Is Apple Pay Bigger Than 1989?

It’s cool, disruptive and completely unexpected.

Taylor Swift’s new album?

No, APPLE PAY!

And you wonder why musicians get no respect.

That’s right, while Taylor Swift is busy cozying up to corporations, making sure her message gets out, Apple is competing with corporations and its users are up in arms complaining that CVS and Rite-Aid are out of line.

Huh?

Oh, you’re not following this story? Are you really interested in whether Taylor Swift sells a million copies in a week? Have we come to this, in a nation that no longer watches the World Series, is every publication known to man gonna track whether the tree-topping songstress sells albums to 1/300th of the population? If this was a TV show, it’d be canceled.

We didn’t think we needed Apple Pay. Hell, the Cupertino company had been castigated for being behind the curve on NFC (near field communication, for the uninitiated), and then suddenly not only do they include it, they launch this totally secure payment system that’s easy to use, that brings tomorrow here today. Kind of like listening to “Purple Haze” back in ’67!

That’s one thing you do nearly every day, buy stuff. And cash is on its way out, the CD may expire first, but they’re both history. Meanwhile, when even Target can’t keep its data secure, everybody’s privacy anxious. But worthwhile stealable data is never transmitted in Apple Pay, so it’s the perfect solution.

Only CVS and Rite-Aid don’t like it. They took it, now they’ve banned it. Because they want to use their own much less secure QR code based system to exclude not only Apple, but the credit card companies. Does this sound like Pressplay to you? It does to me. Or how about the telcos, which disabled features on mobile phones before Apple came in and revolutionized the market, putting the power into the hands of the handset manufacturers.

Apple Pay is a revolution.

“1989” is a retread.

It’s not like Apple Pay has gotten no ink. But it was lost in the shuffle of the hype for the new iPhones, and the backlash against U2. It’s not sexy, it didn’t date anybody and write a song about it.

And that’s how seemingly everything great starts, off the radar, warmly embraced by early adopters, who beat the drum so loud that the rest of us pay attention.

Expect CVS and Rite-Aid to do a 180.

A million people have already put Apple Pay on their phones, so it looks like Tim Cook is a bigger rock star than Taylor Swift, he reached that number in less than a week.

And Apple’s the anti-Swift. That’s right, Taylor wants to keep you in the past, forcing you to buy a CD or files when both those formats are tanking. You think things were bad in the physical market? Downloads are off by double digits. But can you find Taylor Swift’s album on Spotify? Of course not! Meanwhile, you’ve got to go to Target to get the special edition with extras. That’s like Apple insisting you drive to Best Buy to get a phone that works with Apple Pay. Do you think Best Buy wouldn’t pay tonnage to have this exclusive feature? But that’s not how Apple rolls.

This Apple Pay story is fascinating. It’s easy to use with no glitches and nonparticipating retailers have been caught flat-footed. Users are already agitating to screw CVS and Rite-Aid, telling you how to use the most expensive credit card at their stores so the companies will lose money.

Why Some Stores Won’t Take Apple Pay, and How to Punish Them

CVS and Rite-Aid will cave. Apple Pay’s kind of like rock and roll. You can’t deny its power. The people want it, it takes over. And users smile all the while as those stuck in the past get lost there.

And sure, you’ve got to have an iPhone 6 to use Apple Pay. But we used to incentivize people in the music business too, don’t you remember? To buy CDs? But now everybody’s decrying the future, believing streaming will bankrupt them when it’s their savior, and who wants to associate with a bunch of crybabies anyway.

The “1989” songs I’ve heard are catchy. But there’s nothing groundbreaking there. And the way the press is fawning over it makes me puke. Is that how far we’ve come? When our leading recording artist makes retro music with hired hands in an effort to stay sales relevant and everybody in the media laps it up?

Well, not everybody:

“Taylor Swift’s ‘1989’: A pivot into pop, a misstep into conformity”

Today’s Rules

SINGABILITY/CATCHABILITY

You want to create an earworm, something that gets into someone’s head that they can’t get out. Doesn’t matter if it’s stupid, it’s just got to be addictive.

DANCEABILITY

If it can’t be played at the club, if it doesn’t induce booty-shaking, you’re on the wrong track.

MAKE IT SHORT

So people repeat it endlessly.

CORPORATE PARTNERS

Sell your soul to high heaven. Tie up with anybody who’ll have you. It’s the only way to break through the clutter.

BUY INSURANCE

Work with the hitmakers du jour, they know what’s going on.

BE ON A MAJOR LABEL

You’ve got to have juice, they’re the only ones who have relationships, they spend money.

TOUR FAST AND FURIOUSLY

Appear live constantly, even if for free at first, your goal is to hit the arena before twelve months are gone.

LOOK GOOD AND DATE FABULOUSLY

People follow the gossip columns more than they do the record charts, it’s the best publicity you can get. You want to be on TMZ, trust me.

WHORE YOURSELF OUT TO iHEART RADIO

Do everything iHeart Radio will let you. Appear at their festivals. Terrestrial still rules, you want a presence. Even better, sign a deal with a label that’s got an iHeart Radio deal.

CAVEAT

All of the above refers to TODAY! Not necessarily tomorrow. Read “Outliers,” sure Gladwell talks about the 10,000 hour rule, but just as much he emphasizes timing. Right now we’re living in a pop world. To deny it is akin to denying the sun will come up. If you’re not making pop music, you’re gonna struggle. And no one wants to struggle.

Ain’t that the truth. If you can write songs, if you can sing, if you can create hooks, if you can play live and grow an audience…be happy anybody cares and know that the winds of change are blowing and what you’re doing could end up the next big thing. The major labels were caught flat-footed, they were not in EDM, it burgeoned without them and the traditional concert promoters involved. Then again, electronic music/raves had been going on for decades before the paradigm blew up in America. You’re just outside the system waiting to happen. But know that you never might.

Can you touch our souls? Can you take us on a journey? Can you make us want to become a fan of your music as opposed to your brand? Do you have something pithy to say about the human condition? Then chances are you’re creating art. And art, unlike pop, is forever. But art has a harder time breaking through, the stars must align, you have to get lucky.

Don’t look back to the way it used to be. That’s a fool’s errand. Everything was built upon foundations that no longer exist. The advent and breakthrough of FM radio. MTV. The CD.

The Internet has changed everything. Made everything available inherently increasing competition. That’s right, you’re competing against every recording ever made, from Sinatra to the Beatles to Michael Jackson. People can only listen to one track at one time and unless yours is as good you will never go mega.

Assuming you want to go mega.

Do you dream big?

Then you’ve got two roads, you can play the game or you cannot.

The reason we love classic rock and those acts can still tour prodigiously today is because they did not play the game, they marched to the beat of their own drummer, literally, the best of them made music that did not sound like anybody else’s.

But no one knew that country would merge with rock and as a result the Eagles would own the biggest selling album of all time.

No one knew America would be open to a British Invasion.

No one knew Woodstock would happen and Joni Mitchell would write a song about it.

No one knew the Vietnam war would cause a schism in society and artists would take a side.

No one knew a cable TV music channel would usurp the power of radio and then push sales to previously unheard of levels.

No one knew college students would create P2P programs that would turn the model upside down, never mind have millions of users.

No one knew the Internet was coming, or that broadband would allow you to download music quickly, never mind stream it.

That’s right, no one knows the future.

But one thing we do know is it does not look identical to today. And when it comes, it ushers in the new and wipes out the old.

This pop era won’t last forever.

Then again, the Internet itself is still fluid. It looks like Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon are winners, but Microsoft is by the side of the road, with BlackBerry and a bunch of roadkill.

Are you up to starving? Are you up to going your own way? Do you have incredible talent? Do you have something intriguing to say?

If not, you’d better make pop.

Luke Bryan At The Hollywood Bowl

Oh my God, this is my song
I’ve been listening to the radio all night long

I couldn’t believe it was really him.

I know I rail against albums, I know I decry the state of modern music, but the truth is I know every lick on Luke Bryan’s “Crash My Party” and I’ve been looking forward to his appearance at the Hollywood Bowl since May, playing the tracks over and over again on my phone. I felt like an adolescent, paying my dues in regular life living for the event that’s going to change my life. Maybe that’s what the gig really is, a cementing of our bond with the artist, proving that we truly are attached.

Now as a result of the infamous L.A. traffic I missed most of Cole Swindell’s opening set, which irked me, but when Lee Brice took the stage I told myself…I could do that.

Not really. But in an era where we’re overloaded with slick productions no one can humanly re-create Brice and his band were on stage with no hard drive help singing songs whose meaning I could understand and relate to, it might not have been edgy but the experience was one I was familiar with, you see it began with the Beatles. Sure, we loved their music, we adored them, but they also inspired us to pick up instruments and play, practice and form bands, we needed to not only get closer to the magic but create some ourselves.

And that’s what they’re doing in Nashville, capturing magic and distributing it to those who care, and if that population is not enough you’re Taylor Swift, desirous of being the biggest and reaching everybody when the truth is we’re all human, and now that Taylor has achieved her goal she can no longer live her life, date in private, make mistakes, and that’s what we all want to do.

For a fabulous town I did not see a single celebrity at last night’s gig. But I did see 18,000 people who knew every word, who had their hands in the air singing along at the top of their lungs. They were communing with the music, they were making it their own, and there’s few such enjoyable moments in life.

THAT’S MY KIND OF NIGHT

Might sit down on my diamond plate tailgate
Put in my country ride hip-hop mixtape
Little Conway, a little T-Pain, might just make it rain

And there you have it right there, the conundrum of today mixed in with some derision. Yes, that’s the complaint about Luke, the lyrics, that it’s all about trucks and scantily-clad babes, and some of it is, but the production is so damn good, the changes so infectious that you can’t help but get caught up in the groove and sing along.

Not to yesterday’s country music, there’s no western in these songs. They’re a curious hybrid of rock and country and rap. Hell, we heard “Timber” and other hits of the day between acts. That’s right, all the genres are intertwining, and if you’re a purist who hates rap and country you’re gonna be left out, sorry.

KISS TOMORROW GOODBYE

It’s the sound of the guitar, something Tom Petty specialized in, back when he knew great tracks were not only about sound and attitude, but changes too. And “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye” has them.

I discovered this high in the mountains, hiking listening to every Luke Bryan track extant, it immediately jumped out, which is what we’re all looking for, something that embraces us with eight arms that won’t let go that we think is only our own when the truth is it’s everybody’s.

ROLLER COASTER

She’s like a song playin’ over and over
In my mind, where I still hold her
I had the chance and I should’ve told her

Should you? Let them know how you feel?

It’s easy when you’re married, when you’re committed, but before that, when you can’t get them out of your mind, when you can’t sleep because you’re fantasizing and wondering whether they feel the same way you do… Can you reach out and be honest? Or are you too inhibited?

We don’t live in an honest society.

But that’s what we want so much.

And until we figure it out we want a track to ride shotgun and empower us to be our best selves.

“Roller Coaster” went to number one. Maybe because Luke Bryan is the biggest act in country music. But the truth is we’ve all got our summer memories, romances that were unanticipated, that we thought were flings but ultimately realized were not.

THIS IS HOW WE ROLL

The mixtape’s got a little Hank, little Drake
A little something bumping, thump, thumping on the wheel ride

And you wonder why Florida Georgia Line’s album entered last week’s chart at number one… That’s right, those guys you despise captured the cultural zeitgeist better than any other act this year.

The truth is everybody’s multicultural, Drake’s a half black Jewish rapper who rules his domain and you don’t have to be an inner city denizen to adore his music.

Yeah, we’re proud to be young
We stick to our guns
We love who we love and we wanna have fun
Yeah, we cuss on them Mondays
And pray on them Sundays
Pass it around and we dream of that one day

That’s Luke’s part on the original, he sang it along with cowriter Cole Swindell last night. And you might abhor the gun and religion references, but the truth is on some level life never changes, we reach adolescence, we imbibe, we test limits and then we go back to doing what’s expected of us.

Same as it ever was.

DRINK A BEER

When I got the news today
I didn’t know what to say
So I just hung up the phone

We’ve all gotten that call. Sometimes just a voice mail pregnant with bad news. Our hearts are at loose ends, we don’t know where to turn.

I took a walk to clear my head
This is where the walking led
Can’t believe you’re really gone
Don’t feel like going home

This is the song that made me a Luke Bryan fan. Because I’m a sentimental wuss, I remember all that once happened and never will again, and the people who are no longer here to experience it.

The ones cut down too young by cancer.

The ones flummoxed who took their own lives.

The ones who lost their lives through no fault of their own, unlucky in life.

There’s a resignation in the vocal, an ability to keep putting one foot in front of the other, but in a haze.

COUNTRY GIRL (SHAKE IT FOR ME)

So what we’ve got here is a bunch of not so young men singing songs whose words we understand and relate to atop tracks with hooks so sharp you cannot emerge unscathed.

And not everybody is aware. But those who are need to go to the show the way you need to buy a new iPhone. They need to put on their jeans and boots, maybe sneakers, trucker caps and cowboy hats, and drink and dance and have fun.

And if you follow the news you know that’s tough, life is depressing. But you scratch up some dough and even if you’re way in the back you feel included, it’s a big tent. Some may be Republicans, some may be Democrats, but at the country show it doesn’t matter.

And since the politically correct police are absent the big screen features booty-shaking and flirting and all the stuff those with legislative power are trying to exorcise from everyday life. Sure, bad things happen, but life is for the living, for the playing, and you never feel as alive as you do at a country show, where the humanity is in evidence, people performing who grew up in Fresno and other godforsaken backwaters and practiced so hard that they got roles in the country music circus, where how you look is secondary to how you can play.

PLAY IT AGAIN AGAIN

Sittin’ ’round waitin’ for it to come on and here it is

That’s right, I waited the entire summer and now it’s gone.

I’m not exactly sure what I experienced. Luke jumped up and down, pranced on stage, but to him it was just another night, he didn’t strut, didn’t demand adulation, he was just doing his job, singing songs we all knew by heart. Usually they beat their chest and keep telling us how much better they are than us, can you hear me Kanye?

And the truth is some of us are smarter than others, but genius is an overrated construct. We’re all brilliant, all geniuses in our own way and the road to excellence is paved with desire and hard work and when you break through we all want some of what you’ve got.

Especially when you can repeat the trick, too often today you’re a one hit wonder, you own the scene for a summer, then you disappear, can you hear me Robin Thicke?

And then there’s Luke Bryan. Who has a smidge of charisma but is not trading solely on it, who looks like someone who was your frat brother in Georgia, the one who played all the parties and drove to Nashville to make it. And we all know people like this, most come back with their tail between their legs, but a few break through. And most use their newfound fame to join the parade of the fabulous, to live behind gates and go to parties the rest of us are never invited to. But these country guys, they don’t seem to change, they seem to still be the same people, thrilled that they’re traveling this great country of ours in a plethora of buses picking Les Pauls to the adulation of a throng of thrilled fans.

It’s a communal rite.

And it may not be forever, little is.

But it feels so damn good today.

And she said, play it again, play it again
And I said, play it again, play it again, play it again

Luke Bryan – Spotify playlist

Jack Bruce

And we always thought Ginger Baker would die first.

Clapton might be God, but there was no Cream without Jack Bruce. He was the one who sang most of the songs. If he’d found his Delaney Bramlett maybe he too would be a household name instead of a footnote.

That’s right, Eric had his instincts, but it was Delaney who got him to stand out front and sing. Jack was born with this power.

And although he cut “Songs For A Tailor” and did the indelible “Theme For An Imaginary Western” times were changing so fast, Jack moved so slowly, that all the hopes and dreams we had in him were transferred to others.

But we remember the records.

Hipsters had “Fresh Cream.” They knew John Mayall and his Bluesbreakers. The cognoscenti picked up on “Disraeli Gears.” And then everybody went along for the victory lap on “Goodbye.” And during the “Wheels Of Fire” era, Cream was the biggest band in the land.

That’s right, not Taylor Swift, needing an executive producer to impart direction and cowrite the songs. We were casting aside the Svengalis, songwriters like Max Martin were struggling. As for Katy Perry and her comic book outfits, at this point musicians wore their street clothes on stage and barely moved, if they looked at the audience at all. Image was nearly irrelevant, it was all about the music.

As for “Sunshine Of Your Love,” the riff was written by Jack.

That’s right, one of the famous in rock and roll history, up there with “Smoke On The Water.” And sure, Eric executed the solo, but Jack sang the words. It bubbled up from nowhere, actually, the first side of “Disraeli Gears,” and then it got played on nascent FM underground radio and then it unexpectedly exploded on to AM radio in the summer of ’68 and the whole world was revolutionized. Yes, the world changed when “Sunshine Of Your Love” and “Purple Haze” became ubiquitous. “Sunshine Of Your Love” was the “Royals” of its day, but with more impact and made by people who’d been there and done that, who had a wealth of experience in their souls.

And anybody who bought “Disraeli Gears” went back and bought “Fresh Cream” after that…

Bmm bmm bmm bmm bmm bmm

Come on, it’s in your DNA! Your head is nodding like a beatnik, you can’t wait for the whole band to come in, you too want to feel FREE!

And that’s what our music did back then. It did not make us part of one big happy family tied in with corporations and featured on the “Today,” show, no it was just for us, individuals and the few like-minded people you could find, which was a group that keep growing and growing until the whole world realized its size at “Woodstock.”

Cream had a wealth of hits, you didn’t buy the albums for the singles, or if you did you were enraptured by what you discovered.

And so many were originals, but there were reworkings of blues numbers like “I’m So Glad,” another Jack Bruce vocal.

That’s right, Jack wasn’t a sideman, he was the FRONTMAN!

And now he’s gone.

The great migration has begun. From terra firma to the sky. Our heroes are starting to go. They’re fading away. For every eternally youthful legend like Paul McCartney, there’s a plethora of doddering oldsters who once tore it up around the world and are now rickety and ready to go.

And we’re next.

And the truth is, most of this material is not going to be remembered by later generations. But we’re never going to forget it. We grew up to it. It’s the elixir in our lives. That’s right, classic rock built the modern music business, everything from radio to arena shows and we still go, because we still need the hit.

So, so long Jack Bruce, on one hand you were born too young, before the Internet era, before everybody could know every detail of your life and hold you close to their bosom. That’s right, we know very little about Jack Bruce, just a few details, his music speaks for him, and ultimately that’s grand.

And so long album radio, where the deejay didn’t want to be your friend so much as he wanted to demonstrate how hip he was by playing tracks that stretched boundaries and elated you.

And so long albums themselves, when you didn’t need a hit to succeed, but they were so expensive that if you bought one you played it incessantly and knew it by heart.

And so long the dream that every band will reunite and come to your city and you can relive your youth.

That’s right, Cream unexpectedly reunited. Played London and New York. But that was it. If you want to see someone, see them now. Chances are so many you’ll never get to see. Not only because of discord, but because members are dead.

Who would have thought that could happen?