Scale

Ajax. That’s what made Gmail work so seamlessly.

Greetings from the hot as hell San Fernando Valley wherein on my way to get a haircut in Dixie Canyon I drove by Freakbeat and saw a huge line for Record Store Day!

Gotta give ‘em credit. Those record stores have built something out of thin air, via marketing, and tchotchkes. That’s what Record Store Day is about, souvenirs. And if you think that scales, you’re still clinging to your Blondie picture disc.

So I end up at Poquito Mas, and over a steak tostada I begin reading “Wired,” which I got a subscription to for ten bucks, but rarely has anything worth reading. And this is one of those stunt issues, you know mainstream publishing, they love lists and best ofs, pure content is not enough. This an alphabetical reading of the tech highlights of the past twenty years. And I know too much and they’re barely scratching the surface and then I get to Gmail.

You didn’t want web mail back in 2004. Even if you were on broadband. It just ran too slow. But somehow, Gmail was fluid, it worked fast. Why? I learned today! The aforementioned Ajax, “a JavaScript hack that lets web pages update without reloading.”

1. “Hack,” like “P2P,” has become a bad word. Funny how everything on the bleeding edge is castigated, but it’s there that innovation happens.

2. This proves my point about reading. I’ve talked about Gmail for nearly a decade, no one has ever revealed why it works so well. I just got my money’s worth from my “Wired” subscription, even better, I feel satiated, inspired, the same way I used to when my heroes revealed their truth in “Rolling Stone,” before entertainment became purely about the sell.

That’s the difference. Mainstream music is marketing. Tech is viral.

Tech is built upon a long foundation. Music is developed out of thin air.

The reason people cared about Gmail was because of Google. The search engine. Which magically did what no one had been able to manage before, deliver the results you wanted. It was just that simple. You had to tell your friends about it. Just like you told your friends about that band. Now the bands speak to the media and bombard the public with multiple impressions, hoping to hit you once, not realizing you’re hit multiple times and end up hating what’s being sold. It’s all top down, as opposed to ground up.

But the reason ground up doesn’t work in music is because the underlying source is just not good enough. That’s the key to virality, quality. And the goal of virality is to go from the personal to the universal.

That’s the tech game. How can I go from one to many? How can I produce something so good, it sells itself?

That used to be the music paradigm, but it hasn’t been in a long while. Instead we’ve just got thousands of wankers complaining that you won’t take the time to listen to their album and they can’t make any money. If you’re not laughing at this, you don’t have an inbox.

You start with a hit.

The iPod. The modern Apple is built upon it.

The aforementioned Google. And you can never rest on your laurels, you don’t tour the world for years cleaning up the dough from your hit, you go back to the drawing board and try to have another, you’re constantly innovating, you’re constantly expanding your base, or you die.

Companies die all the time, why can’t bands?

If you’re not trying to create something that catches fire all by its lonesome, whose greatness is spread by listeners, then you’re truly a niche player. And niches can be fun, but that’s not where the money, the fame and the glory are.

How many Googles are there?

One.

How many Apples?

One.

So why do you think the public has time for thousands of bands?

Oh, they’ve got time for a few, but that’s it.

P.S. The problem with Record Day is despite all the hype, most people don’t want physical music artifacts. There is a business selling these, but it’s niche. Same as vinyl. If you love your records, fantastic. But if you expect everybody else to love LPs, you’re delusional. As for the insane PR campaign that goes on ad infinitum, saying how vinyl’s making a comeback, there’s your mainstream marketing irrelevancy right there, check the statistics, vinyl hovers in the neighborhood of one percent of the market.

P.P.S. Think big. Think how you can get everybody interested and involved. If you’re not playing for everybody, you’re gonna be close to broke, or working for a living as opposed to relaxing.

P.P.P.S. The music business used to be the ultimate in scale. You made something for a minimum of money and then you could replicate it and sell it for years at a decreasing cost. The labels survived on catalog, which required no new investment. But catalog only sold if it was deemed worthy by the public. Otherwise, tracks were just recycled for pennies on compilations sold at gas stations.

P.P.P.P.S. Blame Clive Davis, blame Tommy Mottola. They realized marketing was more important than music. But that was in the last century, when we had so few options. Now, more than ever before, your success depends upon your music.

P.P.P.P.P.S. Unless playing live IS your act, go back and record instead of being on the road. Recordings keep your career alive. If you become really big, you can rake in dough by playing the summer festival circuit. In other words, if you’re the Grateful Dead or Phish, recordings are close to irrelevant. But unless your stage show is different every night, an experience that changes people’s lives, focus on the music, not the show.

P.P.P.P.P.P.S. Just because Internet blowhards said for years that the new paradigm is to give away your music and make it up on live performances and merchandise, don’t believe them. Hell, unless you’re a superstar, there’s more money in a successful YouTube video. Just because recording revenue tanked, that does not mean new opportunities have not arisen. The money’s on the bleeding edge. As for recordings, the sun is setting on the pirate era, streaming is just too easy, and on streaming services everything is available, so how do you rise above, via marketing, no, through music!

To read about the origins of Gmail, go to this page and click on the Gmail link: wired-20th-anniversary

Line outside Freakbeat Records

Comments are closed