Rufus Du Sol at L.A. State Historic Park

Why was everybody there?

There’s been no radio, no print, but the gig was sold out, at just over 20,000. What is happening here?

No one exactly knows.

The label head said it was the similarity to Depeche Mode.

The manager said it was Coachella. That they dominated the Gobi tent. And that everywhere they play, when they come back, attendance is doubled.

The agent was flummoxed too. The band’s been around for nine years, it’s been paying its dues, but they didn’t ply down the road of traditional music business success.

Music is not a zero sum game. It’s not tech, where if I win you lose, and if I don’t keep innovating, if I’m not putting up walls around my product and buying or putting my competitors out of business, I’m soon gonna be toast. Every musical act is singular. There’s enough audience for everybody. Assuming you can get one.

Now there’s no rule book in music. No course. No degree. Oh, they’ve got these schools teaching the biz these days, but that’s for middle management, the real winners cannot be contained by an institution. Irving Azoff, David Geffen, Scooter Braun…they’re all college dropouts. These are renegades, square pegs in a round hole, but they know how to make things happen, they’re visionaries, they thread a needle many people can’t even see.

The manager grew up with a member of the group. They’re “brothers,” they’re in it together, after all, who can you trust?

Certainly not Columbia Records, the band licensed an LP to the company which subsequently did nothing. That’s the problem with labels, they just need something to hit, not necessarily your thing, they tell you all they’re going to do, but there’s no guarantee they’re going to do it, usually they don’t.

The band is on Warner Brothers now, but the big radio track has yet to come.

But it’s always about hit songs, whether they get played on the radio or not. The aforementioned manager Danny Robson told me to wait for a certain song, that everybody in the audience would throw their hands in the air and sing along.

This was true. This music was part of their lives, woven into the fabric of their existence, it didn’t matter who else was into it.

But a lot of people are. In this case, half men and half women.

Danny told me they’d done an east coast tour with ODESZA, that it had helped them back when. I said it was the same audience, Danny insisted it wasn’t, that Rufus Du Sol’s audience was older, 25-35.

And Danny was right. These were sophisticated millennials. You didn’t get the impression you were gonna get robbed or run over, then again I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was anxious about going to an outdoor concert at night. I’m not gonna not go, but at this point, mass events in the great wide open…you never know what’s gonna happen.

But everybody looked like they had a job, this was not the ethos of rock and roll, a workingman’s world, but something more upscale.

So what we’ve learned is it’s no longer your father’s music business. Used to be it was all about the label. You wanted to get signed, the company bought tickets. Now it’s more about the live show, the agent is oftentimes more important than the label.

And despite the instant hits of the Spotify Top 50, the acts that sustain have paid their dues, they’ve experimented, they’ve got it down.

As for Rufus Du Sol’s sound?

Bob Moses played before them.

Now for the uninitiated, there’s no one called that in the band.

And the music thumped, it had energy, it took you away from this world.

But the headliner was most definitely Rufus Du Sol, they got more applause, they had a much bigger production, and production is key in this world.

And what world is that?

You could call Bob Moses EDM, but there was a guitar and a bass and drums, this is just not a deejay with a laptop.

And Rufus Du Sol has a drummer too, and the lead singer oftentimes slips from behind his keyboard to play guitar.

You see there’s been an evolution. Maybe that’s why rock is dead, it has stopped evolving.

But Rufus Du Sol was much darker than Bob Moses, with much less thump. There was melody. And the music truly set your mind free.

This is what music used to be about.

Now it’s about going to see the hits played by rote while you shoot selfies…it’s more about the audience than the performer.

But not tonight, not in this world. Everybody was there to be enveloped by the sound, to levitate their own bodies and souls. They wanted a hit of that elixir only music can bring. When done right, it pulls you away from the humdrum world, makes you feel like you’re in a protected bubble, as long as the sound sustains, you’re all right.

Now some might say Rufus Du Sol has been around forever, at least that’s what Phil Blaine told me after the show. He accused me of being a johnny-come-lately.

I am, but at least I’ve arrived.

But most people are out of the loop, and that’s just fine, there are enough believers to make it all work, more than work. You can’t make tech money, nor Wall Street money, in music, but it’s a different profession, it’s about your interior not your exterior.

In the straight world you pick a path and stay on it until you accumulate rewards and then you die. It’s all about investing in the system.

But there’s no system in music. Every act is reinventing the wheel.

So you hone your chops, wait for a reaction, start small before you’re big. Rufus Du Sol played for two hundred, they didn’t start out at the top. Yup, one hit and some acts play arenas! Got to get that money now, while it’s still available!

Most of those acts fade away, not all of them, but most of them.

And then there are acts further off the radar screen. And they play and play until…

They’re touring the world, tired as hell, but with all the perks, the money, the sex, the… They stand on stage and play for multitudes who not only adore their surface, but want to know what they’re thinking, where they’ve come from.

No, the internet did not kill music creation, quite the opposite, in fact.

But the truth is the business has morphed and the oldsters don’t want to admit it. There’s more than one way to skin a cat, but one thing’s for sure, what brings people in is the feeling, the excitement, the energy, the irresistible pull of music. When done right, there’s nothing like it.

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