The iHeart Music Awards

I didn’t see anybody I knew.

Well, that’s not completely true. John Sykes was there. And Taylor Swift. But these awards shows are usually industry clusterf*cks. The hang supersedes the show. Everybody is in the lobby, schmoozing.

But that’s not what was happening last night.

You see it’s no longer one unified music business anymore. We’re not all in it together. It’s an endless series of niches. And terrestrial radio is one of them.

Now the event was held in the Dolby Theatre, where they have the Oscars. That adds gravitas. As good as the food may now be, most music venues are barns. Load ’em in, load ’em out, hose the place down, get ready for tomorrow night. But at the Dolby…you’re on your best behavior.

Now I’ll admit I was very close. But I don’t think that made a difference, just being in the building was enough. When the music began, I felt a shot of ADRENALINE! A feeling that you just can’t get anywhere else. Of excitement, of anticipation, of wonderment, disbelief that you’re actually there, when the music began. That was the most important and inspiring lesson I learned last night. This is why we’re selling all those tickets. In a world of zeros and ones, where a computer can write your term paper, everybody hungers for something real, something that’s alive and breathing, something that evidences humanity, something that takes you away from everyday life, makes you happy, makes your life worth living.

And that’s live music.

Now the great thing about the iHeart Music Awards show is acts have to show up. Otherwise… iHeart doesn’t say it won’t play their records, but… Not that this is about iHeart, all radio outlets are like this. We make you stars, you owe us. We’re friendly, but don’t disrespect us.

So there weren’t the endless instances of someone else accepting the award for those not in attendance.

And the show began with Pink… I was bracing myself for her high wire act, which is intriguing, but has nothing to do with music, however that was not Pink’s role, although she did have gymnasts flying on trampolines and I must say it was astounding to watch. But as close as I was I could see that Pink was into it, that she was not going through the motions, and when she spoke later she was genuine, and not in a pandering way.

But this is the point where I must say most acts were singing to track. It’s not like there was even a band on stage. As for Keith Urban… I’ve seen him live, he’s one of the best, with his three guitars and a bass format. He can wail, but it was all fake last night.

But Neil Giraldo and Pat Benatar seemed real.

But the point is…

It’s not your father’s music business anymore. And we’re the fathers, if not the grandfathers! As great as Giraldo and Benatar are, they appeared quaint compared to the rest of the acts. They were a blast from the past. Today image is key. And dancing. The trappings. Once again, it’s not the seventies anymore. Not even the eighties!

That’s what you have to realize. Today’s youngsters are unaware of the past, they didn’t live though it. Rappers are dangerous, not Jimmy Page. MTV turned music into a monoculture. And visuals were key. And in pop music, that still rules.

In the rest of the world/genres…

Just when it looked like it was going to be pop only, Cody Johnson and a few other newbies nearly blew the roof off the place, you felt the desire of those starting out, that need to make it.

And making it is not what it used to be. Used to be you were one of the richest, and maybe even most powerful, people in America.

No one thinks you can make that kind of money in music anymore, not those on either side of the stage. The rich are techies and bankers. As for those plying the boards… This is show business, this is entertainment, this is a job. You could see it, you could feel it. This was another gig, hopefully one that would pay dividends. And then the acts and their handlers would move on to another burg, to perform for people there.

Everything is micro. No one is dominant. The media tries to tell us they are, but unless you’re addicted to mainstream media, you don’t know this.

Like Coldplay. They got some award and they showed video of their stadium tour. I’ve seen the band, I’m a fan of the early records, I could take or leave them, Chris Martin has no edge. But if you saw the assembled multitude, with their phones in the air in the stadium…I can feel it right now, writing about it, you wanted to be there, you needed to be there, to experience that feeling you can’t get anywhere else. The act is coming to your town! It’s a special experience.

As for some of the acts… Have you even heard of Latto? She put on a sexualized performance that veered on being censor-worthy. The way she moved, the way she gyrated her body.

And then there was Becky G, winning for Latin Song. She didn’t perform, they showed a video of her history, what it took to make it, and I’d heard of her, and I learned a bit, but I felt she lived in a different world from me.

Now the country acts… I understand. They play guitars, it’s akin to rock. However, I’m still pissed at the three guys wearing cowboy hats a few rows down. I mean how inconsiderate can you be? But that’s the world we live in, no one cares about anybody else, it’s just about them. And if you confront them, they say life is hard and they’re just trying to get ahead.


And Doja Cat was there, one of the biggest acts of the pandemic. She got a ton of applause. But it hit me, this is her time. It will run out. That’s how it is with all these acts. There’s a moment in time when they’re hot, people are talking about them, and then they’re touring acts, maybe on television. They’re born to die, as Grand Funk Railroad and Lana Del Rey would say. The machine needs fresh and new as grist for the mill. It’s nearly impossible to stay on top, especially without doing a duet with a star du jour.

It’s a business.

Now the amazing thing is you may not have even realized the show was on, which it was, broadcast live on Fox.

Used to be you were aware of everything. Had a judgment on everything. But today network TV is like terrestrial radio. Still powerful, but less powerful than it used to be. Terrestrial radio used to be everything. But now streaming music, like streaming television, sits alongside. And both Spotify and iHeart are deep into podcasting. Because ultimately they’re both tech companies, either innovate or die.

Just like the artists.

You’ve to go create the record, do your best to make it a hit, go on the road to hoover up money, and then do it all over again, and eventually you burn out, because you’ve got no life, but if you take a break, will the audience still be interested in you when you return?

And it is a job. They had a ton of footage of performers talking to deejays. This is part of the gig, this is what you sign up for. You try to reach everybody you can. Which is why you do TV shows like the iHeart Music Awards to begin with.

I loved seeing Cole Swindell win, I’m a fan, like I said above, I can relate to country.

Then again, Muni Long performed and I got it. Because when done right the music hits you somewhere between the gut and the heart, the feeling oozes through your body, it’s not something you can boil down to zeros and ones but you know it when you feel it.

And another surprise was Giovannie and the Hired Guns, who seemed to be playing live, it wasn’t easy to tell, with the camera in the way, but the sound and energy… Listen to “Ramon Ayala,” it’s got seventeen million streams on Spotify and I’ve never heard of it. But everybody pooh-poohing the mainstream nature of an event like this will be confounded, they’ll be scratching their head, not only is it good, it’s fresh.

I mean really, listen:



But the absolute highlight was LL Cool J, performing an original number delineating the history of hip-hop. Whew! It was riveting. You could feel the power. You could see why hip-hop dethroned rock and roll.

So what have we learned?

That the world is returning to normal. I had to get a Covid test to attend, but this kind of event used to be de rigueur. A floating party. One of the underpinnings of this business we call show.

And like I said, it’s not the business it used to be.

At the end of the day, iHeart has stations in every genre, so it’s not like you can criticize the company. Hell, they held the AlterEgo festival at the Forum, with the Peppers, Jack White, Muse, Phoenix… It doesn’t get much more credible than that.

And acts play stadium dates and you’re unaware they happened.

That’s the modern music world. It’s a very big tent. The demand, the desire for music, is huge, phenomenal, there’s room for all genres, but within each vertical it is competitive. But the audience is hungry for more.

Will we ever go back to a monoculture, where we all know the same hits? Maybe if a new Beatles comes along, but we’ve been waiting over half a century for that, and no one has ever arrived. Or a new Bob Dylan. Or even a new Bruce Springsteen.

That was the past. The only way we’re going to make music the leading driver of culture, recapturing its crown from streaming television, is by going forward. Giovannie and the Hired Guns gave me hope. You never know what is coming down the pike, what will surprise you, but we’re all waiting for it, and if you can deliver it…

The world is yours.


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. 

House Songs-SiriusXM This Week

Songs with “house” in the title.

Tune in tomorrow, Saturday March 25th, to Faction Talk, channel 103, at 4 PM East, 1 PM West.

If you miss the episode, you can hear it on demand on the SiriusXM app. Search: Lefsetz


I’m theoretically here to go heli-skiing.

I lived for two years in Utah fifty years ago. Not quite, but close, ’75 & ’76. One year in Sandy, at the foot of Little Cottonwood Canyon, at the top of which reside Alta and Snowbird, and one year in the avenues, downtown, because I slept on the couch of these guys theoretically going to the U, which is what they call the University of Utah. They’d enroll, and then it would snow and they’d drop out.

First year, I worked at Snowbird and only skied the Bird.

Second year, I had an Alta pass too.

Snowbird was the home of freestyle skiing, which is how I got into that, which is why I was sleeping on the couch, believing I would be on the road following the circuit, but that didn’t happen, not much anyway.

So when I lived in Utah everybody who came from outside the state commented how weird it was. Also, weird things happened, in the news. And within a month, every Jew in Salt Lake City found me. And some Mormon girls too, and they were frisky and happy and didn’t ski on Sundays and nothing ultimately happened there, although I was intrigued.

Since then…

Utah has burgeoned. There’s high-tech. A mini-Bay Area. And Park City has added Deer Valley and it’s almost a megalopolis over there, close as the crow flies but far if you’re in your car, but not that far.

You see Little Cottonwood and Big Cottonwood Canyon ski areas are higher. And they’re box canyons. Meaning the clouds get caught and it dumps endlessly. For example, this year there’s been 517″ of snow at Park City, but 735″ at Alta.

Like they say, “Alta is for Skiers.” Because there’s nothing else to do here, only ski. Lodging and a few houses and condominiums, that’s it. Because it’s a V-shaped canyon, with the two lane road and the base area in between the mountains.

So, I landed in Utah and it was bizarre. I’ve been here a few times since my residence way back when, but this time it hit me. I’d lived here. There are some new high rises downtown, and the Salt Palace has been replaced. And Odyssey Records…that whole block has been torn down. But otherwise, it’s the same.

Well, Salt Lake is a city, but it is not Los Angeles. You can live here, but you’re not in the mainstream. But I take that back, with the internet and cable TV there is no flyover country, you can be hip anywhere. And the acts come through and could I live in Utah again?

I was thinking about that, but mostly I was bizarred. You see in the seventies, you didn’t fly on a whim. Air travel was still regulated, and it was expensive. Not only were there no smartphones, long distance calls were expensive. So if you were living in Utah, you were really in Utah. So much time has passed since then, I was re-evaluating my choices, who I was. That’s another thing about the seventies, no one was going anywhere fast, we were all trying to find ourselves.

So since I’ve been gone, Snowbird has built into the backside, Mineral Basin, and it is now connected with Alta, but in truth, the ski areas are almost exactly the same. But the people?

It’s crowded. It’s a big problem, because there’s not enough parking. And yesterday we’re driving up the canyon just after the lifts closed and it’s an endless snake in the other direction. They’re thinking about building a tramway up the canyon, to alleviate the problem.

I mean winter driving used to be de rigueur for me. But I rarely do it anymore. The road is covered in snow, the windshield wipers are flying, one false move…

But finally I arrived.

But then they went into interlodge. Which means you can’t leave your hotel or residence, and the road up the canyon is closed, because of avalanche danger.

They ultimately reopened the road at 8:30 AM and most of Snowbird opened so we went down to the tram, with its new cars, and rode to the top and…

Forget that it was blowing, snow moving sideways, to get to the slope you had to walk over a concrete surface with melted water and slush. No biggie, except then snow stuck to my skis and it was hard to put my bindings on.

If I had been alone, I would have scraped my boots a bit longer, but finally the heel pieces clicked and…

You couldn’t see a fu*cking thing. I’ve skied in whiteouts before, and what you do is ski near the trees, because they lend definition.

But at the top of Snowbird there are no trees. Snowbird and Alta are built on jagged peaks, like the Tetons, like the Alps, this is not cushy-skiing, you’re in the elements. And pound for pound, Snowbird has the most difficult skiing in America. Oh, you can find a few places with a bit more challenging slopes, like the face at Crested Butte, the Palisades at the top of Palisades Tahoe and a bit of stuff at Jackson Hole, but unlike those ski areas, there is no easy skiing at Snowbird. Oh, they built a lift down the canyon, but before that all they had was Chickadee, right at the base, a short lift for beginners, and even Chickadee isn’t that flat.

So we’re taking the road, but finally we have to ski down a slope.

Hmm… I can’t see anything! But it’s even worse, because there’s eight inches of new snow and some is cut up and on the sides it’s drifted and… Normally under these circumstances you’d traverse back and forth. But if you did this, and I tried, you moved past the center of the slope and you were essentially in a drift, it wasn’t easy getting out, never mind turning.

And I’m making my way down, I’ve made a few turns, I’m on a traverse and…

Suddenly I’m thrown back and going downhill sideways at the same time.

The snow was starting to slide.

I know the feeling, from another experience. In this case, the snow stopped sliding within ten feet, but I was thrown back so hard and fast that the tendons in the back of my knee were stretched and… Now I’m going to get hurt?

That’s what happened the last time I was at Snowbird. It happened walking to the slopes, not skiing. I slipped, twice, and ended up having to have shoulder surgery, and believe me, rotator cuff surgery is a long extended adventure that you don’t want to go on.

So I’m wondering if I am hurt, and whether I’m going to get further hurt on the way down. I’m spooked.

But it’s worse. I’m experiencing vertigo. This can happen in a whiteout, you can’t see the slope and you start to wobble, you’re not exactly sure where to balance, it’s freaky. Really only happened to me once previously, in Courchevel, even before my tenure in Utah, but this time was worse.

And did I say that I was feeling a bit of altitude sickness? You combat this by drinking water, but I hadn’t wanted to drink too much, being old and having to constantly pee.

So I feel like I’m going to throw up too. And I’m down maybe 2% of the run, I’ve got miles to go. I’m sweating, through all my clothes, and I know the drill, you’ve got to keep on going, but I must say, I’m afraid that I’m going to further tweak my knee.

And it doesn’t get better. Maybe later in the day some of the snow would be tracked out, but now, a bit after 9? You go faster where it’s packed out, slower in the crud, and hope that you avoid the drifts.

And now I feel the urge to go #2 too. I mean I’m not sure if I’m going to make it down in time. I’m thinking maybe I’ll drop trou right there, it’s snowing so hard it’ll be covered up in a matter of minutes, and almost no one else is out there anyway.

So now we hit what is supposedly an easy road. I’m going first, and then blam! What the hell happened? There’d been a mini-avalanche, that had covered half the road, that I couldn’t see, and I’d skied right into it, which caused me to fall. Oh, that’s another thing, if you don’t fall, you don’t ski. But this is not a circumstance you expect, I’ve never experienced it before.

By the time we get to the bottom they’ve closed the Peruvian chairlift, which parallels the tram about 90% of the way, but the tram is still running. This is perplexing, but we find out from the ski patrol they’ve closed the entire Peruvian side, the one we just came down, because of avalanche danger. Gad Valley, on the other side of the ridge, is still open.

So we enter the tram building, just inside from outside, and I put my skis on the rack, and bam! I fall on my ass. Well, worse than that, I fall down completely, my ass and my elbow took the brunt. And remember, I fell walking to go skiing and needed surgery and…

I appeared to be fine. And I put on my Walk-EZ, which go on the soles of your boots, so you can walk more naturally and the soles of your boots don’t wear out. And my boots are polyether, which the absolute top of the line are. And the top of the line don’t have screw-on rubber soles, so…I tell my compatriot that’s why I slipped, because I can even slip walking the few feet to the Vail gondola, that’s how slippery the boots are.

And then I rush to the bathroom. And while I’m on the pot I notice that one of the Walk-EZ is not fully on, this occasionally happens, and you just pull up on the rubber or bang your boot against the wall and the problem is fixed. But neither of those would work. So I take the Walk-EZ off my boot and put it back on and have the same problem. So I twist my leg and look at the bottom of my boot. Frozen solid with ice. I banged it against the wall and it came off. And then I checked the other boot…same thing. This ice was probably there from the top of the tram!

But at least I was inside.

But they said the road was closing again at noon, so we had to get on it.

And I got back to the house and I felt better, but for a minute there I contemplated leaving. I mean was the risk worth it? But then I spoke with Felice and felt calmer and…my knee and leg are a bit tweaked, but they ultimately seem fine.

So we have lunch and I fire up this computer and my buddy comes in and says not only is the road closed, they just closed both ski areas, we’re back in interlodge. At Alta, they’re asking the lodges to take in skiers from the mountain.

Meanwhile, down in Salt Lake City, seven miles away and 3000 vertical below, it’s perfectly clear. But up here in the mountains…