What We’ve Learned

1. Nobody thinks it’s copyright infringement to sync music with video.

Snowbird is cutting a tunnel from the Peruvian side to Mineral Basin.  In 2006, one expects documentation of ski resort expansion projects on the net.  But in the YouTube era, we even get VIDEO!  Of a steam shovel digging to the strains of BREAK ON THROUGH TO THE OTHER SIDE!

In other words, it’s no longer big advertisers John Densmore has to worry about, but smaller corporations and Doors FANS!

You could send a cease and desist notice.  But can you reach everybody on the web?

And even if you could, can you battle public opinion/sentiment?

Just like you can’t stop the smoking of marijuana, you can’t stop people synching copyrighted music to imagery.  One can enforce a licensing system at best.  Where do we charge, at the ISP level, the server level?  THESE are the debates content owners should be having, not engaging in strategic planning on how they’re going to sue the universe into submission.

It’s not about education, it’s about catching up with reality.

2. Movies are dead.

I hope you’re getting some nookie in the theatre, at least feeling up your girlfriend, because otherwise there’s no reason to leave the house.

The movie theatre is no longer about the film, but the experience.  Unless you’re a teenager looking to escape from your parents’ prying eyes, or parents of young children on a night out, why in hell would you go to the movie theatre?

The flicks were made for people in the third world.  Who don’t need to be able to read the subtitles in order to know what’s going on.  They’re vehicles for star exploitation, not story exposition.  If you’re addicted to movies it’s like being addicted to diet soda.  Both empty, calorie-free items that can be foregone without missing them (then again, I’d give up going to the movies before I’d let you pry the Caffeine Free Diet Coke from my cold dead hand).

The signs are everywhere.

Monday’s trumpeting of another opening week victory for Sony Pictures covered up the fact that business was off 11.8%!  People know the movies suck, that if you want to see something real, you’re better off watching television.  And, unless it’s the movie of the season, why not wait the seeming minutes until you can OWN it forever on DVD for a price less than two adult tickets.  Furthermore, the home viewing experience is better.  Not only does your flat screen and home theatre system render quality image and sound, the area is clean and devoid of disturbances by people whose parents never taught them how to behave in public.  AND, you can pee without missing a scene and eat fresh popcorn for a fraction of the price!

I stopped going.  I want to go, but then I do and the flick is so worthless I don’t want my money back so much as my TIME!

And then I’ll go to an art house which has been subdivided so the seats are at an angle and the floors are sticky and the picture and sound are substandard and I go on strike, not wanting to give these assholes any more of my money!

But, I thought it might only be me until…

"Michael Tolkin, who has been working in Hollywood for almost 20 years, believes movies are dead – at the least the kind of grand American movies that delivered satisfying spectacle to viewers. Character has fled to television. The audience is distracted. Novels are the only form left that he thinks will never go out of style. And so he has revived his best-known literary creation, Hollywood dark prince Griffin Mill."

You know the business is in trouble when those at the heart of it say the flicks suck.  Sure, Tolkin’s flogging a book, but why shoot himself in the foot unnecessarily?  (Full disclosure-I went to college with Michael, actually he was the first person to tell me Gram Parsons died!)

Two…

I was at Rhino today and three guys with nose rings and Social Distortion t-shirts, the kind who LIVE for trashy pictures, got in the elevator with me and one started talking about a new film and the other two had been to the movies ONCE THIS YEAR!

The movie business is a ship headed for disaster.  Rather than stop online distribution, they should authorize it and figure out how to distribute cheaper, niche fare, something the major record labels STILL haven’t been able to figure out.  Otherwise, you perch yourself at the top and cede the underlying landscape to newcomers, who will eventually eat your lunch.

3. The slow lane may be quicker than the fast lane.

So you’re dying to get somewhere fast.  As an experienced driver, you try to maneuver your car towards the center divide, where you were taught in driving school fast moving cars should reside.

And once you arrive you find a housewife in an SUV on the cell phone doing 62.  FUCKING UNBELIEVABLE!

No, if you want to go fast, on a freeway like the 405, with half a dozen lanes or so, stay to the RIGHT!  Everybody feeling entitled, trying to show their MACHISMO, is drifting towards the center, leaving endless holes/open highway on the right.

Sounds counterintuitive, I know.

But it’s true.

4. Youngsters are the only ones who know what’s going on.

It’s the lack of socialization of the oldsters…they’re just not INTEGRATED!

Think about it.  The goal of the oldster is to live in an exclusive environment.  Live in a gated community, fly on a private jet and dine at an expensive restaurant only they can pull rank to get into.  The older and wealthier you get, the more you want to AVOID the hoi polloi.

Which is why the record labels of the sixties hired house hippies, to keep them in TOUCH!

But the younger generation of yesteryear thinks it will be hip forever, knows everything, and you can’t even get PROMOTED at a major label today if you’re under twenty five, hell, you get FIRED, so the President can make more MONEY!

There’s something happening here and you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones.

From: Matt Robinson
Music Business Major
Belmont University

And regarding your question about the labels being out of touch… they are. I’m in a class right now by a current high-profile manager and we had to take an hour to explain to him what MySpace is. And a classmate quit his internship at a major label because he had to do the same thing (not to mention the blatant waste of money he noticed, such as having 4 people doing the job that one person could easily do. Oh and speaking of, Taylor Hicks, the American Idol winner, doesn’t yet have a website because the label forgot to do it…).

I can’t wait until the young, tech-savvy generation takes over the industry. These big wigs in charge have no idea the potential income they’ve wasted and the incredible technology that consumers would’ve eaten up. They’re 100% responsible for the "struggling industry".

Sure, Mr. Robinson demonstrates attitude, but it’s just this kind of attitude YOU used to have, before you factored your Mercedes payments into your business decisions.

5. HBO is dead.

They lost their touch.  Not only was "Deadwood" not a new "Sopranos", their vaunted "Wire" isn’t even as watchable as "Oz".

The now canceled "Lucky Louie"…who EVER thought that would be any good?

That’s the hardest thing to find, great talent.  The key is to empower people with vision, not lame-o’s like Louis CK.

6. Wall Street is not Main Street.

Jim Cramer wrote an excellent article on why Tom Freston lost his job

Bright Sumner

The Wall Street game is to underpromise and overdeliver.  Which is what Tom’s doppelganger at CBS, Les Moonves did.  Saying he had a load of crap and then making a ton of money.  Whereas Mr. Cramer perceived Mr. Freston to feel smug and entitled, and when the advertising picture turned bleak on cable TV, and Viacom’s stock went down, he had to pay the price with his job.

But what about the underlying properties?

The new guys at Viacom know as much about creativity as a banker does.  They’re FINANCIAL whizzes, but sit them down with Fitty and they’d have no clue.

Tom was in the pit with his talent.

Did he fuck up?

Sure.  Judy McGrath should have lost her job long ago.  Or been kicked WAY upstairs.  As for the hands-on people in charge now…they’ve got no VISION!  They didn’t live through the salad days, they don’t know it’s not what you see on screen, but what you REPRESENT!  So concerned with ratings, they lost the heart and soul of the audience.  MTV stands for music about as much as MGM stands for filmmaking.  In other words, NOT AT ALL!

Paramount?  Who knew that Brad Grey had contact with the dark side, i.e. Pellicano.  It’s a relationship business, and Brad had relationships.

Oh, maybe Freston was new to movies, but the bottom line is Tom Freston is the Mo Ostin of his world.

Mo left and Warner tanked.  To the point where the inane Richard Parsons blew Warner Music out at less than fifty percent of its value.

Freston’s gone and the heart and soul of Viacom has just flowed down the toilet.

You can hire bean counters every day.  But finding an executive who understands creativity?  ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE!

And what was great about Freston is he was HANDS-OFF!  That’s when things went wrong, when those at the top started to micromanage.  Not only the record execs, but classically Michael Eisner.

7. Clive Davis is not the future.

If you’re not willing to give the lunatics the keys to the asylum, you won’t end up with anything of lasting value, you’ll end up with PRODUCT!

That’s what Clive’s legacy is.  Acts that he sold a ton of at first, whom nobody wanted thereafter.

Whereas Mo Ostin’s acts…

If the exec was creative, he wouldn’t be the exec.

Today I did a podcast on Crosby, Stills & Nash.  Clive Davis would have said "Wooden Ships" didn’t get to the chorus soon enough.  But it was that willingness to test the limits, to follow one’s own vision, that made classic rock so classic!

"Wooden Ships" is still selling.  Despite her being all over the news, nobody wants Whitney Houston’s old records.

Make your picks.  Let the artists create.  THEN figure out a way to sell what they’ve created!

8. Bringing an act from zero to platinum on one album IS NOT  artist development!

That’s album development.  Artist development focuses on the musicians, not the product.  The key is for them to play long enough to figure out who they are, for them to go on a journey we want to follow along on.  God, even MADONNA developed.  Jessica Simpson hasn’t developed, nor has her old beau John Mayer for that matter.

This is for all those assholes working with Hinder who bug me constantly that I need to write about the band’s success, the "artist development story".  A new hard-edged band whose success is based on a ballad?  Give me a break.

This is a read-only blog. E-mail comments directly to Bob.

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