The Franzen Book


This is an incredible piece of work.

But not everybody will enjoy it. Because it’s written for a small coterie of industry insiders and Iowa Workshop believers and this makes it a bit difficult to read and is the case with all of the works lauded by these cliques, plot is secondary.

But the interior dialogue is AMAZING!

Yes, what sells best is genre fiction. Crime, mystery, romance. People read for plot. That is not “Crossroads.”

What you’ve got is a family outside Chicago in the early seventies. The father is a minister and there are four children and…what is everybody thinking?

The father is unhappy in his marriage and fixated on a young widow, who trades on her looks to get men’s attention but folds in the process. This is the nature of life, everybody has a wandering eye. How do you cope with it? After your marriage has miles, after you’ve fallen into a rut, you see someone who titillates you, you interact in the breezy way you once did with your significant other, and can you resist the pull?

I’m of a mind that you should. You’ve got history with your partner. To get this far you’ve worked through so much, made so many compromises, the new person who looks great on the surface almost never is once you peel back the layers and get close.

And the people from your past. Do you have one relationship that haunts you? That you think if you only had gone back in time and taken a different path your life would have turned out differently and you’d have ended up much happier?

And how happy are you with yourself now? You’ve gained a few pounds, you’ve lost some hair, you were just going through life and then suddenly you found you were outside the mainstream. You were doing your job, raising your children, and were less concerned with yourself and now what?

Never mind those who are so narcissistic that the focus is always them, those who never fully integrate, never mind grow up.

And just because you’re young that doesn’t mean you don’t have the equivalent interior dialogue. It’s running 24/7 through everybody. You can’t depict it in movies or TV, you can touch it in songs, but it lives most in books, assuming you decide to go there, most people don’t, some do, but almost no one as deep as Jonathan Franzen.

The best thing he ever did was reject Oprah. At the time it seemed ridiculous, a stand for nothing. Who doesn’t want to increase their audience? Well, Franzen was standing up against a system. That commoditizes books and thought. This month it’s his book, next month it’s someone else’s, aren’t we all happy together in the book group. And I’m sure book groups will assign “Crossroads” in droves, but the truth is it’s very personal. It’s nearly raw. You think about your choices, your feelings, you feel human in a world that wants to deny humanity. Humanity is for suckers, it’s all about the dollars. It’s all surface, all the time. Nitwits on parade. The uninformed denying facts. But the truth is even the lowliest laborer has an interior dialogue, it’s the essence of life.

So on one level “Crossroads” is the best book this year. Assuming you make plot secondary. If you focus on plot, read “The Great Circle,” it’s the best. But the truth is Franzen is operating on a higher plane than everybody ese. He’s reaching for the Holy Grail. He’s walking the tightrope. You have a visceral experience reading “Crossroads” that you cannot get anywhere else. He’s heads and shoulders above everybody else, and except for some of the language, Franzen is not talking down to you, he’s just relating a story.

But the word choices.

I’m an educated guy, but there were so many words I did not know. Thank god I was reading on my Kindle, so I could highlight the words and get their definitions. It’s almost akin to reading “Ulysses.” You’ve got a choice, you can skim over what you do not understand, what is not clear on the surface, to get the general feeling, to get the plot, or you can try to understand every word and have the process of reading at times slowed down to a crawl.

Which is why I believe most people won’t enjoy “Crossroads,” why even if they try they’ll stop.

There is absolutely no way these words are part of Franzen’s lexicon. I’m sure he combed the dictionary, the thesaurus, to find million dollar words to replace plain English. Why? To impress his compatriots, the industry referenced above. The truth is there’s not much money in writing novels. You read about the junk writers like James Patterson making millions, but most writers of literary fiction get by by teaching. The goal is less money than respect from their peers. It’s an insiders game that too often resembles a circle jerk. Even worse, the ever-proliferating graduate writing schools are perpetuating this syndrome. It’s all about rewriting, making the prose as dense as can be, making it less readable to appeal to a high court of readers that represents a tiny fraction of the public.

But most other writers are not even going there.

Today everybody writes a book, just like everybody makes a record. The barriers to entry are so low that everybody can play, but even worse, everybody believes they deserve attention. Writing is a skill. It’s not just words. It’s a calling, with a steep learning curve. It’s not for everybody. So thank god Franzen is attempting to climb the mountain.

But I wish he wrote a book with more plot.

For a minute there, based on the statistics at the bottom of my Kindle, I thought the final segment of the book would be an update, where everybody was today. That would have been interesting.

Instead, the period of time is quite compact. Oh, there are extended accounts of history, but just to set up what happens in this one family for a very brief period of time, a matter of months, actually.

And not all choices ring true. Certainly not those of Clem.

Then there are those touches…

You’re just walking through life a nerd, out of the mainstream, and a desirable person comes up to you and tells you you’re attractive.

Or you’re wandering through your life and someone who offends you suddenly becomes desirable and you end up in a sexual relationship that’s so fulfilling you end up questioning all your choices.

And some of the plot points are out of time and out of touch. Let me see…a sixteen year old deep into cocaine in the very early seventies?

But like I said, plot is secondary to the point being made.

And then there are the family dynamics. Who has power, who is overlooked. Does the person in trouble always get the most attention, leaving those hewing the line to sacrifice?

And in the end, no one ends up where they predicted.

That’s life.

And “Crossroads” is the greatest depiction of it this year. Nothing comes close. No other book, no movie, no song. “Crossroads” is life in a world where the public people are two-dimensional making insane comments with no regard for the truth. Public life is a play. An unbelievable comedy with tragic circumstances. Meanwhile, you’re sitting at home, watching the circus go by, feeling detached, like there’s no one on your wavelength, no one who sees the world like you, no one who feels like you, never mind feeling all the time.

But then you read “Crossroads” and find you’re not alone.

You’ll have no desire to hang with Franzen, he’s not a rock star. He’s prickly and opinionated, everything he has to say is in his words in the book. And that’s enough.

You’ll start “Crossroads” and either immediately put it down or look forward to it night after night until you unfortunately finish it. That’s right, you’d like it to continue, to see what happens to these people, how it plays out. But even more you’d like to have this literary companion, this book, to keep you rooted and warm day after day. So you’d feel less alone.

Today’s novels must be under 300 pages. Or maybe just a tad more. “Crossroads” stretches out to 681. And there’s no filler. Franzen wanted to make his statement, he didn’t want to hew to conventional wisdom re length. And it works to the book’s advantage, it’s endless, with twists and turns, just like life.

The hype has been incessant. Turning off so many of those who are paying attention. That’s right, “Crossroads” is not “The Mandalorian.” And there’s not another single in the wings, the story will not continue, the media will move on to something else imminently. But “Crossroads” will stick with those who read it. They’ll be yearning for more. But the truth is there is none. No one else is playing at this level. Never mind most people not playing at all, focusing on giving the people what they want if they’re creating at all. Franzen is giving people what they need. Too bad most people won’t read “Crossroads,” but you should. Because you’ll be touched in a way that will make you feel fully alive, and the member of a tribe. It’s not what happens on the playing field, it’s what happens inside yourself and your own personal interactions. Franzen gets that right. It’s quite an achievement.

Fantasy Band-Lead Singer-This Week On SiriusXM

Who would you pick to be the lead singer of your fantasy band?

Tune in today, October 19th, to Volume 106, 7 PM East, 4 PM West.

Phone #: 844-6-VOLUME, 844-686-5863 

Twitter: @lefsetz or @siriusxmvolume/#lefsetzlive

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From: Tom Rush
Subject: Re: More Covid Attendance

I just played Jorma  Kaukonen’s Fur Peace Ranch in Pomeroy, OH. It was the only one of my 5-in-a-row Midwest shows that was sold out, and I think it had to do with a very smart policy: you buy a ticket, you have a seat, but if you opt not to come to the theater they will live-stream it to your home. Not posted anywhere for any length of time — live only. AND they were requiring proof of vaccination and masks while indoors. It worked!!

Tom Rush


From: David Fishof
Subject: Dennis Arfa podcast

Dear Bob ,
I just finished listening to the Dennis Arfa podcast. Knowing Dennis for over 40 years we partnered the Dirty Dancing Live Tour in 88. 
What was missing from the podcast is in addition to to being one of the top agents in the music agency business is his creative ideas and marketing knowledge that he brings to an artist. 
As he said in the podcast we sold out 8 Radio City shows in 24 hours based on one NY Times ad he negotiated with Radio City. I’ve seen his creative brilliance starting with Billy Joel and all his other clients. He’s been very modest over the years of his ideas which have been winners. 
I also have to say many of the lessons he taught me are part of my daily thoughts.
My favorite is before I make any business decision I ask myself…..What’s the Win!

David Fishof 


Subject: Re: Brandi Carlile Sings Madman Across The Water On Howard Stern

These are musicians playing real instruments very well – and more important, playing a song that caught their attention enough to give it this beautiful treatment. Brandi’s rendition is so great. When we play this song in concert it’s a work of art – a performance – and yes of course Elton is just incredible.

It never fails to grab and hold you. It’s not a song you will doze off on no matter how many times it’s played. You have to be in it all the way. Dynamics. It’s a joy and an honor to play – wish we did it more often (-:

I love Brandi’s choice and I tell all the “youngsters” getting into music don’t be afraid to listen and play what you like – even if it’s not in the Top 40, hip hop tip etc… Follow your bliss – not someone else’s just to be cool.

Thanks for that Bob.
John Mahon – The Elton John Band.


From: Marty Simon
Subject: Spedding on the original Madman Across The Water

That Brandi Carlile version is worthy, not only honouring the Song, but the Record (sound of that track). 
My friend Chris Spedding was called into Elton’s session and played that rich strat low note riff.. I sent Chris your piece yesterday and he wrote back.

“I was only on that one track on that album. The rest was Elton’s regular guys. I think the reason was that Paul Buckmaster had booked a live orchestra and he needed someone who could read a chart! Moi.”

Back when Chris and had a band, I once asked him about Madman and for him it was just a regular morning London recording  session…. But what a great legacy to be a part of. 

Marty Simon


Subject: Re: Brandi Carlile Sings Madman Across The Water On Howard Stern

I was in college, assisting my roommate in booking shows into C.W. Post, when we were sent an early pressing of the Elton John album containing “Your Song.” Suffice it to say that the album that followed with his live album “11/17/70” amounted to a one-two punch of emotional reaction. It had such a visceral impact that I left school to pursue a music industry career. My trajectory wouldn’t have happened without Elton’s befriending me. I wrote a freelance article comparing him to Leon Russell (little did I know that Leon was EJ’s idol) that led to a backstage introduction a few months later in Glassboro, New Jersey. It was Elton’s introduction of me to his music publisher that began a path that would soon lead to my becoming the first American publisher of ATV Music (later the Worldwide EVP), which owned the Lennon-McCartney catalogue.

So, I was intent on meeting Gus Dudgeon and Paul Buckmaster, who were so important to those first few albums. The collaboration with EJ was magical and created music that touched to the core! Years later, when I was working with Barry Mann (of Mann & Weil songwriting fame), I made a deal for him with Lenny Waronker at Warner Bros. Records and brought in Gus to produce.

Bob, you are so right about the Brandi Carlile cover of “Madman Across The Water.” Her creativity and those strings replicate the original with distinction. The music reminded me of an emotional quotient that rarely occurs with today’s music. Your point about authenticity is so important in an age of fabricated tracks, beats and twenty “writers” on yet another unremarkable recording.

To this day, Elton’s genius  continues to be a primary motivation to my aspirations as a music executive with a mission to develop creators of new, powerful, socially poignant music.

Stephen Love


Subject: Re: Brandi Carlile Sings Madman Across The Water On Howard Stern

Bob –

Sorry for the long email first of all. Like millions around the world I’m an absurd Elton John fan and, as a musician and engineer, was obsessed by the incredible sound of these early albums. Not that I cracked the code but it is interesting to see how things magically aligned for him:

Elton – Listen to the demos. The songwriting is so good that all the riffs, hooks, melodies, intonations, phrases, etc are already there. No need to bring a “topline” writer here… 😉 I don’t think we need to say anything else. The catalog, the music, the mind blowing piano playing – it all speaks for itself. You mentioned his voice. I know that Elton likes to say that he prefers his post 1987 baritone voice following his operation after the ragged Australian orchestral tour. I’m definitely not with him on this one.

The EJ band – They are incredible and underrated. These albums are beautifully played and the musicians were literally hardwired to Elton’s brain, voice, hands, etc.

Gus – Brilliant producer who knew when to step in and when to let the band self-arrange. Elton kept him for most of his career and when it did not, the difference was pretty clear (not a stab at Chris Thomas who is equally brilliant but did not get the best version of Elton in the late 70s to mid 80s.

Robin Cable – Completely lost to history. It was before everyone and their mother was asking for credits on albums, movies, etc. Robin worked at Trident, one of the great British recording studio (more about that below) and worked for EVERYBODY: Carly Simon, T Rex, Queen, Genesis, Harry Nilsson, Leonard Cohen, and on and on.

Paul Buckmaster – Gorgeous arrangements and always very creative. “Come Down In Time” (which you mention) is stunning in its simplicity and creativity. Mainly a double bass played in pizzicato and a harp to support this song, then waves of strings. Buckmaster was able to find the right balance between restraint when needed and a very cinematic or theatrical approach to his arrangement (listen to the first EJ album for the latter part).

Trident Studio – Now we get to the most important part. Trident was an oddity and announced a gigantic shift in sound. Olympic Studios, Abbey Road, Decca and the classic studios were all big orchestral rooms. They were built for film scoring, classic music, opera, etc. Trident was totally different. It was the first room with barely any reverberation. It prefigured the classic mid 70s sound that The Record Plant (Sausalito and NY), Producer’s Workshop and my former home Sound City all shared. The sound is not dead but very controlled. It does not breathe as much. Trident was basically announcing this. Listen to Elton’s early albums recorded at Trident. It’s open, it’s clean, it’s precise but it’s not Who’s Next. It does not have as much “air” but it works beautifully. The band is there, Elton’s voice is very present. The engineering was perfect as mentioned above but that should not surprise anyone who is familiar with the rigorous military training that engineers received at that time. Think that Robin’s colleague was no one else than the genius Ken Scott who recorded Bowie (Hunky, Ziggy, etc), Supertramp (Crime of the Century), Lou Reed, Mahavishnu Orchestra, and yes many of Elton’s album including mixing Madman even though he never got credited.

The Equipment – Trident had the best. The Bechstein piano is now famous for having served many masters (Queen, Supertramp, The Stones, etc). I was so obsessed with the sound of that piano that I ended up buying a string of Bechstein until I got close enough that I outfitted one in the main room at Sound City (I still have the piano). All the gear used to record was top notch obviously from Neumann mics down to the legendary Sound Techniques console (I bought the last one in existence and also installed it at Sound City but was sadly too big for studio B at Sound City).

The Label – I know that Elton had his fights and disputes with Dick James but let’s not forget him. Maybe he was lucky but Dick signed The Beatles (for publishing on the recommendation of George Martin) and then signed Elton to who he also give a record deal. Elton may have been resentful in his later years but DJM took a chance when no one else would and they left him alone for the most. You can listen to Captain Fantastic and learn the whole story of the early years through Bernie’s lyrics. It’s all there. If you’re lazy, buy one of the vinyl with the cartoon which tells you the story – it’s fabulous.

Bernie Taupin – 50% of the publishing and 50% of the magic. Yes Elton has incredible talent but Bernie provided the outlet, the excuse, the reason, the path to channel all this boundless talent. It legitimized the songwriting. Let’s never forget that Elton John’s catalog is primarily about Bernie, his life, his emotions, his dreams.

Now, I started my note by saying that things magically aligned themselves for Elton but the truth is that exceptional talent tends to be like an unstoppable vortex. It attracts, sucks and keeps equally talented persons in its orbit until it either exhausts them or exhausts itself. In the case of Elton, it moved in ebbs and flows but, God, when he hits, it just floors you. As he sung: “Harmony and me, we’re pretty good company” Pretty fucking true in EJ’s case.

Olivier Chastan


Subject: Re: Credibility

Hey Bob-
Great piece. You’re right.   

These days, it’s hard to find artists who stand for something or who will stand up for their beliefs despite what anyone thinks.

However, there are a few left.

One such artist—still—is Patti Smith.  If you read about or attend her current performances, she continues to speak her mind and pay tribute to other artists who share her artistic values.

And she has always been like this.

I have a couple of good stories that will give some insight about her—she is totally for real—no pretense.

I had the pleasure of being her marketing person at Columbia Records when she released “Trampin.”

We had been offered some opportunity for exposure on MTV—I think maybe Patti was to be interviewed—I forget the exact promo details.

Patti had no manager, so I had to speak directly to her about everything.  

Record execs typically hate when an artist has no manager, but for me it was amazing.  

After all, Patti is a treasure—having that time with her was a fantastic experience that I will never forget.

Anyway, back to the story.

I spoke to Patti about this offer from MTV and she turned it down immediately.

“Why?” I asked.

Patti replied, “Because I don’t like the way women are portrayed on MTV; they’re objectified.”

She went on to tell me that she didn’t let her daughter Jesse watch MTV, so therefore how could she justify going on the channel to promote her record?

She didn’t like what MTV stood for.

Another example was when Patti got mad at me for ordering a car service to take us to a radio interview.  
“I don’t need a limo. Let’s take the subway.”

And that’s what we did. We walked to the West 4th Street subway station and rode the subway up to Q104.

Me and Patti Smith, riding the subway together; what a trip.  I’ll never forget it.

Anyway—the point is—there are still some good ones left…

Mark Feldman


From: drmrsdad
Subject: Re: Covid Attendance

Went to my first Live Concert since the March 10th 2020, Celebrating 50 Years of The Allman Brothers Band, 2 weeks ago in Nashville at The Ryman. 
 At 60 years old, this is the only band since my Deadhead Days that I will travel to go see. I’ve seen them 14 times since 2016. Travelled to Nashville twice, before this recent show, Kentucky, Detroit, LA, PA and locally in NYC.  The VIP Offer which I paid extra for was cancelled right before the show due to COVID protocols which I had no problem with, and they refunded the difference between the cost of my seated ticket and the VIP package. Proof of vax or Positive Test 48 hours before the show were required. I’ve been fully vaxxed since April. I have another ticket to see them in NYC next week. I have been diligent with my approach to life in COVID times. I have no problem wearing my mask when required and even wear my mask at a concert that has all the requirements above. I do this for all the “moral” reasons, but I do this because, God Damn it I want the concert industry to come back, because more than listening to my LP’s I fuckin love the live experience! The rush of preparing to head out to a show, I get to see my friends from all over the country who I haven’t seen in over two years, feeling the pulse of the crowd when the music is searing through our bodies, and reeling after the show with friends, mulling around before we say our goodbyes and return to our “normal” lives.   

After the Ryman show a member of the band tested positive. I saw him before the show heading to the Gift Shop, No Mask. I was with a friend who asked to take a pic, he said, “I can’t be next to you, you know COVID and all”. Now I can’t be 100% sure, but based on some social postings by he and his family members I think this band member wasn’t vaxxed. He’s posted videos of himself saying he’s feeling better, 8 days later, various symptoms each day, blah blah blah… During his “quarantine” he was replaced by his tech for the next couple of shows. Now two other members have tested positive and the rest of the Tour is in jeopardy. Like WTF!  I didn’t pay to see your tech play. How jipped must those fans who attended those shows have felt? You want us to be loyal, you want us back at the show, giving you our hard earned cash for tickets, travel expenses/lodging  and  swag… and you can’t even keep yourself safe! This is your livelihood and you risked it for some fool idea that you’re not going to get vaxxed!!! It baffles my mind how stupid and idiotic people can be. 


Subject: Re: The Kacey Musgraves Kerfuffle

A few years back, before I stepped aside from assisting the process after 8 years, I once whole-heartedly suggested, in a core-room meeting, that there could be Bronze, Silver & Gold Grammy awards (3rd, 2nd & 1st like the Olympics) given in every category to be more INCLUSIVE and encourage more artist participation to the entire program – but was instantly laughed at. Then one year we found that a major record company’s British CEO had planted a ringer in our process room to ‘ensure’ one of ‘his’ artists got pushed forward (they didn’t, they got rooted out) and then the next year our ‘room’ was taken over by a member who had been trying to get one of his artists a Grammy by lobbying other members in the room, was misguidedly given adjudicating control (and yes his artist did then get ‘his’ Grammy and cake too) plus so many other shenanigans that are too long to go on about. At the end of the day the ‘Chief’s real vision is that all the Tribes are paying the Chief’s mortgage, pension and expenses plus the serious overhead of the offices on Olympic Boulevard, Santa Monica. The real artistic and music process is secondary or even third to the self glorifying. Shame, as the core idea of the Grammy’s in its real principle is a good one, just poorly fulfilled. 

Eddie Gordon


Subject: Re: The Twitch Leak

Hi Bob,

I’m a long-time fan of your letter and as a fellow member of the tribe, I appreciate your perspective on life, tech, politics & the music industry.
I run a music production school in San Francisco and have been actively producing music & sound for video games for many years now.
Many who come to us to study music production know full well the state of our industry. It’s for that very reason that I pushed us into video games over twenty years ago and we provide a comprehensive training program for sound for games. As a result, we have seen many of our graduates who originally came to us for their passion for music go on to pursue very successful careers in game audio for companies like Sony, Microsoft, Facebook, Blizzard Entertainment, and many more. We’ve even had a long-standing association with The Game Audio Network Guild with whom we have created a scholarship program. 

There’s no doubt that making a living as a recording artist can be challenging at best but, those who have the bug, know that making music is not an option, it’s who you are. It’s a driving force and a raison d’etre that you can’t escape so ultimately your passion drives you. Fortunately between the tech world and video games a massive industry has been born that creates tons of opportunity for those brave enough (and smart enough) to venture forward. It’s definitely not a cakewalk and requires a deep understanding of a multitude of sound design and software skills that most musicians and artists are completely unaware of, but for those brave enough to take the plunge the rewards can be great and very fulfilling. 

Stay well and keep doing what you do!

Greg Gordon


Subject: Re: Easy On Me


Will be interesting to see the 30 album presale figures. I expected the 1st pressing black vinyl, the “limited edition” cassette single, the limited edition retail white and clear vinyl, to sell out. Like me, I expect many fans bought one of each. Going into fourth day, no sellouts. They must have a massive number of pressings. Or people are waiting to hear more of the album. Those who keep close watch know an artist may add signed copies to their store. It has become industry standard for artists to push sales with signed items. But, Adele having to do this? 

John Kauchick

Easy On Me

It’s an album track.

Expect very short legs. There must be a hit single on “30,” but this isn’t it. This is a setup, Adele coming out with her viewpoint, prefacing the tone of the album, I can see it from an artistic standpoint, but not a commercial one.

Adele’s success was amongst oldsters who were infected by the radio when CDs were still a thing. End result? Adele sold three times as many copies of “21” as any of her competitors, an achievement akin to Michael Jackson’s with “Thriller,” but there was that original infectious track, “Rolling in the Deep,” which begged to be replayed, it burst with energy, albeit somewhat controlled, generating a tension that’s the essence of a hit.

But there was more. “Rumour Has It,” “Set Fire to the Rain”… “21” was an album, a heartfelt work in an era representing a turning point that the mainstream media was unaware of. Not only were we switching from CDs and downloads to streaming, social media was growing, our country was fracturing, yet somehow Adele seemed to unite everybody. Selling classic music with melody and slick production in an era of hip-hop beats, selling the songs in a way none of the melisma plastic people who focused on pipes as opposed to meaning could ever do. “21” was a breath of fresh air, because it hearkened back to what once was, a world where the single was just a sales tool for the album, where the body of work was more important than any single track.

The single track dominates today. Oh, big names release new albums and seemingly all of the tracks show up in the Spotify Top 50, but soon the focus is whittled down to one. And, if the act is lucky, another one replaces it, and then another one. The most successful at this paradigm today is the excoriated Morgan Wallen, who stepped in deep doo-doo. He put out a double album which was eminently LISTENABLE! With changes and hooks and not too much of the pandering Nashville is known for. But most acts are lucky if one track sticks, and it can stick for over a year, can you say “Blinding Lights”?

So in popular music, in hit music, it’s about the track. And most people only go that far, why go deeper when the rest is endless filler and there’s so much more to investigate? Of course, every successful act has a fan base, which will go to see them live, but even if you go on a stadium tour, you only reach a small fraction of listeners. And then there are those with hits who can’t sell a ticket, and today it’s all about the tickets. Ticket sales have been the metric for this entire century, even though the mainstream hasn’t caught up. Want to see who’s a star? Check the ticket counts. As for the “Billboard” chart? It’s manipulative and unrepresentative. And furthermore, if you don’t make hip-hop or pop you’ll be guaranteed to almost never make the Spotify Top 50, even though you might be doing boffo at the b.o.

That’s the metric for recordings, Spotify. You can see how many times each track is played. The demand.

And the truth is the younger the act skews, the more plays it has on Spotify. Now as of this writing, “Easy on Me” has 40 million streams on Spotify already, quite a feat in three days, but will it sustain? I highly doubt it, because it’s not a hit single. Which is okay if hit singles follow it, and having worked with Max Martin I’ve got to believe there are hits on “30,” but once again “Easy On Me” isn’t one.

Then again, failure in the marketplace doesn’t stain your career the way it once did. As long as you follow up with a hit, the public is ready to embrace it. The old days of a calculated battle plan are history. If you’re a major act and you’ve got a hit song on your album it will surface. Fans will find it and then radio will react and…

Radio built Adele. But don’t expect much airplay on “Easy on Me” two weeks hence. It’s a snooze, it’s a tune-out. It’s a statement, but a statement isn’t necessarily a hit, just ask Bob Dylan.

And the truth is “25” was nowhere near as successful as “21.” There was pent-up demand in the marketplace, there was a tour with many fewer seats than buyers, but that was more than half a decade ago. In the interim, the music marketplace has fractured even more, everything big is smaller, universal mindshare is impossible to achieve.

But Adele achieved universal mindshare before the nichification of music. She’s really the only act everybody knows, other than the young listeners who only came of age in the past few years.

And the media has been appealing to that mindshare. There have been stories EVERYWHERE! People have asked me about Adele who don’t seem to follow popular music whatsoever. Their interest is piqued. Adele represents inclusion in an era of exclusion.

But media means almost nothing these days. All the traction happens online. To the degree radio matters, it always follows in the footsteps of what is happening online. And you can’t fake a hit online, not of multiple hundred millions of streams. The public either embraces it or rejects it.

Notice that all the talk of Billie Eilish is now about personal appearances, live, on screens. The truth is her new music resonated with a hard core but then stopped. The public has moved on. The public is only interested in hits. How many hits do you need to sustain a touring career? That’s being debated right now. Used to be pop stars’ ticket counts rose and fell with hit singles, but today it appears if you have enough hit singles people still want to see you.

So, the truth is Adele’s music is out of step with the Spotify Top 50. But that was to her advantage in the past, will it work for her today?


But in the CD world, it was sales, not spins. How many times did those oldsters play those CDs? And one thing we’ve never been able to conquer, the fact that youngsters listen to music more than oldsters. They’ll play the track dozens of times, whereas ten times would be nearly unheard of for many oldsters.

So, Adele’s Spotify numbers…can they compete with those of the hit acts?

You can see the conundrum. Everything has been quantified. CDs are history, as are track sales. In a streaming world only, can Adele maintain her status atop the heap? In a world where you have to compete with the 850 million streams of Justin Bieber’s inane “Peaches”?

It’s nearly impossible to follow up a phenomenon. Michael Jackson kept trying and it ultimately killed him. The Eagles made one more album and then broke up. Carole King had a few more hits and faded away. Alanis Morissette is still touring on one album, without “Jagged Little Pill,” no one wants to see her.

And with “Easy on Me” Adele is posturing “30” as an adult “Jagged Little Pill.” Raw and reflective in its own way.

But no one could live up to “21,” NO ONE! And so far Adele hasn’t either.

And the truth is Adele gives one of the best performances extant. She’s one of the great performers in history. Her patter and banter with the audience pulls at your heartstrings, it’s undeniable. But when it comes to hit music…

We’ll get another rush of publicity when “30” comes out on November 19th. Stories about “Easy On Me” will fade away, because with so much in the marketplace, media moves on. As for word of mouth? We’ve never ever figured out how to measure it. But one thing is for sure, it’s faster the younger you are.

So, “Easy on Me” might be forgotten, seen as a set-up after the big hits arrive. But “Easy on Me” is neither a one listen wonder or a track that demands repeatability, as a matter of fact you might have a hard time making it through the entire thing.

But one thing is for sure, Adele will sell tickets. Forever. Maybe the new albums don’t have to be that great, maybe she can continue to experiment. Time will tell, but so far what we’ve got here is a disappointment, despite the mega streaming numbers reflecting pent-up demand. Everybody’s hungry, foaming at the mouth, and then they move on unless the new project is so interesting, so rewarding, that it is irresistible. “Easy on Me” is not.