He should never put out an album.
I’ve seen him twice. Once at a private party put on by his record label, the other time at Coachella. I didn’t get it in the private club, I didn’t think his original material was that good, but I did love his cover of “Third Stone From The Sun”. But at Coachella, Clark killed. It was all about energy and sound and a connection with the audience, without pandering to it. Like a rock star of yore, Clark wasn’t raising his fists, imploring attendees to cheer, building fake energy, it was the sound itself that levitated the audience. And this is the essence of a great show.
And everywhere Clark plays he gets great reviews. He just lit up the stage at the Newport Folk Festival, even the “New York Times” featured him in their review, the paper said “and the young blues phenom Gary Clark Jr., whose laid-back virtuosity as a guitarist was one of the festival’s forthright astonishments.”
And I bring up the “Times” because every week they review records and every week I skim the words and scratch my head…who are these written for? Overanalyses of complete albums that appeal to very few. You see, not only have record sales declined, it’s become about the live show, and when you tell me someone is astonishing, my curiosity is piqued. I don’t want your analysis, but your emotion.
And now Clark is bringing this astonishment across the continent. And you’ve got to be there to get it. Sure, there are YouTube clips, but there’s not a soul alive who believes these videos substitute for the real thing. They’re shot from afar, the sound sucks, they’re souvenirs at best. You’ve got to go.
In other words, everything that once was is back, with a twist.
Mystery. It’s very easy to achieve. Just never put out a record! Everybody’s trying to short-cut the process, all the while bitching that nobody is purchasing their opus. But if you’re truly good, someone has to see you live. The buzz passes and we all want to go. You become an underground hero, and that’s everything today, being owned by your fans as opposed to the media. Those playing to the media are evanescent, fame-whores who get a meager paycheck and soon disappear. Those who earn their stripes on the boards, building audience via word of mouth, last. Hell, look at Phish, have they ever had a hit single?
Albums are kind of like Facebook. Facebook was all cool with amazing buzz until it went public. I’m not sure the social networking company will ever recover. Its cred was shredded instantly, the stock is now trading at half the price of its introduction, everybody’s abandoning ship, there’s bad news every day, when do people wake up and give up, because no one wants to be where it’s not cool.
We don’t want to be at the show of the fake artist, the sell out, the one doing it the way everybody else does. We want to be at the show where life is created every single night. Kind of like Skrillex. Read the portrait of EDM in “Forbes”:
But focus on this:
“One thing he hasn’t done yet: a product endorsement. It’s not for lack of opportunity. (One top DJ, Diplo, is now a ubiquitous television presence shilling BlackBerry.) ‘We turn s–t down every day,’ says Tim Smith, Skrillex’s manager since his screamo days.
Indeed, keeping those $15 million takes coming ultimately means protecting the brand. ‘I don’t care if someone offers me half a million dollars,” says Skrillex. “I’m not going to do a cellphone thing.’”
In other words, everything you’re being told is wrong. Not only by the labels, agents and managers, but the acts themselves. Agents and managers are on a percentage, they only get paid when you do. Which is why they implore you to make the deal, so they can get paid! They’ve been around long enough to know that you’re probably not gonna last, they’re more interested in their wallet than your longevity.
And other artists are whiners. They complain about being ripped off by everybody, instead of working hard to gain success and be in control. Yup, with success comes control. Can you use it?
As for labels… They only get paid when you sell a record. Or else they’ve got a 360 deal, and you’re giving them a piece of everything.
If suddenly it’s about live performance, if you want no record, no endorsements, no synchs, no placements, do you really need a label? Then again, if this is so it all comes down to you. Not only on a business level, but a musical level. Are you such a good performer that you can sell yourself?
Gary Clark, Jr. is.
Then again, it was the record company that truly got me interested. Ha!
P.S. If you go back in history, Clark did put out some independent albums, with limited distribution and traction. But Warner Brothers has so far only released an EP. It’s the live show that’s driving this, not recorded music.