Today’s Music Business

You’ve got to watch the HBO “Generation Hustle” episode on scam rap, on Teejayx6. The music is terrible, he can’t rap on the beat, yet he signs a big deal with Atlantic Records. Why? BECAUSE OF THE DATA!

Used to be record labels developed talent. They scoured the landscape looking for skilled people and then nurtured them, recorded them, promoted them and then repeated the process until the act either broke through or didn’t, and was dropped.

That’s not how the music business works today.

The business changed twenty years ago, with the advent of the internet. Then all talent was available to all people. You couldn’t find someone no one else was aware of. Then it became about signing talent, not only the best deal, but enthusiasm and…

All that still counts, still applies in fact, but now the music is irrelevant, it’s how can we capitalize on what the individual has already created!

Forget Spotify, if you’re uploading tracks to Spotify you missed the memo, the joke is on those placing 60,000 cuts on the service every day. The truth is no one is listening, and if they are, it’s in very small numbers. And the data is totally transparent, everyone can see that no one is listening, so you’re dead in the water. Which is why today everybody gets started on social media.

Social media is fluid. It changes every day. It’s not so much about creating a track that everybody listens to ad infinitum, but something so outrageous that people take notice, train-wreck value is the most important criterion, you want something the viewers can tweak to their own advantage, utilize to garner views for themselves. That old saw that you don’t want people messing with your music? Completely out the window! If they can’t mess with it, if they don’t mess with it, you’re never going to make it.

So, the best place to start is TikTok. The beauty is you don’t even need a complete song. You need thirty seconds at most. Just the hook(s). And the old paradigm of polishing until you get it right? That’s history too. If something doesn’t work, you just make something new. It’s amazing how many people don’t get this, keep beating a dead horse. If there’s no reaction, then change direction, the public controls success, and if it’s not interested, forget about it. Doesn’t have to be a big number, the number just has to keep on going up.

But forget those caught up in the past. We’re living in the future baby.

So, if you get some traction on TikTok, or Instagram, or one of their many clones, you must make sure you’ve got additional places for people to lay their hat, to spend their time. The number one place is YouTube. That’s where you post the complete song. Yes, if you’re in this to break big as a recording artist you might only need a clip for TikTok, but you’ve got to be ready with a complete song in case someone is interested. And let’s be clear, the song itself is irrelevant, it’s all about THE DATA!

Record companies don’t care whatsoever what they release, just as long as it makes money. And if they believe they can make money with you, they’ll sign anything, literally anything.

Actually, this paradigm started in the eighties, credit Doug Morris. He’d take a record, get it airplay in a market, and if it sold at the store, he’d double down, if not, he’d move on to a new record. Because it’s all about sales/streams/money, never forget that.

And then, Morris instituted a research department. Where employees looked at what was selling in a market, and if they found something unsigned, they’d go deeper, they’d check it out, possibly sign it, like 2 Live Crew. No one thought that Luke Campbell and his buddies were especially good, but they created controversy, got attention, they could sell product, and did. The fact that it was essentially one and done? Atlantic didn’t care, it just moved on to new acts.

After infecting Warner with this process/thinking, Morris went on to Universal and Sony, and in case you’re not a student of the game, that’s all three major label groups, they all think this way now.

But now it’s on steroids. Because the public can create the noise itself, the tools are at people’s fingertips, and labels can hoover up the data. So there are many more potential acts and a hell of a lot more data, and if you’ve got the numbers you’ve got a deal!

Every other musical avenue has been marginalized. If you go to a label and try to get a deal based on the strength of your tunes, you’re SOL. Even if they’re good, it’s too hard for the label to break you, to spread the word, to get a fire started, that’s your job. And the truth is what gets started online is that with train-wreck value, so if you want to make it in today’s music business…

Of course there are other genres, they just don’t put up the big numbers, generate the data that hip-hop and pop do, and therefore the major labels aren’t interested, it’s just too heavy a lift. Sure, try to make it by playing live, but there aren’t that many places to play, the idea of going to the local bar to hear a group play their original music is almost nonexistent. In an on demand world where only the great survives, people don’t have the time, never mind the interest.

But there are scenes, focused on festivals, which then generate heat for acts that can tour alone or together in multiple markets. And sometimes there’s good money there, but the labels don’t care, because they only want to generate streams, that’s where their money is generated. They do call them RECORD companies, as in RECORDING!

On the other side we’ve got the public. Kids don’t see music as manna from heaven, the ten commandments of life, they see it as grist for the influencer mill. And everybody wants to be an influencer. And it’s very fly by night. Who’s big today probably won’t be big tomorrow. You generate a lot of product to make bank now and…you whore yourself out along the way, the scammers in the above episode partner with a household name artist to promote their scam, she took the money, why not? Well, she lost the scammers’ number after the people who got ripped off complained, but…there’s so much noise in the channel and she’s dependent on the hit so it all doesn’t matter so much.

As for Teejayx6 himself? I’m not sure he’s a scammer at all, I think it’s all a hype, a promotion, a way to gain attention, generate data and get a record deal. The attention is more important than the music.

So that’s the game. If you’re scratching your head wondering who cares…that’s just the point. The music business is still running on the aura of the power of music from decades past, that’s not the music business today. Not that you’d expect the labels, or the media, or anybody else eating at the trough to blow the whistle, no, that’s your job. And forget getting consensus and overthrowing the game, you can’t get enough mindshare to do that either. So, chances are you’re at home watching television, or going deeper into your own hobbies. Meanwhile, music, at least mainstream music, has become laughable.

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