Category - music 3.0

The new era started with Napster. Its arrival heralds a return to the era before Edison.

“Guitar Mash” = “Music 3.0”

Remember when I was writing about “Music 3.0“?

Of course you don’t, that was almost 10 years ago, before I folded “celestialjukebox.org” into one of the archived elements of this CohesionArts website.

My idea of “Music 3.0” (there are others, but they’re not nearly as prescient or comprehensive… 😜) was the culmination of what I still occasional refer to as my “Grand Nebulous Theory of The Future of Music” – a concept both “grand” and “nebulous” because, while I think the historical trajectory offers some useful clues, I don’t really have a solid grasp of the ultimate destination.

Whatever the ultimate destination, I think I walked into a fresh landmark along the route this past Saturday when I spent the afternoon at the City Winery in Nashville for something called the “Guitar Mash.”

The concept is hard to describe, but is summed up in the project’s stated mission to “change the way you experience music.”  Follow this link to get a better idea of the concept (simplified version here).

As I wrote in a Facebook post the following day:

I got to be present for – and photograph – a rather extraordinary event yesterday at City Winery.

It’s called the “Guitar Mash.”

It starts with a “house band” of A-List musicians – like Jerry Douglas on dobro, Mark Stewart (musical director for Paul Simon, among other things), Victor Krauss on bass, Larry Atamanuik on drums and John Deaderick on keys.

As the afternoon unfolded, the band was joined on stage by featured players including the likes of Brent Mason, Keb Mo, and John Oates.

But the really unique feature is: the audience is encouraged to bring their own instruments and… ohmigod… play along with the stars! Chord-and-lyric charts are displayed on the video screens and “Chord Coaches” (from the W.O. Smith School) wander the audience helping the guests suss out what they’re trying to play.

There will be more to come after I’ve sorted through all the files, but this morning I want to share this one shot of MV Gauthier, as she performs Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” and looks out at a venue full of people playing and singing along with her. Her reaction here captures the entire essence of the event. Long story short, it was a blast for every one.

While technology continues to disrupt the “virtual” music business, I felt like this was an indication of what’s possible in the “real” world of music: empowering more people to make music themselves. I kinda think Mary is catching that spirit in this moment and realizing what a wonderful thing that could be.

It oddly frustrates me sometimes when I go to a concert or a club, and there is so little for the audience to do.  The performers put their best effort into a song, and the rest of us sit there and repetitiously flap our hands together in appreciation.  Rinse and repeat.  I don’t know that there is any viable alternative to that, but here’s a venue full of people doing something other than waiting for their chance to applaud:

Digital Caveats re: the above slideshow: I’m having some issues with ZenFolio – my web gallery/service provider – over their continued reliance on Adobe Flash for these slide shows.  10 years after Steve Jobs wrote the epitaph on Flash, ZenFolio only lets me create an “embeddable” slideshow if I use Adobe Flash.  HTML5 has been the de-facto standard for nearly a decade,  but when I try to embed the HTML5 version of this slideshow in my WordPress post, only half of the images appear in an otherwise half-black screen.  I love ZenFolio, but this one rates a big WTFF?  I don’t have Flash on my new MacBook Pro, so I have no idea if the embed above works or not.  If not, follow this link to see the entire gallery; there is a button to display the HTML5 slideshow in the upper right corner of the gallery page.

 

Y’All Are Gonna Wanna Get Hip
to Bonnie Bishop

About 5 years ago, I was fortunate to be invited to attend the annual American Music Conference here in Nashville (little known fact: I was actually on the Founding Council that started the AMA back in like 2000).

After the conference, I sat down with the program guide from all the showcase and went on line (at the time it was LaLa.com) to stream/listen to some of the artists whose showcases I’d missed.  One track stopped me in… well, my tracks.  It was an artist I’d never heard of named Bonnie Bishop and the track was called “Lucky Ones.” Here, listen to it for yourself:

Bonnie has released a couple of records since then; visit her Spotify page to hear more.  What you’re going to hear is one of the gut-wrenching-est voices this side of… well, Janis Joplin comes to mind…

I tracked her down later that year, and she let me photograph a showcase that she performed at one of Nashville’s clubs.  She was still doing her level best to land a fucking record deal…

Over the past decade+, Bonnie Bishop’s career has seen all the vagaries  typical of today’s itinerant, independent singer/songwriters – they who that travel and toil under the radar of the mainstream commercial music industry.  They for whom the life of an “artist” is “mostly driving.”

Two years ago, she was on the threshold of throwing it all in.

That’s all going change with the release of  her new CD, “Ain’t Who I Was” next month.  The title track was released today:

And here’s what you need to know about the pedigree of this new record, which will be officially released on May 27:

  1. It was produced by Nashville’s hottest producer, the Chet Atkins/Owen Bradley of the twenty-teens, Dave Cobb.  Talk about being on a roll: Dave Cobb is responsible for the breakthrough solo releases by Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson and  2016 multi- CMA, Grammy and ACM winner Chris Stapleton (all Spotify links).  You just don’t get any hotter a hand than the one Dave Cobb has been playing over the past few years.  And the Atkins/Bradley reference is not an overstatement – he recently took over the keys to Nashville’s fabled Studio A (sometimes referred to as Nashville’s Abbey Road), which was built by Chet and Owen in the 1960s and narrowly escaped  a condo-developer’s wrecking ball in 2014.
  2. The release and distribution of “Ain’t Who I Was” is being handled by Thirty Tigers, a new-paradigm label services and distribution company that is one of the few companies  that has cracked the code on the new digital business – and not coincidentally the same firm that handled the break out releases for Jason Isbell and Sturgill Simpson, among others.

RollingStone.com has got a great account of the kismet that went into the song selection and production of this new record:

The recording sessions were coming to an end when Cobb’s cousin, singer/songwriter Brent Cobb, walked into the studio with a track he’d co-written earlier that afternoon.

“Dave opens a brand new bottle of his favorite tequila,” Bishop remembers, “and we all take shots. Then Adam [Hood] and Brent play us the song they wrote. I have chills. I look over at Dave, who is nodding his head and grinning at me. Then I sing the words back to them while Brent plays the guitar and they sound so natural coming out of my mouth. It’s like I’ve been singing this song all my life.”

The song was “Ain’t Who I Was,” which became the title track to the new CD. When you hear it, you can’t help but think that the spiral has come back around, only at a much higher level, and that Bonnie Bishop is about to become, truly, one of “the lucky ones.”

Bonnie Bishop promo photo by Jason Lee Denton

Bonnie Bishop promo photo by Jason Lee Denton

A “Band On The Brink” – An ‘Industry’ On The Edge

Last night, a rogues gallery of characters from Nashville’s business and creative communities assembled at the Belcourt Theater to deliver what could be considered a start-of-the-New-Year self-assessment: 

bannerThere were three parts to the evening that did a surprisingly good job of hitting any number of moving targets.

The first part was a short documentary film describing the origins, history, demise and resurrection of a band called “The New Dylans.”  The film was the final, compiled installment in a year long effort to document the reconstitution of a group that broke up in the mid 1990s – and uses their tale as an object lesson on the State of The Music Industry in Nashville in the Digital Age. Read More

Deep Thoughts on #SaveStudioA / #SaveMusicRow

In which I ponder the endangered Nashville species called ‘Music Row’

(originally posted on July 1; reposted July 8)

“The past went that-a-way. When faced with a totally new situation, we tend always to attach ourselves to the objects, to the flavor of the most recent past. We look at the present through a rear view mirror. We march backwards into the future.”
                                                   –Marshall McLuhan – The Medium Is The Massage

Here’s a little-known fact about me:

nashville-trolleyThe first summer I spent in Nashville (1994), I had a ‘job’ as a tour-guide and entertainer on the Nashville Trolley.

For several hours on weekend afternoons, I’d sit with my guitar in an alcove-like space next to the engine housing in the front of one of those tottering, wheeled behemoths as it lumbered along a serpentine course from Riverfront Park, up Broadway to Music Row and back.

My job was to recount the history of the landmarks along the route, and between the landmarks and history lessons I’d play my guitar, sing songs from the Nashville canon – and try to be heard over the roar of the diesel engine beside me.

I don’t remember much about my repertoire now but I’m pretty sure that somewhere along Music Row I’d sing Alan Jackson’s Chasin’ That Neon Rainbow (Spotify):

I made it up to music row
Lordy, don’t the wheels turn slow..

It must have been quite a sight: a by-then middle-aged Jewish kid from New York singing country songs from a perch alongside a whining diesel.

I’d had to pass an audition and some vetting to earn this lofty position, but the job only payed whatever tips I could wheedle out of the tourists as they got off the trolley.  So on the floor in front of me I placed a large jar with a label that read, “Garth Brooks and them play for millions – the rest of us play for tips.”

Little did I know at the time what a prediction that was for the future of the music business.

Needless to say the jar was never very full after a shift… and I didn’t last very long at that particular ‘job.’  I guess my ambitions lay elsewhere… Read More

Why Would Anybody Ever Buy Another Song?

From the Department of No Shit, Sherlock:

Crowded Field

Crowded Field

Derek Thompson points to the elephant in a post at TheAtlantic.com.

Citing the increasing saturation of the streaming music market (where any more than one or two services qualifies as saturation), Thompson points to the elephant that has been in the room since… well, since the first Real Audio player made streaming music a reality in… what, 1996?:

…what isn’t there room for in music?

Buying it.

“Young people today don’t buy music anymore,” said Martin Pyykkonen, an analyst at Wedge Partners. The numbers agree.

I suppose my objection here should be something along the lines of “whatchyou mean ‘young people’, Kimosabee?”

Or maybe I should take it as a compliment that somebody thinks 63 can qualify as ‘young’  – particularly since I just bought tickets for a movie tonight at the reduced fare for ‘seniors.’  But I digress…

I have been arguing for years that the ‘unit purchase’ model for music – whether it’s physical products like CDs (or, yes, even the revered, resurrected vinyl…) or virtual units delivered as purchased downloads – has been on the wings of the dodo for years, and that any assertions to the contrary are an exercise in viewing the future through the rear view mirror  (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, I sincerely implore you to click the link and find out).

And no, the fact that I’m engaged in a project that is about to release its third physical product at the same time that I’m predicting the demise physical products is not lost on me. I write these things because I think I’m observant, maybe even a tad prescient.   I never said that made me invulnerable to also being a hypocrite.  Such is the nature of living on a cusp. But there I go again, digressing…

As Thompson reports, the handwriting is on the wall, the die is cast, the nails are in the coffin.  Pick your metaphor, but this is we see when we turn the car around and start steering through the windshield:

“…digital music sales fell last year for the first time ever, by 6 percent, as the music business inches closer to an access-over-ownership model. Overall streaming (which includes digital radio) is up 32 percent to 118 billion song streams in 2013. On-demand streaming (e.g. pick and click a song on Spotify) doubled last year.

Meanwhile, we have Tommy Silverman and others at the annual Austin TX Spring Break Clusterfuck known as “SXSW,” (that’s pronounced “ess-ex-ess-doubleyew)  professing to possess the keys to a $100-billion kingdom with a more colorful metaphor of his own:

This enema that we’re going through is making us realize that our business is much bigger than what we thought it could be,” Silverman said. “We’re in the attention business now.”

And the nominees for the 2014 ‘Masters of the Obvious’ award are….

Silverman etal be right, the entirety of the recorded music business  could certainly be much larger than the rapidly-shrinking single-digit-billion-dollar business it has recently been reduced to.

I’ve done this math for you before: A couple of years ago the NPD group estimated that the average music ‘consumer’ spends a paltry FORTY dollars per year on music purchases (that figure is surely even less now).  That expenditure adds a bountiful 30 or 40 new tracks to their record collection every year.  Now persuade those tight-fisted consumers that for only TEN DOLLARS (per month…) they can have the entire history of recorded music – past-present-and-future – at their disposal, and you can effectively triple or even quadruple your aggregate industry top-line.

Of course, that’s assuming they have any money left after paying for their cell phone, cable teevee, broadband internet and Clover brewed coffees at Starbucks (which I am drinking as I write & post this…)

It may not add up to the $100-billion that Silverman is hallucinating, but it could be considerably more than whatever the current figures are.

But whatever the figures might be, we will never realize the full potential of any future business model until we stop trying to drag the old models long with us.  I don’t care if your fancy new “human-powered” streaming music service is called “beats,”   It does no good to beat an internal combustion engine with a buggy whip.

But there’s another message in all of this that I think has been overlooked, and that’s all this emphasis on recorded music.  That’s the biggest buggy whip that we’re dragging along with us, the biggest thing that looms in that rear view mirror.

As long as we’re focused on how to preserve or grow the recorded music business, we’re going to miss the point of what Silverman inartfully calls “this emema” that the industry is going through.

What we cannot see so long as we’re driving backwards into the future, surveying the landscape in front of us through the rear view mirror (really, try to get that image in your head…), is that the ‘future of music’ is much less about the recorded music than it is about the way that music lived before it became any kind of product – back when music simply did not exist unless there was somebody in the room playing it for you, which person was often yourself and your friends.

The future of music is not any kind of product, physical or virtual, delivered by truck, download, or stream.  It’s much more… organic, and ‘aural’ than that.  But until we’re a little further removed from the product era, it’s going to be hard for most people to appreciate that prospect.

The idea was never more succinctly put than during a conversation I had with Scott Huler, one of the presenters at last year’s TEDx Nashville.

“I tell my kids,” Scott said, “that music is not something you buy.  It’s something you make.”

I don’t care how many billions Tommy Silverman thinks the ‘music industry’ can be, those children are the future.

 

 

 

 

The Failure of Inattention

Monday was a “snow day” in Nashville and Middle Tennessee.  

2014_08_1024x1024Freezing rain had settled in the night before and made the roads pretty much impassable by the time of the morning rush hour, so Monday was canceled city-wide.

Ann and I threw some logs on the fire and settled in to watch about 6 episodes of the new HBO drama True Detective, with Woody Harrelson and newly-minted Oscar winner Matthew McConaughey as diametrically opposed Louisiana homicide investigators.

Harrelson’s character is Detective Marty Hart, who, midway through the series shares this indispensable observation about the “detective’s curse.”

“The solution my whole life was right under my nose … And I was watching everything else … my true failure was inattention.”

Given my propensity for oddball associations (see blog tagline above), I immediately thought of that observation when I read this guest post in Billboard this morning about YouTube -v- The Music Industry:

During a MIDEM panel this year, YouTube vp content Tom Pickett said the company had paid more than $1 billion to music rights holders during the past several years. Well, that’s sweet. Hey, you know who else has done that? Spotify. The difference: Spotify did it with a fraction of YouTube’s audience.

In other words, while musicians and songwriters are are complaining about the paltry payouts from Spotify, Pandora, etc…. Well, you get my point.  Hopefully.

Breaking News! Music Industry Adapts…

… to the most recent technology shift.  Just in time to get clobbered by the next one…

musica-streamingI have to admit I’m getting a big kick out of the two items that landed in my news feed this evening.

First, Billboard has reported that…

For the third time this year — and only the fourth time ever — the year-to-date total sales of digital albums have exceeded those of CDs.

How long did that take, about ten years?

Let’s see, when did iTunes start selling downloads.  April 28, 2003. So, yeah, just a little over ten years.

That’s important, because it tells us how long it takes for something that seems unlikely one day to become “mainstream” the next.  It’s the statistical flip side of “it can’t happen here.”

Which is significant, because of the insights offered in another piece that was published today.  David Ross’s Nekst.biz posted an interview with Billboard’s Glenn Peoples that goes into considerable detail about how music online is already shifting from downloads to streaming:

…half of the country listens to Internet radio on a regular basis (monthly), so that’s mainstream behavior, but there is still room for growth…The streaming model is set to grow for the foreseeable decade.

There is much more to the analysis than that (obviously).  But that might be all you need to know.

The first item tells us how much has changed in the past decade. The second item tells us now much is going to change in the coming decade.

All of the above was written while listening my Bill Frisell channel on Pandora.  Which is now playing Pat Metheny.

The Celestial Jukebox abounds. Along with newsfeed irony.

Life is good.

As I’ve Been Saying All Along…

…The music industry is a $100-billion 21st Century business trapped in a $7-billion 20th Century business model:

That’s according to Marc Geiger, head of William Morris / Endeavor (aka Ari Gold‘s super-agency):

“The recorded music industry can grow to a $100 billion-plus business within the next 15 years – but only if it abandons pushing music ownership and fully embraces the streaming subscription model, said Marc Geiger, WME’s global head of music, during a powerful, deliberately provocative keynote speech on day two of Midem.

“If you still think [the future] is about owning files I will talk to you again in 24 months and you will deny that you ever said it to me,” Geiger stated during a slick 25-minute presentation, which was entitled “20 Years of Pain. No More Fooling Around: The Definitive Future of the Music Business.”

I heard several years ago that the average music “consumer” purchases roughly $40/year of recorded music.  So they’re spending $40 year – less than $3.50/mo – to “purchase” 3 to 4 CDs, maybe 30 to 50 tracks to horde in their own personal private music “library.”

So tell them instead that for a measly $10/mo (your mileage may vary) they can have the entire history of recorded music on a gizmo in their pocket and see what happens.

You know the old expression: “do the math.”

 

 

@PatMetheny, WTF?

Did you really just release HALF a record?

Pat Metheny, 20th Century Man

Pat Metheny, 20th Century Man

I think I have to confess something that a lot of my Vast Legion of readers will take issue with: I get really irritated when fairly major recording artists use manipulative techniques to get me to buy their records.

And I will confess further, likely much to the dismay of anybody who is still trying to make any kind of a living from “selling music,” that I consider the whole concept very “20th century.”

It’s an idea that originated with Edison and Berliner and Johnson in the early 20th Century.

And has been essentially obsolete since the advent of the Internet, MP3s, and Napster.  I live in the era of the Celestial Jukebox now.  I expect it all to be delivered for a single monthly fee.  Kinda like my cable teevee.

But people keep trying to sell me records, and they keep trying to do it with what I regard as onerous promotional methods.

Like releasing only parts of a new CD on Spotify. As Pat Metheny has done with his new album, called Kin.

First of all,  I have been a Pat Metheny fan since early 1980s.  As Falls Witchita, So Falls Witchita Falls (released in 1981 – no Spotify link) is one of my all time album titles, and some of the tracks on Off Ramp (released 1982, also no Spotify link) are repeat-play classics.

And I have been listening to a LOT of Pat Metheny lately, in particular his solo acoustic release from 2003, One Quiet Night (Spotify link)  and 1992’s multi-sonic-dimensional Secret Story (Spotify link). His music offers that rare blend of soothing and soaring, stimulation without distraction, that is ideal for doing other kinds of work like processing photos or, especially, writing (for the most part; some of his music can also be wild and frenetic and “outside” – and that’s OK, too.  That’s what the “skip” buttons are for…)

In fact, I just shelled out something like $150 for two tickets to see Pat Metheny when he plays the Ryman auditorium later this month.  That’s a hell of a lot more money than I’ve paid to almost any artist I can think of in the past year or so (I tend to frequent small, less expensive clubs than the bigger concert halls).

So imagine my perplexion when I went to Spotify and discovered that, yes, like the email said, Kin by Pat Metheny is now available on Spotify… but ONLY 5 OF THE 9 TRACKS ON THE ALBUM.

What the fuck?  C’mon Pat, what’s the fucking point? Do you seriously think that I am going to set aside my 21st Century, stream-it-all model just to hear the other four tracks?  Are you and your management (more likely) so out of touch with how new technology works in the marketplace that you really think that’s going to work on me?

Is the $150 I just put directly into your pocket (apart from whatever onerous “convenience fees” that were part of that sum), not enough to sustain your creative energy? Do you really need the $9 that the full record would cost to download, or, worse, just the $4 to “purchase” the original tracks?

I cannot begin to tell you how antiquated the whole concept sounds to me.  Or how disappointing it is that you’ve attempted to “tease” me with a partial release.

I know that the royalties that streaming services pay are a subject of raging controversy all over the Interwebs.  I know that artists and labels get paid only a fraction of a penny each time a track is streamed over the internet, and that those streams cannibalize the market for potential unit sales.  Or as  friend of mine just put it, “Spotify is great for me and devastating for creators.”

To which I have to respond: if it is great for the user, then the creators will have to adjust, because what works for the customer is always what will prevail in the marketplace (that’s an old law of economics that I just made up).

The advantage of streaming for a creator is, potentially, in the multitude of plays.  When I buy a record, the artist and his label get paid once.  But when I stream a recording over and over again – precisely as I have been doing lately with Pat Metheny – the creators get paid every time.  Yes, the actual numbers may bear some adjusting, but over the long term, and as more people become accustomed to this mode of delivery, the numbers are going to add up.

Because, like Lefsetz keeps saying, the future is streaming.

So please, don’t insult my good intentions and fan-boyhood by withholding half of your new release from the format that I am most inclined to listen to.

Now, all that said, let me hasten to add: there are circumstances when I will purchase CDs, but that is typically when I have gotten excited about some new, emerging artist – somebody who can genuinely benefit from an individual expression of support, both personal and financial. And, as often as not, I will be happy to contribute considerably more than the cost of a single CD to that artist’s crowd-funding campaign if they ask for it.  In the past few years I’ve made a lot more $35 to $50 contributions to such campaigns than I have purchased individual $15 CDs.

Because this is the 21st Century.  Because I want to a “patron,” not a “consumer.”

This new record sounds terrific, what I’ve heard of it, and I will probably listen a lot to those FIVE of the NINE tracks.  And Pat will get a few pennies for the privilege.  And those pennies will add up across the breadth of the considerable following he has amassed over the several decades of his career.

I like Kin so much that I’m going to embed the Spotify player for it right here in this blog post, so you can listen to the tracks that are available now:

But I will NOT go to iTunes and drop even the $4 it would cost me to get the other tracks.  Because iTunes is just not how I listen to (god, how I hate the word “consume”) music any more.

“Selling” discrete units of music – (vinyl, CDs, downloads, whatever the format) is an industrial model, and we don’t live in an industrial economy any more.

If you don’t believe me, then just climb into my time machine, fly about 20 years into the future, and look back on today.

See what I mean?