Final Aspen?

My fingers are tingling a bit. You see I stayed out too long skiing at Elk Camp yesterday with Chris and Barbara Jones.

I met Barbara on the lift at Snowmass. What, was it 1998? And then she and Chris invited me to their annual Halloween party, in West L.A. I might have been the last to leave, I had so much fun hanging with the people!

That’s what Aspen’s about, the people. Most of my social life is based around the people I’ve met in Aspen. Because the conference isn’t like the usual music business clusterfuck. There are no bands, no hype. It’s about issues. Discussions. Reality. Like the conversation I had with Frank Riley on the bus to Snowmass this morning.

Frank is Wilco’s agent. He’s been Jeff Tweedy’s agent for fifteen years. Ever since the advent of Uncle Tupelo. Did Tweedy go through bad times? Never mind rehab, it’s tough keeping a band alive. But if you believe, you don’t give up.

Tickets for Wilco’s tour just went on sale. It went clean immediately. That’s what fifteen years worth of dedication will buy you.

How did we get to a non-singing J. Lo? Yup, Vince told that story on Thursday afternoon, Tommy Mottola chewing him out for letting her sing on Letterman. She’s not SUPPOSED to sing, it’s all about image!

But today a $400,000 video won’t buy you much. All the old nineties tools…you can employ them, but you come up empty-handed. It’s a new music business now. It’s about bands and fans. It’s about relationships. That’s what the Web offers. All those assholes who lost their jobs running labels who said that no act ever broke on the Internet just don’t understand that THEIR kind of act hasn’t broken on the Net, a ubiquitous superstar…but acts are breaking. Rather, they’re building. Growing. Into sustainable entities. And it takes A LONG FUCKING TIME!

Invest in your act. Learn how to play your instrument. Connect with your fans. Put tons of images and photos on your Website. Don’t give up to go to law school. There are NO OPTIONS if you want to make it in the music business.

The whiners are gone. The easy money is history. Only the lifers remain, the people who NEED to be in the music business. And they’re working with acts with the same passion they possess.

And that’s what it’s about, PASSION! Hearing that record and needing not to buy it on iTunes, but STEAL IT, because you just don’t have enough money to feed your music addiction.

The old players have got it all wrong. It’s not about a walled garden, charging a fortune for admission. It’s a matter of connecting with people, making music that they want to hear forever. They’ll give you all the money they’ve got. The most passionate downloaders are the most passionate concertgoers, they’ll even buy the CD to hear the music of their favorite bands in a PRISTINE FASHION! But they want the privilege of being able to surf and find new acts. They’re always in search of greatness. They’re fed up with the pabulum that’s been fed to them by the media manipulators.

To tell you the truth, I haven’t loved anything Wilco has done as much as 1996’s "Being There". But the thirtysomethings, they testify to me about the band, they believe in the band.

As for their Volkswagen deal… Fucked up. Because it didn’t garner one more fan. It’s not about impressions, bands are sold by word of mouth, one fan to the next.

We don’t want casual users. We’re leaving the casual users behind. It’s too much effort to reinvent the wheel every time. That’s why Tommy Mottola lost his job. The return on investment was no longer any good. The bands had evanescent careers and nobody wanted their records when they were done.

But they still want Springsteen. And they still want all the other classic rock acts on Columbia. And Warner too. Isn’t that what the Led Zeppelin hysteria was ABOUT?

I didn’t learn about Zeppelin on television. It was the buzz.

And you can no longer manufacture buzz. Buzz has got to be real. Because there are people out to bust you for your shenanigans, and most don’t have time to pay attention anyway.

But if people find something good, they’ll give it ALL their attention.

And for the last four days, I’ve given AspenLive all my attention. It’s the highlight of my year. Tomorrow, when I’m gone, I’ll feel the emptiness.

That glow from the show? That high you had for twenty four hours? That’s what cemented your fandom. It had nothing to do with the backdrops, the special effects, but the vibe, the music.

The music is king once again. You don’t have to look good, you just have to play well and have something to say.

Will vapid pop stars continue to be flogged? OF COURSE! But there will be fewer and fewer, because it’s almost impossible to make any dough doing that anymore. You need a 360 deal and advertisements and movies… It’s damn hard.

But if you make one great record, and you’re in it for the long haul, and you can wait for the virus to spread, you can play music for the rest of your life. You may not own a Rolls. Your mother’s friends might not know who you are. But when you hit the stage, you’re going to hear a roar of appreciation that will put a grin on your face just like when your first grade teacher gave you a compliment. You’re gonna feel like life’s worth living. Because you know what you mean to these people. You’re part of their lives. You help them get through. You have a RELATIONSHIP!

No relationship, no future.

Fuck branding, fuck sponsorship, fuck placement. Focus on music. Great music finds its own way.

This is a read-only blog. E-mail comments directly to Bob.