Not long after Al Gore discovered the Internet, and a decade point five before George Bush discovered a few more, there were 22,000,000 online users.
Yes, I remember that sum to this day. We were about to endure a six hour sales pitch that promised to revamp our lives.
We were somewhere half-way through the nineteen year life span of our family magazine, the Jazz Report (JR), when Mr. Global Perspective arrives. “For $10,000 I can change your life. I can make your business flourish – why there are jazz lovers in Guam who would subscribe if you only had a web page.”
Oh baby, did we love hearing that!
Twenty-two thousand JR subscribers – why that’s double National Geographic. Let’s see, at $3.95 a head – that’s the profit – close to a billion in the first year.
Where do I sign?
Mr. GP places a contract in front of me and my gal – “just sign here – and write that check to Bobby Ray Scam Tan.” O.K., I get it – I’m just as excited as you are, but I don’t have $10,000 for a web page. What can be done here – maybe, let’s say a $50 paragraph buy? Nothing. The dude locked himself to a kitchen chair and wasn’t about to leave and there wasn’t even a platter of KFC chicken in front of him. I’m now getting a bit testy. “Why can’t we just explore this a little farther and get back to you,” I say. He then turns all fire and brimstone preacher - “You people don’t get it – it’s the Internet – the price will keep going up. Today’s deal is one that will never return – the price will double in a few months.”
This is when I realized why having inquisitive kids is a bonus. They know everything.
I used to sit in the living room playing competitive Pong with the guys – my son Jesse would take the remote and run the score up to eight billion and hand back. I then bought him a hand held computer football game. He’d take it from me and hand back with a score of eight thousand to nothing. He then went on to high school - the place they bred computer savvy game changers. The years pass and I find myself summoning him every other day – “I can’t close this file, what should I do? The computer won’t turn on – where do you stick the key in?”
Eventually, Jesse builds us a website – we reach out to Guam, no go, - then sell a few subscriptions in Taiwan.
At this point in my lovely remembrance you’re probably asking yourself – is there a purpose to the story? Well, being surrounded by a daily onslaught of futurist it becomes obvious too few are really in the know. Every time I read something about the “Long Tail” or Malcolm Gladwell’s “10,000” hour theory – so yesterday – or the cataclysmic outlook for the music industry – I say, “Bring it on.”
Yep. Sales have tanked, yet we have options. I’m still paying close attention to my son. And yes, he sure made the family a whole lot smarter, as, I’m sure your kids did you.
We are undergoing massive upheaval – did I say, “bring it on?” For every “Lefsetz winner,” there are piles of losers - that doesn’t surprise me at all. There have always been. That’s why thousands panned for gold and a rare few struck a rich mile-long vein of booty – others, fairy dust. Some drill for oil and pipeline endless reserves, while others tank out. We’re talking “money fever” here.
Music is loaded with “money feverish” hucksters, losers, creeps, good ideas, bad ideas, dimwits, thieves, and some very talented folks. I come down on the side of those who hang around for the love of the music. They are so much more fun.
Recently, my well in tune son discovered Spotify. He now talks Spotify day and night. He subscribes and has found his funk roots. He’s in full blown “hunt down the funk mode” day and night. He even created his own subscriber funk playlist and “dammit” – like minded funk hounds are signing up. Here’s the capper – this is museum music – the stuff most of us lost our minds on forty years ago.
So you think you know where this is all going, forget it. It’s going backwards – back into the vaults. “That shit was awesome.”
There’s some fine new music churning and burning all around but much of it is rehashing the past. There are plenty of really crappy singers and forgettable songs around – yet, the vaults never lie or die.
Sam Smith has a lovely voice, but listen to the late Percy Sledge; he takes him to the woodshed and padlocks the door. You can reference this on Spotify.
By Bill King
The “New World Music Order” is pretty obvious. Subscribers! Drake, Beyoncé, Shawn Mendes, Rihanna, Chromeo, name them – they have massive followers – that massive connect with fans. This was never something old-timers would fully comprehend. They signed autographs, mailed photos and just plain looked “cool.” Commercial radio is by and large for pre teens - “tweenies” and the like – young adults go their own way. They’ve left us in the dust and live by their own rules and invention. Rather than conclude the world of music is falling apart, I suggest we revel in change and adapt and ask the kids – “what’s up with you?”
Honestly, recording music has never been as inexpensive and easy to do as now. There’s more being made and folks are having a good time. If you think you’re mining a gold mine I suggest a trip to the Sierra Nevada’s and a sit down with an old prospector. “There’s music money in those hills, fools.”
We haven’t lost our voice – we just changed direction.