Mass Shootings

How did we turn into a can’t do nation?

Or to put it another way, if Democrats suddenly embraced gun ownership would Republicans renounce it?

I don’t own a gun and never would. Primarily for two reasons: 1. I’d end up shooting a friend or relative knocking on the door or prowling around the house in the dark, innocently. 2. I’d probably shoot myself. My hold on reality is very thin. I think about this back pain I had…I remember telling everybody if there was a gun in the house, I’d probably shoot myself. Thank god there was not.

Now I grew up in the dark ages. When you walked to school in kindergarten and the term “playdate” had yet to be coined. We came home from school, even walking in the rain, and then we’d get on our bikes and go to a friend’s house, or the baseball field… As a matter of fact, we rarely stayed home, my mother wouldn’t tolerate it. And we couldn’t watch TV during the day… My mother was a woman of action, she wanted us to grab hold of the world and go for a ride.

As for all the bad things that can happen to a child… She never thought of them. And if we brought them up she pooh-poohed them. And I never had a key to the front door my entire life, we moved into that house when I was six months old and my mother didn’t move out for half a century, literally.


Well, let me go a bit further. My mother wasn’t uptight about what I read or saw. Movie ratings appeared when I was still living at home, and the only issue with an R-rated movie was sneaking in. And if I wanted to go into New York to see a concert… I was stunned when I went to college and found kids so sheltered. Or people who didn’t go to their first concert until they were in high school. I went so early I can’t remember what I saw. Music was a family tradition, I remember being brought to Young People’s concerts at the same time I entered school. Then again, I was brought up in a family where culture was more important than money. And what money we had was spent on food, travel and cultural events. We all crammed into a split-level house, with really only one bathroom, living conditions even poor people wouldn’t accept today.

And I know that time marches on, that there is progress. I accept that now people live in giant houses, lease new cars and fly on a whim, to even see a concert, but socially… Bring back the sixties!

Oh, don’t be literal, talking about oppression and discrimination. Then again, being a Jew could be even worse today. Back then people only said things, now they take action. There weren’t shootings in synagogues in the old days.

And parents… God, it’s a big bad world out there, and you’ve got to learn how to navigate it at some point. In Japan they send kids on errands alone before they are even old enough to go to school. In the U.S. kids call their parents not only when they’re in college, but even when they’re out, assuming they’re not living at home, to ask such questions as to how to do their laundry, or to muse over their personal problems. My mother never wanted to hear about my inner life. My father was good in a crisis. But my parents weren’t my best friends, no one’s parents were. And when we left the nest… Our parents would be shocked at some of the stuff we did. As for books and learning…

Is this how far we’ve come, books are going to threaten your kid? Never mind that new schoolbook in Florida that mentions Rosa Parks, but does not include that she was Black. We’re going backwards. It’s supposed to be the information age, and now we’re keeping information from kids? Who have so much access at their fingertips?

I mean they make all these companies put child controls in their hardware and software… Who uses this stuff? And it’s not easy to figure out to begin with! What are you protecting your kid from? Information on sex, so they’ll get pregnant the first time out? What is this retrograde movement really about? I know we’re never going back to the sixties, but that does not mean some of the sixties values can’t be embraced. But a bunch of people want us to go back to the fifties!

And let’s not even mention white nationalism.

It’s not like this country hasn’t been in crisis previously. What comes to mind is the airplane hijackings of yore. Everybody threw their hands in the air and said nothing could be done as planes were diverted to Cuba on a regular basis, kind of like school shootings today. What did the country do?

Well, if you’re young, you’re not going to believe this but…you used to go to the airport and walk straight to the gate, uninterrupted. And when you got off the plane your family or friends would show up to greet you, right at the gate! But now we’ve got the TSA, metal detectors. And the amazing thing is they detect stuff. Never mind the celebrities caught with guns, regular people possess them even more. And how do we know this? Because the TSA catches them.

Security at airports is a big pain in the rear end. But there are no more hijackings.

So when it comes to gun control…

What kind of bizarre world do we live in that there are originalists on the Supreme Court. What would the framers of the Constitution think of today? That’d be like asking what Mozart thinks of Megan Thee Stallion, he couldn’t even imagine it, fathom it. We never did get flying cars, but we got a hell of a lot of stuff we could never imagine. We got phones on our wrists, but we also got the ability to text anybody anywhere. To do our business online, without low-skilled help screwing up the details. It’s a wonderful world when it comes to technology, which by the way no one in D.C. can understand, everybody’s inured to the past. But even if the Second Amendment was written with standing up to the government in mind, do you really think any of those old blokes would have the same position today? A bunch of yahoos with firearms standing up to drones and nuclear weapons and… It’d be like that old movie, Bambi Meets Godzilla, and if you haven’t seen it, take a peek, it’s very short:

Life doesn’t go backward. We don’t go from gasoline automobiles back to horses and carriages. We evolve. To believe we can jet back to the past is to put one’s head in the sand. How come we can’t agree on this? We can’t seem to agree on anything! Not even facts!

So when you go to the airport you’re inconvenienced. You have to budget extra time, it’s a big hassle, but we’re much safer for it. But when it comes to guns, we must be hands-off. Huh?

Now I know that you can argue gun ownership is a constitutional right, whereas airplane access is not, but… We sacrificed for safety with air travel, why can’t we do the same with guns?

I can go crazy here, like the people who believe the techies will solve climate change and not to worry about the problem and say… Why can’t techies put force fields around schools, disallowing guns to come in? Even better, why can’t they make guns unable to fire when you leave your house, or when other human beings are within sight. God, we have GPS in our phones that can track tiny items down to the inch, but we can’t apply it to guns?

And who says “arms” means all guns? Why can’t I have a bazooka? Or drive around with a ramming pole on my car? I mean what guns should we be able to possess? I mean you need an assault rifle because..?

And don’t tell me that there are all these assault rifles already out there. So many people who commit gun crimes buy their wares not long before they commit their violations. When you make access harder, you reduce the problem.

And why not incentivize people to give up their guns? I’d pay taxes for that. Kind of like cash for clunkers during the 2008 recession. Not only will we give you your money back, you can get a ticket to see Taylor Swift! Yes, come with a gun and we will allow you in to see Drake, or the Eagles… Sure, Ted Nugent wouldn’t participate, but most musical acts would. They’d play for free to get guns off the street. There are solutions, not only if you think outside the box, but if you think at all!

But I must admit, as much as we try to shame the right, this is the right not only elected representatives are scared of, but even the media. Last night on Tucker Carlson they said the cause of the Nashville shooting was Antifa, I kid you not. If Antifa is so big and powerful, how come I’ve never met a single member? I’m a dyed-in-the-wool liberal, no one has ever approached me, no one has ever owned their membership. As for the woke… Okay, some kids being schooled on mommy and daddy’s money are playing with their rights and identities at college. Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do, experiment? What I’m saying here is if you think every Democrat is woke, you’re asleep. Sure, there are issues of pronouns and trans and…doesn’t this boil down to freedom? How come we have freedom to own guns but not to be trans? I mean really, which is more dangerous to society?

Small cadres have impact way out of proportion to their constituencies. As for speakers being booted from colleges… Have you ever investigated any deeper? In many cases, these speakers not only have truly heinous views, they’re invited so there will be a protest, so there will be a conflagration, so the rational students will be incensed, so news will be made. Let’s see, would you let an antisemite speak at your synagogue? A white nationalist at a church dominated by Black members? Dig beneath the surface, but everything is a talking point these days, there can’t be agreement, there must be war.

And then we have the Democrats in Congress saying nothing can be done, and telling AOC to tone it down. God, these old men need to be woken up. Everybody has drunk the kool-aid, can’t think outside the box. We lived through that in music, the revolution came and streaming dominates, even though the “Billboard” chart still counts physical disproportionately. Morgan Wallen’s number one album? It sold 12,500 copies last week. But it did have 256 million streams. Hell, I guess it’s like our government, where the minority has undue influence and power.

So, let’s start with people who believe in solutions. Who don’t say their hands are tied. Who keep agitating for change and won’t shut up. If you keep talking, you reach people. Then again, we’ve got an ex-President telling us there will be death and destruction if we challenge him and the status quo.

Why is everybody afraid to stand up?

Well, my generation, the free range kids, turned out to love money more than everything. Possessions. Lifestyle. They’ve eclipsed the arts. But scratch a boomer doctor and you’ll find in many instances they wish they were a musician.

As for changing the law… Maybe we don’t even start there. We start with public campaigns. Not only anti-gun, but… Neighborhood Watch could delineate who in the neighborhood owns a gun. And incentivize them to get rid of it as per above. How about a little more sunlight on gun ownership? If you live out in the prairie or mountains, where animals can get you, sure, you can own a gun. But not an AK-47. And electronics won’t allow you to shoot it in the city.

But we’re moving in the other direction, with open carry.

It’s like everybody has lost their senses. I mean if you believe what that nitwit Marjorie Taylor Greene says, if you believe in QAnon… Maybe we do that first, have a campaign to inform the populace of truth, no law is involved there. Shame Netflix into giving you airtime, get Spielberg involved. I mean entertainment has so many tools, why can’t they be employed?

As for those saying “my gun, my life”… Let’s incentivize them to all live on Ted Nugent’s ranch. Go where the other gun nuts live. Let them shoot each other. I mean as many people seem to have been involved in mass shootings as got Covid. Oh, of course that’s untrue. But even the “Wall Street Journal,” the right wing paper of record, said masks and vaccines saved lives, even Trump is pro-vaccine, but once again, everybody’s defaulting to the lowest common denominator, playing to the uneducated yahoos. Imagine if the rest of life were that way. Everything had to be dumbed-down to the lowest and slowest, that we had to live by their rules, however dumb. That’s what’s going on in politics today.

So, I’ll leave you with this question… How come we can’t come up with solutions? Hearing no while kids get shot up gets old, and if you think thoughts and prayers are going to save you, do anything for you, you must believe there’s a little man in the sky who knows everything you do, whether you’ve been naughty or nice…and in truth, religion is fading in America, but we’re still ruled by the ancient telling us that babies should not be killed, and if it ruins the mother’s life and if the baby grows up in poverty, it doesn’t make a difference.

Some of this stuff is irrational on the surface.

But we keep being told nothing can be done.

They build whole cities in China seemingly overnight, but we can’t even build one high-speed rail line in California.

How about a plan?

Then again, the Republicans refuse to proffer a budget.

Oh, don’t both sides me. Trying to win by not playing is a fool’s errand. It doesn’t work in sports and ultimately it doesn’t work in politics. Where else can you survive constantly saying no? Life is about risk-taking, America used to be about throwing the long ball, moonshots, but now we can’t even get out of our own way.

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