Covid Attendance

The old people aren’t going.

We live in an era of data transparency, just check availability of seats for boomer shows om Ticketmaster, they’re plentiful. They may be expensive, but in the old days the gigs went clean, now they don’t.

It’s unclear what is happening in Covid world. Infections are going down in most places, as are deaths, except in a few northern red states, is this the end? Could be, probably not. We know how this ultimately plays out… Monoclonal antibodies, the new pill…the unvaxxed are gonna be saved and then they’re going to declare victory, saying they were right to abstain from the vaccine, despite being wrong, but how long will it take?

Its a conundrum. On so many levels America is open for business. Look for masks at sporting events, it’s hard to find ’em. But despite so many out in the world, there are so many who are still trepidatious, and they’re hurting business, in the concert world, the restaurant world… The boomers are the ones with money, and they’ll spend it, but they don’t want to risk dying to have the experience.

Talk until you’re blue in the face, you can’t convince them otherwise. It’s an internal feeling, which is different from an antivaxxer belief. They’d prefer to stay home and be safe rather than sorry. Get old enough and you can miss anything. A youngster needs the cereal in the grocery store, an oldster can pass it up, they know life is long and they want it to be longer.

So the concert business is not back.

So many of the dollars are generated by acts appealing to oldsters.

And it’s not only concerts, it’s movies too.

“Latest James Bond Film Falls Behind Predecessors as Covid-19 Concerns Linger”: https://on.wsj.com/2YztTPI

The hype is so heavy you’d believe that the Bond return is a triumph, proving that Covid is in the rearview mirror, that happy days are here again, BUT THAT IS UNTRUE!

But we live in a world where nobody will speak the truth. Britain is reeling from Brexit, but no one will use the B-word.

“Brexit is Making Britain a Third World Country The Ugly Truth is Brexit Didn’t ‘Level Up’ Britain – It’s Levelling it All the Way Down To Ruin”: https://bit.ly/3BzeHR9

Read this article. And remember, the promised touring concessions have yet to be instituted. If you’re an English act trying to tour the Continent…you might as well be from America.

People are stupid, and those in control won’t speak the truth and they’re kept stupid, if not delusional.

We could fix these situations. We could have more vaccine mandates. Then boomers would be willing to pay high prices to go to shows. But until then, many are reluctant. Which is why Dennis Arfa said boomer superstars should stay home until at least next spring. Talk to agents and promoters, tickets suddenly stopped selling. Not completely, but on-sales have dropped dramatically. Not that you’ll read this in any trade papers, which are cheerleaders echoing the words of those paying their bills.

We have not returned to normal. We could look at the economic indicators, but the truth is the unvaxxed are slowing down our entire economy. Blame me all you want, but this is something that is covered in the news, not on OAN or Fox, but in the “Wall Street Journal” and “New York Times.”

Happy days are not here again. We still need to fight Covid, not only physically, but in the mind. How do industries make patrons feel safe again? We’ve still got a long way to go.

The Twitch Leak

“Twitch Data Leak Confirms The 100 Highest-Paid Streamers”: https://bit.ly/3BHf7F2

Don’t get into music for the money. There’s just not that much.

Which is another reason why there are no bands, there’s not enough money to go around. Best to cut your track on your computer alone in your bedroom, post it online and see if it gets any traction, at least it won’t cost that much. The old paradigm of forming a band, rehearsing, honing your chops on the road, signing a deal and then living the high life is almost completely kaput.

Yes, there is a community online, but it’s every person for themselves. The Gen-Z ethos is different from the millennial ethos. Millennials didn’t want to stand out, they didn’t want to do anything that would threaten their place in the firmament, in the group. Victories were celebrated by all, there was not the cutthroat competition of the baby boomers. But most millennials did not grow up in the era of high speed internet and social media, the internet was still developing as they came of age, it hadn’t been solidified, like it has now. Whereas Gen-Z has never known a time without broadband, ubiquitous Wi-Fi and social media. You surf the web alone, it is not a group activity. And once the “influencers” started making bank, it was open season. As a matter of fact, that’s the number one desire of youngsters today, that’s their preferred career choice, being an influencer. And one thing about being an influencer, you know it requires no talent, you make it up as you go along, you have to post constantly to maintain your tribe, and then eventually you burn out, others replace you and you get on with your life.

But not eSports. ESPORTS IS A CAREER!

Seems unfathomable to the boomers and Gen-X’ers but it’s true. That sideshow that parents pooh-poohed is now a road to riches. Everyone can play, but not everyone can win. You’ve got to be really damn skilled, you’ve got to put in the hours to get that good, and there are no shortcuts, you can’t buy a song, you’ve got to do it all by yourself.

And the younger generations are more interested in the cerebral than the physical. Yes, the culture is evolving into one where thinking is more important than brute force physicality. The landscape has been flattened, the barrier to entry is nearly nonexistent. Everybody can afford to play videogames, and the games themselves don’t involve built-in biases. ways to beat the system, like traditional sports. Yes, the major sports leagues are rife with cheating, bending the rules, and too many rules. But the rules of eSports are built right into the games. You can’t buy an advantage.

And therefore there is a huge audience for eSports.

I mean I watched a couple of Dodger playoff games, and although they were tense I must say when the Cardinals reliever kept looking to first, backing off the mound, it became interminable. I can’t imagine a youngster sitting through that, but videogames are all action all the time. And you are not watching from a distance, as in you can immediately play at home, whereas with most traditional sports you need a team, a field and…the barriers to entry are almost too high to get over, never mind getting hurt as you participate.

So in case you missed the memo, there was a data leak at the Amazon owned Twitch, a platform that was purchased for a mere $970 million. This was the deal of the century, stop lauding Lucian Grainge building up Universal to go public and have a value in the neighborhood of $50 billion. Lucian bought EMI, got it past regulators, and with this incredible market share bought into streaming and the company’s revenues went up. Oldsters can understand music, they think the “musicians” are stars, but if they had any kids they’d know the big stars are those who live online, like the gamers on Twitch.

So, this data leak showed that the top 25 gamers on Twitch made at least a million dollars a year. Yes, figures were leaked for the period from August 2019 to October 2021, essentially two years. And the number one Twitch gamer made $9.6 million, just under $5 million a year.

But wait, it gets better. THIS IS NET! There are no expenses. And this is not all the top gamers make, there are other avenues of compensation, like signing bonuses, exclusivities, sponsorships, the list goes on.

$5 million net per year? You’d be surprised how few musicians make this kind of money. They may gross a hundred million, but the expenses are sky high! And their longevity isn’t great. And they’ve got to constantly inject their profits into growing their careers. And it turns out those who draw the largest audience consistently, year after year, are those who made it in the pre-internet era, the classic rockers and those blown up by MTV. The more recent your success, the less you can continue to draw, unless you keep feeding the machine and having hits.

So let’s say you’re at home and you want to get rich.

That’s the motivation today. In our money-driven culture the focus is money, is that so hard to understand? Everybody is playing the lottery, because they know you can’t make it on minimum wage, income inequality since Reagan has become gigantic, to the point where so many of the educated, from elite institutions, can’t even compete.

So you’re gonna go into music?

Well, first and foremost where are you going to learn it? There are essentially no arts programs in public schools anymore. So maybe you have to take private lessons, but unless your parents really push you, you’re not interested, you’re addicted to the screen, where all the action is. You need pay no dues to be online, you learn and burnish your image along the way. So the people honing their musical chops in living rooms and garages are smaller in relative numbers than ever before. Oh, they want money and fame, just don’t ask them to pay their dues outside the action.

And if you form a band, where are you gonna play? People no longer want to hear bad renditions of the hits, never mind originals, they’d rather hear hits spun by DJs, especially since the music is no longer primary. In the classic era venues had seats, now it’s free-form festival seating, and parading and shooting selfies can be almost as important as what is happening on stage. Once again, THE AUDIENCE IS THE STAR!

As for the music business itself… It’s run by old farts, boomers and Gen-X’ers. As for Jay Z and Roc Nation, they too started before the internet blew up the entire world.

And no one is interested in righting the ship, getting it back on course, BECAUSE THERE’S NO MONEY IN IT!

Yes, there are tons of people complaining about the change in the musical landscape, some even have ideas, but what they lack is…BUSINESS EXPERIENCE! Being a fan and being on the other side of the stage, as a business person, are two completely different walks of life. Business people are professionals who have learned a lot and always put money first, especially in the live business. As for the labels, they want you to prove it first, they want you to demonstrate the spigot is raining coin before they even get involved.

The only hope for music is to be the ANTI! To make the money secondary, to focus on the music. But most people are not willing to forgo the money. That’s the first question people always ask…WHERE IS THE MONEY! As if they’re entitled.

But Twitch is just like the music business. The lion’s share of the spoils go to the elite at the top. In the internet era everything is available at your fingertips, localism is irrelevant, so you’re competing against the best of today and the best of yesterday and it turns out the audience only wants the best.

Not that media understands this.

You’ve got to read this inane article in the “Washington Post”: https://wapo.st/3AoBsWE

This article complains that:

“25 percent of the top 10,000 highest paid Twitch streamers don’t make minimum wage”

What, DO YOU EXPECT TEN THOUSAND GAMERS TO MAKE A GOOD LIVING ON TWITCH??? God, musicians WOULD LOVE THAT! Most are actually in the hole, they don’t make ANYTHING!

You want to get paid, go work at McDonald’s. Low-paying labor/service jobs are plentiful, they don’t have enough people to fill them, yet no one wants them because they want to get RICH! What next, those playing American Legion baseball complaining they’re not millionaires? There’s nowhere close to 10,000 players in any traditional professional sports league. Add ’em all up, MLB, NFL, NHL…you still won’t get close to 10,000.

Context is everything, and this is why the media is losing its grip, it too often has none.

So if you’re dying to be a musician, be one. Just don’t complain about the pay.

And if you want to work as a musician your whole life best to have a skill, as in being able to play your instrument or program your instrument or… Low-skilled people are a dime a dozen, they’re fungible, instantly replaceable.

And that’s what we’ve got dominating today’s music scene, low-skilled people propped up by the titans of the industry, writers, players, producers and labels. Most don’t have a chance without this help. Then again, if you can actually play you can make a living on the jam band circuit, via gigs and festivals, but you’ll never make as much as a top gamer, you’d better love to play, because you’re gonna be touring in a station wagon wanting a bus, as for the private jet…that’s for gamers and DJs. But being a gamer is even better than being a DJ…YOU NEVER HAVE TO LEAVE YOUR HOUSE!

So to the oldsters who grew up in the pre-internet era, your perspective is off, only the lowest common denominator want to be musicians, anybody with any brains is a gamer or an influencer, is online where they control their own destiny.

And it’s not only music, it’s sports. Oldsters thought disruption was only about the platform, but it’s about the content too. Why should younger generations want exactly what older generations did, why should they be corralled into old time thinking when the internet is a free-for-all where you can create and control your own career path.

It’s not that easy to be atop the Twitch payout list.

But you should find what you’re good at and pursue that. A great plumber can make more money than almost every musician, and the plumber never has to leave town.

And if you want to be a musician for the money, you’re barking up the wrong tree. The odds are low as are the payouts if you even make it into the black. Of course, payouts at the top are still good, but they pale in comparison to those of the techies and the bankers, the financiers follow the money, that’s why they have those jobs, why else, they’re usually incredibly boring.

Ladies and gentlemen…

Turn on your computer, boot up that game, start playing!

Twitch 1-100: https://bit.ly/2YDIee4

John Sebastian-This Week’s Podcast

The Lovin’ Spoonful, need I say more? From Mugwumps to Woodstock to “Kotter,” this is an in-depth exploration of John’s life, who he is and how he made it. From Greenwich Village to the “Ed Sullivan Show” to the world!

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-bob-lefsetz-podcast/id1316200737

https://www.stitcher.com/show/the-bob-lefsetz-podcast

https://music.amazon.com/podcasts/9ff4fb19-54d4-41ae-ae7a-8a6f8d3dafa8/the-bob-lefsetz-podcast

Brandi Carlile Sings Madman Across The Water On Howard Stern

https://bit.ly/2YAGsdM

It’s the strings.

I was driving home from a night hike and Howard Stern was talking to Brandi Carlile, she was gonna sing “Madman Across the Water.”

“Madman Across the Water” was Elton John’s fourth album in a year, and that’s not counting the American debut, the eponymous “Elton John,” which really didn’t hit until the fall of 1970 anyway, the famous Troubadour gigs were at the end of August of that year.

Elton went from zero to a hundred overnight. And even though he broke on AM radio, with “Your Song,” “Tumbleweed Connection,” which was released on October 30th, gave Elton credibility.  And then there was the live album, “11/17/70,” and the “Friends” soundtrack, talk about overexposed, by time “Madman Across the Water” came out people were burned out on Elton, not that they expected him to have continued success, most acts that broke on AM radio came and went.

“Almost Famous” made “Tiny Dancer” iconic, but it was not upon the time of release, it went all the way to #41 on the “Billboard” chart, and they call it Top Forty but really it’s closer to Top Fifteen, which means you may be in the Hot 100, but that does not mean most people are hearing your song.

In truth, it took Elton over a year to come back commercially, with “Rocket Man” in the summer of ’72. The bitch was back and he’s never gone away, he’s got a hit right now, with Dua Lipa.

I bought “Madman Across the Water,” and played it plenty at the advent of 1972 and other than “Indian Sunset,” which I heard Elton play the previous June at Carnegie Hall, it was all new to me. And I can tell you I immediately cottoned to “Tiny Dancer,” but “Holiday Inn” and “Rotten Peaches” on the flip side, two songs I’ve never heard anybody mention, were my next favorites, and the majesty of “All the Nasties” cannot be denied.

Not that every track was not good. And I knew them all. Because this was the album era, you dropped the needle at the beginning, flipped the record over and started again on the second side, and you might even go back to the first if you were endeared, or were learning the record.

Learning the album, that was part of the process. Maybe you’d heard a single, oftentimes you had not. And therefore you kept playing the album until it revealed itself, first one track, then another. Yes, repetition helped. Most people don’t listen to music this way anymore, because tracks are not scarce, everything is at your fingertips, listening is different, you go broad, not deep.

Not that you heard the first side closer, the title track, “Madman Across the Water” on the radio. Playing entire sides on radio was a no-no, labels were afraid of taping, some stations did it anyway, but the odds of hearing every cut of an album on the radio were very low, which is one of the reasons you bought the album, and if you were a fan you had to buy the album before the show, to know the music when the act played it.

So, if someone is going to do an Elton John cover, I wouldn’t expect it to be “Madman Across the Water,” if for no other reason than it’s long and slow, it’s hard to get people’s attention, never mind keep it, but this cover by Brandi Carlile is RIVETING!

The music starts fifty five seconds in. And what’s astounding is Brandi’s picking the notes EXACTLY, the notes you know from the record, the ones embellished in your brain. This is rare, duplicating the exact sound of a record, many acts who cut the damn hits can’t do this.

And then comes Brandi’s voice. Elton doesn’t even sing this way anymore. That high voice on “Madman Across the Water” is kaput. But Brandi…she has no problem hitting the notes.

Now I’m listening to the radio, I don’t know it’s Brandi playing the guitar intro, this is not Madonna or some other pop star picking out the notes, she’s obviously paid her dues, she performed for years before anybody knew who she was. She’s not struggling, she’s confident, and you can feel and hear that.

And that vocal… Sure, Brandi’s a woman, not a man. But she’s closer to the original than Elton is today. Her voice is so pure, she’s not struggling, she’s putting the wannabe TV singers to shame.

BUT THEN CAME THE STRINGS!

Those early Elton John albums, there was a special sauce, producer Gus Dudgeon and arranger Paul Buckmaster. They’re both dead now, and Elton has never replicated the sound of those early LPs, they’re dark and deep, as if these records were cut in dim light in a church, listening to them is a religious experience, they exist outside the system, they’re for the listeners, not the gatekeepers. Which is one reason why I still play them. They’re not throwaways, they’re the essence.

So I’m going through the curves on Sunset, trying to stay within the speed limit but enjoying the front wheels pulling me around the corners, and then I hear those strings.

I figure they’ve got a whole string section, I don’t learn until the performance is over when Howard talks that it’s actually just three players, because once again, IT SOUNDS JUST LIKE THE RECORD! Even Elton doesn’t bring string players on the road. This is not a cover, it’s an exact replica in an era where that’s impossible to get, it’s the mountaintop when no one is even bothering to attempt to climb the peak. Suddenly, I’m no longer listening, I’m having a peak experience, I can’t believe they’re hitting all the notes, but even more I can’t believe the sound of those strings, the way they’re so rich, and the way they zing,

Hell, I could continue to rant and rave, but really this is about the listening experience. It’s the original, but it’s updated with Brandi Carlile’s voice, which somehow makes the song brand new, it resonates more than anything in the Spotify Top 50, because it’s not made to be a hit, because it doesn’t have twenty writers, because it wasn’t remixed into oblivion. You listen and you truly can’t believe it.

And maybe you’re not an Elton John fan, maybe you’ve never even heard “Madman Across the Water,” that’s possible, the album is fifty years old. But you cannot listen to Brandi’s performance and think it’s nostalgia, it’s actually more honest than so many of the new records, it’s done with acoustic instruments, it’s positively human, something too often missing in this digital age. When the machines take over, we want something they cannot create. Machines cannot evidence life, only people can do that.

As Brandi Carlile does here.

Listen, you’ll be stunned.