MusiCares-1-The End Of The Innocence

Did you read that story about Pirate Bay in the new "Vanity Fair"?

Don’t ask me to defend the rag, I believe fashion is for airheads, yet I continue to subscribe for the one or two, or maybe three or four, articles a year that are in-depth the way "Rolling Stone" used to be about topics I’m interested in, check that, sometimes didn’t KNOW I was interested in.

Read Michael Wolff’s article on Judith Regan.  Wolff’s a bit of a weasel himself, although his "Burn Rate" was one of the best books on the dot com era, yet despite the posturing Judith comes alive as a miscreant so offensive, so out there, so FULL OF HERSELF, that you’ll be stunned she wasn’t fired earlier.

Yes, people like this exist throughout the entertainment business.  In straight business too.  He-Men/She-Women of the Universe who truly believe the rules don’t apply to them, that they’re above not only the media but the law, that they exist in a rarefied world where THEY call the shots.

And that’s what we’ve got in the music business.  Tired old men not elected king, rather shysters and sociopaths, who’ve climbed their way to the top and think they’re ENTITLED!

Funny about the P2P debate.  Most artists have backed off.  They’re worried about pissing off their fans.  Executives don’t have fans.  Unless it’s Morgan Stanley or some other money manager.  Artists have realized that the businessmen are not on their side.  The singers and players have thrown in with their lifeblood, the proletariat, they want to continue to work for decades.  Whereas the execs’ goal is different.  They just want to amass enough money quickly so they’re set, so their children’s children’s CHILDREN are set.  It’s got nothing to do with music, and everything to do with cash and power.

This movie has been unspooling for eight years now, ever since the new millennium, ever since the boy bands evaporated and Napster erupted.

I don’t believe Jimmy Iovine has downloaded an album via BitTorrent, certainly not Doug Morris, but read Steven Daly’s account of file-trading in "Vanity Fair" and you’ll be struck by two elements…the seeming impossibility of stopping this new mode of distribution, and the fulfillment, the utter joy of the traders, now enriched by access to, ownership of, media that was heretofore beyond their reach.

I was of the belief that the majors would survive, that they would find a way.  But the demise of Tower and Capitol Records has me scratching my head.  Are they really just going to tighten their belts and rail against the consumer until they’re completely marginalized?

It appears so.  The old wave is CEDING the marketplace, the economic landscape, to those technologically savvy.  So busy protecting their business model, the oldsters can’t jump into the future and find a new way, a way to survive.  It’s playing out right in front of our eyes.  It’s a disaster and rebirth eclipsing any Japanese monster movie.  And it’s REAL!

And it’s with this backdrop that I attended last night’s MusiCares dinner.

This wasn’t just the four families.  There were tons of peripheral people there.  As well as representatives of the touring industry.  Now experiencing its own turmoil.

Promoters survived on facility fees and TicketMaster charges.  The agents agreed not to commission those.  But then came StubHub.  The LEGITIMATE ticket sales are DWARFED by the secondary market.  So now the agents are declaring war.  They want ALL the money, EVERYBODY’S money.  How dare these interlopers in the secondary market come and steal what’s theirs (and it’s a thuggish business, read this with all the wild west overtones you can.)

Only one problem.  It’s too late.

While the concert business was arguing over guarantees, it lost touch with the true value of a ticket.  When shows became events instead of habitual activities, when superstars, mostly old and gray, ruled, when that’s all people wanted to see, those comprising the infrastructure didn’t realize the price of the ticket was secondary to access.  That a fan would pay WHATEVER IT TAKES to be inside the building, UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL!  Two thousand bucks to sit in the front row?  A blue collar employee called my radio show to say he’d paid $2500 apiece for Paul McCartney seats, to be within feet of the stage.  He didn’t own a home, he was still paying for his car, but he had to BE THERE!  Whereas whenever anybody sits in the way back, in the rafters, paying fifty bucks, they’re happy they’re there, but they’re PISSED OFF!  In other words, tickets need to be auctioned.  But this isn’t politically correct in the industry.  So, StubHub comes in to bridge the gap, giving people what they want.  The concert business hasn’t specialized in giving people what they want for years, is it any wonder that someone else swooped down and did?

So it was a Convention Center full of weasels and hypesters.  There in tribute to a dying industry.  For one last party, like it was 1999 all over again.

You used to be able to do a year’s worth of business in this one evening, but now it’s clear that a great percentage of these people no longer count.  They’ve got titles, but their kingdoms are crumbling.  Now it’s more important to go directly to the fan.

But despite the summer camp reunion vibe, these insiders always call this the best night of the year, when one of their own, whom they’ve raped and pillaged into a star, is feted, all in the name of charity.

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  1. […] and the big guns all want a piece of the action. Bob Lefsetz, in his usual abrasive manner, takes these guys to task and says they’re too late, while Fred Wilson follows up on Bob’s rant with a revealing personal tale of his own ticket […]

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