United Masters

Can there be more than one Chance the Rapper?

Major labels are good for radio and TV, but what if they’re not part of the equation? Chance made it online, without the help of the usual suspects, is this formula repeatable?

That’s what Steve Stoute is gonna find out.

Now let’s be clear, he’s not the first in this space. Remember Topspin? And Bandcamp? But maybe, like Rhapsody, never mind Napster, they were just too early. The techies did devour music distribution, they call that Spotify, it rules.

Now the major labels have one thing that cannot be underestimated, their catalogs, which are generating beaucoup bucks on streaming services, with all expenses paid, the money is gravy, featuring a low royalty rate in most cases. That’s right, if you signed your deal more than five years ago, you were screwed. Now there are no expenses, no manufacturing, shipping or returns, but your deal might still have a packaging deduction, even though there is none, it’s hard to get rid of legacy deal points, but not if you start all over with a clean slate.

And the important thing about catalog is the financial cushion, it keeps you afloat while you’re looking for hits.

But what if you’ve already got a financial cushion?

In this case United Masters is financed by Alphabet, i.e. Google, and Andreessen Horowitz, the clean slate people, from Silicon Valley, who’ve revolutionized our world. They don’t improve upon old ideas, they start with new ones, or refine new ones.

Kobalt is revolutionizing publishing. It’s all about their dashboard, you can see how your song is performing, what revenue is coming in, the company is pulling the rest of the publishing industry forward, they have to change, otherwise they’re going to be left behind. Furthermore, Kobalt writers testify that they make more per song than their cowriters with traditional publishers.

Kobalt was financed by Google.

But Kobalt is notoriously bad when it comes to synch, the people problem.

That’s what United Masters is trying to tackle. Google took people out of advertising, can the same thing be done in music?

Google created an algorithm, you bid for your ad space, the ad world has been revolutionized. Can the same thing be done with music production?

It’s all about the data. Like those ads that follow you around the web. How do they know? Imagine if you could target all your listeners, know who they are. That’s what United Masters is trying to achieve. With this direct relationship you can monetize your career in heretofore unforeseen ways. And maximize those ways that do exist.

And it’s all based on fairness and transparency, concepts which are anathema to the major labels.

But the major labels are banks. With usurious interest rates. But if you could monetize yourself, and keep almost all of the money, you could float your operation until you hit the big time.

Will United Masters triumph?

The devil is in the details.

But it’s truly the beginning of the beginning.

P.S. The majors use their catalogs as leverage. Just ask anybody who tried to create a company based on their wares. Spotify was successful because it gave the majors an interest in the enterprise. Hits also give you leverage, but in the past you could not get paid without a continuous flow of product. But now you can.

P.P.S. It’s a business of winners and losers, now more than ever. But the hope of United Masters is it can generate a living wage for the losers, and prop up those on their way to stardom.

P.P.P.S. Music is the canary in the coal mine, it’s always first. In the movie business they keep railing against the unfairness of Rotten Tomatoes, we’re past that stage in music, we believe in the facts, we’re entering the future. If you’re complaining about streaming you’ve already been left behind. Use the new tools to your advantage.

P.P.P.P.S. The internet is about cutting out the middleman, going direct to consumer. That’s what United Masters is doing.

P.P.P.P.P.S. Never underestimate fresh eyes. The labels are peopled by a very thin layer of overpaid, usually ancient execs and underpaid worker bees, but the newbies are not burdened by concepts that make no sense, like the aforementioned packaging deduction.

P.P.P.P.P.P.S. The labels tell you what to do, own your product, and pay you bupkes. This is a business? Once upon a time there were no options. But now there are. Do you want to be told what to do or do it yourself? Everybody’s an entrepreneur, everybody watches “Shark Tank,” if you’re not in control of your own destiny, you’re about to hit a wall of frustration.

United Masters

Medium – United Masters

techcrunch – United Masters

Broken Arrow

She’d pulled away.

Relationships are funny. You’re together, then you’re not. But it’s the in-between that flummoxes you.

I always believed in living together. It made it that much harder for the other person to move out. One argument was not definitive. But once I was married I thought it was…

Forever.

Because my parents stayed together, I was brought up with perseverance and commitment, I believed if I stood up in front of family and friends and said yes I couldn’t go back on my word, people would judge me, be disappointed in me, I’m the kind of guy who makes things work, who refuses to say no. But it takes two to tango, and you never really know where the other person is coming from.

We’d been coming apart for months, ever since the beginning of summer. There were so many weird moments, and at first I fought them, called out behavior, and then I went along with it. And when she suggested visiting friends in Mill Valley I’d never heard of, never mind met, I said yes.

And she gave them a bigger hello than she gave me. But that night we had sex on their living room floor, and coitus connects you in a way nothing else does, it has a way of pushing all your doubts into the background.

But the next day walking around town she was strangely distant, as if we were magnets with opposing poles, she couldn’t get too close.

And then we left the friends and drove over the bridge to San Francisco, wherein she had a desire to visit the Exploratorium, once again, I felt by saying yes it would bring us together, but this was not to be. And when it came to choosing a hotel she refrained from having an opinion, she deferred to me, and when someone does this you know they’ll never be satisfied. And she spent the night on the opposing side of the bed but the following day I made the most of it, I was game, we spent the day traipsing around the city, and then it was time to drive home.

Only she didn’t, want to drive that is. And it’s about 6+ hours, and to tell you the truth, I’m not big on driving at night. I’d rather start early and finish before the sun goes down. I know too many people who’ve fallen asleep at the wheel. Just you and the headlights, for hours, between the lines, it can be hypnotizing, in a bad way. So I thought she’d share the driving.

But she wouldn’t.

So I’m sitting behind the wheel anxious. With hours ahead of me in darkness, no conversation, only a thick tension inside the automobile.

And this was in the era of cassettes, before CD changers hit the car, when you’d drive down the highway and run out of radio stations. You always traveled with a box of Maxells, to entertain you between signals.

Along with some prerecorded cassettes. At this time I had traction, I was on mailing lists, or maybe I went to see John Kalodner and got them out of the Geffen closet, but I had bunch of mass-produced cassettes for listening, for the trip ahead.

And Robbie Robertson was a legend, who’d famously retired his group the Band, which ultimately reformed without him. And now he had a solo album. The song you heard on the radio was “Showdown At Big Sky,” back when you heard the new work of legendary artists. But the album, was dark and featured Robbie’s less than perfect voice, and to be honest I’d not given it a solid chance.

But that’s what road trips are for, catching up. You’ve got time to marinate in new music, wait for it to reveal itself to you.

And to be honest, the Robbie Robertson album is not that palatable, you don’t put it on as background music, it’s made for fans, paying attention, so I was anxious about playing it. But this was long after she’d forgone editorial judgment on what I inserted into the Alpine deck.

So I played the cassette, which flipped sides automatically, unlike the Blaupunkt in my old car, and when the album was done…

I let it play again. I didn’t want to disturb the environment. I needed her help to find another cassette, I wasn’t sure whether she was asleep or awake in the seat next to me, so I let the album play.

And that’s when I discovered “Broken Arrow.”

Who else is gonna bring you a broken arrow
Who else is gonna bring you a bottle of rain

That’s what relationships engender, trust, you can count on the other person to be there for you. But at this point, the track was delivering more than she was, listening I suddenly felt connected.

I want to come when you call
I’ll get to you if I have to crawl
They can’t hold me with these iron walls
We got mountains to climb

So the song is making me optimistic, even though all the signs pointed in the other direction. I’m the kind of guy who believes if I just put my nose to the grindstone, plow forward, I can get what my heart desires. But one of the pains of aging, one of the lessons, is finding out this is untrue. You can put all your effort in and still not get the result you want. And the problem is you get nowhere unless you make the effort, and so few do, so you believe that you’re special and have unique powers and then you find out you’re no different from anyone else.

Do you feel what I feel
Can we make that so it’s part of the deal

So I’m in a hotel that’s changed names, out in the desert for the inaugural SBK Records Convention, and the headliner was Wilson Phillips, who were going to make their debut, before their smash album was released. And they rotated the singers, so we got to sit next to each one of them, but the crowd was small enough that we got to mingle, so I went up to Michelle Phillips and uttered the above words.

She told me she didn’t sign anything without her lawyer anymore. I was stunned that she didn’t get the reference, that she didn’t know the track, but I was a product of the seventies, when we all knew the same stuff, but now this was untrue. Although she wrote her address on a matchbook so I could send her a letter.

I did.

I never heard back.

I didn’t expect to. But it was just another nail in the coffin of my optimism, a year and a half after my ex finally left.

I’ve been rebuilding my hope and confidence ever since.

Broken Arrow – Spotify

Broken Arrow – YouTube

Last Night At McCabe’s

Seems I’ve got to have a change of scene

Joe Cocker hated Traffic’s version, but he was convinced “Feelin’ Alright” was a smash, if only Artie Butler could concoct an arrangement.

They were eating hamburgers across the street from A&M, after a production meeting, and Joe implored Artie to take a chance.

So Artie came home and thought of Carole King and her piano style and came up with the riff, and VOILA!

Artie told that story last night. It was a benefit for Music Rising, which puts instruments in schools after disasters, whose donations are distributed by the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation, which Felice runs. And Richard Foos came up with the idea of this benefit, of alta kachers telling their stories.

First up was Mike Stoller. Did you know he was on the Andrea Doria? And when he ultimately got rescued and got off the boat in New York, his partner Jerry Leiber told him they had a hit with Elvis Presley and Mike said WHO’S THAT?

But Mike’s an artist. His temperament is so different from that of businessmen. He’s not driving, not a force of nature, like Artie Ripp.

Who’s always denigrated by Billy Joel. I figured Artie would be a sinister fellow with a low voice.

But Artie looks like he should be on “Laugh-In,” a boisterous fellow with a ponytail who was there when…

He got a call from San Francisco, about a record…

But they didn’t want to sign with Buddah, an also-ran company, but Artie convinced the Edwin Hawkins Singers to make the deal, that’s right, it was for “Oh Happy Day,” although it wasn’t called that then, nor did the group operate under that moniker.

He sent Neil Bogart to the coast, and Neil said the deal was done, as long as Artie cut off his ponytail, which he refused to do. But then he did, and the contract was signed.

But Artie fascinated me. He was one of a kind, a character, the type of person who could convince you of anything. You know, someone upbeat and knowledgeable who was born to close. These characters used to run the music business. That’s where all the square pegs go, to new businesses with opportunities. Artie started a singer, realized he couldn’t sing or play at the highest level and went into the business, he studied under George Goldner, and then he started Kama Sutra.

But Artie chafed under distributor MGM’s direction, and he started Buddah for freedom. And then he got the rights to Woodstock, for film and record, and the whole thing blew up, that’s when he started Family Productions, and made the ensuing deal with Billy Joel.

And you wonder why Billy made that deal. FOR TEN ALBUMS!

Because Artie was the only one who was interested.

So, you’ve got to play, and you’ve got to go your own way, Artie did both, and he’s a natural raconteur, I could have listened to him all night.

Brooks Arthur told the story of recording “Darling Be Home Soon,” wiping John Sebastian’s vocal and getting in a fistfight with One Eyed Jack Lewis as a result.

But then Jeff Greenberg, owner of the Village Studios, talked about getting snookered by an inmate imitating Michael Stipe.

And Mickey Shapiro talked about Cass Elliott stealing Nipper from Robert Sarnoff’s office.

And Harold Bronson talked about Hunter Thompson running up $300 in room service in less than forty eight hours and abandoning his rental car.

And Jeff Gold talked about uncovering Bob Dylan’s acetates and…

When it’s all said and done, all we’re left with is the stories, and people in the music business have tons of them.

We heard a bunch last night.

 

The Rock Godz Must Be Crazy Music Rising Benefit

Our Music

It was not entertainment, it was life itself.

Yesterday we had to drive down to Rancho Santa Margarita for a birthday party, a two year old’s birthday party, the daughter of my nephew Andrew, who’s become the #3 BMW salesman in America, there I am boasting, I won’t for myself, but I will for him, and on the way down there we were listening to Peter Noone on Sixties On Six.

The world is divided into two camps, at least in America, those who subscribe to satellite radio and those who do not. And I really can’t understand those who don’t. Right now the buzz in L.A. is about this terrestrial station flipping format, I’m getting e-mail about all the great tracks they’re playing, haven’t they ever listened to Deep Tracks?

So we’re in stop and go traffic, and I hear “Big Girls Don’t Cry.”

My mother bought that single. When parents were ancient and out of touch. But in reality, my mom was only 36. Oh, how times have changed, now 36 year olds consider themselves hipsters. But my mother was infected by that track and I played that single into the ground, my dad bought every one of the kids record players, he got them on closeouts, all-in-one devices, so we could have music in our rooms, he loved music, he played the violin, and there was a console stereo in the living room for music acceptable to all, usually show tunes, sometimes classical. That’s how we spent our Sunday afternoons, gray in Connecticut, listening to show tunes. I once made my mother play all of her albums until I finally found a song that was stuck in my brain, it was “With A Little Bit Of Luck,” from “My Fair Lady,” I can still sing it in my head, that’s the amazing thing about music, you NEVER forget it.

And then Herman spun “Itchycoo Park.”

What did you do there, I GOT HIGH! Funny how they had that in a song, that was limit-testing back in the sixties, and believe me limits were being tested, the Beatles came along and blasted all doors open. The only thing similar in my lifetime is the internet. It didn’t exist, and then it did. There were no sites, no apps, no hardware, and then it was all there. Now we’re in the corporate rock era of the internet, with the Big Four worried about their profits more than us, disco came along to decimate corporate rock, what will kill Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon? I don’t know, but it’s funny how the establishment always triumphs.

And Steve Marriott was the lead singer of the Small Faces, before they lost that modifier and changed lead singers and became only the “Faces,” fronted by Rod Stewart, and Marriott became a hard rocker in Humble Pie, before experimenting with Peter Frampton in that outfit, before “Smokin'” and “Thirty Days In The Hole.”

And what blew my mind was I knew not only every lyric, but every inflection. Because that was our entertainment. Sure, we watched television, but there were few channels and it was all dumbed-down but our music was honest, it was for us. That’s what younger generations don’t understand about SNL, it was OUR FIRST TV PROGRAM! The lunatics had taken over the asylum, we caught the references, it was hip. That show on Saturday night today is pure comedy, with little edge, and few shared references, because we’ve all become scattered, we live in a Tower of Babel society and no one gets the references, society has been blown apart, it’s not only fake news, but the tyranny of choice.

And then came “Sunshine Of Your Love.” Which waited a year to appear on AM radio, at a time when only the clued-in were listening to FM, when albums truly burgeoned, when testing limits was the ethos.

But you know what got me off the most?

Hearing “Build Me Up Buttercup.”

I’ll be over at ten’, you told me time and again

It was a period of transition, from ditties to opuses. We had FM at home, but not in the car, you could go to the show, but if you went to a pizza place, or anywhere that had a jukebox, you were subjected to AM hits. That’s what bugs me about statistics, all this b.s. comparing the Hot 100 of today with yesteryear’s. I don’t care how many #1s Mariah Carey had, none of her tracks was as ubiquitous as the hits of the sixties, BECAUSE EVERYBODY WAS LISTENING!

Just like they were not listening in the seventies. Ignore the singles chart of that decade, it’s irrelevant. But the one of the eighties is more correct, because MTV unified our listening, before the internet blew it apart.

You were my toy, but I could be the boy you adore
If you’d just let me know

BAH-DAH-DAH!

That was the key to the song, the “bah-dah-dah.” We were the chorus, that was our job, to sing the background vocals, that was our role. Over time we learned the verses, the choruses themselves, but mostly we waited to fill the accents, to become part of the songs.

Yes, we were part of them and they were part of us.

And no matter how dark the numbers became, we remained optimistic. That’s the difference from today, when everybody believes we’re going to hell in a handbasket, back then were pointing out flaws, evidencing truth, but we believed we were on the road to somewhere better, as opposed to being defeated. Times have changed, everybody thinks we’re going in the wrong direction, but not back then!

So we have music today, and hits, but they’re not the same, they speak to fewer and are conduits of cash, as opposed to being truth spoken to an entire generation. Sure, hip-hop dominates younger listening, but it’s a subculture as opposed to the culture itself. As for pop, it’s so irrelevant it’s starting to fade in the marketplace.

But our songs of the sixties…

They were EVERYTHING!

Our Music – Spotify