All My Homies Hate Ticketmaster

Set-up is history.

This is what the movie industry does not understand.

The studios and the usual suspect artists want theatrical releases, because of the attendant marketing. So when these flicks hit streaming services everybody is aware of them.

And that marketing is uber-expensive. Tens of millions of dollars. To promote a film that in most cases does uber-poorly at the box office. The execs and the creators are still lost in the twentieth century, as if we were all home watching Thursday night Must-See-TV, being spoon-fed film advertisements that will inspire us to rush out and see the movie blindly the coming weekend.

But we’re not blind anymore. Critics don’t matter, but the wisdom of the crowd does. Such that by Friday afternoon you can tell whether a film is a hit or not. Once RottenTomatoes ratings appear, the future box office of the film is predicted. Assuming there is any box office. Unless it’s a sequel or a superhero movie, good luck.

And it’s similar in the music business. You release an advance single to create awareness. You prime the public…

To have the exact same experience the movie business does. By the middle of Friday afternoon, the future of the major product is sealed. Word is out, all over the internet, as to whether the project is worth your time or not.

First and foremost, the set-up of yore was based on precepts that no longer apply. Radio is no longer king and sales are nearly nonexistent. It’s about consumption. Does the audience listen over a period of time, racking up streams? First week numbers don’t mean much, all they do is impress the fellow members of the old school network, like the newspaper.

And there’s the creation of anticipation. News stories in advance, bringing the pot to a boil on Friday and… This is not how it works anymore. There’s too much in the channel and no one cares, except the hard core.

Zach Bryan released a live album on Christmas Day. Used to be there wasn’t even any new product in January, never mind over the holiday. Van Halen’s “1984” came out on January 1st of that year and owned the airwaves for a month, there was no competition. The labels had focused on Christmas…

But just like the rest of the world, music is now a 24/7 business. Whether someone listens Christmas week or in the dead of January it makes no difference, but it does matter if people listen!

Now the flaw in most acts’ thinking is believing people care. That there’s a ready audience out there for their music. There’s not. Everybody’s got too much music, they don’t need yours. You’ve got to think small, and see if the story grows.

I’m not saying NPR and “CBS Sunday Morning” and even SNL are going to hurt you, but they really don’t mean much. It’s all about targeted advertising/marketing today, that’s why the online data is so valuable. Most people don’t care and never will. How do you reach those who do?

Ultimately it comes down to the music, and the credibility, who the act is.

Forget the cartoons you see on the pop chart. They come and go. What about the bread and butter artists who are building careers, who are going to play music forever? That’s where the focus should be.

And it hasn’t been there for a very long time. Because labels are inured to the set-up, the system. They massage the product until they believe people will care, with more songwriters and features and mixes, and then they spend money, just like the movie studios, as if this will guarantee success…it won’t.

In other words, we’re returning to the days of yore. True A&R. Nothing is easy. How can you find an act that sells itself?

First and foremost you can believe in Zach Bryan. He’s got credibility, he’s his own man, he’s not beholden to the system. And so far he’s not selling out, there’s no tie-in with the Fortune 500, no brand building with perfume, etc.

In other words, if you want to make money in the music business today, you’ve got to start small, you’ve got to be in it for the long haul. You’ve got to have patience, as an act and as a purveyor. If you want it all now, not only are you doing it wrong, you probably won’t be a success.

And once you gain traction like Zach Bryan, you superserve your audience. He constantly releases new product, which is what fans want most. Especially today, people are not fans of the scene, they’re fans of the act. And the fan bases might not even intersect. You may like BTS or Taylor Swift or Zach Bryan and nobody else. And nobody else cares about what you’re into.

So this live album was recorded on November 3rd, at Red Rocks, America’s second most famous outdoor venue (after the Hollywood Bowl). It snowed. But it was an experience, if you were there…memories are made of this.

But the project was released in less than two months. Everything moves fast these days. If you’re spending time getting it right, you’re wasting time.

And the live album was a surprise. There was no set-up, it was just dropped. And the fans and ultimately the media spread the word.

As for employing “Ticketmaster” in the moniker…

I won’t get into the politics, but Ticketmaster is in trouble. Because it coasted too long, didn’t work on its image, obviously didn’t spend enough on its software. It’s a bad look. The tech companies didn’t used to have lobbyists in D.C., they didn’t even advertise. But when you become big enough, you have to play the game, at least a little bit.

Ticketmaster is always playing defense. And I could delineate the truth, but that’s the company’s job. As a result of the recent brouhaha there might be change.

Anyway, like Radiohead’s “In Rainbows,” you can only use “Ticketmaster” in the name of your album once. No one cared about the acts that asked fans to name their own price after Radiohead, and no one will care about the acts that use “Ticketmaster” in the name of their album subsequently.

In other words, just like in tech, Zach Bryan has a first mover advantage. You’ve got to be nimble today, you’ve got to take chances.

But really it only comes down to the fans.

If you listen to the live album you’ll be stunned by the rabidity of the audience. They’re constantly singing the words. They’re in it with Zach. This is not some show at the summer shed by an act that had hits years ago, or even a pop act with a few that made the chart recently. This is PASSION! People want to belong. They want to be able to own something. They want something to believe in. For far too long we’ve had to believe in tech companies and bros because the musical acts were such nincompoops, tools of the machine. But not Zach Bryan.

I wouldn’t expect a year to go by before Zach puts out new music. Maybe not even a few months. You can’t overload the system, because there is no system, everybody is cottage industry, making it up as they go.

Also, the audience is so hungry, that if they find something they like, that’s great, they embrace it. That’s the story of not only Zach Bryan, but Morgan Wallen. Most offerings are so mediocre, so overhyped, so emotionally hollow that people are stunned when something delivers, and they tell everybody they know about it. And listen to the tracks ad infinitum.

But it does come down to the material. Zach’s tunes are catchy, there are changes, whereas they’re lacking in the hit parade. And he says he wants to create honest country music. What a concept!

It doesn’t matter if you hate Zach Bryan and his music, it doesn’t matter if you never even listen to him. All of us being in it together, judging each other’s taste? That’s positively old school. It only matters if the fans like the music, that’s it.

Can you create something so good that when it’s over the listener needs to play it again? That’s today’s litmus test. You can try to force something on the public, but the odds of it connecting are miniscule.

Watch this space.

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