The Defiant Ones-Episode Three

The internet killed the music business.

That’s right, it wasn’t only about recording revenues, it was about UBIQUITY!

Walk into an exec’s office in the nineties and MTV was on. That’s what broke Dre big, rap too, sure Jimmy got Snoop and Dre on the cover of “Rolling Stone,” but even though that rag is a shadow of itself today, it was already over the hill back then. It had been replaced by a new boss, cable television.

You see MTV News. You see Michael Lewis’s wife Tabitha Soren and are brought back to an era when the original VJs were gone, but MTV was even more powerful, radio had rolled up and become corporate, and we all drank at the mouth of Tom Freston’s station.

At first your mind wanders, all this hogwash about Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson, who cares? I’m not saying that Trent is not talented, I wish he would get back to making music, pushing boundaries, but so much of the non-rap stuff released by Interscope was ultimately forgettable trash, whereas “The Chonic”…

That was “Sgt. Pepper.”

Now this is where the series goes off the rails. Because they leave too much out. Dre was locked up in a contract with Ruthless, and we do live in a nation of laws, remember, the labels love that, they always go back to the deal, and then…

Suge Knight gets involved.

We’ve all heard the stories.

I heard it from Jerry Heller.

Let’s just say…

The story’s not in this video.

Nor is the true story of Michael Fuchs.

The real story is Doug Morris was off the rails, he gained too much power at Warner Music and abused it. Made Mo and Kras feel like second class citizens, and they didn’t like it. So that’s why Doug was pushed out. And to Doug’s credit, he learned his lesson, he stopped the publicity shenanigans, he made friends, he was more behind the scenes at MCA/Universal.

And there’s no mention of No Doubt’s label, Trauma.

As for David Geffen’s genius, his record company went out of business because it had no rap. He got rid of the Geto Boys. And I’m not saying this wasn’t the right decision morally, and David had already cashed out, but the music was turning black, before it went white with Eminem, and Geffen was left out. We’re all eventually left out. Hell, give Jimmy credit for reinventing himself, when you stop hearing it, you should go, or hire others to hear for you, even Ahmet famously said there’d be a point where you no longer got it.

And then there’s C. Delores Tucker and Warner getting rid of Interscope and there you have modern America, the corporation always triumphs, even if it’s wrong. That’s right, TW merged with AOL, spun off AOL, got rid of the cable system and now is gonna sell HBO and the rest of the TV assets, the magazines are long gone, while the music lives on. Hell, they sold the whole Warner Music Group, just for a couple of billion, they couldn’t wait until things turned around. That’s corporations for you, businessmen, they do what’s good for them in the short term, screw long term value, screw the shareholders ultimately, just do it for yourself.

Whereas Jimmy and Dre triumphed outside the corporate system, especially with Beats, that’s why their story is so genius. Nobody in music today, not in the major system, has their own money at risk, not at the label and not at the promoter, they’re all lackeys, working for the man.

Whereas revolution always comes from outside.

So, “The Chronic” changes everything. It’s everything that rock is not. Vital, of the street, new and different. The Seattle sound peters out, and rap…

Not that they don’t know their roots, when Dre quotes Stevie Wonder’s “Living For The City” when he’s walking around New York, you can only smile. There’s always a continuum, nobody comes from nowhere.

And the nineties are too recent, too pored over to rewrite history.

But by the end of the episode, even Jimmy admits he was scared. And Tupac dies. And I remember writing about it on the internet. Because ’96 was the Summer of Love online, when everybody bought a PC just to play, when AOL was the dope, when we all got turned on and dropped out, when we dedicated hours to the service, connecting.

And we haven’t disconnected since.

Took a while for everybody to catch on.

Eventually everybody got hooked up. Then came high speed connections and Napster. Still, CDs ruled, Eminem blew up, but disruptive disasters are all the same. We see them coming, we hear they’re coming, but they don’t arrive, but then, just when we’ve given up, they do. We heard digital was gonna eclipse Kodak, but it never happened, not for a decade, and then within the span of a year, it did. We heard that file-trading increased CD sales, all kinds of hogwash, but then the recorded music business cratered.

And the wise ones are using the new tools to do something different.

And the baby boomers scratch their heads and denigrate. Home recording studios? Streaming? YouTube stars? Vine stars? Live streaming?

This is where the action is, this is why Jimmy’s screwing up at Apple, he thinks he’s in charge, but he’s not, he’s bringing old precepts to a new business. Paying for music? It’s got to feel FREE! Beats 1 radio, in an on demand world? Hand-curated playlists in an era of algorithms? Secrecy in an era of transparency? No public data in a world ruled by data?

He’s hit his Waterloo.

Dre seems to have petered out, it happens to the best, they no longer feel it anymore, they don’t get hard for the old work.

And that’s when the new generation takes over.


P.S. I was hipped to the fact that you can stream all four episodes on demand. I’ve been watching it on my computer. So, GO FOR IT!

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