Netflix Numbers

They’re killing the golden goose.

Because price matters. Otherwise everybody would use an iPhone and a Mac, but Netflix is not a premium product, it can’t win appealing to a sliver of the public, it needs all of it.

This is how the publishing industry killed digital books.

Despite the hosannas of boomers boasting that they saved the physical book, it won’t be long until they lose the war. You know change…it looks like it’s never going to happen, you laugh at the predictions, and then overnight, it takes hold. Can you say digital photography? Can you say internet connection?

People had been using digital cameras for years, but they were expensive. Just like people were communicating via bulletin boards utilizing low speed modems with arcane software. But non-traditional consumer camera companies, like Panasonic and Sony and Samsung, put out products while Nikon and other high-end manufacturers sat by, as well as the everyman’s company Kodak, and then in a year, digital eclipsed film, just like that. Kinda like AOL turned everybody into an internet user, they made it easy.

Now we had a similar situation in the music business, with the iTunes Store. At first the labels considered it a joke, being Mac-only. But then when sales far exceeded expectations and distribution included Windows, suddenly this sideshow was throwing off revenue… And what did the labels want to do? RAISE PRICES!

And who said they couldn’t?

STEVE JOBS!

The labels are greedy, short-term thinkers, why else would Universal have stored all those masters in an unprotected facility? The music business was always run on intimidation, but finally it came up against someone who wouldn’t play that game, Apple kept prices low until consumers were hooked, then they jumped from 99 cents to $1.29.

99 cents. Ever notice no car is advertised at a round number? How it’s always something 99? Even gas! Our minds trick us into thinking $3.249 is equivalent to $3.24. But the truth is it’s only a tenth of a cent from $3.25.

And going back to books, did you see that Pearson is going digital first on textbooks? Physical was killing them. They got no revenue on resale. And prices were so high, sales were less frequent.

Instead, they went to the subscription model. That’s right, for less than print you get something that can be upgraded on a regular basis, like a streaming music service. Your subscription to Spotify, et al, is not a fixed picture, but a constantly rolling enterprise that adds new titles on a regular basis…and as long as you keep paying ten bucks a month, you can hear them.

Ten bucks. Spotify is a public company under earnings pressure. It could immediately raise prices, but it would start hemorrhaging customers. If it’s under ten bucks, it’s a throwaway. Once it eclipses that number, you start to think about it. I mean there are months when we barely watch Netflix, but we don’t cancel. But if you’re counting your pennies, supporting a family, every little bit counts and you look for alternatives that are good enough, like Android and Windows.

There’s a huge market in good enough. Not everybody needs to buy Nike or 7 jeans or… They’ll settle for the knock-off.

So Netflix is under Wall Street pressure, to pay for all that programming. So it keeps raising prices. Now you think they’re going to keep going up FOREVER! You feel the company no longer cares for you, the bond is broken and you start evaluating cash versus benefit.

As for HBO… On one hand, people are accustomed to the $15 price point. But the dirty little secret is that most people don’t pay that $15, or don’t think they do. The HBO fee is baked into your cable plan, which is a negotiation worse than buying a car. I got so frustrated I told my provider to cancel everything but the internet, and just before the clerk did this, she told me for $9.99 more, I could get essentially all the channels I was getting, including HBO…believe me, I don’t think HBO is costing me $15.

Which is why Disney is so brilliantly starting with a low price for its streaming service.

And what Netflix kept doing was adding loads of product while raising the price.

But the truth is most of this product sucks. And it’s an experiment, if it doesn’t immediately generate an audience, Netflix kills it. That’s right the Northern Californians are so into algorithms and spreadsheets that they miss the essence… One or two great shows make up for a slew of crappy ones. Kinda like the CD business!

And I can’t say there’s been a killer show on Netflix this year. No water cooler moment.

And one thing we’re looking for from Netflix is something DIFFERENT! Not only from network, but HBO too. Come on, HBO never would have aired “Babylon Berlin,” no way, not enough people would watch it. But if you struggled through the first few episodes on Netflix, you got hooked, I haven’t stopped talking about the show and I saw it YEARS AGO!

And it’s not like history is unwritten. “Sex and the City” ended and HBO suffered, they needed more hits.

I scan the sites all the time, looking for what to watch. And when I rarely find new Netflix shows, it frustrates me.

And screw the algorithm, showing me what I should be interested in, I have no idea what’s actually on Netflix, I read about a movie being available on the service, but it never pops up on my screen. Where’s the website where I can scan all the content? Hell, it looks to me like they don’t have that much, even though they keep telling everybody they do!

There’s too much television for mediocre to survive. Not only are there so many other options on TV, there are non-series/movie distractions only a click away, like YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat…

In other words, Netflix has lost touch with its customers.

Just like the publishing business. Who in hell is gonna buy the digital version if the hardcover is cheaper, or only a dollar or two more? It’s a bad value proposition. Kids are down with virtual purchases, as they do in video games, but the oldsters still need to be convinced. Most people who are anti-digital readers never even read that way! But when all books were $9.99 or less… If you bought something and it sucked, no big deal. But when it’s $15?

Yup, the book business is just like Netflix. Not aware their business depends on customers. Amazon was growing their business, adding customers and sales. I used to buy a physical book a year, maybe two or three. It just didn’t make sense, $25? But with digital, I buy a book every other week if not more often. But I must admit, I think twice about my purchases at these inflated prices, and I’m pissed they’re so high when there’s no printing and shipping…

You want your customers to LOVE you, otherwise you’re the record business. Devastated at the advent of this century. Customers had been ripped-off for so long, they didn’t feel bad about stealing, And what did the execs say? Nothing could replace CDs, they were perfect! But the customers didn’t feel this way, and they wanted instant accessibility and portability, qualities that are the essence of digital.

And streaming saved the music business.

But sales don’t equal the pre-internet heyday, so the streaming services are…waiting to raise prices.

Let’s not talk about what something is intrinsically worth… It’s only worth what a buyer is willing to pay.

And one thing’s for sure, I’m not paying for every streaming video service, no way. I’m gonna end up paying as much as cable and getting less! I’m trying to hold off on Hulu. I don’t have the time, and I feel it’s an insult.

But, I did pay for Mhz Choice to watch a foreign series, I thought twice, but it was only $7.99 and opened up a world of proven quality television that otherwise I wouldn’t have access to.

Now is the time for Netflix to ensure that it trumps the competition.

All the news is negative. It’s losing “The Office,” “Friends.”

I don’t watch either, but there’s such blowback that my fealty to Netflix is wavering, I want to be a member of a winning cult. And I know Netflix is countering with all the product it still has, and the press is talking about viewer numbers, but entertainment is not facts, it’s about hearts and minds!

And Netflix is losing them.

Tom Bailey-This Week’s Podcast

Tom Bailey Spotify playlist

Dance with me across the sea
And we could feel the motion of a thousand dreams

KROQ was a free-format station.

No radio market was like Los Angeles, where there were five rock stations on the FM dial. And KROQ’s niche was playing those acts that never got airplay, the deep cuts from their albums, breaking acts that you immediately had to go see and did. This is where the ska revolution started, at least in the U.S.A.

But at the turn of the decade, Rick Carroll flipped the format to the “ROQ of the 80’s,” which was top forty for the new and different. It was KROQ that broke not only Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me” and Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love,” but so many other acts, which may have been forgotten but are embedded in my brain. Like the Polecats’ “Make A Circuit With Me.” Suddenly it was hip to write pop songs, albeit in the new style, and the Polecats song had such a hook, I had to buy it, I had to hear it over and over again.

And of course KROQ played a lot of Depeche Mode.

But they also played this cut that slapped you in the face immediately with the popular synth sound, and was a joy to hear every time KROQ played it, and no one else played it. That song was the Thompson Twins’ “In The Name Of Love,” which in my mind was always an update of Ian Dury’s “Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick,” it had a similarly propulsive chorus, you felt like you were being banged on the head, and it felt so GOOD!

But the Thompson Twins were just another KROQ band, you didn’t buy the records. But I knew “Lies” and “Love On Your Side” by heart.

And then came “Hold Me Now.” So simple, yet so right. But this was in an era where people didn’t make records like this. Nothing was relatively quiet and simple, everything was dressed up in instrumentation. “Hold Me Now” was almost like a love song from the sixties, especially the chorus.

And then suddenly “Hold Me Now” was everywhere, it crossed over to pop and other rock formats, suddenly the Thompson Twins were ubiquitous.

It’s hard to do it this way. Many songs are inundated with production, but the essence, the song is not there.

And what put “Hold Me Now” over the top was the last half of the chorus:

Stay with me
Let loving start
Let loving start

Not that there were not a lot of hooks in the song, it was positively magical and…

I had to buy the album, “Into The Gap.”

It’s one of my favorite records of the eighties.

I knew what the band sounded like, I knew the hits, but nothing prepared me for the opening cut on “Into The Gap,” “Doctor! Doctor!,” whose lyrics are at the top of this screed.

This was when albums were still a statement.

“Doctor! Doctor!” immediately set the mood, it was like you were in a seance, an alternative universe, privileged to be a member of a special club, FROM THE VERY FIRST NOTE!

This was not a traditional guitar rave-up, as a matter of fact, the intro to “Doctor! Doctor!” resembled nothing so much as “Funkytown,” which you pooh-poohed at the time, but love every time you hear it on the radio today, at least I do. Hell, even the Chipmunks covered “Funkytown”!

But “You Take Me Up,” the second song, was completely different, it started with a harmonica, or some synth that sounded like one.

Knowing what it means to work hard on machines
It’s a labour of love so please don’t ask me why

Now you were parked in this alternative universe, and Tom Bailey was talking about his work life. He wasn’t regretting it, he wasn’t complaining, it was taking up all of his time, but he loved it!

And the title song, which opened the second side, “The Gap” started with a synth resembling a Jew’s harp, and moved on to an Arabian feel, like there was a snake charmer present, it was hypnotic.

And the finale, “Who Can Stop The Rain,” sounded like the end of something…something you didn’t want to end, so you flipped the record over and played it again and again. This was supposed to wear out the grooves, but you couldn’t help yourself.

And thereafter “Lay Your Hands On Me” was a success, but eventually Joe Leeway left, not that we were ever sure what he contributed, and Tom and Alannah Currie moved to Australia and transmogrified into Babble and…

Then they disappeared.

Until about a decade ago, when Howard Jones implored Tom to go on a short tour with him, and Tom has been plying the boards ever since.

And in preparation for the podcast, Tom’s manager David Stopps sent me this video that he shot on his phone from the side of the stage:

Thompson Twins’ Tom Bailey’s performance at Henley UK

And it’s shot during the day, and everybody knows you don’t want to hit the stage until after dark.

And you immediately notice that everybody in the band is dressed in white, and the supporting musicians are all women.

And I was digging it, enjoying it, then at 2:15 Tom stopped singing and the band stopped playing and…

The audience took the reins. At a volume and with such vociferousness that I’m tingling watching it again now.

This is a festival. Those alive when “Hold Me Now” was first a hit are not in attendance, it’s all young ‘uns…but they know this song and they’re waving their arms in the air and…

I asked Tom what it was like having an audience sing his song back to him and he said…YOU HAVE NO IDEA!

But this was not a one time only affair. Stopps sent me a video from last Saturday, and the same thing happened. It’s outdoors, during the day and the audience is singing “Hold Me Now” at the top of their lungs, a cappella. Start around :45 to experience the magic:

Thompson Twins’ Tom Bailey ‘Hold Me Now’ Shrewsbury UK

I thought Tom was a super cool, unapproachable dude. But he was so normal.

Listen to what he had to say:

iheart

spotify

apple

stitcher

Better Side Of Life-Song Of The Day

Better Side Of Life – Spotify

Better Side Of Life – YouTube

You don’t have to be alone to feel alone
You can have someone and still feel alone

Ain’t that the truth.

I discovered Emitt Rhodes freshman year of college. I know, I know, some people were there before me, with the Merry-Go-Round, but despite seeing that work in the bins, I never bought it, the band had no traction on the east coast.

And neither did Emitt Rhodes’s debut album. It was a press-driven thing, back when press still mattered, when it wasn’t about being holier-than-thou, hipsters with no life reviewing records because it makes them feel important.

No, you’d subscribe to all the rock magazines, dedicated fans could not get enough, “Rolling Stone,” “Crawdaddy,” “Fusion”… We were hungry for information in an era where there was very little of it.

Now we’ve got too much of it. To the point where if you’re into something, you might be the only one.

But in every burg there was an addict, checking out albums that never got airplay, and when you finally connected, you found you had commonality in these songs.

The rap on Emitt Rhodes was he was imitating the Beatles, and therefore he was dismissed. Even worse, he was on Dunhill Records, distributed by ABC, which at that time was barely considered a major.

But unlike Greta Van Fleet, Rhodes was (and still is!) an incredible writer. The changes were endearing, and the lyrics were insightful.

But after the first LP stiffed, most people moved on.

I did not, I bought the follow-up, “Mirror,” even though almost no one I’ve ever run into did. And “Mirror” is less Beatle-like, Emitt is testing his personal limits and…

I’m picking the most Beatle-like track from “Mirror” anyway.

“Better Side Of Life” could fit perfectly on the White Album, if it was cut in ’72. You can imagine Paul sitting alone with an acoustic singing from his heart.

But once the band split up, John was no longer around to tell his old partner when he was creating tripe.

Not that McCartney has not done some great work, but other than “Maybe I’m Amazed,” maybe, the tracks don’t feature insightful lyrics, like “Better Side Of Life.”

This is the difference between the music of yesterday as opposed to today. Back then you ignored AM radio, that was pop, with a limited construct, the key was to test your limits, SAY SOMETHING!

And at first hip-hop said plenty.

But today it seems to be a way to make bank in the penumbra, i.e. sponsorships and cosmetic lines and…

As for pure pop, it’s cheerleading crap, ballad b.s., if you gain wisdom from today’s pop music you haven’t yet hit puberty.

Everything that ever was will never be again
We’re only lonely people now wondering where we’ve been

They’re still together, but they’ve broken up, it’s over.

And then the loneliness sets in. Being with someone is different. The floor is higher, the moments of despair are less frequent,.

Rarely does it take you more than once or twice to learn
That love is so much deeper when you let the fever burn

Commitment. It’s everything. If your significant other is beating you up, hooked on drugs, break up. But if you’ve had that ceremony in front of your family and friends, give it a good shot, stick it out, it’s amazing how you can get over the humps and have a deeper, more satisfying relationship.

And there’s a strong possibility
That we might often fail to see the better side of life

In other words, you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.

Loneliness will capture you in moments of despair

Did you see that story in the news today, how this town in the U.K. built chat benches? Yup, with plaques saying if you want to talk, sit right down.

Loneliness is the scourge of oldsters. The internet helps keep us together, despite the negativity coming from the intelligentsia, but we all crave, need, the human touch.

And it’s illegal to stop by unannounced. So you need to make plans when the truth is you need comfort right now! You’re lucky if you’ve got any close friends at all.

The key remains inside yourself and will forever more

It’s not them, it’s you. All those people who think they can find their perfect person online…I hate to tell them, there is no such thing as perfect, and until you look inside yourself you will never have a good relationship. You might have a slave, addicted to you, a yes-person, but relationships need to be two-way and honest.

So what we’ve got is the desperate, categorically unable to be alone, bouncing from relationship to relationship, not knowing that when the going gets rough, the clued-in hang in there and try to work it out, which never happens quickly, instead of trading their spouse in for a replacement.

That first relationship after the long term one? You think you’ve found a match, you’re excited, this person delivers what your ex did not…and then you find when you tote it all up, your ex was better. Sure, they were flawed in this or that way, but everybody is, even if the flaws are different.

Furthermore, you break up and lose the shared experience, the references, the deep history.

So if you have someone and you still feel alone…make an effort, or cut it off. Don’t stay in stasis, don’t tolerate it, dig deeper, be honest, be open to criticism and insight…if you’re never hurt, if you have no arguments, your relationship is time-stamped.

Not that I know everything, not that I have the answers. But everything I learned about life and love I discovered in music and movies.

But that was back when musicians strove to make music like “Better Side Of Life,” which might have left Emitt Rhodes broke, but a legend.

Final Woodstock?

Live like it’s 1969, die like it’s 1969.

Forget that Woodstock ’99 was a disaster, so was the original edition. Sure, there was great music, over-attendance and peace, but the systems were in no way capable of handling the crowd. From ingress and egress on the roads, to food, to porta-potties.

And financially, it took the movie to put it in the black.

Who wanted this formula replicated?

Certainly not the rural burgs that were inundated with festivals thereafter. Can you say “Powder Ridge”? No one wanted a festival in their backyard. They saw it as a nuisance. Ironically, the children of these elders feel the same way. The baby boomers who wanted to show up, camp and smoke dope, now don’t want their children and their children to be able to do this themselves.

Which is one of the reasons promoters buy the land their festivals run on. Like AEG with Coachella, and Live Nation with Bonnaroo. Sure, there are financial considerations, but you don’t want to be beholden to anyone, you just want to do your show.

But it’s even worse. You’ve got the town elders.

But what about all the cash a festival generates?

Well, at this point it’s mostly within the confines of the gig, and the rest of the town is overrun for the better part of a week, with “undesirables” camping and pissing everywhere and if food and merchandise is sold, there’s none for the locals, who can’t leave their houses, no wonder it’s so hard to get permission.

As for a gig at a racetrack… The only one that works is the Electric Daisy Carnival in Vegas, but Insomniac invests in so much infrastructure, its attendees don’t mind. But just plunking down a show in some venue not prepared for it? That’s not enticing to the audience.

And that’s the unspoken issue with this iteration of Woodstock. If the show actually happened would anybody want to come?

The modern festival is more than the acts, people go to shoot selfies and hang, so the environment must be enticing.

And there’s only a thin layer of acts that will draw people irrelevant of the location, and they weren’t on the bill for Woodstock. You’d need to have Ariana Grande and Drake and maybe Lil Nas X to generate the excitement to get kids out of their abodes, and believe me, festivals are about youngsters. The oldsters can’t tolerate the discomfort. They want to pay for elbow room and access, can you say VIP?

And the business has consolidated and become professional. Michael Lang and his minions staging an independent Woodstock is like Gateway or Kaypro trying to compete with today’s Dell or HP. Sure, there’s equity in the brand name, but not much, never mind a lack of knowledge re today’s systems.

Why did Tim Cook become so successful? Because he’s a logistics expert, sourcing materials, getting product delivered in time to meet customer demand. It’s not sexy, but that’s a key element in today’s festival production. Nowhere has it been demonstrated that Michael Lang has this skill, he just keeps saying since he did it once, he can do it again, like an aging athlete who can’t compete in the new game, and the truth is we haven’t had that spirit here since 1969.

And music doesn’t play the same role in the national psyche. Today the cutting edge is the internet and influencers. Have a festival where attendees can meet the influencers and learn how to become one…that would be more exciting and draw more people than this Woodstock.

And the reason this saga has played out at all, is because Virgin came up with the bucks. And why was Virgin willing to pay?? BECAUSE THE ACTS HAD ALREADY BEEN PAID BY DENTSU! It’s like a new builder taking over a bankrupt, half-built edifice for free. The costs are much less than starting from zero.

But now even Virgin is out.

So the only interesting thing about the fiftieth anniversary of Woodstock is the story of the promotion and failure thereof.

I hope Michael Lang was shooting film.