Frank Ocean Exclusive

So this is what it’s come to. A recorded music industry battered for 16 years, which has seen 60% of its revenue evaporate, has learned nothing, circled the wagons and left the customer out.

That’s right, Napster was a consumer revolution. At this late date, only Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker are demonized, but if you think back you’ll remember, all those acts and execs complaining that fans just did not know how to do the right thing. Which in this case was to give up piracy and consume overpriced CDs for one good track.

They didn’t. They don’t even buy CDs anymore. But these same people are complaining that the audience doesn’t purchase files, complaining that they stream. Proving, once again, if you want to find people behind the curve, just look to the music industry.

But the truth is the music industry is the most advanced of the media enterprises. It’s come through the digital wars scathed, but it’s well-prepared for the future. Streaming has won and it’s been fan-friendly.

Until now.

The movie business isn’t fan-friendly. Read about a flick and you won’t find it on Netflix, never mind Amazon Prime or Hulu. They want you to subscribe to everything and still be left out, which is why the movie business is still battered by piracy. But movies are different from music, despite sequel-mania, the truth is every flick is a one time event, oftentimes seen one time. But musical careers are long term. People want to listen to their favorite tracks over and over, and they hope that their favorite acts deliver new music that will entice them, fans are invested in careers.

As for television… Cord-cutting is real, and although HBO and Showtime have standalone products, ESPN refuses to budge meaningfully. It just announced an app that won’t feature its core events, who’s waiting for that?

But in music, you can find everything you want to hear, right at your fingertips.

Until now.

Because there’s a conspiracy between Apple Music and the industry to change the game, to get everybody to pay for a subscription by putting hit content behind a paywall.

Apple should be investigated by the government for antitrust. How do you compete with the world’s richest company that’s got endless cash on hand? You can’t. It’d be like expecting hillbillies to get into Harvard if slots went to the highest bidder. The rich get richer and the rest of us…we’re left out, just like in America at large, which is why Bernie and Trump got traction, the usual suspects doing it for themselves have rigged the game in their favor, and now the music industry is trying to do this too.

But the truth is few care.

That’s right, I said it, most people don’t give a crap about the new Frank Ocean album. We’ve got an industry that promotes marginal products that appeal to few and makes them unavailable to most people? That’s hysterical!

The biggest act in the business is Adele, and her music sounds like no one else’s. She can sing, the songs are well-constructed, and they appeal to almost everybody. This is the music industry that used to triumph, it’s one being left behind, as insiders pursue a pop game wherein the youth are everything and if you can’t get it on the radio they don’t care.

Is this really helping Frank Ocean’s career?

OF COURSE NOT!

But he can’t turn down the cash. And sure, his songs will be available elsewhere eventually, after all the publicity dies down. And it could work for him, although I doubt it, he’s leaving the looky-loos alone, and this business has always thrived on the casual listener who drives by and gets hooked, but there are few acts of Ocean’s stature.

But there’s all this press!

Funny how the press wasn’t interested in Major Lazer’s “Lean On,” which ended up being the biggest track of the year on Spotify.

We need a free tier. We need a place where casual fans can experience new music. We’re in the business of building lifelong fans, but how do you do this when you can’t hear the music first, when you’ve got to overpay to experience it, that’s a twentieth century model but we’re deep in the twenty first!

For a while there, about ten years ago, the music industry paid fealty to its fans, saying they were the most important element in the food chain.

Every act still does. After thanking Jesus, they lavish praise on their fans.

But it’s dishonest, it’s bait and switch, it’s no different from Republicans appealing to rank and file workers by cutting taxes on the rich, no different from Democrats letting unions wither on the vine, expecting laborers to still go blue.

This is what happens when you neglect your constituency.

But it’s not hard to believe this is happening when Jimmy Iovine at Apple Music used to be a label executive, when Apple used to have monopolies via breakthrough products. Apple Music is a me-too product that works badly that’s locked behind a paywall and the music industry wants it to be the dominant platform so the fan is squeezed and indie acts are pushed down to the bottom where they belong.

And it’s all happening now.

And Frank Ocean is complicit.

Shame on you Frank, and shame on everybody else who takes money from Apple and screws fans. There’s enough money in music without taking every last buck, and the joke is on you, for thinking so short term, you want your music available to everybody, because in these days of information overload we need nobody, everybody is superfluous, you don’t want to enter the marketplace with one hand tied behind your back.

Ron Howard’s Beatles Documentary

“The Beatles: Eight Days A Week – The Touring Years”

Every artist should see this movie.

It could ignite Beatlemania all over again. But it’s the arc that gets to you. Four lads with no future forced to believe in themselves turn into jaded men who just can’t do it the same way anymore.

That’s right, they’re in Germany, playing for eight hours a day and becoming disillusioned. That’s what they don’t tell you, the road to success will not only have potholes, but perceived dead ends, anybody who tells you they’re convinced they’ll make it is lying. But John would tell the other blokes living in one cramped room with a loo down the hall that they were going to the “toppermost of the poppermost” and they’d soldier on.

To the point where Brian Epstein takes notice and takes charge.

Every great act has a great manager. One who not only paves the way, but has vision. Much has been written about how Brian made bad deals, but he got the band deals, when otherwise they’d have just faded into oblivion, ended up as illustrators or blue collar laborers having a laugh at the pub regarding the reckless days of their youth.

Brian Epstein had faith. As did George Martin.

And from there, it was a rocket ship.

And we were along for the ride.

And oh what a glorious trip it was. Imagine sitting at home minding your own business and then having a mellifluous sound come out of the radio that not only woke you up, but changed your life. That’s what the Beatles were, a left turn off the beaten path, one we took instantly, a journey upon which we never looked back, one which made us happy.

And then they sustained. Everybody thought it was a fad, that’s why “A Hard Day’s Night” had to be rushed out, before it was over. The old men didn’t believe, they’d seen this thing before, as for the lads, they were clueless, they were just soldiering on, busy all day, trying to hold on.

And the performances are electrifying. From when if you couldn’t get a ticket you were truly left out, your heart’s desire was to be inside, where you couldn’t hear but you could feel, and feeling is everything.

They were climbing the ladder, they were going for the brass ring.

And then it became meaningless.

Life is about doing what you’re good at endlessly, until you die or retire.

But not if you’re an artist. An artist challenges not only himself (or herself!), but the audience. You go by your gut, if you’re playing it safe, you die inside.

Money was important, but proving their worth, impacting the populace, that was more important.

You see they were testing limits, and we were along for the ride.

“I Want To Hold Your Hand” sounded nothing like what was already on the radio. We blinked, and then climbed on board.

“Rubber Soul” had no singles, it was pooh-poohed and then embraced, it lasted.

And “Sgt. Pepper” was a climb beyond Everest, not only was it unexpected, not only were we unprepared, but they went there and we followed them, we’d follow the Beatles anywhere.

But by 1966 there was nowhere they wanted to go other than home and to the studio. Live gigs had lost their luster. They were disorganized dashes for cash. It was no longer about the music, but “The Beatles,” and that wasn’t enough.

They were cheeky. They didn’t give the reporters what they always wanted.

They smoked. When you see Paul look to George for a light while John is talking to a reporter you light up inside, privy to this intimate moment, this is not stars frolicking for the camera, but real people going about their lives, just like you and me.

But they weren’t.

But they were part of our lives. You’ve got no idea how important Beatle albums were unless you were there. Money was limited, you or your parents would buy an LP and you’d play it endlessly, till the grooves went gray, till you knew every lick by heart. So when you see the story played out on film…

It’s about the music.

But pictures convey a message even more strongly when you’re telling a story.

Beatlemania really happened. Gods walked the earth. They were nurtured by the system and then spread their wings and flew, more attention was paid to them than Jesus. That’s right, John Lennon’s statement may have irked the fuddy-duddys, but not those who truly believed.

And they were scared, of retribution, of violence, because…

It had never been done before. Not on this scale, not in this way. They were inventing it as they want along, and were working too hard to second-guess it, they were running on instinct.

But they grew, they evolved. From puppy love to adult introspection.

And they took us along with them.

This is not VH1’s “Behind The Music.” This isn’t even that multi-night Beatles television extravaganza of two decades past.

No, this is the tuning fork, resonating, getting it right.

Too many of the talking heads are superfluous. Just because you’re famous now, we don’t care what you think about then, the Beatles were for everybody, we owned them just as much as you. But when Whoopi Goldberg talks about being a fan, going to Shea Stadium, you marvel, these four Scousers broke the color line.

Sugarcoat it, put it in a vault, make it a curio.

But you’ll be getting it wrong.

This is the story of my generation. Of being all you can be, of pushing the envelope. Not doing it for the money, but the sheer existential joy and satisfaction.

You’ll be singing along to the songs.

You’ll feel like a voyeur watching footage you never thought existed.

But first and foremost you’ll be inspired. To pay your dues. To get it right. To do what you believe in your heart. To test the limits.

Those are the Beatle lessons.

And they still need to be learned.

Ryan Lochte

These people are athletes, not role models, but since NBC has to sell advertising, the media gets on the bandwagon and venerates these people so out of touch with reality, having pursued their sport doggedly for their entire lives, we’re led to believe they’re better than us.

But they’re not.

Come on, who doesn’t expect there’s a camera everywhere these days?

Crimes of passion may continue to exist, but petty theft, minor infractions, they’re going by the wayside because we’ve got videotape, everywhere. So, if you lie about your exploits, beware.

Of course, we’ve lost a lot of privacy along the way, and that’s lamentable, but this is the world we live in, one in which a certain segment of the public believes it’s above the law, good work Rio cops on holding these frat boys accountable.

Now it’s different with musicians. Musicians have something to say, assuming they’re writing their own material, which too few successful ones are these days, so when your favorite singer opines about something else, we listen, because they’ve earned our trust and attention.

However, the adoration and the degradation of celebrities clash online. Some need to believe, so they police every comment to see if their heroes are torn down. Others denigrate heroes willy-nilly. Meanwhile, the owners of this country, the people who really run it, are behaving heinously, and if you even get wind of this you wonder…why should I be playing by the rules?

Put Philippe Dauman on TMZ. One of the highest paid CEOs in the world who decimated the company during his reign, not only putting Viacom in the dumper but plotting to sell half of Paramount to make the stock climb. And then, when caught in a noose of his own device, he wouldn’t let go, he sued to keep his job and ultimately was paid the budget of a medium-sized city to go away.

What’s happening here? Was it always this bad or did we just never know?

There’s a lot of sunshine shone on bad behavior online. It’s indiscriminate and barely lasts but I’ve got to give Donald Trump credit for one thing, he blew a giant hole in the politically correct speech construct of this nation. Now you can say whatever you want, taboo is out the window, and although Trump might be taking this too far, at least the public world is starting to resemble the real world, one where expletives are employed and people get high and make mistakes…

But somehow the rich and famous rarely pay for them. They apologize and go to rehab and are washed of their sins as if they put themselves in the washing machine and exited after the spin cycle. Where’s responsibility, where’s a sense of shame?

Bode Miller makes less than bright comments, fails to medal and he’s a jerk. Ryan Lochte performs in the pool, busts up a bathroom, lies about it, defaming a whole country, but we give him a pass.

I believe in paying for your sins. Acknowledging your mistakes and then correcting course.

So why doesn’t Philippe Dauman give his payoff to charity?

Why isn’t there a story about Tom Freston, who was replaced by Dauman after he refused to lie about projections. It’s a public company folks, but you can’t speak the truth, you’ve got to underpromise and overdeliver, like Steve Jobs and Les Moonves.

But we put everybody on a pedestal who wins. Not caring if they put their thumb on the scale or they’re jerks truly unworthy of our attention.

Ryan Lochte should be banished from the discussion. He should go home sans endorsements and work at the 7/11, he should fade away and not radiate.

Michael Phelps smokes dope and is a pariah.

But he wins more gold and is a god?

I’ve been whiplashed by a media with no conscience. I just want someone to believe in. But it looks like it’s only me.

We’re all bozos on this bus. You think you’re inferior to the rich and famous, but they’ve just gotten more publicity.

Ignore the shenanigans.

Brooklyn (The Movie)

Saoirse Ronan is that good in this movie.

I know, I know, “Brooklyn” came out last year, was trumped-up as being Oscar-worthy, might have been nominated and even won, but I’ve given up on the Academy Awards, what was once a ritual can now be skipped, whether African-Americans are nominated or not, because movies have jumped the shark, they’re two-dimensional features made for worldwide consumption whose grosses are trotted out as if the money made was equal to quality, but it’s not.

But, the overhype of “Brooklyn” did turn me off.

Like the inane “For Consideration” ads in the New York and Los Angeles “Times” for TV shows for Emmys. Yes, the Emmys are more significant than the Oscars, even if winning doesn’t yet carry the same gravitas, but these ads are a colossal waste of money by a tone-deaf industry propping up a newspaper business that needs to get a grip. Can we cut this self-congratulatory crap and just donate the money to charity, or make more indie films like “Brooklyn”?

It’s slow.

Yup kids, it doesn’t grip you from the outset. Beautifully shot, but I’m watching on an iPad. An Air2, so the image is sharp, but not only is it tiny, I’m not in a darkened room, I’m not taken away.

But…

Eilis has no future in Ireland. There’s no work. So her sister petitions the church to make a place for her in America.

Eilis is played by Saoirse Ronan. And it’s only over time that her beauty is revealed. And this picture would benefit if she were less attractive and her boyfriend too, but that’s not what sells the fantasy. But I’m sitting there asking myself, why would such a pretty woman want to be involved with a plumber?

But that doesn’t undercut the movie.

She’s unsure and she’s homesick and… Too many people don’t cut the apron strings today. Used to be, when I grew up, in the good old days, when you’d walk ten miles to school in the snow, uphill both ways, your parents would send you off to summer camp, you’d go away to college, you’d have no cell phone, and you’d have to find your own way.

Doing your work and making friends along the way.

That’s the essence of life, building your network, which supports you. A skill that too few are good at, they get older and relationships fray and they’re all alone. That’s the epidemic ripping apart America, loneliness.

But two-thirds of the way through this movie, when Eilis returns to Ireland…

Tension. It’s what makes a film, and there’s tension here. Eilis has finally adjusted to New York, she’s finally happy, she’s happier than she’s ever been in her life.

But the old country people are not interested, they want to return her to what once was, for their own purposes.

Being independent is such a challenge. For all the hogwash about parents being their children’s best friends, the underbelly is disapproval and disappointment when they go their own way, which they do less. It’s your one and only life, can you make yourself happy?

It’s much more difficult to do than you think. The first step is the hardest, letting go of the rope, walking the wire without a net, so many are afraid. And those behind them don’t want them to make the journey. Your friends don’t want you to spread your wings and fly, they’re afraid you’re gonna leave them behind.

But the old people are small with their petty wants and desires and offenses, you’ve outgrown them, they don’t want to come along, they want to stay where they are.

And with a little perspective you can see the downsides of where you once were. Eilis is loving being back in Ireland until…

That’s why I moved to Los Angeles, for the anonymity. That’s what’s lacking in today’s society, when everybody can track you online you can’t breathe, when every movement is scrutinized, you become inhibited. And it’s not only the rank and file, but the famous too. That woman in Fifth Harmony being shamed on Twitter, Justin Bieber being hated on Instagram. You’re just living your life…

Or maybe you’re not, maybe you’re bragging.

But the whole world has turned into high school, and that sucks.

The truth is life is about the interior. We focus on the exterior, what we wear, what we drive, our job, all the trappings. But inner desires, wants, angst, that’s what we depend upon art to reveal, because oftentimes we’re too uptight to talk about it, if we can even find words. That’s what’s wrong with the comic book movies, they may have plot, but there’s no truth, and we’re looking for truth. And when Eilis goes back to Ireland and now finds it appealing…

It’s a conundrum. Is every situation in life fungible? Is there one true soul mate, one way of living your life that will make you happy, or are their multiple roads to the destination? And when you’re young, it’s all brand new, you keep asking the questions. And when you’re old, you’re too set in your ways to change, so you live through art, your hopes and dreams are embodied therein.

When Eilis is back in Ireland and is torn between two lovers…

You’ll ache, you’ll identify, you’ll have no idea how it’s going to turn out. Do you embrace the tried and true, family and location, or do you strike out on your own for something better and stay there?

I don’t know.

But I do know this question is expertly asked in “Brooklyn.”

It’s on HBO Go. I suggest firing it up late at night, when it’s only you and your brain rattling around the room. You’ll watch it and you’ll see your life.

Because all of our lives are the same, all the questions similar, we’re all struggling, we’re all presented with choices.

And you’ve got to make ’em.

However hard it might be to come to a decision.

But one thing’s for sure, do what’s right in your heart.

It may not work out, but you’ll have fewer regrets.

And that’s what life is about, not victories, but avoiding regrets. You want to feel that you played the game to your fullest, it’s not about trophies and awards, but experiences and joy, feeling fully alive.

I felt fully alive watching “Brooklyn.”