Antiheroes

They used to dominate the music landscape. People who were the “other,” who seemed to march to a different drummer, whose values were different from those of the rat race.

Like Woody Guthrie. Like Bob Dylan. Like the Rolling Stones.

Sure, eventually the Stones became members of the glitterati, but we laughed about it, how we invaded the upper reaches of society, how things were on our terms now.

They haven’t been on our terms for quite a while.

I was listening to Barry Diller on “Recode/Decode” and his attitude made me puke. Like he single-handedly could give back to society. How about if he paid more taxes and we built it! He knew everybody, from Gates to Bezos, and kept testifying about the good they’d done in society, talked about how Zuckerberg was gonna figure it out and when confronted with “billionaire bashing,” he was essentially silent.

Billionaire bashing, We used to revere the wealthy, pay fealty to them, want to be like them, rich, in private planes, raping and pillaging…

That’s right, too many of these supposed “job-creators” took and took, especially jobs, and then gave little back.

Kinda like Trump. That’s how he got elected, he was supposedly a billionaire and he knew better. Now we know he doesn’t know nearly anything at all. As for his supporters…they believe in the racism he promotes, the anti-immigrant screeds, but they didn’t have to get these positions from him, then again, maybe they’re southern rednecks or prairie people left behind as the country moves forward, just like the denizens Charlie Daniels sang about before he became a Republican. That was the word in the sixties…you’d better not bring your long hair and coastal values to the south or you will pay a price, it’s the same today.

And the right wing rose up under Trump, and then what ensued was a BACKLASH!

That’s what we’re talking about here. To piss the right off, I’ll call it the payment for forty years of Reaganomics. Let the rich run free and it’ll trickle down to the poor. How’s that working for the underclass, for the middle class…IT’S NOT!

Therefore you see the rise of progenitor Elizabeth Warren. And then AOC. These people came from the outside and insiders hate them. AOC toppled a long-established Congressman for her seat. They’re not doing it to get rich, to become a lobbyist, to go to work at the corporate law firm, rather they’re standing up for what’s right, remember that?

Doesn’t matter if you disagree. If you’ve got a problem with Warren’s roots. The country is against you. The country is pissed and motivated and so far, the stars are not musical. Michelle Obama got the biggest applause at the Grammys. And Walter White did everything to help his family, he didn’t want aid from his rich friend who ripped him off.

Standards, principles, they’re out the window.

But now they’re back.

Music is in such a bad place. All we’ve got is moneygrubbers at the top of the chart. As for rebelling…I’m not talking about getting in trouble with the law.

We’re gonna get a whole new set of stars. More like Jason Isbell than Lil Yachty.

That’s how they came up with the “rock star” moniker. People who could do it their way outside the constraints of society. Wreck hotel rooms and then pay the bill. Leave hundreds of thousands behind, and fly back to England. Sure, Led Zeppelin’s music was great, but the myth was even better.

And John Lennon proclaimed the Beatles bigger than Jesus. Now winners at award shows keep thanking God, even though facts tell us our nation is moving toward atheism. Just another way performers are out of touch.

But everybody is making beats and rapping while the truly creative have jettisoned their dreams and are working hard in the straight world just to make a buck.

This is the shift. After the pushback. We want more honest performers. Refusing to play for oligarchs, standing up for people as well as animals.

The ship turns slowly, and then it’s completely turned around.

That’s the point we’re getting to today.

The vapid artists will be history overnight, just like almost all were at the advent of the Beatles.

Oh, who am I kidding. Music has gone from a leading enterprise to picking up the crap after the elephants, not realizing the circus has been canceled.

The labels only support what already sells and the streaming services take no responsibility for breaking new acts and the public goes underserved, which is why they’re getting behind politicians, addicted to the news. Meanwhile, all we’ve got is the 808, an ancient sound, and songs about lifestyle.

The RBG movie is a phenomenon, but its song can’t make it on today’s hit parade.

Authenticity. Marching to the beat of your own drummer. Money subservient to message. Hell, Dylan’s “Dont Look Back” is more popular now than it was when it was made. Why? Because Dylan refuses to cave, to play the game.

We need fewer game players.

It takes a long time to start a new movement in today’s fractured society. Took decades for the pushback to arrive. But it’s happening. And we’re gong to see the effects in the music business. It won’t come from the suits, but people who resist them.

You don’t need to be rich to be intelligent. You don’t need to have a college degree to make a statement. You don’t have to play by the rules to win the game.

But it takes a special individual to do this.

They’re coming.

Parcel Pick-Up

Felice asked me if I ever rode the horse outside the supermarket.

I said yes. Although I then thought about it. Surely I had, but most times my mother declined to honor my request to plug in a dime.

In return I asked Felice whether she remembered parcel pick-up.

I got a blank stare.

Then, on Bloomberg Radio, channel 119 on Sirius XM, I heard them talking about Wal-Mart’s numbers, which shot through the roof with the death of Toys-R-Us, and that the company was expanding curbside pickup of groceries to a thousand more stores…

DIDN’T WE HAVE THAT IN THE SIXTIES?

Maybe you don’t remember, in the days where you paid for food with a check and not a credit card, in the pre-scanner era. But you’d pay for your groceries and a bagger would put the paper bags in a cart, akin to the one the postman delivers your mail in when you come back from a long vacation, and that cart would be placed on a system of rails and then you’d drive your car to the curb and they’d place the bags in your trunk and…WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO THOSE?

They seem to have disappeared with S&H Green Stamps.

My mother never bothered with stamps, nor coupons, life was too short. But when we were kids, we got the books, we pasted in the stamps, and found out we could never afford what we wanted.

But King Cole had no stamps.

It was the Whole Foods of its day. The Stew Leonard’s. Opened in 1958 it had sixteen checkout lanes and even sold furniture… It was the future, right now. It was for gourmets.

You’re five years old and you’re wowed by chocolate covered ants. Yup, they sold those, along with dried grasshoppers. They were ahead of their time, now to save the environment everyone is talking about eating insects.

And by this time I was too big to ride in the grocery cart. That was another breakthrough, the built-in seat. But my sister Wendy got to. And we’d push her around the store… When you’re a little kid, you want to push the grocery cart, it makes you feel powerful as you point out all the things your mother won’t buy you.

And when we’d check out…

They had parcel pick-up at King Cole, but it went underground, to a whole new location!

This was the tech breakthrough of the fifties. Kids are fascinated by conveyor belts and Rube Goldbergesque constructions. The fact that our food went underground, that was like a ride at Disneyland, which we saw on TV every Sunday night but had never been to. We always wondered, could we get in the cart too? We were certainly small enough.

And then we’d go out to the Ford Falcon, pull up to the distant destination where our food was, actually, just across the parking lot, and drive home.

Now yesterday was not like today. Most mothers didn’t work, and most families didn’t have full-time housekeepers, never mind nannies. So, a mother would have to take her kids with her to the store. And you know kids, they never want to be distracted from their fun and games.

But if we were going to King Cole!

This was before seatbelts, when safety was a non-issue, when dashboards were made out of metal.

We’d climb over the seats while our mother was driving. We’d delve into the bags and extract some Fudge Town cookies or bread. The car was just another playground.

And it wasn’t only King Cole that had parcel pick-up, Grand Union did too. Even the A&P, where my mother refused to shop, claiming it was dirty.

This was a standard feature, you’d see the rollers right out front. There’d be a doggie door between the store and the outside. A kid could watch the parcel pick-up delivery system for the entire time his or her mother was shopping, when you got old enough to be let out of her sight.

But parcel pick-up seemed to disappear, long before the advent of self-service gas stations. Seems like something is always lost in the march to the future. Like vent windows. I bet kids today have never seen them. But before the days of auto a/c, you’d crack the vent and it would blow air right into your face and it would feel so good!!

But now Wal-Mart is delivering your groceries curbside. Will the metal rollers of parcel pick-up arrive next?

A&P 153 - Parcel Pickup

Or, comb through the pics here:

Parcel Pick-Up

Artists Are In Control

This is what the internet has wrought.

For fifteen years we heard about recorded music revenue, how the business was being decimated, when the truth is the only people losing power were the labels themselves. Suddenly, the acts were making more. The truth is record deals were a lousy proposition unless you were a superstar and could get it all up front without worrying about sales, for a while anyway. But if you were a developing band, or couldn’t renegotiate, the deal paid you little, but the only way to get noticed was via the record company’s efforts.

That’s now history.

From the Beatles to MTV the acts were in control. But MTV ushered in the era of money, right after the crash of the late seventies, when disco ate rock and then the whole enterprise collapsed. Suddenly, there were few avenues of success, and if you made it, a whole lot of coin rained down. So there was an opportunity cost in releasing stiff records. And the old model of artist development was broken. It made no sense to sit by acts that might make it to the middle at best, you needed to hit home runs.

That’s still the philosophy of the majors, to their detriment.

Because the world got bigger, and they’re not in control of it.

And a record deal is no longer the only way to get heard.

The last decade has been about the transition from sales to streaming. If the labels were smart, they’d kill physical and files tomorrow, because that would force buyers to buy in to streaming, where the label makes so much more in the long run. But despite selling forward looking product, the music business looks backward, and it’s run on a gangster mentality. It’s not what’s good for the business, but what’s good for ME! This is how Paramount lost Marvel, the purchase would have dented executives’ bonuses.

So the majors used their leverage to stall and then finally license streaming outlets. But that’s now history, streaming is here to stay, Spotify is never shutting down, so wielding your catalogues as a threat…that don’t play anymore.

So, the labels control less of the marketplace than ever before, they’ve lost their leverage with distribution and their traditional promotional power centers, radio and television, are on the wane, they mean less than ever.

In other words, you can do it by yourself. All the tools are at your fingertips. From production to promotion to distribution. Can you say PRO TOOLS, INSTAGRAM AND SPOTIFY?

This is the labels’ worst nightmare, but they don’t realize it, they’re too busy trying to make up lost revenue and screwing the artists. But you can’t screw the artists, they won’t stand for it anymore. The labels could have fixed their accounting… How come Kobalt can do it and they can’t? They could have cut fairer deals. They could have been partners as opposed to shylocks, but that’s not the culture at the labels.

But they are a bank.

But now it takes less money than ever to make a buzz.

And the promoter pays you.

Of course the deals are bad when you’re starting out, but if you can sell tickets, you can rewrite them on the spot, and make tons in a digital era where the live experience is everything.

But the promoter doesn’t want to manage and invest in you.

Of course Live Nation has management in-house, but that’s just a remnant of the Azoff days, no one there knows exactly what they’re doing.

A management powerhouse is more akin to Red Light. However, that’s a disorganized outlet where if any manager gets traction, they leave. Can you say Moe Shalizi? Or Ron Lafitte before him?

And then there’s Full Stop, moving into the future under Jeffrey Azoff with his father Irving looking over his shoulder. Pound for pound they’ve got the best, most profitable acts.

Every other management company is positively cottage industry. Maybe very lucrative cottage industry, but way less powerful.

But the point is, who is going to control and direct the acts in the future?

Historically, managers don’t want to invest. Some do, but most would rather look to the label and the promoter.

And it’s true, the promoter develops acts these days, live, where the real riches lie, but they’re not eager to expand their footprint into the act’s business.

In other words, in a world where an act is a bad business person, there’s a vacuum. Unless the labels adjust quickly, they’re going to lose more and more power.

Is the hole filled by a new kind of management company?

I can speculate, but I’m not sure.

But one thing is for sure, the act is in the catbird seat with all the power. You can speak directly to your audience, you can make demands, you’re reliant on almost nobody. And you’re making more bank than you ever were before as a result of increased ticket prices and new opportunities.

Then there are the nowhere nobodies bitching they’ve been screwed. Maybe no one wants to listen or see them. But chances are, they too are using the new tools to play for little cost, even if they may not be winning.

It’s good when the acts are in control, because they create the art.

But they need no league to survive. No NBA is necessary. Each act is its own league.

And acts know best.

It’s an artist-centric world today, the days of Tommy Mottola and CD replacement monies are long gone.

If you want to succeed today, you’ve got to service the artist.

Or you’re screwed.

Best Keyboard Player-SiriusXM This Week

Tune in tomorrow, Tuesday February 19th, to Volume 106, 7 PM East, 4 PM West.

Phone #: 844-6-VOLUME, 844-686-5863

Twitter: @lefsetz @siriusxmvolume/#lefsetzlive

Hear the episode live on SiriusXM VOLUME: HearLefsetzLive

If you miss the episode, you can hear it on demand on the SiriusXM app: LefsetzLive