American Idol

Broke the mold.

It posited that there was unheralded talent that the usual suspects, the major labels and their A&R teams, were unjustly ignoring, and that by scooping up singers the public could decide who was best and a star could be born.

It worked.

And everybody making music the old way HATED IT!

That’s the story of “Idol,” how someone, in this case Simon Fuller, decided to turn the model on its head. It’s the story of the twenty first century, with Napster and now Spotify, those willing to think different to the point where those continuing to think the same are scratching their heads, not only wondering where their cheese went, but worrying if they’ll ever eat again.

Innovation, it’s where it’s at.

Smart people embrace streaming and figure out how to utilize it to get ahead.

Dumb people rail against payouts, as if constantly complaining that landlines deliver better fidelity will wipe out mobile.

So we must look to the future, not the past.

What else did “Idol” teach us?

That stars matter. And you can mint them overnight. And the main criterion of success is honesty.

That’s your explanation for Simon Cowell, an unknown Brit who became a household name and incredibly wealthy just by speaking the truth. Because, everybody knows it, and they want to hear it.

But no one involved in “Idol” could see that it was time-stamped, that it wasn’t forever, that it broke the mold but something else would break the mold after it.

Cowell thought it was about singing shows, that if you just messed with the formula just a bit you could make even more money. But “X Factor” failed in America, because everyone had already seen the trick. It was like Mariah Carey singing the same old songs but in a different key. Been there, done that, the public is not interested, the public wants NEW!

And despite being a ratings juggernaut, the “Voice” has not minted any stars. Because it’s about resuscitating the careers of old ones. Bitchiness ruled, competition was heavy while on “Idol” niceness prevailed, the judges were famous, but they were nonentities.

And now we’ve got Harry Connick, Jr. on “Idol,” even Scott Borchetta, believing if people see you you’re successful. But in the modern world everybody has a home, everybody has a presence, everybody’s available, and we’re only interested if you’re new and exciting, if you’re doing something different. And these guys are following the formula, through and through.

So what happens now?

The next revolution in music is coming, online.

It’s already happened in visual entertainment, YouTube stars are huge, bankable and rich.

And Justin Bieber was discovered online. Credit Scooter Braun with figuring out the new paradigm. He moved in when “Idol” was dying. The story isn’t so much about Bieber but Braun, as it always is. The star is just the face.

But Braun didn’t realize we’re living in an age where you’ve got to erase your past as you move ever forward. Not only the cassette and the CD, but the old game of finding nascent talent and faking hysteria to riches. All Braun did was raise money on his past efforts, now those people want their money back.

So it’s about revolution and stars and money.

Let’s start with the last. The culture has changed. People choose professions for cash. If your charge isn’t willing to do anything to make it, to become rich, find someone else.

As for stars… There’s a fascinating story circulating online about the decline of one hit wonders. Turns out there’s no room for them, everybody wants history, an imprimatur of success.

“The Death of the One-Hit Wonder”

As for revolution…

Same as it ever was.

The Beatles, Bob Dylan, they turned the past on its head.

Even Boy George and Culture Club, almost openly gay and dressing in caftans all while singing modern English music filtered through the blues.

And then there’s prog rock… If we know how to play, what can we do with our chops?

And then rap. If we speak the truth the public will resonate, and everybody loves a beat.

And now we’re in the twenty first century, in a lost era for music. Because everyone’s complaining and no one’s innovating.

The public mints winners, especially in the modern era, middlemen are toast.

And the public only lays down a lot of cash when something is new and different.

What is new and different?

Well, someone who yields comprehension from chaos. We’re ready for an online tastemaker, who will have so much power he can monetize it, but we’re living in the old paradigm where everything is great and everything deserves a listen, while the public is overwhelmed.

The labels act like venture capital firms to a degree. They want to see evidence of success and a plan. Their only problem is they refuse to fund revolution, for fear of losing what they’ve got. Incubator, schmincubator, Universal is clueless.

Today it’s not about promotion but virality, assuming something is truly revolutionary. If it’s that good, people will spread the word.

The last thing that good was the aforementioned Napster. It might have been free, but at least people WANTED the music!

Music, when done right, scales.

Stop listening to the old fogeys. Stop learning how it used to be done. Know that in order to succeed you’ve got to turn the world on its head.

Let’s make it simple… How about finding ugly people who write their own songs? That’s changing everything everyone in power believes in.

How about putting music in BuzzFeed movies?

How about a music site that is all about the customer as opposed to shoveling the same information on the dungheap. That’s right, a place where the biggest fans are categorized, a giant competition to anoint the greatest music fan in America! You send in a video why you should be chosen. You score points by going to shows and not only streaming music, but gaining followers. Why in music don’t we make the fan the star, as they do on Facebook, Instagram and…

Because we’re clueless and wedded to the past.

Put your thinking cap on.

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