The story of the year isn’t the AI chatbot, but the risk to Google.

For years we’ve been hearing that these mega-tech companies were indomitable. Forever. If you started a new company they’d either buy you or compete with you, your choice, but they weren’t going to allow you to build an independent unicorn.

Facebook bought Instagram. And then WhatsApp. Before D.C. was fluent in either. They owned the sphere. A juggernaut.

Then came TikTok. Which no one foresaw. And then the Apple privacy restrictions. Facebook is still making money on ads, but the future is not as rosy as it once looked.

As for Amazon… They’ve really screwed up the company. Forget the negative optics of being anti-union, the site itself is becoming unusable because of advertising. Anybody who shops there knows this. And although Amazon is still dominant, there is now an opening for a resurgent Walmart.

And we always thought that Tesla would have competitors, but we didn’t think the company would be wounded by a self-immolating Elon Musk.

So the story this year certainly is not about hardware, despite Facebook telling us so with its nearly dead on arrival virtual reality system.

As for software… We always thought it was about manna from heaven, some startup would deliver something new that would thrill us. And I’m not saying we’re not going to get new stuff, but just not at the furious pace of ten years ago, certainly not in the near future.

Silicon Valley, tech, is mature. And now old companies are being superseded, just like GE.

As for GE… It led the way in financialization. Which ruined not only the company, but the entire country, if not the world. Making money for the sake of making money. Wall Street used to provide the cash to build things. Then it became a casino wherein quants created products no one else could understand and everybody wanted a piece of the action.

And then China hiccupped.

You might have caught this week’s news. That there are not enough young people to support the old people, China is heading for a cliff as a result of its one child per couple edict. Turned out it was totally wrong.

The world is fluid. Take a snapshot today and although it might be similar the following year, in a decade or two it won’t look the same at all.

And it’s not only tech, it’s everything. Look at television.

As for music…

The focus for the last two decades has been on technology. And now it’s shifted to software, the music itself, and no one acknowledges this. Unlike tech, the catalogs of major labels provide power. But the business always runs on the new, which the majors have lost control of. Meanwhile, the usual suspects, the terrestrial radio stations, the media, are still focusing on hit product when hit product means less than ever before.

Zach Bryan is going on an arena tour. And most people in America have never even heard of him! And demand is so great there is essentially a lottery for tickets. And the money isn’t in the records, no way. And Zach’s career is not driven by hits, but by authenticity and credibility. Kudos to Warner for signing Zach, but Zach’s the outlier, the majors aren’t signing anything that does not easily sell.

Don’t be overwhelmed by the hit parade. Never has there been such opportunity for the outside, at least not in decades. You’re building it yourself. And the great thing about music is it scales. It costs even less to sell/stream the millionth or billionth copy than the first. And you can reach everybody.

We haven’t had disruption in the creative sphere of music for more than two decades. We’ve been on this hip-hop/pop train and… In the old days, Top Forty played a smorgasbord of music. No more. It’s like Top Forty is Google and we’re waiting for ChatGPT.

And until the public actually sees it…

We heard about AI forever, but we didn’t get it until we experienced the product.

So it’s less about talking about trends than unique artists delivering what satiates the audience. I’m not talking about playing down to people, just the opposite, something so incredible that people glom on to it and want more, talk to everybody about it.

This is coming.

It won’t be one act that everybody talks about, but many acts. More Zach Bryans. In their very big and profitable but relatively narrow verticals.

And it won’t be about becoming a brand, it will be all about the music. The music will be the identity of the band, which is what the Beatles ushered in and underpinned the entire classic rock era. Matching songs with singers… That’s old school, that’s Yahoo, not even Google.

So this is the time. This is the line of demarcation. A mature music business is ready for disruption. Not via innovative business strategies as much as music. Which you can make and market for nearly free. A huge change from the past.

And the truth is if you do something great you will get some traction. Everybody is looking for great and there’s very little of it and when they find it they tell everybody.

Top-down publicity no longer works. A story can’t break you, but word of mouth can. People have to hear it from others. People trust no one but their friends these days. They’re relatively unreachable. The key is to tap into this friend network. And you can’t game the system, because you need legs to make this work. The word has to be spread from group to group and to happen the underlying music must be nearly spectacular.

You’ve got the tools.

The enemy is not the major labels, the streaming companies or Ticketmaster. That’s completely old school thinking. The only person holding you back is you.

But ChatGPT wasn’t built in a day. It took years. It takes longer than ever to break. And if you try and short circuit the process you don’t sustain. It must be organic. Which means you must be dedicated for the long haul, it must mean everything to you. And sure, you should be available online, but hyping yourself is not enough to get you over the finish line.

The whole world is up for grabs.

This is the time music can fly. Reclaim its place not only in the artistic firmament, but the cultural and political worlds too. Nothing affects people like music. If it’s honest and has something to say. Sure, people need to party, but they’re thinking 24/7, appeal to their brains too.

Zach Bryan is a harbinger. He’s been at it a while. Which is how it used to be. When you heard about an act they used to have already made a few albums, like Zach.

But these acts could never go clean in arenas the first time out.

They could never make this much money.

But today you can.

Start your engines. We’re hungry for your words of wisdom. Aim high, we want to be wowed. You’ve got a shot. Only a few, talented, dedicated people will break through and triumph, but that’s the way it always was. But the wealth will be spread around. And you might not be able to become an overnight billionaire like in tech, but you can have even more influence, speaking truth to power. Put the pedal to the metal!

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