice extra. It’s great to make plans and not have to worry if it’s going to rain. But today it did, rain that is. Just a few sprinkles. But in the decades I’ve lived here this has only happened twice before, a couple of years back and last Saturday, when Dark Sky said it was going to rain in 11 minutes.

It’s kind of like earthquakes in Oklahoma. They’re not supposed to happen. And we can argue whether today’s monsoon-like atmosphere in SoCal is induced by man, all I know is my mood has been completely different. I’ve got this great urge to go to the lake.

Oh, we have lakes in SoCal, but they’re gigantic and sometimes manmade. But that pond, in the midst of a forest… Those rarely exist.

On the east coast when the weather gets warm you sometimes go to the beach, I spent a lot of time in the sand by Long Island Sound. But sometimes you’d go inland to the lake. With its murky water sans salt. Go far enough north and the water gets clean, crystal clear in fact, but it doesn’t warm up until late in the season, when you’re already thinking about school, and now school starts in the middle of August.

But it didn’t back then.

The Beach Boys said that summer means new fun. And that’s what I liked about growing up. Every summer there was something different. I went to camp. I got older and took a canoe trip down the Allagash in Maine. I went to Philmont Scout Ranch. And then I got older, into college, and summer was for work. And I need a break, that’s what today’s weather has taught me, it has set my mind free, to a-wandering, thinking about mood and experiences from the past.

Ever drive around a New Hampshire lake on a day that threatens rain? When it could pour and you’d end up going to the movies or reading a book or playing board games? It could just as easily get sunny, and then you’d dive in and swim out to the raft. Or not.

That’s one thing I miss about the east coast, the interior. And the proximity. The interior mind…wherein it’s about personal development, burnishing your ability to express yourself, to have thoughts, to know that life is chiaroscuro and those who win all the time are lying, or missing out. And everything’s just a few hours away in New England. Whereas once you’ve been to Santa Barbara and San Diego you’ve exhausted exploration in SoCal. Oh, there’s Big Bear too, but the truth is the rest of the destinations are hours away.

And they’re all kind of the same. Broad desert landscapes. Whereas the east is about nooks and crannies, a different vista around every corner.

Then again, easterners feel they’re superior. They’ve had it harder. They know better. Whereas the west is the land of personal development, where you’re free to become who you want to be. And I like being the master of my own domain, not having to recite my SAT scores and alma mater on a regular basis. And then there are days like today, when I’ve just got the urge to drive inland, buy some chips, read the newspaper, be out of cell range, dig deep into an activity and feel both part of a continuum and not. Knowing that life is about feeling, and feeling so much.