Adele Not Streaming

How the hell can we solve the world’s problems if the music business itself can’t do what’s right for the populace?

Sixteen years after Napster, after living through P2P, track sales and now streaming, blind greed continues to reign in the music business. People do what’s right for themselves, never mind what’s good for the customer, never mind what’s good for the business.


You’re not that fucking good. You’re not the Beatles. We can live without your music. We just focus on you because everybody else is so bad, everybody else is whored out to the corporation and bitching they can’t make the money people do in the tech sphere. Even Bono’s off the rails, forcing an LP upon those who don’t care and then going on the road and not even going clean in arenas. That’s right, after selling out stadia, U2 can’t sell every ticket indoors. Because the music just ain’t that good. And it’s all driven by the music. And we’ll find out what the people think, a year from now, when we see if they’re still listening, on streaming services, which is where “25” will be after this dash for cash is done.

Hell, we’re not even going to have this fourth quarter madness a year from now. Because physical will be dead and track sales de minimis. I’d say this is the last gasp of a dying industry but the truth is music will survive, as it has the past sixteen years, because people love to play it and the public loves to hear it.

Who needs this money? Adele, you played small venues last time around, you didn’t take all the money from the corporations. Why this turnaround? Are you that ignorant? Even car companies are hipper than you, they’re leaving CD drives out of their vehicles. My new computer has no disk drive, even though I bought it a year ago and it’s state of the art. But forget my iMac 5k, did you ever try to play a CD on a tablet? Never mind a mobile?

We live in a mobile world where few have a ton of storage, but I’ve got to make room for your album?

Screw you.

Oh, the truth is I already have your record! It’s been flying around the internet. And I didn’t listen to the whole damn thing because it didn’t immediately grab me and I was more interested in hearing Amy Schumer on Alec Baldwin’s podcast. That’s the world we live in, where you compete with all entertainment, which is accessible at the touch of an icon. There’s plenty of money if you get mindshare. But you want to give up mindshare?

But you’re dumb and uneducated, living in the bubble. Give Taylor Swift some credit, at least she thinks for herself, however wrong she might sometimes be. And the truth is Apple was about to cave, Swift had almost nothing to do with getting acts paid during the trial period. But an ignorant press that says “Billboard” sold out their Jones Beach gig when they gave away thousands of tickets doesn’t know the inside story. And therefore people have no idea that acts scalp their own tickets and Ticketmaster is a front for performers’ greed.

That’s right, in an era of transparency, in the music business there is none. You want to be paid better by the labels? Why should they come to the table and be fair, they’re greedy just like you! When the biggest act in the business sees the world through her own eyes only, why do you expect anybody else to act differently?

Tom Petty agitates for a lower vinyl price. That’s right, he didn’t want MCA to use his new album, which people were salivating for, to rip off customers. And now Adele leaves the customer behind.

Oh, what a long strange trip it’s been. One in which the Beatles enraptured a generation, got everybody to pick up a guitar, where music changed the world, into an era where tech changes the world.

Because the techies are educated and smart and are all about disruption and the future.

Your album comes out tomorrow. You waited to this late date to reveal this info? Why? You knew forever. But you employ duplicity, smoke and mirrors, manipulation as opposed to forthright honesty. How can we believe in your music if we don’t believe in you?

Adele, you could have done good here. You could have driven listeners to streaming services, you could have bumped up subscriptions. Instead, you’re just muddying the water. Keeping people in the past. Where the media is, which will say how much product you sold as opposed to how much people accessed.

If you think sales are where it’s at, you don’t know Major Lazer and DJ Snake’s “Lean On” is the most played track in Spotify history, with 526 million streams in eight months. Not only is there money in that, there’s cultural impact. “Lean On” gets little press, but actual listeners know it’s genius and can’t get enough. Whereas you’re appealing to doofuses who don’t listen, just blindly buy because the oldsters tell them to.

Listens, not purchases.

Impact, not cash.

Careers, not short-term thinking.

Do the right thing, don’t selfishly stand up for yourself only.

How can we move forward, how can the music business be healthy if the leaders don’t agitate for the right thing?

Damned if I know.


When you got nothing
You got nothing to lose

“Like A Rolling Stone”
Bob Dylan

I’ve been a victim of internet hate. Sometimes private, sometime public. Sometimes e-mail, sometimes on Twitter and other social networks, as well as nooks and crannies all over the web.

My crime?

Having an opinion and a status those complaining do not.

I’ve learned to ignore it. But I’d be lying if I said it didn’t inhibit me. Say the wrong thing and my enemies will express their vitriol. Hell, I said that Taylor Swift couldn’t sing and her minions are still lambasting me online.

Now if this happened in the newspaper, in traditional media, I’d call a high-priced publicity person to get the story quashed. You see unless what’s happening is truly news, the media can always forgo coverage. If you provide something in return. It’s all about the trade. I’ll hold back from doing this if you give me access to that.

But this bartering is meaningless online. Because those perpetrating the hate have got nothing to lose, they thrive on attention, if you attack you can make them famous. And every little guy sticking it to the man gets the benefit of the doubt from their brethren on the bottom.

And no one playing the professional game seems to understand all this.

The rich and famous, the powerful, believe they’re in control.

And then someone unknown comes out of the woodwork to piss on their parade. Sometimes justifiably, frequently not.

And there you have the internet today, where everybody with power is gun-shy, for fear of rattling the cages of the great unwashed, who want what they’ve got.

There’s an element of income inequality. And lack of upward mobility. Live in the U.S. long enough and you believe you deserve ascension, you deserve a better life. But as you get older and this does not happen you get angry and someone has to pay…the person who has your theoretical job.

I wish I knew the solution. I know that jobs and a social safety net help. But some are mentally ill. Some feel they must defend those they’ve pledged fealty too. Never mind criticize Taylor Swift, come down on Dave Grohl and you start a shitstorm. Which is why so many play it safe. And the terrorists win.

I won’t say I’m powerless against the online terrorists. I’ve learned you can conquer them. By attacking them individually. By hitting them where they live. Criticizing their little lives, getting personal. They don’t like the light shined upon them. If you make it about them, as opposed to the content, they freak.

Which is why I’m all in favor of striking in the middle of the night, when the enemy is unprepared. That’s what the Israelis do. They don’t get mad, they get even. And the world hates them for it. But the Israelis know they’re one loss away from the extinction of their country, they can’t let their guard down. And we can discuss the settlements and other choices the country has made that seem questionable. Furthermore, there are inequities towards the Palestinians in the past, nothing is black and white, but when it’s about your survival, you do what is necessary.

And those not involved criticize you for your behavior.

But they’re not standing in your shoes.

I’m not sure what motivates ISIS. Is it pure religious zealotry, or is it a lack of economic security? Zarqawi was a thief, who was brought up with seven sisters and two brothers. Did this make him a terrorist? Or like a school shooter, was he just nuts?

All I know is fighting terrorism isn’t like the battles of yore, where you puff up your chest and blast ’em back to the Stone Age. It’s a new game. Where intelligence is more important than might. Where strategy is more important than bluster. Where one false move can generate legions of heat you did not foresee. Cheney and Rumsfeld got rid of Saddam Hussein and they destabilized the whole region. And if you believe firepower and boots on the ground can effectuate peace, you believe that online spam can be eradicated.

It hasn’t been, although strides have been made.

And the biggest spammers come from disadvantaged economies, whether it be Russia or Nigeria. Their success rate is minimal relative to the missives they send out, but it still pays, much better than the job that doesn’t exist.

We live in a new world. Where the old knee-jerk responses just don’t work. You can give up your privacy, insist Apple decrypt its phones, but today’s terrorists are sophisticated enough to use secure channels. We’re looking for easy solutions, but there are none.

We used to live in relative anonymity with a belief our world ended at the county line. But not only can you make a crystal clear phone call around the globe, not only can you surf sites around the world, but today the people on the other end can instill fear in your heart and change your way of life.

If you let them.

Sure, you’re scared. Who wouldn’t be. But when you sacrifice your privacy and lifestyle to create a false sense of security you’re the loser.

We need a stronger safety net in the U.S. To head off class warfare if nothing else.

We need to lift up our brothers and give them opportunities, instead of believing what I’ve got is mine and you’re on your own.

We need to realize we’re all just people. And we’re in this together. And solutions come from those who are educated and experienced, as opposed to blowhards with a megaphone.

We’ve got to go on living our lives, we’ve got to take chances, we’ve got to stand up to bullies, we’ve got to be unafraid to express our opinions. That’s our way of life, in a nation built by immigrants where freedom is paramount.

More guns won’t eliminate school shootings.

And more bombings won’t decimate ISIS.

But everybody’s got a family. The Mafia learned there was power in threatening it.

Today everything’s personal. If we go on the offensive we must attack the individual. We must operate like the Don at the end of the “Godfather.”

How can it be that we were so together after 9/11, but so divided today? How did society become so coarse? How did we stop loving our brother?

I’ll argue it’s when the rank and file realized the jig was up, that they were economically screwed.

That’s what’s happening in the Middle East. With a huge dollop of religion thrown in. And we should understand this focus on belief, since we’ve got nincompoops in this country protesting a false war on Christmas and the denigration of everyone who does not believe like they do.

We’re all different.

But we’re all together.

We’ve got the power to communicate, but too often all we get is cacophony.

Root out ISIS. And root out spam and online hate while you’re at it. I’m all for it.

But it’s gonna take a long time. And it’s gonna be tough.

Because the old rules just don’t apply.


You’re just a pawn in their game. You think by protesting freemium you’re saving the world from broke musicians. But Wall Street talks and you walk, and it all comes down to money. And those with the deep pockets are playing for high stakes and they don’t care about what’s happening in your bedroom, the only thing that matters is the boardroom.

The music industry is stupid. But how would you expect otherwise, it’s run by uneducated street hustlers who believe they can win through intimidation and subterfuge. But as skilled as the Mafia might be it’s ultimately no match for not only the government, but the true business titans.

Rdio was doomed to fail because its market share was too small. This is what you don’t understand as you wave your liberal flag and agitate for manufacturing to come back onshore and bleed your heart over the local establishment that’s threatened by the national big box. The people love low prices and they go where everybody else does, and if you haven’t got critical mass you might as well close up shop, because the times they are ‘a changin’. We only want the biggest and the best, the rest are history. Not only in music services, but musicians. We’ve got all the time in the world for the titans, both new and classic, but if you’re not world class, you’re HISTORY!

Like Rdio. Some say its interface was the best. But that’d be like arguing for Beta instead of VHS. Critical mass is more important than quality, as long as quality doesn’t really matter. That’s right, the average punter couldn’t tell the difference between Beta and VHS, even though the former was technically better, all they knew was the latter was cheaper and was what everybody else was using!

YouTube and Spotify freemium are cheaper. And no one’s using Rdio, not to mention Rhapsody and Apple Music… HA!

You play the long game, something the music industry gave up on in the seventies. It’s about establishing careers and then milking them FOREVER! But in a short term economy it’s all about today’s hits and tomorrow’s irrelevant, the CEO’s moved on and his bonus is in the rearview mirror. How can it be that Daniel Ek knows more about business than the record company titans? He knows it’s all about the LONG TERM! And in the process not only has he kicked the ass of Rdio, he’s stymied Jimmy Iovine, who thought music rules transferred to tech, BUT THEY DON’T! How much money has Uber raised? The rest of the unicorns? In tech you spend until you’ve got enough users and market share to turn on the spigot, to make money. Even Evan Spiegel of Snapchat knows this, but not Lucian Grainge.

Spotify’s the best thing to ever happen to twenty first century music industry. Because it killed piracy and spent up the yin-yang on freemium. Most people will pay…BUT NOT YET!

Like I said, it’s a long game.

Something that not only those who ran Pandora but their investors didn’t realize. A famous name goes public and it takes eons for investors to wake up to bad margins and no future. The sucky radio service only operates in a few territories and has got no future, what to do?


As for Ticketfly… Welcome to the great consolidation. In an era where Spotify is valued at a greater number than Live Nation you don’t think someone’s gonna roll up the assets, you don’t see the advantage of owning Universal if you’ve got a deep pocket, leveraging all that music?

The power does lie with the musicians, if only they had some self-respect and realized they possess the juice, the electricity that powers the whole enterprise. Create hits, build an audience, and not only will you get rich you will dictate. Isn’t that what Taylor Swift did? Isn’t that what everybody’s debating about Adele’s “25” release? Forget the rabble-rousing of the has and never-beens. If you’re generating cash you’ve got the business titans over a barrel.

So Pandora’s got to make a move. They’ve got to go to on demand. But their launch is gonna be too late and they’re not willing to lose money on freemium, never mind getting the right to do so, and therefore I’m not betting on Westergren’s company, but at least we’ve got a horse race. And it’s a duel to the finish. When we get to the finish line there’ll be a big winner and a couple of also-rans. Quick, who came in second at the Kentucky Derby? You’ve got no idea, and he who comes in second in the streaming race will be a marginal player. The winner will have 70+% market share. And in tech it’s not about profitability but market share. Get enough eyeballs and you can leverage your way to profitability.

Tim Westergren’s already history, he’s no different from the music execs, a short termer who’s gotten rich and is now nearly forgotten. A tireless promoter he got his audience to agitate for low streaming rates so the company could continue and the end result is the artists have been screwed. That’s right, radio pays differently from on demand. But if even the musicians can’t figure this out, don’t expect the great unwashed to. But now that Spotify and Apple have radio as well as playlists, what is Pandora to do?

What did Amazon tell us to do? Get ahead of the market and keep spending until there’s no one left in the landscape. Now no one can compete, is a failure, Amazon owns the retail world, and has leveraged its assets to become a huge player in cloud computing/storage. Daniel Ek and Spotify have repeated this formula in plain sight and the only ones who seem to believe are the investors/Wall Street, you don’t hear them complaining, it’s only the musicians, labels and writers, saying the company is unprofitable. But the truth is one service is gonna win and make money and then may end up as a feature, a small part of a larger conglomerate. Hell, Amazon gives music away free as part of its Prime plan. Amazon is the sleeping giant here, not Apple. Not that Bezos always wins, but at least he understands the game. Music is a feature, a way to get people in the door. Because it’s the second most exciting thing next to sex. Have some self-respect, you’ve got the key in your hand, turn on the engine.

Sure, we’re switching to electric vehicles. But you still get there just the same, the music doesn’t change, just the delivery system. But just like Volkswagen owns more car brands than you can count, consolidation is the way of the world. There are only three major labels, two big promoters and if you think Spotify, Apple and Pandora can all win you’re clueless.

Once again, the music business is more interesting than the music itself. Because everybody making it wants to be a tech titan, or have the riches thereof. Years from now no one will remember Rdio. Will they remember your band?

That’s your challenge.

Look inward, not outward.

You speak with your tunes, not your social media footprint. Hunker down in your home studio and change the world. Your manager and agent will run interference. Where your music is exhibited, where you play live…that’s irrelevant, that can change, the only important thing is bonding an audience to you.

Rdio didn’t do that. Therefore it’s history. Like so many of the bands of yore, even the ones who had hits!

Summit At Sea

This was not a music industry conference.

There were no bands charged a fee to perform to no one despite believing this was their one big break.

There were no secondary characters testifying about that which they had no contact with.

This was a blue chip group of people listening to household names.

Like Travis Kalanick of Uber, Eric Schmidt of Google, David Brooks of the “New York Times,” but now I’m getting ahead of myself.

The Summit Series, what’s that?

A group of people who wanted me to go to Squaw Valley for free. And like Joni Mitchell sang, I only work sans compensation if you’re a friend of mine.

The Summit Series is a friend of mine now, but not back then. But Shakil Khan, the consigliere of Spotify, told me Summit was the link between the streaming service and Facebook, and if you remember half a decade back, you know that was a big deal. So the next time Brett Leve reached out I paid attention.

Brett Leve. A twentysomething who accosted me at Coachella and told me his organization was buying a ski area. Little did he know downhill sliding was my passion. So, when they invited me to go to their digs in Eden, Utah, to partake of the snow at their newly-purchased Powder Mountain, I went.

And was stunned at the caliber of person.

I was in a conversation at the Lake House with a guy who said he was an “environmentally-friendly VC.” In music business terms, that means he’s out of a job. But upon further investigation, this dude had worked for the government, was then a traditional VC, he had a full CV, he was real.

And that’s when I began my journey to becoming a Summiteer.

That was back in 2013. The next time I went to Utah was a year ago. Whereupon a not quite thirty year old named Kendall Ostrow asked me if I knew about Snapchat Stories, she told me she was going to sell the first series to the service, she was the social media agent at UTA…AND SHE DID!

This was September 2014. Long before most people had ever heard of Snapchat, never mind Evan Spiegel. If anything, they thought the service was about evanescent messaging… Kendall clued me in. I’ve maintained the relationship. I’m all about learning. And when the Summit guys asked me to speak on their boat this past weekend, I said YES!!

Let’s go back a step, to the beginning, and answer the question…WHO ARE THESE GUYS?

The majordomo is Elliott Bisnow. Who dropped out of college to help his father establish a flourishing newsletter business. He and his buddies, Jeff Rosenthal, Jeremy Schwartz and the aforementioned Brett Leve, decided to book Bill Clinton for a gig in New York. You know, the ex-Pres. will go anywhere if you cough up the dough. And they did. Although they were short and Russell Simmons kicked in the extra cash. That’s right, these guys know EVERYBODY!

And then there was a ski weekend and a boat trip and the Squaw Valley escapade and then…

They bought Powder Mountain.

The linchpin is one Greg Mauro. Who’d sold a couple of companies and loved to ski the powder. He made the connection. And the goal is to build a community atop the mountain. Kind of an Aspen meets Sun Valley meets Chautauqua for the younger set. And you might laugh, but they’ve sold nearly a hundred lots and Richard Branson and Chris Blackwell bought in. Did I say they know everybody?

So the plane to Miami was filled with Summiteers. The guy behind us started, he’s married to Su-chin Pak. Remember when she did that doc on MTV about having her eyelids changed? Or not?

And there was an actor and a banker and when we got on the ship…

Our room sucked. But they made it right. Whereupon we went to dinner and hung with Shep Gordon, Supermensch.

I know Shep, we’ve had lunch. But this was more relaxed and friendly. He showed me e-mail he got from people who track him down after viewing the film, like this medical student from Israel asking for cash.

And then we strolled down the hallway and ran into Jeremy Jones, snowboarder par excellence, I get his Protect Our Winter newsletter. And then Sanjayan, who made an environmental series for PBS… No one advertised their wares, but if you dug, everybody had a story.

And the following day the content began.

There were multiple speeches at the same time. I couldn’t go to every one. I can’t talk about every one I went to, but…

I loved hearing Jorge Ramos, you know, the reporter Donald Trump kicked out of the news conference. Ramos gave us the backstory, and illuminated today’s news landscape. He doesn’t expect millennials to watch his show, there’s no such thing as appointment TV for them, it’s all about the mobile, how can he reach them on the mobile? And he knows he can never have the power of the people he reports on, but he can hold them accountable, he can get them to speak the truth. Musicians can’t make as much as techies and bankers, how come they haven’t realized the same thing?

And then Chris Sacca interviewed Edward Snowden. That’s right, all the way from Moscow, not Memphis, via Google Hangouts. Snowden’s so SMART, whether you agree with him or not! Like the Summiteers, he was informed, he knew what was going on, he came to play.

And then there was Harry Belafonte, who said he was inspired to be an activist by Paul Robeson. Who said art was a gateway to the truth, never forget it.

And after John Legend played a few songs, a small guy in a wheelchair came out and gave enough life lessons to keep me pondering for ages. His name is Sean Stephenson, check him out.

Oh, did I mention Eric Schmidt interviewed Travis Kalanick too? I’ve been on some panels with Kalanick, he always came off edgy, but here he was soft around the edges, it was great getting further insight into Uber.

And the following morning, at 9 AM, which if you know me you know is a challenge, Stacey Sher, producer of the Tarantino movies, interviewed Peter Benedek of UTA, who sold “The Sopranos” and “Girls” to HBO. Peter told us that David Chase didn’t think he’d ever get to pilot, didn’t think he’d ever get a one year commitment, never mind multi-season renewals. I resonated with the pessimism, that’s who I am. Also, Peter told us Hollywood has its own rules, and you’ve got to play by them until you gain leverage. Which is why Amazon and YouTube have been beaten by L.A. My surf, my beach, go home or play my way!

Then there was this engineer who’s now a VC who used to work at Google who spoke about big data. I could look up his name, but you probably wouldn’t know it anyway, even though he’s a muckety-muck. Data rules the world, just ask the record companies, they live by Spotify streams. This guy pondered the challenges, it was so much fun to listen to someone so SMART!

And then Troy Carter interviewed Peter Guber and then we heard from the Warby Parker founders… You too can start a company, if you’re educated, they met at Wharton, and are willing to take a risk. Warby Parker is single-handedly saving you from Luxottica, be grateful. And know that being nerdy is no hindrance in tech.

And then there was David Brooks of the “New York Times.” Who initially cracked so many jokes and was so sharp it was jaw-dropping. Ultimately he spoke about morality, I would have preferred to hear him go on about politics, but it was interesting nonetheless.

Now I’m overloading you. Let me just say I also heard Tony Hsieh of Zappos and a bigwig from SETI, who spoke about aliens, and I missed Martha Stewart and Bob Pittman…I needed another weekend to see everybody I wanted to!

As for the hang… Yes, I got to hear everybody’s story, what they were doing, everybody was fully open, there were no cliques.

And I went to dinner with Hsieh and his team and met the guy who used to work for Nordstrom who was the shoe expert who made Zappos work, it was a triumvirate, the shoe guy, the idea guy and Tony, the investor. Tony went to Harvard, he quit Oracle to start a link company he sold to Microsoft. Now he lives in an Airstream in a trailer park and is revitalizing downtown Vegas. The WSJ is skeptical, but spend time with Tony and you’ll become a believer. It’s not that he pitches, it’s not that he’s a two-dimensional automaton, it’s just that he radiates an inner glow…that he knows what he’s doing and is gonna do it, and that puts him miles ahead of most everybody else.

The hardest session to get into was Esther Perel’s. She’s a relationship expert. The most interesting thing she said was “intimacy” was “into me you see.” That’s what we all want, to be known. Despite everybody jockeying for position money is not paramount, people are. You can be rich, but that does not mean you’re happy. You need not only someone to share it with, but someone who gets you…we’re all looking for someone to get us.

At lunch we got into Katherine and Jeff’s relationships.

I spoke with Seth about pivoting his company.

There was a lot of action between the headlines.

And this was an invite-only trip, but there were four figures of people onboard, and you can get on…if you network and know the right people.

I know so many, but I did not know Eric Schmidt. I bumped into him on the boat and asked him about his views on playlists, his September statement that machine learning will predict what you want to hear better than people.

Schmidt punched the clock on me, barely gave me the time of day, proving the axiom that you shouldn’t talk to anybody unless you’re introduced.

But I just don’t play at his level.

But I do have a level, my minions came to hear me speak, I’m just a couple of years and a couple of changes behind him.

I felt privileged to be on the boat. It was the best thing I’ve done all year.

My biggest regret is the trip ended, that I’m back in Santa Monica, sans my new friends, without the stimulation, stuck in my everyday life.

I wanna go back and do it all over, can’t go back I know.

But that’s my goal!

I Wanna Go Back” – (Eddie Money had the hit, but Billy Satellite did the original. Rock may be dead, but songs are not. Listen.)

P.S. Tech is not art, even though the two sometimes intersect. They call it show “business,” but there’s no business without art. Decide who you are. If you’re an entrepreneur, if your goal is to get along, if money is paramount, business is your path. But if you feel you don’t fit in, if you’ve got something you need to express, if you want to touch people’s hearts more than their wallets…art is your way. Just don’t confuse the two. Art has light years more power than business…if you speak the truth, if you’re willing to sacrifice, walk into the wilderness all in the pursuit of evoking a feeling. We need more artists. They change the world, when they stop bitching about getting paid and realize rules are there to be broken.