Missing The Mania

I just read in MusicAlly that Fortnite has 200 million registered users.

It almost made me want to play. Because I want to check out every phenomenon, and I want to belong. Never underestimate the power of membership. We are social animals, and we feel best when interacting, when in the flow of life, not sure what is going to happen next.

But Fortnite is truly a phenomenon. Kinda like “Game of Thrones” or “Black Panther.” Where is our phenomenon in the music business?

The last one we had was in 2002, when Kelly Clarkson won “American Idol.” Insiders, aficionados, excoriated the show, but the public tuned in in droves, and anointed Kelly and Simon Cowell stars.

Simon was different from network TV, he had an edge and he was honest. And he didn’t seem to be bothered by disdain. He was an exotic animal, and he’s worked this personality for over fifteen years, in a world of too much me-too, especially in music.

As for Kelly Clarkson… She could SING!

Sure, oldsters pooh-poohed this, they wanted someone who could write, but it turned out she could do this too. And when she hooked up with Max Martin and Dr. Luke she produced a track so powerful that it became iconic, ruling the world at the end of 2004 into 2005. That’s the power of a hit single, that’s the power of “Since U Been Gone.”

Since then?

We used to have phenomena in the music business on a regular basis. Genres changed every three years. But no more. We’ve got new acts, but to a great degree they’re doing the same old thing. It’s not exciting.

And the public is not involved.

I know, I know, the concert business is booming. But so much of that has to do with the social media era. Going is an event unto itself. Hanging with your friends, demonstrating you were there. Which is why festivals have burgeoned.

But as for the talent on stage…

We always had a medium to push the message further. FM paved the way for album rock. MTV paved the way for English new wave. And the internet paved the way for hip-hop.

But that was eighteen years ago.

What now?

This business is driven by talent. Outsiders who do it a little bit differently. Who plot their own course. Isn’t it funny in 2018 we’re still talking about “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Is it because we haven’t come up with a replacement?

It’s kind of like the Dark Ages, we’ve lost the plot.

I know everybody’s bitching about recording revenues, but if you’re a hit artist you’re making more money in adjusted dollars than ever.

Is the bar to entry too low? Is there too much product? Is the creative community demoralized?

Music was always the most immediate medium.

I think it’s about the song. We’re too far from the garden. We need more melody, more you can sing along with. There’s your participation right there. Way back when we got together and strummed guitars as we sang the hits of the day. Nobody does that anymore. Is it that they can’t play guitar or the songs just aren’t worth singing?

Country’s been sanitized.

Hip-hop is only about the bleeding edge. If you don’t have face tattoos and get arrested you can’t gain any attention. What’s next, dismemberment?

For every adolescent who thinks facial mutilation is cool, many more people think these “performers” are freaks who have lost the plot. You want to bring everybody along.

This is the opportunity.

Song camps should be doing just that, writing songs.

The breakthrough is gonna come from outside the major label system. Because the major labels are moribund, running on fumes, they’re GM in a world of Tesla, they don’t believe in risk.

We’re talking about art, we’re talking about conception. Devo couldn’t play that well, but they came up with a hit concept. Frank Zappa could play very well, but couldn’t resist commenting on society and its foibles.

And then there were the Doors and Queen and Led Zeppelin, who didn’t sound quite like anybody else, who the establishment pooh-poohed upon release, before these acts became icons.

Maybe Simon Cowell had it right. Maybe it’s not about a competition show, which both Apple and Spotify have tried and failed with, but edge, tension, music.

Music should be the great unifier, music should be pushing the envelope. This is our game, we invented it!

But somehow we’ve lost the formula.

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