Static & Dynamic

“I am acting on behalf of later generations.” Seneca

You’re mostly likely interested in music, otherwise you probably wouldn’t be reading this. In my mind almost nothing today is as it seems and those that accept a representation, via the internet, are receiving a narrowly focused outlook. Music was never meant to be a spectacle, it was never meant to sway you with visuals, and it will never be a reality inside a virtual space. What virtue is there inside a static environment. What are we saying when we say static? We are merely translating the differences in music industry models. When we say static there is this picture of a recording studio that pops in my head where those in attendance are most likely being paid to add their two cents, like college professors, psychologists, and social theorists.

On Labels

This is how record labels work. Everything they teach is backwards. They are not involved in live music and they are not involved in pushing NEW music to the world. New music would be derived from a new proven sound, not from a sound that is signed, then records, then goes on tour. This is a backwards model to what music is. Music is not technology, music is the act of transferring human energy through an instrument (the voice is my favorite instrument). Record labels are technology dependant, their business has always been about the sale of a piece of recorded media. This media is a second step in the process of music. It is not up to the artist to expect label execs to know what is happening the world when they remain in an office environment, radio station, recording studio. In these environments everyone would essentially be listening to the same music and commenting on what everyone is listening to. Outside of this office or building, who else is listening, when and where (context) has never been deduced. Data from sales and radio model does not tell us who is listening, but if you look at a ticket sale vs. an album sale, you can see who was listening to what song and at what time (*this is estimated, but still more concrete than an album sale). My aunt knew I liked music but would often buy CDs I didn’t like. The label only counts the sale.

In the shrinking of the label system, those who are no longer at a label are quickly hired by streaming services who are poised to be the “next record label”. So the next record label is going to look a lot like the first? Doubt it. Why were record label staff even approached, when it was a fight for streaming to even get licenses? My guess, probably so they can hang around their college friends, name-drop, and talk about the music they like. I can imagine the water cooler being something about the fact that “they” get to work on “so-in-sos” project. I also feel they push their favorite artists so they can meet them and then title it “in-studio sessions”.

It has carried from somewhere and indoctrinated all that work in a label. Think about the promotions department, who may not even like the music they are having to sell, but does so for the paycheck. Somebody saying that music sounds good, for money, isn’t saying much. In this mode the record labels and streaming services all think alike and all listen to the same music (like their college peers). Musicians rarely finish college but only college degree candidates need apply to work in the globalized (catalogued) music industry. There is not much diversity inside a system that thinks alike. More on that later.

Labels do not tour with artists, unless it’s on the back of that promotion department. Labels also enjoy telling artists what a larger audience will “want to hear” or more pertinently “want to see”, all from the comfort of a board room.  Labels sometimes even manage to get artists to sign away publishing rights all in the name of getting your music to a larger audience (shame, shame, know your name).  These label/streaming staffers enjoy music but most enjoy doing “something else”. They’d rather be doing that “other thing” but instead got stuck in the music business because of their college degree.

I will now make the statement that the college degree era of music has moved us away from a primary source of music and its structure within humans. Musicians, who you listen to, most likely did not finish college. While labels fill their staff with college grads and musicians don’t go to college, what we get is a next generation that don’t seem to remember how it was done before. Asking people not on the scene, to help deduce data around the engagement between the music and the audience, is second hand knowledge.”You must go to the scene of action, first, because men put more faith in their eyes than in their ears” -Seneca.  Or Feliz Salmon’s take, “The ones on the ground, who see the facts in a real world context, should be doing the contextualizing.”And (emphasis mine) if you want to understand how an audience reacts to music, you will want to be in the closest engagement between the audience and the music. In this the idea of a producer has become somebody who knows how to play a video game vs. somebody with an ear for long term success.

On Physics

The dynamics of music have been slowly eroding. Active listening is not a lean back approach and also done a lower level. It doesn’t need to be loud if you are paying close attention. Sometimes I play music through a bluetooth speaker and have to turn it down to the lowest setting in a quiet environment or else it hurts my ears. The loudness war is exactly that, a small minority railing against a decision made in the early 90’s to increase the volume in the mix/master process. When older generations complain that things are too loud, it isn’t because their hearing is going bad, they actual have very active and sensitive hearing (just cause many older people wear hearing aids doesn’t mean all older people are in need of hearing aids, or the Taleb version of mistaking absence of evidence for evidence of absence). They are accustomed to listening and learned over the years that the best approach to listening intently is active. Or Seneca’s version, advice is not delivered at the top of the voice. If it’s not delivered this way, why have we humans been steady reversing this idea. Headphones and compressed audio files are a dangerous combination for anyone interested in conserving their hearing.

People who say streaming sounds like downloads/cds are possibly going deaf, or just don’t listen well enough. The technicality of this can be mapped to what compressed waves are. They are narrow, and with less space comes smaller waves (more waves crash near the shore). What doesn’t like time/space doesn’t like unpredictability or randomness. The asymmetry or nonlinearity in wave functions maps to the fragile and antifragile generalization. With less time you have more actions, again more waves crash near the shore. Time is more events happening in a space. The more events happening the faster a higher level frequency. Turbo chargers (in engines) have a high whistle. The faster, higher frequency of wave the the less space the wave has to move. The smaller, shore crashing waves don’t like time, and are spaced much closer to another (like a college millennial who believes the world is coming to an end). These smaller waves are treble heavy, think of the size of a tweeter to a sub.  A sub is large in part because the waves it pushes are large, and a tweeter has the opposite effect. In the information age we are being forced (through loudness and digital compression) to listen backwards to how nature intended. The EARth is round and your EAR hears circular sound waves. The lack of warmth, the lack of fullness, and the lack of breath, all things computers (electronics) lack. So for your own hearing conservation (or not needing a hearing aid when you are older) we should be listening at low volumes and without headphones. Headphones direct a narrow channel allowing sound to pass, like compression. Around the time of Van Halen (MTV) the in-ear mold was produced for performing artists. Starting with the drummer who couldn’t get his monitor loud enough. When our ears remain the quickest sense we must ask ourselves why the music, in the image age, is getting louder, and louder, to the point where we shove direct tubes in our ears and proceed to play at loud levels. If you look at a screen long enough, you’ll go blind, and if you continue to use headphones you’ll go deaf.

Bass shakes and treble breaks. What do larger wave patterns have to do with compression: Our ears our shaped to react better to lower tones and some lower frequencies register in the sense of touch. So we like it slow and low, naturally. “When the object is not to make him want to learn but to get him learning, one must recourse to these lower tones, which enter the mind more easily and stick in it.” Seneca….. A high pitched scream is much worse than listening to James Earl Jones speak. This is why you feel the car with bass before you hear anything else. Feeling (your gut) is primary to decision making, ears are secondary, and the eye is wherever. It only takes two to make new. I’m sticking with my gut and my ears to deduce music, not my eyes. A majority of EDM makers today are also great video game players, who can get the screen to do stuff, they just can’t seem to get their body to do much. Sitting in front of screens doesn’t make one quick on their feet. No one likes the person who walks in front of a movie.

 Are more people watching vs. listening? Is anyone dancing? We reject the eyes as being primary, they are prone to illusions and are worthless in the dark (under opacity). The ear tells the eye where to look, as in which direction will the ambulance be traveling. Who’s sorting (applying algorithms to) your music? Visual or Audible first people? Can you mimic someone’s dance moves by watching them dance? Is it easier for you to dance on your own while listening to music? What was dancing before it was given a name and we had a term to describe it. For this matter what was anything before it was given a name. What’s in a name? What are the things you understand without giving a name. The shimmy, the shake, the twist, the swing, the step. Ask a baby to explain why it is dancing. Terms for things are nice but they too are not primary. What’s more important is a feeling. If you feel it, it’s moving you (somehow). I can’t saw what a DAW is, but I can with better certainty say what it is not, it is not a drummer, it is not a dancer, it is not, at its essence able to dance with locomotion. Robot dancing was a joke at the club to make people laugh. It still is a joke. What worries me is that we are moving more in the direction of this robotic, engineered, music. There is no lag, no hitch in their get up, and no way to self heal. Do you think a robot has a limp? Without this lag, they can’t swing. Without an orbit there is no gravity. Without locomotive movement (full of uncertainty principles) there is no depth. In the shallow shore will many waves crash. Treble heavy, compressed, unnatural systems.

On Video Gamed Hits

The mass production (not to be confused with the band) taking place today has vaulted the engineer in front of the producer with no clear hit(s) leading the way. Those who use the Max Martin/Dr Luke excuse don’t see the point. We are not talking about Swedish song-writers, who study American R&B to reproduce hits from classic styles (globalization), we are stating an obvious structural defect in making every engineer a producer just because he/she has the ability to manipulate a computer screen. This video game style of music has come to the the foray of the music industry. So much music is made by people who cannot make music without a computer screen in front of them. Electricity in humans is sufficient to make music but the humans using electricity outside of their body aren’t making anyone move naturally. Making music in a computer is the same as allowing the computer to make music. This is an attack on any musical person who allows music to move through them. Taking a line from Keith Jarrett: “electricity is inside every human, why are we playing with electronic toys”. For the non-dancing robotic movement, hand-waving EDMers, If the power goes out, make sure to find a drummer so you can still dance.

A producer is there to find the right sounds and the right movements within a piece, and reconstructs (with the artist) a better overall product for presentation. Engineers in recent times have had to put all their time into learning the newest technology (which changes often… protools 10.1 HD, plugins, logic, etc.). This is very similar to the person who has to have the latest version of a video game. The time needed to learn the new version is obvious time diverted away from listening to music or going to shows,  or getting outside, or dancing, you get the point. What we are being pushed are decisions from a group of computer nerds, whose love for these new digital technologies becomes a form of neomania, leading them away from sounds into what the screen is doing.

An engineer/producer story 

The story usually goes as such: The label owes a favor to an engineer ( I refuse to call him/her a producer, more on this later) who is hired on to mix a record furnished by a live band (who sold tickets). This engineer has the task of taking what an audience has already heard and making it his own on the grounds to reach a larger audience. Now the label should care, but doesn’t (remember they owe this engineer work, due to some contract negotiation or friends of friends, type of thing), know that this engineer does not play an instrument professionally (just in living rooms), nor do they care that his/her experience is strictly within a DAW, not around musicians, and especially not around a seven piece band. This caring attitude should extend to record sales but those don’t sell so what we have witnessed is this story play out over and over with remanufactured hits, or remakes, or copies, or flash-in-the-pan, forgot it already type of music that they mistakenly call HITS. To get this info, labels and studio engineers would need to ask the live audience the difference between a song and a hit, and would also need to make sure to ask the superfans to get the better answers. This unknowingness of anything related to the fan and the music is brought inside of their recording and production facilities and essentially becomes a game of knowing how to capture sounds in a computer vs. having any depth of understanding about which sounds to capture.

So with this agency problem we see two things: the artist’s intention to have a record that reaches a bigger audience & the diverting intention of the label to pay back a favor to a recording engineer (who has never seen/heard the audience respond to the band in real time to the music which he/she is about to mix). The non skin-in-the-game types are not deducing information about your record (mix) by being at your shows and/or listening to you rehearse, but from a boxed in, static space (usually some board room where they hold “meetings”). This gives them no experience with the crowd that hears the band in the real transaction.  This obvious model error shows us that their ears are not in tune to the listening audience.  I have no sympathy for artists who believe in this model, just like I have no sympathy for the engineer who believes they are a producer, or the label executive who is better at baking bread than listening to live music.

A producer today has to be more dynamic than that of a DAW engineer. Producers cannot spend their time keeping up with all the digital changes nor can they be expected to look at music and decide on the basis of a hit by staring at a computer screen. Producers today (and tomorrow) should be listening, not just for new sounds, but for those elements in music that will be able to play in twenty years time. To stay relevant, all these EDM producers will have to produce tracks/songs/music that we will find ourselves listening to in twenty years. In twenty years, if you’re still listening to Avicii and Aloe Blaac singing about waking up when it’s all over, you are probably still sleeping and would have missed twenty years of music. What’s most disheartening about the sensational recording industry is that they sent a guy like Aloe to D.C. on behalf of song-writers. Most song-writers I know face the problems of the day. They do not bury their head in the sand and they do not ask to be woken up when it’s over. These types sound like the farthest things from musicians, and more like the type who ask you to do something that they wouldn’t normally do. This is the inverse-hero and I long for the day when musicians were heroes and stood up for what they felt was right. This can only come from a varied type of musician, one who travels and plays in front of diverse groups, one who is dynamic.

So the same static recording engineer the label hired to mix a seven-piece band will most likely not enjoy attending shows, and if he/she does, they will probably critique every shift in sound. A personal story: I once mixed an eight piece band in a live setting and after it was over I was approached by some recording engineer types who had only this to say, that I moved the faders too much. Did they miss the concert going on, onstage?  I guess they are accustomed to a recording room where they set the dials and let technology do its thing. I’ve fired these engineering types in the live setting as they tend to “set it and forget it”. They didn’t come on their own volition, they knew somebody in the band. They do not seem to understand that a human (x’s eight) playing in front of live crowd, will play harder/softer at all different times. They will dance, get tired, get winded, get amped, scream, shout, whisper, sweat, pause for a break, drop the microphone, put the microphone in the crowd, dip it in the wedge, etc. Recording Engineers want things to be automated (static), and live engineers live in the moment, each moment, every night, in a different room, with a different (dynamic) setup. From this we see that engineers can easily capture the wrong sounds, keeping the audience in a static state. A producer who knows what sound to capture (or not capture) is primary to an engineer who merely knows how to capture sounds.

Like the narrow focus of looking through your camera phone, these engineer types see music but have a hard time hearing it. What we get is a skewed version of reality. If you take your eyes off the camera phone, your focus expands to include everything around you, but this everything around you awareness cannot be found inside a recording studio/office, by staring at a computer screen or from those who use their eyes as the arbiter of music. The natural stress provided by an audience in attendance makes the performer stronger, but the stress inside a recording studio is usually directed towards a machine not functioning properly. And we can’t forget that those in the recording studio (static) are being paid to be there, while the audience at a show (dynamic) paid to be there. The social dynamic of music is currently under the watch of the non-social, non-interactive, and non-skin-the-game types. Where do you pay for music? What music would you pay for? What elements need to be present for you to feel you got your monies worth?

On Low Dimensionality

Low dimensionality and low variability leads to blowups and diversity is proclaimed inside the record industry but they are the furthest from diverse. They have been surely loading their roster/portfolio with Look-A-Likes and Sound-A-Likes for over fifteen years. Listen from Aguilera – Ariana. The “Me-Too” company is all but original, yet the technology is new.  Let’s go back to the label (who did not conceive the idea for said technology), and who owes a favor to a engineer/mixer who, just likes me, enjoys some Hip-Hop every now and then (again we are not calling them producers). The label asks this engineer to mix a recording by a live band. There isn’t a person I don’t know who doesn’t have a story about a Hip-Hop concert that goes something like this. We went to the show just to wait for hours for the act to hit the stage, only to do a shortened set of their hits (in medley form) and then bounced off stage as if they were late for a recording studio session. So now the engineer asked to mix a band’s record is doing so from an idea that is not as musical as one would think. Yes the bass line is the most relevant after the beat (in the music not lyrics) but the musical melodic lines are absent if you travel to another country that doesn’t speak the language.  They can rap along (talk in rhyme) but they can’t sing-a-long. This really doesn’t matter much as the goal was not performance, it was selling a mix-tape. You know the type who stands on the street and asks if you like rap, tries to put headphones on your ears, and then asks for money for the CD ( I also hesitate calling Hip-Hop music, just like people hesitate calling us drummers, musicians). Anyhow, the label loves these go get em types, the type of record salesman you can find on a street corner, but who may not stay on stage longer than the minimum time stated in the contract (and sometime much less). I’ve seen stand-up comics do four hour sets without a break. In the last era of the record industry (when CDs sold) more rappers were signed than almost any other style or genre. The ultimate sales > performance model.

This isn’t to say I don’t like Hip-Hop or its producers, on the contrary, it is to say that there is an obvious error in the overall process of the macro music industry, stemming from a record label model or the idea that sales > performance. If you are trying to get a record deal this is what you will aspire for as this is what the label signals. This cycle is vicious. This is next to impossible for a real musician or the opposite of Ariana Grande to comprehend, as they have to perform in order to make a sale. If the performance is horrible, the audience will tell their friends and the tickets for the next show won’t look so hot. (The fact that this girl, who hates Americans, is still signed to the ironic label Republic Records is similar to those who turned their head the other direction when Obama’s pastor Jeremiah Wright used his words against America.)  The label is out of the live performance business, so they will not be finding these live acts (a clear agency problem with no skin-in-the-game) and pushing them to you via Spotify’s interactive technology. Quite the screw-up we’re involved in at the moment. It’s also why my ethics won’t allow me to use these wrong models.  There is nothing interactive about top-down strategies that put sales before performance. If you cannot perform, you aren’t going to sell. If you sell something besides your performance, you are better off going the video, image driven artist that MTV appreciates. The idea that all you need to do is get your music in front of the “right person” to reach a larger audience is utter BS. People are not lottery tickets. Make the right music (don’t lie to yourself) is all you have to do. Putting your music on Spotify doesn’t say anything about your music. The Swedes don’t understand “God Bless America” “America The Beautiful” or “The Star-Spangeld Banner” but are being touted as the channel for Americans who want to listen to music. Chuck Berry recently died as well. He wasn’t from Sweden. Where is your music coming from? From a programmer or from inspiration.

On Models

A large model error is having antiquated processes of the label decide what to do with new technological platforms for the artist and audience. Streaming services are staffing those who do not work with the artist and the audience to help decide what to do with the new technology that connects the artist and the audience. The money labels made from a physical product vanished into software and their only hope is to restart from the ground up. Their model of sales>performance is a structural defect inside an interactive, real-time model, and there is no cure for structural defects; we must allow them to collapse. Mr Iovine says something about the model of free/subs in relation to charting and everyone agrees. First off, these charting ideas are just as antiquated as their models. To break it down again, if you read my last post it states that radio models were about airplay in a bullseye region and sales were about albums and sometimes singles. The trumpeted Billboard chart was all about sales but remember my aunt also bought CDs that I didn’t like. Their understanding of bulk sales is no understanding at all. We don’t know what we don’t know, and the labels don’t know performance metrics in interactive models. They do not have this transactional knowledge inside a radio/album model (We have already debunked this). The new technology and the data it provides is new to label minded folk and does not fit inside their structural framework of decades past. They didn’t have the wherewithal to build the technology but are trying to decide with the tech geeks about how the audience listens, reacts, and interacts with music.

If subs are the only things counting towards popularity the BIGS are stating that non-interactive and interactive subscriptions count. This seems off, if we are living in a “singles world”. If we are to be counting singles then by all means we should be counting interactive free streams (I change the radio station in the car If I don’t like the song, Does Jimmy?). Interactive subscriptions are great, but a lot of people and businesses that pay for subs are prone to letting playlists play. They are not being interactive but their subs count towards these dumb charts. How do they know what to measure when they don’t even know who’s listening. We should be measuring interactiveness (ticket sale style models) and not sales of subscriptions in hopes to call it an “album” which suffices the label’s antiquated P/L. And if playlists are your leader then it’s once again label driven (through spotify types) songs being pushed (non-interactives know how to push). If someone pushes you it is b/c you were standing still. If you pull someone then both of you are moving in the same direction. When we interact with a song (whether free, nothing is free) we are pulling the “product out of the startup” or the “song out of the artist”. So Jimmy is neglecting the free service which he agreed to for so long. Radio got the music from the label, for free, and often the label paid for songs to be on radio. Now Jim doesn’t want to count the people who listen to free radio, only those people paying for something. Interesting when the coming of age is around 14-18 and they don’t pay for music.

The free tier is also ad supported. If your song gets big on Youtube, you win. If it gets big inside of Spotify, you do not share ad revenue and the labels are propped up with your song’s popularity and your audience’s money. When they see this they will come running, offering you the world. What are they offering?  The technology made to be interactive with the music audience (harvest/analyze data between the interaction of the audience and the music) is being composed by nerds who don’t dance, but who play video games, label executives who aren’t on tour and cannot explain what your fans want to hear, and engineers (in a box) who call themselves producers of large swaths of audience desirable content. The engagement properties of content work this way: the further you are from the real transaction the further you are from understanding music’s primary function. Live performance is a deeper understanding of the communication structure or interaction between the music and the audience. The closer the engagement the closer the action. In the macro word of sales it is much easier to bullshit your way to the title of music expert, like Bob Lefsetz (never heard his music) or these kids who get hired by Pandora, that play a guitar in their living room, and by this and their computer science degree are deciding what music you hear. You can’t do this at the micro level, where dynamics of said music remains interdependent. How many of these people, deciding the music you hear, actually get paid to play music, and feed their families doing so? I think the streaming title of “artist in residence” is to signal how they employ working artists. Let me catch a hook somewhere D.A. Wallach Bread makers make bread and others make noise. I don’t want a federal arts program if this is type of music that is gonna get funded. Spotify has been around for 6+ years in the US and not one artist worth noting has come from strictly interactive means. The popularity of interactive growth is all over Youtube. In fact the majority (if not all) of the acts you hear about “breaking records” on Spotify are already record label artists. So these were acts that had RECORD deals not Streaming deals. So Spotify has to create their own music artists to compete or not compete with the labels. Spotify has to break an artist outside of the record label model. Spotify has to prove what interactive music does. And Spotify has to do this all while hiring record label individuals. Old ideas and structures inside new technology. New ingredients, same old shell. Doesn’t sound promising.

On Faculties

Audience interaction in the live setting is complex, but it’s also about simplicity. Songs, in the classical, non-recorded, performance only form, were called “movements”. If the song today moves an audience, the real-time flow, pulse, and reactions in the context it originates, will show us these elements. The record label is in bed with streaming and a record is a rerun. What we get in this horrible combination is change (technologically) without aesthetics (hits).

In 2011 I attended the Billboard music touring conference and proposed to the panel pictured below, a question about the relevance of EDM in a live setting and the music leading its way. (I’m sitting somewhere house left, probably out of the frame).panel

Bill Werde shrugged my comment off as aesthetics because I proposed the audible argument vs. the visual spectacle that was EDM. Bill is no longer at Billboard and SFX was delisted and filed for bankruptcy. This 2011 year was also the same year Coran Capshaw received a humanitarian award. I was upstairs reading a book in the Roosevelt hotel outside of a backstage entrance and saw the poor man get turned away from this backstage entrance due to not having the right credentials (no fault on the part of the Billboard college intern working the door who didn’t know what a Virginia cowboy looks like). Coran was such a gentleman about it and walk away. That’s a sign of true success, when you don’t care for the award and you’re fine with being turned away at the door. Sitting in this same chair I was also approached by Kenny Chesney, and who I presumed to be his manager, they asked where the nearest bathroom was. I wasn’t working this event but I guess there is something about a touring musician that reflects outwardly to other touring musicians. I politely gave them the direction to the nearest mensroom. Now this Billboard intern, did he not know who these music people were? Was this not taught in college? Which leads us to the primary statement of the music industry collapsing due to its reliance on college graduates or “the educated class”. This says that the musicians who make the music, and in which the majority of them do not have a college degree, are not credentialed enough to be a part of the label/streaming world. What will new musicians and their new music do? Where will they go for development? They can’t trust the old process inside such an interactive technology and they can’t trust this globalized system to lead them in the direction of new success.

The college degree candidates for music will continue to head to the Big Streamers for jobs and these jobs will be there to push what music is already in catalogue form to the rest of the world. Your college degree candidates are not deducing new sounds for the market, they are disseminating catalogue music. And new acts through these services sound a lot like the current acts in a label catalogue. So it seems then the bifurcation of music is among us.  One leading in the direction of a globalized strategy (or label model) the other in the form of new developments and a new direction for new artists with new music. The globalized strategy works, it takes from what is and makes it better. This focus is where Spotify and others will continue to be moving, in the direction of scale.  What I am excited about in the globalized era is the amount of next generation performers who will (so easily) with Youtube and streaming services, be able to emulate James Brown, The Eagles, Bill Evans, Tower of Power, Keith Jarrett, and a host of talents. We will see growth from this but there are key elements our top performers share, they do not have college degrees, and they come from a performance model (live) vs a recording model (rerun). The reruns and derivatives are out there. With all theses people listening to the same music, who originates what you will hear next?

On New Structures

With all the current systems in place to derive from what is and make it better, what area of the music industry will then be the ones who do something new, authentic, original, and make it stick out amongst the forty million available tracks to stream? What area of music can decide quicker and with better metrics if a song/artist will stick. Re-referencing the true statement above, If you want to know better how an audience will respond to music, you will want to work in the environment where the audience is at its closest engagement with the music. A quote from the above Billboard 2011 article states, “No matter what the genre, live music is of high interest to investors these days”. Does that make recorded music (catalogued) a low investment strategy? What are investor returns who invest in the globalization radio/label/streaming model? If live music is of “high interest” to investors, where are these investors who are interested in partnering with businesses and individuals who are steeped in live music. How much longer will we wait before the influence of live connects with with the technology that interacts with the fans. Labels, who don’t attend concerts regularly, or are non-musical, have missed many hits that went into obscurity and will continue to do so.  Labels and streaming are not experienced in live music (interactive models) and investors should heed this main point when making decisions. EDM leads with visuals, and an old model with new technology is mispriced in the market. The opportunity to make new sounds for a new generation sits right in front of us.

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Hardware & Software

“This was meant to be a match made in heaven/instead we are slowly drifting in the opposite direction.”

Napster scared the dickens out of the label. The digitization of tracks showed us that good music can not be controlled and that labels should not be the ones deciding what is good for the listening audience (that the invention of social media platforms were not going to be used as thought, or the artist is never bigger than the song type of thing).

The technology changed the business, it did not, however, change the music. The label depends on the music to sustain their business, this means they depend on the artist to furnish them the music so they can make a business from it (this has not changed). But a big change has occurred and many label executives are blinded by it (I’ve sat in their offices and looked in their eyes). To get this streaming revolution going we have to thank Daniel Ek and Tim Westergren, who, without their services none of this would be possible, but it is their services which do not have as bright a future as the others (as they hire label/radio model error types, expect engineers to curate music, aren’t that profitable, are only licensed apps not playback devices, etc.).

I started listening to Pandora in 2005 and quickly maxed out the 100 stations, which to this day play predictable music (developed world type of stuff). Then there’s the limit on many times you can hear a song…Spotify is so sporadic, I have anxiety every time I let it do its thing. 

The labels had a physical product, they lost it to Napster types and have been steady trying to gain back some relevance in the physical space of music (360 deals take from touring revenue). Now that labels own stakes in Spotify, Pandora, etc. they are using this as their physical product or CD revenue. (Thus the reason they have tried to model streams to match album sales, but a stream is not a physical piece of anything!!! We must never forget this key business driver: The record labels had a physical product to sell, they do not have a physical product any longer. Where the heck is their money coming from?) Right now all of Big Streaming negotiates with the label for the same music (mostly old catalogue music made by musicians, not EDM digital stuff which is found free all over the internet). This means, Rhapsody, Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora et al are basically the same channel. Sub channels inside do not count, as this is too much work for an individual with tastes in music, (plus these tastes are being curated by the furthest from a musical person, with computer engineers). There is no way I am going to Spotify for Ambient, Jazz, Hip-Hop, EDM, etc… they cannot be great at all of them. Would you want an orthopedic surgeon operating on your heart?

We have to have the device before the app, and Apple/Google are steady trying to be the device in your hands, or the gramophone in your home.  Any extra steps, beyond the device needed to play the music, are going to become so fragmented that Big Streaming Apps (BSAs) will slowly be fettered out. How is this possible you say? Take a little look at radio, all music, stories, news, weather, etc. all started on one station. As radio (and record technology) grew in frequencies, and in listeners, the music spread out across stations. Radio stations started becoming format driven (580 became classical, 1640 became jazz, 1200 became news and weather and so on and so forth). Labels began signing a certain type of sound and when the technology grew, more sounds were created, and added, and so forth. The advent of FM changed it once again as a new radio band was able to broadcast a completely new style/sound/genre not being broadcast on AM, it fragmented/branched out again with genre labels and more and more music was made (so many labels, signing so many different sounds). We are destined to see a fragmenting once again, with distribution all over the place, finding the right niche of listener, but not as we’ve seen it in the past.

you can see the fractalness of where this is going, genre branching as streaming apps grow and become formatted…the U2 album inside itunes will be a lot like the future but not as forced….

Soon, all BSAs will all have a free tier (playing singles in format style like radio) and a subscription tier for the fan who wants the album (extra content). Now here is where it will get tricky, if BSAs begin formatting with the label sooner than later. They may have a future, but they will still be light years behind, as no one has seem to have caught on yet that labels, radio, and publishing never knew who was listening, but are being hired today (By BSAs) to help deduce business models around who is listening. The labels, (I am using terminology here, as record labels today will most definitely not look like record labels of the future. So the term will change with the intended meaning of what a “record label is.” The future demands an investment in the most lucrative area of the industry, which is live, and labels today do not care for live. New “live first” (vs marketing first) labels will emerge and be your “new label”) well, their only chance of survival (without some drastic, intervention & overhaul) is to do as Motown did, with a set sound of what they are willing, and capable to promote, and with a matching station (streaming service) playing Motown specific music. But today still you have multiple genres at one label, all running the same business model and licensing all their music to these BIG services. This is due for an overhaul, but they do not see it coming, hence the blindness. The physical product remains visible, but the technology remains invisible.

Royalties are a hard business to crack. Publishers, rights holders, and rights management all had a nice run with the label/radio model because no one knew who was listening, so it was easy to hide (with smoke and mirrors) their lack of value in the system.  The court system (copyright board) is on fire and I think a proper tracking of payments technology will have to be established before courts can adjust. 

In the good ol days, of the label controlling the music we hear, they set up manufacturing services for vinyl, eight track tapes, cassettes, mini-discs, CD’s, laser discs, all types physical pieces of technology. But before this, parts of some labels were also manufacturing the playback device. RCA made gramophones, and Sony made walkmans and portable transistor radios. They merged with the rights owners, as the rights owners needed their devices to remain valid in people’s homes and in their ears and the technology needed the rights owners to deliver content. Today the equivalent of a gramophone has to have a connection to the internet and comes from a playback device made by some of these companies: Apple (iphone), Google (phone), Samsung (phone), LG (phone), Blackberry (phone) and some more stationary devices like a Sonos soundbar, all physical (you can touch) pieces. Two of these have built in streaming services in Apple Music and Youtube Music (owned by Google). One is loved by the recording industry for its large customer base and hefty profits (for the label) the other is hated for their even larger customer base with lesser profits (for the label, and more for the artist who is independent). I will never argue a 50/50 split when the label has been getting >70% with streams. With proper structures in place to retrieve playback data, we will see a healthier industry, but before music gets paid, the music has to be deemed valuable. What has been valuable to the label since MTV has been much more image driven than audible. But looks don’t matter in reality and in reality the artist has to prove his or herself in the real transaction of live (that forgotten industry that’s way older than recording technology, and more robust). “You can’t fool too many people for too long” -Nassim Taleb

We should very skeptical of record labels owning a piece of these BSAs. The labels missed the boat on creating a new technology (that interacts with the fans) so how are they somehow still afloat? In the place of a physical product the labels negotiated with Spotify, Pandora, etc to be part equity owners in the product they did not create (sound familiar). This has been the label game for some time, let others do the work, then claim you own a share for doing absolutely nothing. When I say nothing I mean without skin-in-the-game. The label will not be helping drive your band’s van/trailer. They will not be unloading or loading gear. They will not be writing songs, or playing on stage, or offer much support in the realm of performance, and they most definitely aren’t coming to the show. Today the lowest part of a record deal is still tour support and the highest is marketing. These non-interactive types are the furthest thing from understanding the real transaction of the artist/listener experience, yet they remain inside BSAs trying to figure out how to create a User Experience, on a User Interface, without ever experiencing or interacting with a user (listener) face-to-face. I wish they would all quit their jobs but it’s not that easy.

The problem being, the BSAs remain in bed with the label (who remain non-interactive) until the label can produce their own service or do better/different deals with the Playback Devices (PBs/phones). If the playback devices get smart, they will not need the labels or the BSAs to make music have a great future. YouTube is already a direct line to the listener, which cut out an extra step (agency problem) in the process of listening to music. Youtube has production facilities and Apple has done at least two direct deals with artists who bypassed a label. In this future Spotify and Pandora are destined to remain non-interactive. Which leads us to question their data analyses of interactive transactions, when they have never interacted in the real transaction.

The data to match the listening audience was never possible inside the old technology. In the bullseye radio market, a song could be spun 7 times a day, in an area of 300,000 listeners, and with some scientific mumbo-jumbo formula (which included focus groups) they would attempt to tell us how many people (but not who) were listening. This is some messy data as no one really knows who was listening, just like no one knows if Alicia Keys first record sold 500,000 copies in the first week because one man (Clive Davis) bought 300,000 of them. These tactics are the same as going to a chinese take-out and seeing a tip jar full of cash. Did every customer tip or did the owner stuff the jar with cash from the register, no one knows. But what we do know, with interactive data, is who is listening, when and where, think of it like a concert ticket…Friday night, at the 9:30 Club, there will be people listening to the sounds of so and so. This real transaction data has been taking place long before the gramophone was ever invented. The label’s business (built on gramophone technology) was to promote singles (through radio spins) and sell (physical) albums (through record stores). Their distribution started with radio and they gave radio whatever they thought would spin. Today a stream is neither a sale (album) or a spin (radio) because today we have the choice to stream (invisibly) what we want.

Now that the physical piece of music has been digitized, the influence and power of the industry falls on the remains physical pieces needed to play music. Think your phone, an instrument, a musician (something you can touch).

Look at this crap. You are an independent artist (congratulations) who feels as though you should put your music on Spotify and Pandora because this is what people without skin-in-the-game are telling you to do. They will not be harmed by their words, they are only talkers and you should avoid them like the plague. You write a hit, and put it on these services, which are partly owned by a label, now your fans, your music, and your hard work is in part being shared by a label who have done nothing, not even market your songs. This was all done by an audience liking the song enough to share it and listen again and again and by you or your band possibly touring and gaining credit in the market. All the while your song(s) are influencing an even bigger audience to use said platform (BSA) more and more. In the meantime you see no money (or very little money) and are leading your followers to platforms partly owned by labels, but you have no desire to be on a label. Now if your followers subscribe, they are paying a label and a service to stream your music. The pooling of payments has got to stop.  Mariah Carey does not see revenue from Macy Gray’s concerts sales. These services use ads to reach your followers and pay for their vacations with this ad revenue, but do not share this ad revenue with you, or invite you on their vacation. Weird right, sounds just like radio. This is not good business, using old models with new technology. I can’t think of anyone who would look at this model and say, “yes, that’s the future…your skin, in their game.”

So even though we were fortunate to hear some of the amazing singles we did, partly owed to artists (who demanded, if not more, that this or that song be the single) and partly owed to a different era of the label biz, (when label execs didn’t put marketing first but wrote songs and went to shows) what we did not hear about are the thousands of artists who had the talent, the single and the wherewithal to make it, but succumbed to the label’s idea of an album cycle, and drowned in obscurity.

Everyone in music knows their role, and if they don’t, they become helicopter enthusiasts, uber drivers, or pickled egg makers, you get the point, they end up doing something else. Most label executives are leaving for other things. Take a look at one head of A&R, who just loves Broadway musicals. He too believes music is about image and followed his heart right on out of the music business taking his label with him. Artists do not stay around forever and neither should these executives and their antiquated models that do not fit the new technology. These non-interactive models are so mispriced in the market, that is interactive, it is only a matter of time until history jumps in favor of the artisan/entrepreneur.

Problem: artists/entrepreneurs are not seeing the proper payments in an interactive setting mostly due to a system of non-interactives trying to captain the ship

So there seems to be two questions that remain… Will the government do a Ma Bell on the record labels (giving streaming services equal footing in the market) or will Apple/Google be able to purchase Warner/Universal/Sony…and if they purchase said labels, are they smart enough to revamp interactive music, without the presence of those non-interactive types?

The bifurcation of a pre-streaming label and post-streaming label is upon us. The label can keep their old catalogue, I’ll be over here working with new model artists who wish to retain their intellectual property.

“Ever held a gun? You immediately feel the power. To maim, to kill.” @Lefsetz

We all want to see the music industry flourish, but first we need to take care of the sick & the mentally-ill. This is more important than which music streaming service gets an IPO next.

As we get closer to the end of life we all will say and/or do things that do not fit our past profile. We may not believe Bob’s music reviews or follow his analysis, but we believe he can get better. It can’t happen by itself, we need all of you who care about music to drop what you think about critics and think about the health of an individual, and it starts with interaction from the community that he doesn’t feel a part of. Having never worked in music, Bob is reaching out when he posts his inner feelings for the entire music/tech industry to read them. If you read Lefsetz Letter or don’t, Bob needs our help. 

Going forward, we will add Bob’s name to all shows and guest-lists, with a +1. We will send him invites, and tickets to shows that he may have never thought he would attend, and we ask all of you to do the same. Reach out and offer what you can, a helping-hand, a kind word, or just a hello so Bob knows we are on his side. Bob, you are welcome to join us for catering, hang backstage, and even pick up an axe to jam a bit. We want to help you Bob, and we will help you.

*For everyone’s safety & security inside music venues, all guests are frisked and wanded.

#Live & Later

Happy Anniversary @Twitter

Over the past year I have thought a lot about how music data is currently being analyzed (like a calf at a new gate). Before we try to analyze data from interactive channels we will first look at who does best “at what” and try to solve for the most valuable use case. Overall I hope this post will help us all better understand the relationship between Twitter and Music.

What prompted this post was when I heard a CNBC host say Twitter was a store. It is easy to see that Twitter is not much a store as it is customer service. Breaking down the customer service chain the most direct connection between brand and product is the manufacturer and the user (or the architect and the home dweller) This bond of trust is bigger than the realtor, who acts as a salesmen in the process, but will not incur any responsibility if the house collapses. (i.e. No Skin-In-The-Game)

~Musicians are on @Twitter and so are their fans

For the musician who wants to keep in touch with their fans this is best done via Twitter.

Let’s say you are a fan of music and your favorite band/artist are soon coming to town. You bought tickets to the show but you also enter a contest to upgrade to a VIP meet-n-greet. Luck strikes and you win the contest. In an email from the VIP tour department you’re told that the meet-n-greet will happen one hour before the show, and will take place backstage. Deep down you know your time will be limited and you won’t be the only one in the meet-n-greet. Due to the timing of the meet happening just before the show, you also know it won’t offer much time to interact with your favorite artist/band. Just imagine if the meet-n-greet was post performance. The excitement to see a band after their performance grows as the show goes on through the night. This time slot would be even shorter plus you would have to deal with family and friends being backstage after the show which would limit your interaction even more.  So the strategy is in place. You show up early, park, enter the venue, find a security guard and tell them you won a VIP meet-n-greet, security finds the right individual working with the tour staff and directs you to a holding area. Once the entire VIP group arrives everyone gets to go backstage. (The dynamics change if it is a band or solo artist, but for the story we will stick with a solo act).

Next, you enter through a door near the stage, file down a hall and wait again before entering the area (probably the green room) where you will be lucky enough to get to interact with your favorite artist. There are roughly 20 people in this line. The VIP assistant states that there will only be time for a photo, no autographs (as signing papers or ticket stubs takes way too much time). Unknown to you, and the group, there was a snag in traffic and ground transportation has just relayed to the production staff that a wreck has the artist held up just a few blocks from the venue. The VIP assistant has a schedule to abide by and turns to the crowd to make an updated announcement. “Those individual photos can not happen, but instead there will now be two group photos of 10 people each. Remember, we are on a time crunch and that showtime stamped on your ticket has to happen the way it says. The show must go on. But do not fret, you still get to meet your favorite artist.”

It’s time and timing is everything. You dressed for the occasion, you have your brightest and biggest smile on, and you even popped a mint. The VIP assistant (or Tour manager, friend, whomever) walks towards the corner of the room where the entrance door resides. A hush comes over the lucky twenty and in walks ________________. Your mouth gets dry, your palms sweaty, and your eyes bug out of your head. You’re about to cross a major one off of your bucket list. The first of two photos is your group and lucky you, you are placed right next to ________________. You have a quick second to say something before the photo. If the first thing that comes out of your mouth is a Facebook post, you have failed, but not you, you’re a smart fan. You get that artists are crunched for time like everyone else and you decide to drum up the best 140 characters you can think of in order to make a simple but lasting impression on your favorite artist. One of the best interactions has just taken place, and you will remember this experience for life. Score. A direct message, reply or mention from__________ is sure to be a backstage moment.

There will always be more people tweeting at the artist from the crowd, you will know them because they usually scream “i love you” or their favorite song’s name or may even try to heckle the act, but have no fear these folks rarely get a response from the stage.

Some extra tidbits…

~Constraint

Enlarging the character limit goes against economics… the less characters, the more valuable the tweet. (see: rare metals)

The internet is about speed; 140 characters are quicker to read than 10,000

If someone unloads a Facebook post on you in person you will probably feel drained. 140 characters are closer to how we communicate face-to-face dialogue.

Technology: do more with less (a whole EDM post can be written about this statement)

~Connection

Interactive transactions with those outside of our circle adds to our knowledge base.

Sharing information on Twitter and being able to connect with those who share similar interests is by far one of its most valuable use cases.

The Facebook pie is mostly those we have already interacted with in real-life. Rarely do you add a friend on Facebook whom you have never met, but following someone on Twitter that you have never met is half the point.

The connection process on Twitter essentially connects those who have never met in person but who may share similar interests.

~News

The effects (80%) of Facebook are caused (20%) on Twitter or What happens on Twitter is talked about on Facebook.

LIVE

Twitter = Activate (set in motion, initiate, turn on)

LATER

Facebook = Disseminate (circulate, distribute, spread)

The news rarely reports on a Facebook post

“Tweet us your photo” (says CNN, The Weather Channel, etc)

or “Use hashtag ___”

Miracle on The Hudson… Political conversations…. Copyright…

~Customer Service vs. The Storefront

Facebook is a much better retail store than Twitter.

Retail is about traffic, about volume, about quantity.

Musicians mention their merch table and future shows from the stage but rarely sell t-shirts and tix from the stage. (Artists should stop trying to sell stuff from Twitter/The Stage)

Facebook is more similar to the “Merch Table” than it is to “the show” or “backstage”. The storefront is Facebook , the distributor is Amazon, and customer service is Twitter.

Twitter is like Google because Twitter is where we go for deduced information.

Amazon is to Facebook (stuff everyone needs, people you already know)

as

Google is to Twitter (information aggregation and relative, real-time search capabilities)

The distributor is Amazon, and the aggregator of deduced information is Google.

In the near future Twitter will need to become even more like Google (with modifications) or be bought by Google. Imagine Google’s page rank/algorithm, sharing which links are most associated with Twitter and then a tractable source from where the links originated before they were disseminated.

~Demographics

A way to look at Facebook being the “store” is to look at the average age of those who purchased Adele’s latest CD. It is the same average age of those who use Facebook. 40+  which have the bulk of the money and are most likely to use Facebook as a store.

With some 2014 info from @NestaMusic

EDM fans tweeted 1.85x more than the average Twitter user at 11 times a day. Approximately 1/3 of those tweets were about EDM. These passionate EDM fans posted about their genre 52% more than the broad genre music fans. EDM fans also tweeted about their listening behavior four times as much as other music listeners and generated approximately 72% more conversations on the major topics in their lives. They post about events 30% more than other music fans, with 1 in 4 posts about EDM occurring during a live event.” 

~Business of Live

Music fans engage with music in a multitude of different ways, but the the closest possible engagement between a fan and the music happens at the live show, and Twitter is live.

Live context is volatile, uncertain and complex. How does Twitter incorporate a LIVE music experience inside their product?

With Twitter it is better to have perspective than process. Facebook is the other way around.

How to build business from these areas comes first from understanding what they are great at doing and then build a data narrative from that, not the other way around.

So here, in the age of the disappearing salesmen (and a probable reason for the nostalgic effect of “Mad Men”) one who claims an ability to market on Facebook, but has no intention to work customer service on Twitter, is not ready to add value to the overall pie. We can not put live in a box.

Customer service is best done Live.

Entities who have the experience servicing the music customer in live events are accustomed to complex structures and managing uncertainty at the speed of live.

How to help Twitter therefore becomes how to the incorporate a LIVE music business experience inside their product.

~Twitter and Music

Like most musical artists, Twitter is misunderstood.   

There will always be less people backstage, or at the live show than outside looking in.

(Twitter: 320 million

Facebook: 1 billion)

Four of the Five most followed profiles on Twitter are music related.

Around ninety percent of people have a relationship to music. This metric tells us all we need to know about what the most valuable use case is.

What happened to Soundcloud/Twitter merger?

“Earlier this year (2014) a survey found that @twitter users share @soundcloud links more than any other music service, including @spotify

If Twitter attracts music fans, it’s simple to see that their business should have executives and/or board members who understand the business of music fans, especially if they have real-time transactions and live customer service experience.

For every person who says they don’t use Twitter, there is a musician out there who does not understand why everyone is not using Twitter.

Apple & Nashville

Speculating about the future can be overwhelming, but we also feel it should not be abandoned. Last year the talk was about how streaming needed to scale. This year it has been mostly about data. Though we will save the data for another post, the data gold mine needs two parts to be successful: It requires a partnership between those who know how to use the mining tools, and those who know what gold looks like.Without domain experience the data will find spurious relationships, taking much longer to analyze.  Similar to what streaming shows us, (who is listening to what song, when and where) our business is built on contextual listening experiences. The difference between us and data-journalists, however, is a 15 year head-start interacting with artists and observing the audience in the real transaction.  Our research does not discredit other areas of the music industry, but rather hones our attention on those positioned to lead the new music business. This post will pick up where Live Nation Labs left off and look at two areas poised to lead the future of the music business. (caveat: Tidal may be the first to crack a new business model)

Time after time we have seen first movers get pushed out of the space by a competitor’s impeccable design, simple interface, or better user experience, and we see this happening again in music streaming.  After thinking about the new music space for four years, our feeling is that next year’s two topics of discussion will revolve around the largest music streaming player & the city at the center of the music business. The way it looks, Apple will be the influence to grow streaming. Not because they have vast amounts of credit cards, but because they enter late, capture the audience’s attention, and deliver a quality experience. What makes Apple “Apple” is its focus on quality, and the same can be said for Music CityOn the non-digital (physical) side of the music industry we see Nashville, TN as a birthing ground for new musical talent. Barry Gibb calls Nashville “the center of the music industry” and Richard Florida calls it the Nashville Effect, stating “It’s turned into the Silicon Valley of the music business, combining the best institutions, the best infrastructure, and the best talent. And…for multiple musical genres.”  (note: if you would like to replace the words “nashville” “music city” or “music row” with “silicon valley”, please feel free to do so)

  For decades Nashville has been recognized as the Country Music Capital, but its role to the rest of the world is “Music City”, and the numbers suggest over 10,000 new residents are moving there each year. This historic growth puts Nashville in the top 10 cities for growth, but this spike in population has also put Music City in an awkward place. Music Row and Apple are both confronting the Innovator’s Dilemma, but for Music Row this time is a bit more seriousThe growth comes at a time when Country music sits at the top of the charts but the music industry remains in decline. Due to the technological shift in the recording process and people’s listening habits, Music Row’s real estate on 16th and 17th avenues are worth more today as use for condominiums. The property on these streets have even gained attention from the National Trust of Historic Preservation, and are now deemed a National Treasure. The awkwardness of this is that areas that usually receive this support, do so in an economic downturn. Though the music industry is in a downturn, the city of Nashville is flourishing.  Only a few days ago we counted eleven construction cranes in the downtown area, and this summer the new Ascend Amphitheater will begin hosting concerts in a 6800 capacity riverfront venue paid for by the city.

141022-amphitheater7

Apples on trees grow from the inside —> out & true growth comes from the center.

Apple’s investment in Beats can be chocked up as the cost of doing business in music, but with this purchase they not only secured a streaming service and headphone brand, but a hip-hop artist/producer, a hard rock pioneer, and a former record label executive, who also sits on the board of Live Nation.  Their latest music based acquisitions include a popular BBC disk jockey, BBC producers, as well as a request for music journalists.  Apple, a music/tech company, also manufactures the playback device, capable of offering a download store, a radio service, and an interactive streaming service. While other streaming services continue to invest in engineers, Apple is busy building a full music ecosystem. These approaches signal that some services are concerned overall with technology and others with music. In the history of time music has always outlasted technology.

Though disruption is a hot topic in the music industry we do not feel Music Row will be fully upended.  Let’s revisit what Barry Gibb said about Nashville being the center of the music business. Nashville is the center of the concert and touring industry.  Only the best players tour, and the majority are based near Nashville . The decision to be near other quality musicians puts the pressure on to become better, and during the turn of the millennium Nashville boasted the largest concentration of musicians.

concentration

Four out of five of the most followed people on Twitter are musicians, Twitter is likened to a town hall or forum, and Nashville is known as the Athens of the South.   For over sixty years Music Row has been a major reason some of the best musicians flock to Nashville.  Businesses compete for top talent, and the top talent are based near Nashville. To Nashville’s benefit, and due to the “seismic shift in the economics” an artist’s profit comes from the live show. Over 50% of the total music industry spend is in the live realm and 64% of all nightlife tickets are spent on live music. Sony NY recognizes the need to build out the 360 model to focus on this revenue stream.  and Nashville’s central location means it also has a very close relationship to the bus leasing business.

figure 8

figure eight tour routing

Though there is large demand to be near the best music America has to offer, quality musical talent is not the only piece of this puzzle. “People also seem to like music that is relevant to the times that they live in.” Jim Davies ~ The cost of living in California or New York is not feasible for artistic types like it was back in the sixties. New York City hovers around 33% above average, and has even started a campaign to advise the hipster, folk, indie movement to consider moving to Detroit. Another sign that New York can not support artists is the 35% tax credit for music production. This is needed to balance the high cost of living which still does not suffice. Artists need space to create and space is hard to come by in NYC. Near 6.6% below the average cost of living, and with a lot more space, it’s obvious that Nashville is a good buy for millennials,  Even the music properties in CA and NY are having to scale back to operate effectively. For some of us moving to Nashville is probably a cheaper option than visiting. In 2014 the average price of a hotel room increased by fifteen percent. The largest surge for any U.S. city.  Following Nashville the two cities with the fastest-growing average daily rates in 2014 were San Francisco and Denver.

Considering a company’s capacity for growth at the macro-level, most will come face-to-face with the Innovator’s Dilemma.  Apple has confronted this many times and Music Row is looking dead-on at this decision today.  Either grow something new from the inside out or get disrupted by a competitor.  America can not continue to copy or derive works from others. Nashville has always been about talent, the players, the performers, the singers, the pickers-and-a-grinners.  Apple and Nashville bring together what people really want, quality experiences.  People know the difference between good and bad performances. We’ll pay to see the good ones and watch the bad ones for free. 

The leader of American music today is Country music, and leadership in America has everything to do with creating something new. Some might say Country went Pop, we see the growth as Pop going Country.  The goal for America is to do new things. It’s not about exceptionalism. It’s about leadership and leaders convince us to try new things. Sony/ATV also sees this shift and recently sent a New York A&R rep to Nashville to form a Pop division (non-country). Though some Music Row executives do not want this party to end, this is exactly what has to happen for true change to occur. The changes in music do not wait for anyone, and to not be on board with change can be costly.

For Nashville to be the Silicon Valley of the music business, Music Row has to disrupt itself, and focus on what makes it Music City. Music City must take further steps to innovate. It must begin to try new things, learn to fail fast, iterate the finished product, and make great music for the audience that demands great experiences.In such a flooded global market for live music, people still want to experience the best there is to offer.  What makes Nashville “Music City” is its caliber of musical talent. Today’s job for A&R and Producers is to focus solely on the best talent. From songwriting to performance, or premise to conclusion, the idea is to maximize talent the same effective way as Silicon Valley.

Like RocknRoll and the shift to FM, our country needs a new sound to lead the growth in digital streaming. The question to be asked is “What will it take to bolster this rapid growth and convert the listening audience to streaming?” The answer is a focus on infrastructure and a new supply of quality music.  A new sound that motivates and generates new value. The only way to bolster this growth is with new timeless hits. The next generation of Nashville’s music industry leaders are not afraid to get their hands dirty, and John Sebastian agrees, it’s those Nashville Cats that motivate us to be better. 

Songwriting is rarely top-down but as of late there has been a diminishing number of writers in Nashville. It has all been led by a few “experts” tied in with the labels. For those who understand Nashville politics it seems to fail if it goes the way of ATL/CNN and Austin/SXSW and will win if it sticks to what it’s best at, attracting talent of the highest caliber and with the utmost of principles. The party can’t last forever.