Charts Not Playlists

There’s a fiction that we all want to be doing our own thing, burrowing down into holes of our own device, satiated with a world only we control.

But the truth is we want to feel part of humanity, we want to belong, and the further we get away from the rest of our fellow human beings, the worse our state of mind.

We want to not only engage with art, we want to discuss it, argue about it. And that’s why music burgeoned in the MTV era…we could all argue about Duran Duran and Culture Club, literally everyone saw Michael Jackson thrill us with his moonwalk.

But today we know there’s Taylor Swift and Kanye West and…

Those passionate about music can’t understand those who aren’t…

And the industry itself lives in a bubble similar to the one enveloping the GOP.

Not only is the money in mass, so is the satisfaction! We all know the story of the Tower of Babel, it’s not a nursery rhyme, but rather a cautionary tale…how did we get so far from the garden?

Prior to MTV there were a number of radio formats. But then the television outlet merged them together and made a monoculture. People who were left out screamed. Suddenly AOR, the rock format, was history. Top Forty was everything… Even hip-hop invaded the Top Forty.

And then the internet came along and blew everything apart and without a manual, and with no sense of history, the industry has not only been flummoxed, it’s wandering in the wilderness with no direction home.

The future is not playlists and the future is not Beats 1.

The future is TRUSTED filters directing the audience where to partake of desirable music.

Apple Music’s playlists aren’t bad, but who made them? We live in a culture of stars, but the makers of these lists are complete unknowns, why should we trust them, why should we pay attention, is anybody listening? Until we heap praise upon list makers, drawing attention and an audience to them, we’re mired in the mud.

And Apple 1 radio is a sideshow. It’s the same damn thing we’ve seen for far too long, which is to take hip insiders and have a party that the rest of us have no desire to attend. Sure, the station has fans, but in an on demand culture, who wants to be beholden to the ravings of lunatics not appealing to them?

In other words, we watch HBO on demand.

And we watch the shows because they’re on HBO.

HBO is a trusted filter. It doesn’t add shows to fill the schedule, there’s not something new every hour. If HBO lays down its cash, we deem it important, we want to check it out.

And HBO has competitors, like Showtime and now Starz. But the truth is, after that…it’s a vast wasteland of programming looking for traction, with over 400 shows a year no one can check them all out, they have to wait for word of mouth to build, which rarely does. Shows get canceled before they get good and reach critical mass and even “Breaking Bad” takes years to become a hit.

We do live in an on demand culture. We do want to check out the wares on our own time. HBO has an app which allows you to watch its shows ON DEMAND! We can stream Beats 1, but we’re more interested in a brief Zane Lowe playlist which we can click on and sample.

So maybe Mr. Lowe is a trusted filter. At least in the U.K. He’s yet to make his bones elsewhere, and so far the hype has not achieved this goal. We haven’t learned why we should be paying attention to Mr. Lowe, his track record of breaking worthy hits, instead it’s all about his story. Story comes AFTER the work. You don’t read a profile of an unknown techie before his company goes public.

Then again, whittling down music to a few hit tunes is anathema to the labels and the musicians. Because it means most people will be left out. They like it this way, the utter chaos that has the potential audience throwing its collective hands in the air.

We will have trusted filters.

And they will be built upon the backs of human beings. Algorithms don’t work with art.

And these human beings’ work may be exposed under the moniker of the corporation, but music will only be healthy when it’s understandable, and now it is not.

We might need a playlist for every genre. But only one, that we all pay attention to.

That’s what radio has right, the playlist. Radio weeds through all the material and delivers the good stuff for its listeners… With too many commercials and jive programming. But what if you excised the deejays and ads from radio, and you didn’t have to listen all at once?

Then you’d have the future.

Like television, music is driving towards the great consolidation. Everybody can make it, but not everybody can be heard.

Businesses depend upon audiences, upon customers. If no one is buying, companies fail.

Music has been failing for over a decade.

What does tech tell us?


All the scuttlebutt in music is what streaming services pay, instead of how many people are signing up, free or not. We’ve got it wrong. It’s not about where people are listening, BUT WHAT THEY’RE LISTENING TO!

I want to find the good stuff. I want to be able to talk about the good stuff with others. I want to go to the concert and enjoy the communal moment.

And so does everybody else.

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