Rhinofy-Beau Brummels Primer

LAUGH, LAUGH

Some songs emanate from the speaker and stop you in your tracks, vacate all other thoughts and have you asking WHAT’S THAT?

Like “Laugh, Laugh.”

You’ve got to know, by time we reached the end of ’64 an entire generation was addicted to the radio. It’s kind of like today, but instead of a transistor now it’s a smartphone. And a transistor only did one thing, play radio, and we only listened to music.

Sure, “Laugh, Laugh” was reminiscent of the English sound, but it would have been a hit in any era, like “Walk Away Renee” it’s forever, because of the haunting sound…

From the initial notes you were enraptured, as if you were descending into a subterranean spot where all truth would be revealed.

I hate to say it but I told you so
Don’t mind my preaching to you

This was not our parents, but our contemporaries, downloading truth. Instead of bristling, we leaned in closer.

I said don’t trust him baby, now you know
You don’t learn everything there is to know in school

We were becoming adults. This was the beginning of the schism, the youthquake, the separation of children from their parents. Sure, the Beau Brummels were in their twenties, but kids were listening to them, getting their truth from musicians. Unlike today, parents were not their children’s best friends, and soon they would become the enemy.

Wouldn’t believe me when I gave advice
I said that he was a tease

Whew! I was eleven. I’d just had my first girlfriend. I was just learning not only the mechanics, but the nuances of dating, of the opposite sex. How people could seem to want something, but not really.

Laugh, laugh, I thought I’d die
It seemed so funny to me
Laugh, laugh, you met a guy
Who taught you how it feels to be
Lonely, oh so lonely

Creepy. He’s laughing at someone who misread the situation. But the end result is even worse. Loneliness. The scourge of humanity.

There’s a tonality in “Laugh, Laugh” that was absent from almost all records, except maybe some Beatles tracks, but here there was a sneer.

“Laugh, Laugh” fired on all cylinders. Not only was there the straight from the heart sincere vocal from seemingly the coolest guy on the planet, there was the sparse instrumentation, the guitar, drums and harmonica you could hear.

You just wanted to get closer. “Laugh, Laugh” was a three minute respite from hype, from radio normality. It was truth beaming right out of the speaker, straight into your heart and mind.

JUST A LITTLE

And shortly thereafter came this. Which wasn’t quite as good, but almost nothing could be.

“Just A Little” had a similar haunting sound, but this time the guy was involved. But now it was over. And he was crying. Just a little. But a little is a lot, when it comes to love.

And once again, there was a chorus so hooky, today’s music makers should be forced to listen for edification.

But really, what made “Just A Little” was the break. The acoustic guitar, with the electric response, every baby boomer knows it and can’t explain it, all they know is it brings them right back to the sixties, remembering victories and losses, when everything was still new, when they were discovering who they were, what they wanted, and were not yet formalized in what they’d become.

CONCLUSION

And then it was done. There was never another hit. It’s almost like the Beau Brummels didn’t exist, that they were a studio concoction like the Archies.

But that would be untrue. The Beau Brummels emerged from San Francisco in an era before the music press, before we knew almost anything about most of our heroes. We knew them more as cartoon characters, the Beau Brummelstones, on the “Flintstones,” than we did as their true personages.

Yes, we were still children, but we were becoming adults.

But the Beau Brummels were already grown up.

They were on legendary deejay Tom Donahue’s Autumn Records. And these cuts were produced by Sylvester Stewart, ultimately known as Sly Stone, before he had his hits. Yup, don’t decry the decline of Sly, he just had too much talent for one person to handle.

And when the group splintered Sal Valentino, the singer, formed Stoneground, which was hyped by Warner Brothers, was featured on its sampler albums, but ultimately had no impact.

And Ron Elliott, who wrote “Laugh, Laugh” and cowrote “Just A Little” with Bob Durand, had a behind the scenes career with Van Dyke Parks and others before releasing a solo record that almost instantly disappeared.

So all we’re left with is the records.

Sure, there were albums, but in 1964, they were almost irrelevant. It was about the singles. It wasn’t until the Beatles started testing limits with “Rubber Soul,” “Revolver” and “Sgt. Pepper” that the album was seen as a statement, more than a collection of singles and filler.

But these two singles were paramount. Youngsters might be unaware, but we oldsters know every note. We believed there would be more, we still want more.

The Beau Brummelstones – Laugh Laugh

Rhinofy-Beau Brummels Primer

World Domination

Are we shooting too low?

Once upon a time music dominated the conversation, it does not today.

Could it be that the labels are too insular, the artists without dreams, have we sacrificed the track to branding and sponsorship and that which has nothing to do with music?

There’s only been one worldwide dominant track since last summer, and that’s Pharrell’s “Happy.”

An interesting case, because most people still have no idea who Pharrell is, other than the guy who wore the hat at the Oscars. Where’d he grow up? Who is he dating? Who are his sponsors? Pharrell seems to be doing it all wrong, yet he’s the only one who did it right, he’s the only one who created a worldwide dominant hit, with staying power, one that penetrated all cultures. That’s the power of music. That’s the power of the track.

Furthermore, “Happy” did not fit the format, it did not sound like everything else on Top Forty radio, rather than sounding me-too, it sounded fresh. The public wants new and different, people don’t care about Windows XP, but in the music business we’ve been executing variations on the paradigm for far too long. We’ve got the usual suspects honing material to play within our tightly controlled game, and as a result most people just don’t care, which leaves money and social impact on the table.

Now “Happy” didn’t happen overnight. It was featured in “Despicable Me 2″ last summer, but wasn’t available as a single until late fall. Proving that everything meant to last takes time to get there.

Kind of like “Gone Girl.” It’s still penetrating society years later. Eventually the film will make the book a household item. That’s how it happens in the twenty first century, that which arrives instantly, with a lot of hoopla, rarely lasts. However, let’s be honest, that which lasts usually has marketing help, as did “Happy” with “Despicable Me 2.”

But let’s return to the sixties, when the Beatles and the British Invasion dominated not only the airwaves, but public consciousness.

And then in the seventies the FM radio format became dominant, and stars extended their tentacles into popular culture.

And then in the 80s, that juggernaut known as MTV had the whole world watching.

But in the twenty first century, when everybody in the world can be reached for free music is quite often an artistic stepchild, relegated to television competition shows, something used to sell something else, while so many of its makers can’t stop complaining that the game has changed. We hear about Spotify more than most individual artists. Is it because Spotify tests limits and captures the popular zeitgeist in a way new music does not?

Look at the Tom Petty hype. Without a dominant track, it’s speaking to the already converted.

And Weird Al made a splash, but it’s about novelty much more than music. There’s no original track to get people to turn their heads.

But there could be.

If only artists and labels stopped playing by the rules.

Because there’s really only one rule. That which travels is always an instant listen that grows on people over time. Are we shooting for this target? I’d say no.

Yes, we want singles. But do they have to sound like every other single? Even Taylor Swift… An original as a country artist, she worked with the hitmakers of the day to release the entirely forgettable “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” When our biggest artist blinks, we know we’re in trouble.

Yes, Ms. Swift is more notable for her dating travails than she is for her music, at least by the general public, how do we flip this switch?

By realizing that artists are not like businessmen. That music is not the tech game. That artists do it different.

Pharrell was not young and shiny, he’s far from Justin Bieber.

Yet the conceit is tweens drive the market so we should market to them.

And too many acts want us to get down into the pit they’re in, they don’t entice us. Let me see, you’ve got a mediocre voice with little to say but you’re king of your genre so the rest of us should care?

I challenge artists to create world dominating music that does not depend upon endless hype to get people to pay attention as they would to a wreck on the freeway.

It’s possible. We’ve got more tools at our disposal than ever before.

But we’re blinking, we’re punting.

Malcolm Gladwell creates a whole new non-fiction genre, he popularizes the 10,000 hour rule, but in music all we’ve got is drum machines and auto-tuned vocals with young people singing the most banal lyrics possible.

Sure, it might be profitable.

But you really want to get rich? Make something everyone can consume. And if you think this means dumbing down, you’ve never heard of the Beatles.

Weird Al’s Album

Ben Sisario wrote the definitive statement in the “New York Times”:

No Joke! He’s Topping the Charts
Weird Al Yankovic Scores With ‘Mandatory Fun’

The most important element of the above article is the sponsorship story. Weird Al didn’t see sponsorship as a way to rip-off corporations to enhance his bottom line, he saw it as a way to broaden his audience.

Al literally piggy-backed on his sponsors, using them to broaden his audience. He got money for videos from partner sites, but most importantly, said videos were featured on these partner sites, bringing him to their people.

What a concept.

This is the future.

And it’s funny that someone seen as a sideshow figured this out.

It’s hard not to like Mr. Yankovic, and the tragic death of his parents always leaves a soft spot in my heart for him. But Al peaked decades ago, and who knows all the songs he’s parodying today anyway? Al was at his most powerful when we lived in a monoculture, when we were all glued to MTV and knew every clip.

And if you believe Al is now a household name amongst the younger generation, you truly believe selling 104,000 albums in a country of 300 million isn’t laughable.

Not that Weird Al is bound by the old paradigm. Unlike most acts his age Al realizes it’s about streaming. The clips for his new album have been viewed 46 million times.

Take that all you acts who still hew to the old model. Not only is Al making coin in the new realm, he’s reaching more people than the old paradigm players. If you want people to pay to discover you’re missing the point. The key is to expose as many people to your music as possible, charging them along the way.

And speaking of streaming, Al had 3,282,937 plays on Spotify last week.

So now that more people know who Al is, are familiar with his tracks, other opportunities grow and appear. Live business jumps and if Al chooses, he can sell himself as a pitchman. His phone is ringing.

Furthermore, notice that Al did this himself, the label didn’t cough up the money. Because labels are financially challenged, and they don’t believe.

But Weird Al did. He took matters into his own hands.

As for the hashtag… The peak was “Sharknado.” As for people hashtagging you into prominence, that’s a dying game, like ringtones. It’s an echo chamber. Beware of the online fad. Not that you shouldn’t use it, but don’t overestimate its power.

And the fact that Al had 575,000 Wikipedia views last week illustrates his fanbase is growing, it’s newbies who go there most.

As for the eight videos in eight days… Never forget that it is primarily video and not music. That Al’s famous for clips that play like television as opposed to being completely reliant on tunes. Al’s selling comedy, will this work for a traditional musical act? Doubtful.

But melding your music with today’s model will work.

Al didn’t bitch that the game had changed, he took matters into his own hands. And if there was a print component, it eluded me. Because Al’s audience lives online. And the key is to get people to click for cash, to watch videos and stream music. When people read an article about you in the newspaper or magazine the publication gets paid, you do not. In other words, you should go directly where the money is!

And the hype began when the music was available! Al didn’t frontload, when he was promoting, people were buying, or experiencing via streams.

And sure, getting to number one on the sales chart is generating publicity, but that’s a dying construct. Notice that Sisario included streaming numbers. And that they were impressive and the sales number was not. Soon no one will trumpet sales numbers, they’re too anemic, they’re nearly meaningless.

So Al has proven himself to be an artist, more insightful than the suits running the labels, as it should be. Creativity should come from the music makers. But over decades the switch has been flipped. It’s the label that puts you together with a cowriter and producer, it’s the label that says you don’t have a single. But no one ever believed in a label, music is all about the artist. And music soars when artists test limits, test preconceptions, when they twist the world to their vision.

Will we be talking about Weird Al’s album a month from now?

Highly doubtful. We may not be talking about it a week from now!

What has legs is original tunes. Too often we focus on the business story not realizing the music game is about longevity, that the most money is made when the press is no longer interested.

Al’s enhanced his cottage industry. He’s paved the way, shone the light on possibilities. In the future musical artists will stop playing the old game of frontloading publicity to generate first week sales and realize it’s all about streaming, bolstered by online publicity.

But don’t expect old acts to follow in Weird Al’s footsteps. They just can’t get over the fact that the game has changed.

If you’re still bitching that you can’t sell your $15 album you’re missing the point.

And the point is you’ve got more tools in your bag than ever before. And it’s cheaper than ever to reach people. And others will help you do this. And world domination is difficult, it’s best to enhance your territory, grow your base as opposed to trying to reach everybody. If you try new things you can get lucky. That does not mean everybody will care, but more people care about Weird Al than have since the turn of the century. And despite being old he looks young and hip. Weird Al won. Can you?

Digital Presence

1. DIGITAL HOME

A. Wikipedia

Your goal is to be big enough to have a Wikipedia page. It’s the first place newbies go to learn about you. It’s got the imprimatur of authority, people believe what they read, however inaccurate the details may be. We live in an information age and what we want most is information. Where the act was formed, how you got your name, who the band members are and your discography, including chart placements.

It’s best if there’s personal information, who you’re dating, who you’re married to. People want to know you.

However, beware of filling out your page by yourself. One can tell when pages are written by those whose pages they are. They go on just a bit too long, there’s too much detail, whereas fans have a different tone, somewhat reverential and completist in a different fashion. After you read someone’s Wikipedia page you should still want more.

B. Website/Facebook page/Bandcamp page, etc.

If you don’t have a Wikipedia page, because you haven’t got enough traction, buy your name and establish a page at that URL. It’s got so much more gravitas than a Facebook page. You want to let people know you’re for real, that you invested some money, that you’re in it for the long haul, anybody can have a Facebook page, it tends not to be taken seriously.

Of course, if you’re big enough to have a Wikipedia page, you need your own website and a Facebook page. Once again, on your website, you need to provide information. Like tour dates. And lyrics. And it’s best if there’s a constant flow of information, so people will come back. And don’t put up a paywall, if people believe they can’t get it all for free, they’re not going to become enamored of you.

2. YOUTUBE

America’s radio station and record store all rolled up into one.

All your cuts should be up there. Don’t have any fan clips taken down. Just monetize those that appear. The smaller the act, the more important it is to post videos on a regular basis. Of covers. Maybe even of you talking to your audience. But if you’re talking, make it brief, you’re a musician not an orator and if you go on too long chances are people will get bored, or wonder who these clips are made for.

3. SPOTIFY

Don’t bitch about payments, put your music up. All of it.

And you might as well put it up on the rest of the services, like Rdio, Deezer and Beats, but know that only one will triumph in the long run, it’s the way of the web, there’s only one Google, one Amazon and one Facebook. People gravitate to where everybody else is. Spotify does not have to win, but one streaming service will.

4. SOUNDCLOUD

Gets more ink/press/talk than it deserves, but it is true that the younger generation goes there. Put your stuff up. But know to cover the above bases first.

5. iTUNES AND AMAZON

Buying is so aughts. The teens are not about ownership but access. Sure, make your stuff available for purchase, but that’s not where the money is, certainly not in the future. Sure, being number one delivers some bragging rights, but it means less than ever before. Today it’s about fanbase and money. Don’t get caught up in charts. Don’t get caught up in smoke and mirrors. So much of what you see hyped gets no traction, never mind not making any money. That’s a fool’s errand, playing the popularity game.

If you make it, your fans will make you more popular, they will spread the word, continuously, which news sites never will. News sites are all about the new. They’re voracious predators that will squeeze you dry one day and forget about you the next. Use news to make a splash, but it’s meaningless unless fans become aware of you, embrace you and tell everybody else about you.

6. SOCIAL MEDIA

People want to interact with you, but don’t get caught up in believing the social media game is either necessary or important.

The bottom line is social media is mostly about making the hoi polloi, consumers, fans, feel important. They’re the ones that are posting and looking for attention. You want to give them enough info so they’ll post about you, but your personal Twitter account doesn’t mean much unless you’re a worldwide superstar, and so often that doesn’t mean much, because those people don’t have time to post themselves.

So you want a Facebook page. Don’t feel pressured to post on it yourself, let your minions do so.

And you want a Twitter account. It’s great if you post, but Twitter can be a huge time-sucker that pays few dividends. Better to practice your instrument than to live on Twitter.

7. GOSSIP

Paris Hilton established the paradigm, Kim Kardashian perfected it. Gossip is a career unto itself, which is why so many of its practitioners are famous for nothing else. So beware of the gossip columns unless that’s your primary game, they make musicians look small, which is why Kanye is faltering.

8. NEWS SITES

Press releases are irrelevant unless you’re truly a star and your tour is canceled or you kicked out a band member or you signed a movie deal. However, for the past couple of years, it’s better if you share this info yourself on one of your own sites. It makes the bond to your fans so much clearer.

9. PERIPHERAL SITES

Just because it’s available that does not mean anybody will see it. Sure, stream your album on NPR, if it’s available absolutely everywhere else, otherwise it looks like you’re playing in a walled garden, one where most people are unaware of you.

It comes down to Google. When I Google your name, what comes up?

Hopefully your personal website and then your Wikipedia page, or vice versa.

Right now there’s nowhere to go where all of your online presence is listed, which is why the major sites are so important. Sure, some fans might get past the first page of Google, but most don’t get past the first two HITS! Everything I want to know about you should come up there. If not, your team is not doing it right.

10. FADS

The longer we live in the Internet age, the more things stay the same.

It comes down to the art. The music and then the video.

And there’s so much information, that it helps to have money to make an initial impression, to get the ball rolling.

And then it’s about being available absolutely everywhere so if someone’s interested in you, they can experience you.

Don’t overthink it. Don’t release a single from your album every week. We’re on information overload, we can’t keep paying attention, the only ones who do are the hardest core of fans.

Beyonce had it right. Announce and release simultaneously, all of it. Because the truth is very little lasts. So you want the benefit of the splash. You want to sell while you’re promoting. And if you’re lucky, you’ll get traction.

Market manipulation is history.

You do it in an obvious way. And you make your fans happy. They are the ones who will grow you, it’s very hard to get someone who’s not concerned to be so. So much is hyped every day that people don’t have time to click through and check you out. The plethora of information might get them to your Wikipedia page, to YouTube, which is why you must have a presence there, but the truth is the power lays in the hands of those you’ve already converted, they will not stop talking about you, they will implore others to check you out.

Which is why it’s so important to focus. When someone spreads the word, make sure one track stands above. That’s one great thing about Spotify, they list the tracks in order of popularity. Always put yourself in the shoes of the know-nothings. If they get bitten, how can they enter your universe? Make it complicated, require multiple clicks, more Googling, and they won’t make the effort.

Meanwhile, keep feeding your fans. You’ve got two trains running, making those already converted happy and entrancing new people, and don’t confuse the two. Don’t wait so long to put out new material that the hard core fan is frustrated and moves on. And don’t think that the newbie is interested in anything more than the single.

But if someone is interested, they should be able to go online and go down the rabbit hole into your career. They should be able to spend hours researching, learning and listening. And you’ve got to make it easy for them to do this, by not only being everywhere, but pointing to what they should devour first. You don’t take someone to their first French restaurant and insist that they eat the snails. Start out with the killer onion soup, then maybe the duck. If they like that they’ll sample the foie gras and keep talking about you.

Then again, food’s got a whole network devoted to it, where the personalities shine but the food trumps and triumphs.

So many in music have lost the plot. Not only does MTV not focus on music, so many musicians are focused on their brand, their stardom and sponsorships. Put the music front and center. If you hew to this mantra the rest will follow.