I thought Taylor Swift was taking a year off.
What has Bob Pittman ever done, other than take undeserved credit and trump up publicity to make it look like he’s a wunderkind when in reality he’s a self-satisfied huckster barely different from a used car salesman.
Do we really believe he started MTV all by his lonesome? Talk to anybody else who worked there, you’ll get a different story.
And Six Flags… What hubris, being in the commercials. Didn’t he learn that Eisner failed as the face of Disney, that it only worked with Walt?
And now Pittman’s running Clear Channel radio. A moniker that’s a pejorative. As in everybody hates it, as in everybody believes Clear Channel stands for everything wrong with the AM and FM dials.
But now Pittman’s making inroads with I Heart Radio, well, it was there before he began, and now he’s got a festival to trump the lame service which is nothing more than terrestrial radio on the Internet and a me-too Pandora service, which sucks in itself, by the way. Hell, can Pandora survive now that Spotify’s got a free app? You get more for your buck with Daniel Ek’s service. Then again, people keep e-mailing me about Pandora, actually that stopped about six months ago, the bloom is off the rose, but the point is people don’t always know what’s good for them, they don’t explore the alternatives, which may be why terrestrial radio sucks so bad yet still has listeners.
I’m talking about music radio. I understand news and talk. It’s real time, it’s engaging. But music radio, commercial music radio, is all jive deejays spewing useless information while they play the hits others have chosen. Hate Ryan Seacrest? I do. He’s the poster boy for everything that’s wrong with terrestrial radio, what’s wrong with our country. The people don’t like Ryan, the media does. But that media means less and less everyday.
But the major labels are part of old media, and they think terrestrial radio is king. When it dies, the executives will be gone, having reaped their bonuses and fulfilled their contracts. Nobody’s looking long term at the labels, because nobody owns one. Otherwise they’d be freaked out, worrying about what to do five or ten years from now. Instead, they just do what they’ve always done, in a weird combo of that old Talking Heads song and "Groundhog Day".
In other words, they’re afraid to piss off radio.
So radio says "Do my show…or else."
These radio shows are positioned as givebacks to the fans. They’re really givebacks to the stations, for playing the act’s music. And if you don’t show, suddenly the airwaves go silent, your music disappears. You think artists would have united to stop this heinous practice, but it continues to flourish. No one wants to be Curt Flood, they just want to profit themselves. Which is what wrought ticketing fees. Do you see any artists replicating Louis CK’s anti ticket fee strategy? Of course not! Because they want the Live Nation/AEG guarantees, and they want them high.
But what if all the artists refused to play these payback live shows… Would radio really play indie records? Of course not, the stations depend on hits. It’s not the stations that have the power, but the acts, but the acts are too stupid to realize this.
And the stations are penetrating the artists from the rear. Because they won’t pay royalties for recordings. They fight it in Congress, claiming poverty. Meanwhile, stations in the rest of the world pay, and even worse, Americans don’t get this money because there’s no reciprocal right.
But no individual artist is willing to raise his head and complain. Yup, you’re supposed to make it in music on your individuality, but when it comes to standing up for your rights, everybody’s a faceless member of the group, letting some suit do their bidding. You wonder why I hate today’s artists. They don’t stand for anything, other than what’s expedient.
But Scott Borchetta makes a deal with Clear Channel for his label, Big Machine, to get sound recording performance royalties. But it’s not that complicated, there’s a quid pro quo. THAT’S WHY TAYLOR SWIFT IS PLAYING THE I HEART RADIO FESTIVAL!
Scott Borchetta is part of the problem. He’s doing what’s right for himself, not everybody else. He could have fought Clear Channel, instead he broke rank for personal gain.
And what’s worse, Clear Channel owns so many stations it’s got tons of power. This is what we’re worried about in the Universal/EMI merger. A little birdie called me today. Said how in a foreign market Wal-Mart sells hit compilations with only Universal music. Yup, Lucian’s label strong-armed them. They own so much repertoire they can leave the other companies out.
Maybe if Taylor Swift herself said no. The biggest star in today’s music business.
But she can’t. She owes Borchetta. And there isn’t an artist alive who isn’t afraid it’ll all end tomorrow.
But she needs time off, to clear her brain and compose a follow-up.
Isn’t this what killed Kurt Cobain, handlers telling him he had to perform instead of taking mental health time?
But no individual act is bigger than the business.
Or is he or she?
That’s the Curt Flood point. One man or woman can change the rules.
But it’s got to be someone in the game. Someone willing to put his money where his mouth is.
Instead, the acts playing radio festivals are willing to burn out markets, take money from their kitty and give it to the stations, all for giving programming for free to same stations. Oh, there are publishing monies, then again, once upon a time exhibitors didn’t want to pay those either.
It’s time to move forward.
Bob Pittman doesn’t want to do a real music festival. No Coachella, Austin City Limits or Lollapalooza. No, he just wants to burnish his company’s image, get press, raise the stock price, get paid.
That’s what it’s come to.
Music takes a back seat. The businessmen are in control. It’s all about getting paid.
P.S. Pittman’s doing no innovation at the stations themselves. He’s not cutting commercials, wowing the customer, it’s the same as it ever was. He’s part of the problem, he’s far from the solution.