TheFatRat Responds

From: Christian Buettner
Subject: TheFatRat – more info

Hi Bob,

Thank you so much for your write up and for showing interest in my project! So here is more information about what I’ve done and how it happened. I wish I could say it was all a clever, perfectly laid out plan from start to end, but it was more a step by step development with a lot of surprises.

It all started when I moved back from Los Angeles to a small village near Göttingen in Germany. I had decided to spend more time with my family instead of grinding 14 hours in the studio, seven days a week. At that time I was 34 years old and had been in the music industry as a producer for over fourteen years. I’ve had some success, but overall I found the business quite frustrating because a lot of great songs never got released while some of my worst songs got on big record labels just because they were done with the right people. On some songs I had to make a thousand changes to make everybody happy until the song completely lost it’s soul. After doing this for years, I decided to stop compromising and instead fully dedicate myself to the music that I love. I got rid of everybody around me, including all labels, managers and publishers. The only person I kept working with was my wife Svea who I make all important decisions with and who also works as my A&R.

Working alone and without any deadlines I was now free to work on a track for as long as I wanted. Sometimes I spent months on a single song. And when it was finished I could release it to my fans immediately. I put out all my songs for free, simply because I wanted to share them with people who loved it. I would also let everybody use them in their videos, their live streams and in their web based games and apps. I even gave away the project files and stems so people could make remixes and covers.

The only problem was, that I had no clue how to make a business of it. At that point I didn’t even have my music on iTunes, Spotify etc. because I believed you couldn’t make money from sales and streams. Everybody around me said so. Boy was I wrong.

I have always loved video games. Starting in the 80s with Bubble Bobble on the Commodore 64 ranging to current games like The Witcher 3, they have always been my favourite hobby. So when I started making my very own music it came only natural that it was heavily influenced by video games. Little did I think about that the fast growing video game community on YouTube was a REALLY GOOD PLACE TO BE. So while everybody else was fighting for limited slots on music blogs or the even more limited slots on radio, I came across YouTube gaming channels with millions of subscribers that were desperately looking for music that they could use without getting copyright claims. Long story short: within little more than two years I found my own channel growing from 6.000 subscribers to over 1.5 millions with over 250 million play just on my channel and over a billion adjusted streams all over YouTube.

https://www.youtube.com/thefatrat

Even though my songs were available for free download, fans kept complaining that they couldn’t find them on iTunes. So I finally uploaded them to all stores but didn’t expect to make more than a few bucks from it. It quickly turned out that Spotify can be a money printing machine. Especially for independent artists without labels, featured artists and co-producers all taking their share, but instead a 100% controlled master and copyright.

After two years of independence, I got my old friend Alex Harrow from Milk & Honey as a manager on board because the project had gotten too big to handle for just Svea and me. And of course I started getting offers from record companies. But due to my history I had very little interest in that. Until Universal Music Sweden came along. They showed that they really understood what I was doing. Not only by what they said, but also by the deal that they offered.

Having a partner like Universal Music opens a lot of new opportunities.
I’m writing this email on a flight from San Francisco to Cologne to perform on the ESL Counter Strike finals, one of the largest E Sports events in the world. In 2016 they had over 14.000 people in the arena, over 60 million streams and over 30 million households watching on TV. Video Games have been the biggest media business for quite a while, but these days they’re finally breaking into mainstream. They are not considered as some sort of toy anymore but as full-fledged art. And being one of the very few musicians who is part of the gaming community is certainly a great situation.

Together with Universal Music we are also in the process of starting a new label called The Arcadium. The purpose of which is to identify other artists in the YouTube, gaming and electronic space that would work with our model and our long term goal being to establish the worlds leading catalog of electronic video game music. The Creative Labs division of UMG Sweden has helped us to create a digital store front for all online UGC (User Generated Content) creators to source my music for their videos. This catalog will be expanded upon by future releases from me as well as the records we sign to The Arcadium from other artists. The beta version of this site is announced and active online as of two weeks ago.
https://the-arcadium.net/

Thanks again for your interest, if you got any questions, feel free to contact me.

Christian

Books

I’m recovering from dental implant surgery. It was the back molar, there was an infection, despite having a root canal and so much invested in that tooth, and it had to be extracted and I was lucky the periodontist could do the implant at the same time, you never know, so it’ll be three months before I get my new tooth as opposed to six, but I’m supposed to ice fifteen minutes out of twenty and that’s just insane but the doctor called me yesterday and insisted so I spent all day with ice on my cheek while I read Colin Harrison’s “You Belong To Me.”

Now I’m hesitant to recommend books unless they’re slam dunks. In a short attention span economy people want to go deep, but to get them over the hurdle, to get them invested in a book, is a huge step. Meanwhile, the inane book industry is doing is best to kill the Kindle, with readers and bookstores singing hosannas, not realizing they’re relegating themselves to second-class citizens in the digital economy where we all live. Music revenue goes up with streaming and publishers believe by charging more for digital books they’re winning. That’s why Kindle sales are off. Used to be all digital books were under ten bucks. Makes sense, doesn’t it, with no printing and no shipping and no returns? But now, oftentimes the paperback is cheaper than the digital equivalent. ON AMAZON! People pay attention to price. And they’ll pay for convenience, but not if they think they’re being ripped-off, and this just sticks in my craw. T-Mobile revolutionizes the mobile business with competition, by lowering prices, but the publishers are a cabal supporting unrealistically high book prices to their detriment. And ours. And now I’m off on a rant, but no one is more self-satisfied than those who work in the publishing industry. The only reason they can survive is because there’s so little money in it. If there was any cash, Silicon Valley would swoop down and disrupt them. Which is what Bezos tried, instead he’s now revolutionizing news with the “Washington Post” and voice-activated computing with the Echo. If someone is not turning over bricks in your space that means you’re too far from the mainstream.

End of rant. Because now I’ve lost all the readers, because they love their physical books, and the non-readers, because they don’t give a shit. But if you’re still paying attention, I want to recommend one book. Start here. It’s an easy read, and it’s riveting.

Don Winslow’s “Savages.”

I told my shrink I was reading “The Force,” and he started waxing rhapsodic about “Savages” and he hardly ever speaks, he couldn’t hold himself back, so I purchased it and couldn’t put it down.

California is a dream, even at this late date. And Winslow captures the Orange County/Laguna Beach lifestyle better than any TV show. Because it’s a state of mind. It’s not L.A. and it’s not San Francisco and it’s not all about money but it is about hedonism and if you’ve ever been there you know Laguna is a revelation and…

It’s about dope dealers. It is a genre book. But it’s also about ethos, personalities, choices and reading it is going down a rabbit hole that you’ll be glad to be ensconced in.

And unlike the hoity-toity, revered intellectuals who went to the Iowa workshop and teach university courses as they write their unreadable books that sell fewer than 10,000 copies, Winslow knows it’s first and foremost about plot, story! I don’t care how well something is written, if there’s no story…

But there’s also insight, let me give you some…

“Walked two thousand miles and went nowhere.”

We’re told experience counts, but not everyone learns along the way. Just because you marched the steps that doesn’t mean you gained any insight.

“You sell the skills you have.”

Which is why you’d better accumulate some, so you’ve got options.

“Also: do not fuck with someone until you know exactly who the fuck you’re fucking with.”

Funny how those with the most bluster are the paper tigers whereas those who come on softer, even wimpy, contain an iron fist in that velvet glove.

“If you let people believe that you’re weak, sooner or later you’re going to have to kill them.”

Bingo. This is why people can’t get ahead. They’re too busy being nice to those who are fucking with them from above. The only way someone will respect you is if you stand up to them, do you have the balls?

“Ben still doesn’t get — Chon thinks — that you don’t change the world. It changes you.”

The longer you live the more you realize this. It’s a giant sluiceway with little control and if you’re going against the grain, trying to stay out of the maelstrom, you’re gonna get kicked in the nuts and fail even worse.

But the book that guy recommended at the Classic…

That’s the thing about books. No one talks about music anymore, there’s too much of it and we all listen to different stuff. And I won’t say that many people talk about books either, but if they know you’re a reader…

The dirty little secret is most books suck. And unlike with records, it takes hours to learn this. And you find what some people consider good…description, feeling, those are important, but what about flow and plot?

But this guy thanked me for introducing him to Winslow and he recommended Colin Harrison’s “You Belong To Me,” the book I read all day yesterday as I iced.

“You Belong To Me” is a curious construction. It’s a highbrow genre book. We’ve seen a lot of that recently, authors writing about zombies and the like to get paid after their highly-reviewed lit efforts rain down no coin. So, you’ve got a crime thriller, but with tons of insight.

No one can handle the truth.

But we all want to see it, it’s oh-so-rare.

That’s what turns me on. When someone is speaking my truth back to me, when I feel I’m not the only person on the planet with these thoughts. And in “You Belong To Me” there are comments about the world at large and relationships and aging and wisdom that are so right on that until the book became about plot twists at the end I couldn’t wait to recommend it to you.

But I still will.

Now Colin Harrison went to Iowa. He’s a working stiff. At Scribner. Which is probably why none of his books have taken off. You’ve got to put everything into it. This guy is just one step away. He’s got to decide whether he’s writing genre fiction or literature, and he’d be better doing the latter, but it’s harder to get an audience there, the bar is higher, but let’s see if I can drop some of Harrison’s wisdom on you here.

“His nephews were young and confused. They suffered the fallacy of perception: They thought because they perceived something, such as ‘family honor,’ that it really existed.”

What does a fiftysomething gang member think. Get old enough and you gain perspective, you see what is really important. That’s what our youth-focused culture does not want to admit. That most of its games are irrelevant. You learn this as you age.

“‘Everyone wants control and no one gets it. I thought you knew that. That’s one of the lessons of life, okay?'”

You think you’re important, you move mountains, but it’s just an illusion. If you can’t cope with failure, things not going your way, bumps in the road, you’re going to get bounced off the freeway of life. Control freaks fail.

“He was amazed, and not for the first time, how little he really knew about anybody.”

People are a mystery. You can talk to them every day and then they’ll jump the rails, do something completely unexpected. But we all want to be known, Rachel is begging Paul to tell her his story. The more you hold back, the more it is to your detriment. Life is about sharing.

“You had to have places in the city like that, places that didn’t change, or you didn’t know who you were anymore.”

That’s the horror of aging. The changes. What used to be there but is not anymore. You need to know that the touchstones of your life still exist. Which is why you return to these shrines. And when you return and they’re gone or changed irrevocably, you’re uprooted, unsettled, without reference points you’re in free fall.

So if you like “Savages,” and if you’re a fan of sixties and seventies literature, the whiz-bang in-your-face it’s all about the Great American Novel paradigm, you will, you can also read its prequel, “The Kings Of Cool,” but it’s not as good and certainly avoid the Oliver Stone film of “Savages,” you can’t capture the essence of a book in a movie, or very rarely, it’s distilled to the plot and however beautiful Blake Lively might be she is not the character in the book, nor are the dope dealers.

So what I’m saying here is if you’re overwhelmed by our fast-paced society and you want to feel rooted, want to dig down deep and feel understood while you’re titillated, I’d recommend these books.

You can buy them instantly. Read them on not only your Kindle, but the Kindle app on your phone or tablet or your computer. You see it’s the instant reward that’s so fascinating. Making books exciting again. Hearing about something and being able to dive in immediately, discard what is not interesting if the sample chapter does not resonate.

But the old fogeys would rather you traipse to the bookstore with its crummy inventory so you can buy physical books to keep the English major proprietor in business.

What a concept.

“Savages”

“You Belong To Me”

“The Kings Of Cool”

The Word Of Mouth Economy

Netflix added 5.2 million subscribers in the last quarter, their biggest increase ever in their slowest period.

It’s the programming stupid!

Now when a new show comes out there are reviews. But this is not like a film, where you can go and digest it in two hours. Most of Netflix’s series require ten hours or so, which means except for the hottest product, and even for that, people take days, weeks, even months to devour it. And then they talk about it and get others to view it, to even sign up and view it.

The old economy doesn’t like this.

The old economy builds up to a one time date, an event, where everybody is supposed to rain down money. You’re supposed to be in a state of frenzy, where you cannot resist.

But look at the news business. Almost no stories sustain. Assuming they’re heard at all. Now the key is to have a story that sticks. How do you accomplish that?

Every week the media publishes the top ten records.

But you know what the biggest story right now is? “Despacito,” smashing all previous streaming records. And that’s been in the marketplace for half a year! Meanwhile, it seems that Katy Perry’s new album, which entered at number one, has been completely forgotten.

Do you know who likes charts? RECORD COMPANIES! They give the patina of coherence to a world of chaos. But chaos rules.

In other words, the day of release is when the hard work begins. It probably doesn’t pay to make a big effort before that. Which is why superstars drop their new albums with no advance publicity. You hit the ground running. Or even better, you release product and wait for the reaction. If you get none, truly smart producers create and drop more product. Forget the album, you’re looking for a reaction, and if you get none, it’s back to the drawing board. Don’t like this week’s big budget Netflix series? That’s okay, we’ve got another in two weeks, meanwhile your friend will tell you over coffee about a show they’re hooked on that came out months ago and you’ll dig deep and…

This is not the way it was supposed to be. There was supposed to be a very narrow funnel of gatekeepers. Labels, radio stations, hipsters, who decided what deserved attention. But now the public decides what deserves attention. What happened in hip-hop is gonna happen to all other genres.

Hip-hop operates outside the major label system. No, that’s not completely true, but hip-hop is about continuous product, oftentimes released for free, and then something catches fire and runs up the Spotify chart and STAYS THERE! Hits take longer to make and they stay longer when made. And they’re made by fans at home, listening to the Rap Caviar playlist on Spotify, researching and exchanging ideas causing people to check out what they’re hearing about.

This is already starting to happen in country, which is gaining traction on streaming services. And when it does… Beware! The format is gonna widen, the fear of women being shut out will prove fallacious. Radio will lose its stranglehold. As it is, country on Spotify is programmed by John Marks, who is legendary for getting records started on Sirius XM.

You’ve got to have a scene, you’ve got to have word of mouth. This is what is hurting rock. Too many Luddites inured to the CD who want to live in their silos. The story of the future, the hit future, is not niche but broad-based acceptance. If you’re not fighting for every dollar, you’re not gonna get many dollars. One movie a weekend succeeds. There are four hundred plus scripted shows a year, but only a few winners. You want to be a winner. How do you do this? By being in the marketplace and seeing if your product catches fire.

Now you can chase success, build on a story, add fuel to the fire, but it’s the public that makes hits today, certainly in streaming, and if you’ve been paying attention, streaming rules, it’s taken over the music business.

So the paradigm is different. You’re creating land mines. Your catalog lives forever online. Forget the big album build-up, the hype. It’s ignored. Almost everything is ignored up front. The money is in what lasts. And if someone likes one cut of yours, they’re going to check out more. Your success is based upon cumulative streams, not sales of albums, and the streams go on forever.

So it starts slower, takes time to build, and pays beaucoup bucks if it hits.

And if it doesn’t.

Start over.

Why Isn’t Fran Lebowitz A Bigger Star?

Is it because she’s a woman? Because she’s gay? Because she’s a New Yorker? Because she doesn’t have a manager? Because she is an intellectual? She KILLS every time she’s on TV, she has a rapier wit and a confidence nonpareil, aren’t those the elements of stardom?

Maybe she missed her chance. She was hyped heavily back in the cottage industry days, before the internet, when she was writing books and everybody could be made aware of your efforts, assuming you could make it through the gauntlet.

But today there is no gauntlet, only a maelstrom. Gatekeepers are history. If someone tells you they can make you a star, that they have the power to decide careers, ignore them, they’re a self-righteous blowhard. But if someone tells you they’ll work with you to raise attention, to capitalize on your efforts, to band together your core audience and satiate it and make it grow, then you should listen.

It does come down to the work. That’s what nobody wants to admit in the social media era, just because you’ve got scores, MILLIONS of followers on Twitter or Instagram, that does not mean you’re creating something of substance that will sustain. We’re in the era of the drive-by, something is cool for five minutes and then it’s forgotten, heard about Tila Tequila recently? Ignore all the noise over the nobodies. It’s temporary. It’s made to divert you from the real issues, like you’re broke and your future is compromised.

“The worst thing about this is that there’s always outrage over people in show business, who have no actual power. They’re entertainers. We would prefer that they agree with us, and do the right thing. But moral outrage should be reserved for Congress or the Supreme Court. To me, the fact that people can’t tell the difference between these things is why we have Donald Trump as president. People want to be entertained 24 hours a day. And they’re seeking from entertainment what they should be seeking from other branches of life.”

Bingo! That’s Lebowitz in Sunday’s “New York Times.” They always do these conversations in the Style section that are worthless, but this one between Fran and Bill Maher broke the mold.

Not that Maher didn’t get in a few shots…

“Pointing your finger at other people and saying, ‘You’re insufficiently liberal.’ In a lot of ways, the Democratic Party went from protecting people to protecting feelings. Did you see the story about Sean Spicer, that stroke victim waiting to happen? He wasn’t on camera one day, and a reporter asked Steve Bannon about it. And Bannon said, ‘Sean got fatter.’ Now, I’m not a big fan of Steve Bannon, and that’s not the funniest joke I ever heard, but it was a joke. And Chelsea Clinton tweeted: ‘I never find fat-shaming funny, ever.’ And I thought, ‘This is why you guys lost.'”

Bullseye! I employed the term “libtard” and my inbox went berserk with people annoyed and disgusted, not knowing it was a joke, that it was about taking back the word from the right, kinda like African-Americans took back the N-word. Yup, “libtard” and “snowflake,” that’s how you defuse an argument, by owning the epithet and playing it back to the haters, but the left wing has no sense of humor, which might be why Lebowitz is buried.

She didn’t go to college, doesn’t that qualify her as an expert in Trump’s America?

Lebowitz takes a stab at trigger warnings, refuses to get excited about the names of buildings at Princeton, she cries foul on the Democratic tropes, the inane code of beliefs if you veer from you’re excommunicated.

And Fran goes on and on, her quips are genius, and her statements have substance:

“Remember that whole period when Charlie Sheen was news. That’s not news, O.K.? You can watch Bill; you cannot watch Bill. But you can’t not have this Congress. That’s the misplaced moral outrage.”

And Fran continues:

“Every time I see the sentence ‘Paul Ryan is the conscience of the Republican Party,’ I think: What is that? Is that like being the quarterback of the New York City Ballet? But yes, that is where your outrage should be.”

She says Trump’s “not even taken seriously by other real estate developers, who aren’t exactly theoretical physicists.”

And then comes the piece-de-resistance:

“I am so tired of hearing about what the Trump voters want. I don’t care what they want. How’s that? And you know what? We do know what they want. They want a Confederate flag. We all know what this is about. I’m tired of hearing people, particularly men, explain to me what Hillary Clinton did wrong. Donald Trump didn’t win because he did something right; he won because he did something wrong. We always knew you could win that way – appealing to the worst. You’re just not supposed to win the presidency that way.”

Don’t email me if you disagree, that’s not the point, the point is Fran’s speaking her truth, she’s not backing down, she’s confident in her position and she’s FUNNY!

Kinda like Ann Coulter if you think about it. The best part of her appearances is when she snickers and laughs at herself when called on her b.s.

But the right wing media makes Coulter a humongous star…

And the left wing media is so fearful of offending someone, so disorganized that it leaves Lebowitz on the sidelines.

This is how it’s gonna be folks. We are now in charge, we’ve got the power, we decide who wins, what’s right and wrong. As proven by the election of Trump. Each and every media outlet called the election wrong, except for a “Los Angeles Times” poll they now say is flawed. If you’re depending on the so-called gatekeepers to tell you where we’re going, what’s important, you’re not only delusional, you’re gonna be left behind. I’m not saying the news is fake, but it requires analysis, and today it must be more than just the facts, it must be part of a cohesive vision. Which is why Fox News is so successful. The old fart media just thinks if it prints what’s going on the public will wake up and do the right thing. But, as Lebowitz says, the public wants entertainment, they don’t want to do the hard work.

So we need a realignment, of who we’re listening to. That’s the story of Bernie Sanders, the millennials whose future is in front of them and is flawed, embraced him. The powers-that-be made sure he couldn’t win, invested in the past, not the present.

It’s a brave new world. And you’re gonna decide where it’s going.

And we need leaders. People who speak their truth, who sometimes get it wrong.

But if we have a litmus test for everyone who rises above, if there are no priorities and all issues are equal and no one can be offended…

We’re gonna fail.

As a people.

As a country.

“Bill Maher and Fran Lebowitz: When Comedy Cuts Deep”