Live vs. Recordings

That is the lesson of the Grateful Dead.

Forget all this hogwash about the penumbra, the tape trading, the community, the free music, it really came down to the show. You just couldn’t get that experience anywhere else. The records were imperfect, not a reasonable representation of the band. And although the gigs were spotty, you could see the band was on a journey of exploration, trying to achieve different heights every night. This was not a tour by an act with the show on the laminate, choreographed to a click track, this was a living, breathing thing and although it took decades to build to its pinnacle, it gained acolytes along the way and only became bigger and bigger, to the point where remnants of the old act can still tour today following the same paradigm, can you say Dead & Company?

There’s too much focus on Spotify and recordings and revenue. That’s a game, some people are playing it very well. But if you can’t win there, and believe me, the Dead could not win at pop, they were barely played on FM radio, you must run the other way, and in that case today it’s live performance.

Everything you’ve heard is wrong. The opportunities are rampant.

Assuming you see the landscape differently.

Kinda like a Silicon Valley startup. You’re not playing for today, but tomorrow. You’re investing now for revenue later. If you want it to work immediately, focus on recordings. But when everyone else is zigging, you’re better off zagging. Furthermore, all the money is in performance now anyway.

So what is it you’re doing?

Well, the EDM acts have it right. It’s about the experience, the rave, the audience is not only part of the culture, but part of the show.

As for other styles of music…

There are many ways to crack this nut. You can be theatrical, you can improvise, but one thing’s for sure, you can’t do it the way everybody else does.

The good thing is the internet allows the word to be spread.

The bad thing is there are so many marketing messages that it’s hard to gain traction/spread the word/go viral.

But if you’ve got something different, and you keep experimenting, you can win.

This is the opposite of the recording paradigm, where you hire the usual suspects and make a record by committee. Sure, you’ll release recordings, maybe artifacts on YouTube, but that won’t be your focus.

Everything we’ve heard is passe will come back. The ability to play first and foremost. If you haven’t got the building blocks, you can’t construct the edifice.

So focus on chops.

And focus on honesty and integrity, which are rare in this world. You’re the anti-committee. You’re not playing for everybody, but somebody. You’re singular. That’s your message. This is where you can get what I’m doing, you can’t get it anywhere else.

Assuming somebody wants it.

They don’t want your sour grapes. If you get no reaction, the problem is you. Either you’re ahead of the game or wrong or bad, or all three. So either believe in yourself and pursue, or pivot or give up.

And you can’t be following in footsteps. It’s about your vision, which is new.

And you can’t sell out at the first option. You can’t be a judge on a TV show, you’ll sacrifice all your credibility.

This is the alternative future. This is what’s coming.

We need like-minded believers to lead the way.


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