The independent music world will continue to grow. As the mainstream continues to shrink. The independent growth will come primarily from acts that play live. If you’re going for chart success you’re in one world. If you’re trying to build a fan base you’re in another. Don’t expect the mainstream press, still dominated by the people who missed the political ascent of Donald Trump, to acknowledge this, but it will become self-evident to those engaged in the music sphere.

Ticketing is heading for a crunch point. The public still doesn’t understand it, but even worse, neither do the acts. But their constant saber-rattling will continue to draw national attention, government attention, to the problem. Beware of state laws, they’re almost always promulgated by the scalper/secondary market. Their goal, under the rubric of “freedom,” is to allow free transfer of tickets. This is a problem that can only be addressed nationally. Then again, the right is all about states’ rights, i.e. abortion. So, the bottom line is… Live Nation/Ticketmaster will be forced to shed light on its operations. And although the hoi polloi believe this will be to the company’s detriment, this is a misunderstanding of the touring world. The fees are part of the ticket price. And if Ticketmaster is a monopoly, what is the solution? The solution must be to the benefit of the public. As for add-on fees… This is a scourge of business today, it’s a way to make the initial price look low but in reality the final price is high. And the reason all the focus is on the music world is because supply outstrips demand. There are not scalpers for hotel rooms. In this case, it’s the acts that are responsible for the add-ons. They want to say the price is cheap when in reality, when you check out, they’re expensive. Because without the add-ons, the whole enterprise collapses financially. The federal government is talking about cracking down on add-on fees generally, but this is a path fraught with potholes. As for the public being upright and trustworthy… These are the same people who load all their possessions into a carry-on bag so they can avoid the check-in baggage fees. All I’m saying here is the public is not a unified force with the same desires. People want cheap tickets for the best seats and they want to be able to transfer them freely. So for everyone who wants limited resale, there are others who want to make a buck on their extra tickets. Can the government understand all this? No. The government has a bad history when it comes to regulating tech and so much more, because elected officials don’t understand the industry, it moves ahead of them, is constantly changing, and it is not a priority. So any change in ticketing will ultimately come from the FTC. Which operates behind closed doors. So on one hand we have a force to reveal what’s behind the curtain, on the other it’s still behind the curtain. But more info is going to come out.

If TikTok is killed, Instagram Reels will burgeon. However never forget that the population ages every day. The Greatest Generation is gone. And the Baby Boomers are on their way out. Today’s college kids have no idea of Napster. They don’t understand how we got here, they just know where we are. Anyone younger than Gen-X is the opposite of anti-tech. It’s only Baby Boomers and some Gen-X’ers who lobby for less screen time, who are anti-social media… They didn’t grow up in the connected social world so they can’t see the advantages. They didn’t meet their spouse on a dating app. They have no idea that you never lose touch with anybody in your life and you know more people than ever before. They don’t realize that youngsters don’t need a star to be anointed by the media to believe in them themselves. Therefore, government and other oldsters are completely out of touch with the mind-set of the youth. The youth are not as worried about security. They know their information is available to all. It’s kind of like ChatGPT and AI. It’s the oldsters worried about the negative effects, the school cheating, the replacement of jobs. The youngsters know you build upon the platform, you don’t lament what is lost. What people will do with AI is more important to them than what it will take way. They see it as additive. I do think it’s a possibility that  TikTok will be eradicated from the U.S., especially in today’s political climate. But what do we know? Nature abhors a vacuum. The music industry killed Napster and then KaZaA arrived, and other P2P platforms without a central database. And then we had lockers. And ultimately Daniel Ek solved the problem with Spotify. It’s not like if TikTok goes, it’s not going to be replaced. And if it’s really going to be banished from America… ByteDance will start talking about implementing more restrictions on data, about a sale… TikTok is just a step in the food chain. That’s what we’ve seen with social media since Friendster. It’s an evolution. Facebook was impacted by Instagram, which it bought, and then Snapchat and TikTok came along. It’s all about connecting, we live in a social world, the internet has evidenced this, but oldsters still can’t accept it.

Songs, songs, songs…it never changes. And although the Spotify Top 50 is populated by one chord numbers, melody never dies. If you can write a song with changes, with melody, with a memorable chorus and a bridge, your work will always be desirable. Used to be the music sphere was dominated by terrestrial radio. If radio didn’t play it, it’s like it didn’t exist. At least since the MTV era. Hip-hop and pop have dominated on terrestrial radio for years. There’s no innovation in terrestrial radio, only cost-cutting and more of the same. What I mean is if you don’t make the kind of music that terrestrial radio plays on its mainstream formats, which predominate with listeners, you now have a better chance of reaching your audience.

It’s harder to gain traction than ever before, it’s harder to gain notice. So expect the younger generations to come up with new ways to gain notice. Sure, there will be some stunts, but just like TikTok broke new artists, there will be other ways that surface. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Just because you play your own instruments, write the songs and produce an analog product, that does not mean you should abandon the internet. The internet is how you get known, treat it with disdain at your peril. That’s where people converse about your music, where they spread it, where word of mouth happens. Even if you don’t want to reveal your personal identity, post information, facts, live videos…give fans the tools to spread the word.

Everything happens slower than it ever did before. If you’re not in it for the long haul, don’t even start. It could take ten years to gain traction. In a world where a song can take two years to become a hit. But you learn something in those ten years, you gain experience and get better. This is the opposite of the paradigm of the old system, i.e. the major labels. They want it fast, they don’t want to invest for the long term. They want to be able to blow it up on the first record.

The record is just a calling card. If you’re bitching about streaming payouts you’re missing the point. It’s just oldsters and transitional acts who keep raving about streaming payouts. There have been a zillion studies, even by the British government, Spotify is not the devil, it is not stealing your money, at worst the labels are taking the lion’s share. The stream is just the bedrock that people can turn to. You build upon your recorded music, it’s not the sole revenue driver. And live is more important than ever not because acts can’t make money from streaming, but because in a digital world people crave live, breathing events. If your show is an event, and different every night, you’re on the right path.

We are transitioning to an era of authenticity and credibility, sell out at your peril.

Social media influencers are all about selling out, which is why their life spans are short. There’s no there there. But that’s the essence of a musical artist, their identity. Know who you are. Doing what’s expedient might alienate your fans. Sure, there are barely pubescent kids who blindly follow the sellout titans, but we are entering an age akin to the late sixties, most people are deeper thinkers, they want more fulfillment, they want something that delivers, they want more than just a pretty face and a song written by committee. The more personal your music, the more honest it is, the more it is you, the more people get attached to it. This is how you build a career. 

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