There are three record companies, Netflix, Amazon and Hulu.
If you want to know what it was like in the late sixties, during the seventies in the record business, look to streaming TV.
Not the eighties and nineties, those were victory laps, when MTV blew up bands beyond comprehension and then the CD rained down coin. No, go back to the sixties, when record labels were the poor stepsisters of movie studios and then…
Kids couldn’t get enough of the newfangled sounds.
What started out as a singles business evolved into albums, with a concomitant increase in revenue, and said revenue funded…Warner Cable. That’s why Steve Ross paid Mo and his crew so much money, they were throwing off cash that could be used to fund new projects. And record companies were not like Snapchat, with fake valuations based on financial mania, rather none of the labels was traded separately on the street and they were all selling tonnage. Because people couldn’t get enough of the music, it captured the zeitgeist.
Like today’s streaming TV.
Now the big change is on demand. This is what hindered the record labels, what put them in second position. They kept trying to hold back the future, whereas Netflix was ahead of its customers, when it went streaming the public blinked, but Reed Hastings was right, never forget, the customer is always last, he doesn’t know what he wants, but brilliant seers like Steve Jobs do.
And now we just can’t get enough of our TV shows.
Like Aziz Ansari’s “Master of None.
No, he’s not an unknown. He played in a band, known as “Parks and Recreation,” but he wanted a solo deal and Netflix gave it to him.
This is how it was way back when in the record business. Labels were in the habit of saying yes instead of no. They wanted to keep the talent happy, because the talent was everything, the keys to the kingdom, this was before the execs started to believe THEY were the talent, which happened first in movies, and look what a black hole that industry is today.
So Netflix makes a deal with Ansari and he makes an award-winning season and then…
He doesn’t repeat himself. That’s what the shock is of Season 2. It’s different. Just like Dev doesn’t want to host “Clash of the Cupcakes” for seven years, Aziz just didn’t want to do bro riffs about being South Asian in New York City.
So the series starts off in black and white in Italy, with a takeoff on “The Bicycle Thief.” Did you see that in college? Does anybody even watch foreign movies anymore? That’s what I love about Aziz, he assumes you did, and if you didn’t, he’s not gonna pander to you. Everybody’s pandering. Did you hear Howard Stern excoriate Ryan Seacrest’s new hosting gig with Kelly Ripa? He said Ryan was too busy working to prepare, going from his radio show to TV, and that he was just coming up with lists and the more Howard talked the more you realized he was right, Ryan is stupid, and we want smart.
Aziz is smart.
And the show moves back to New York and it’s uneven.
This is what happens when you test limits, you don’t always get it right. But if you’re not willing to fail, you can’t succeed. In music, everybody’s repeating themselves, trying to be just like everybody else. You jump from hit to hit and are desperate in between. But a real artist follows his own vision and takes risk.
So, there’s an episode Aziz is barely in.
And another with a long, lingering shot of pain, the kind after a great date when you realize you’ll never get what you want. That loneliness, inside your own head.
And the episode on acceptance? His gay friend’s family won’t accept her lesbianism, won’t accept any of her girlfriends, but ultimately they come around, it’s a beautiful thing, a real thing, what we need in our lives today, for right and left to come together and find out they’re both human, work together to be as one.
Aziz is our new Woody Allen. BECAUSE HE’S GOT SELF-RESPECT! As Woody woodshedded he became comfortable being the winner, not the loser. He could see his appeal to women. Could demonstrate his wit and intelligence. Instead of saying he’s not good-looking enough, not enough period, Aziz ventures through life like he’s an equal, although if you categorize him, lump him in with all Indians, he barks back, like any minority, when you’re downtrodden you take no gruff, but somehow it’s the whites today who see themselves as underdogs, don’t ask me how.
But the truth is these downtrodden whites watch Netflix too. That’s right, we all listened to the same music back in the classic era and now we all watch the same television shows. We’re more together than apart. This is what we want to spend our time doing and talking about. Going deep into series and then wrestling with the concepts, arguing about them with our friends.
And this is all because Netflix, Amazon and Hulu spend. And give control to the creators. Their win to loss ratio ain’t great, but neither was that of the record labels back then. A few hits make up for all of it. A couple of “13 Reasons Why” and “Narcos” fund a zillion experiments wherein you might find the next pot of gold. This was the Warner Records formula. And they didn’t give the money to just anybody, but those with a vision, artists.
So enjoy the new golden age. Whenever I write about television my inbox is inundated with recommendations. When I write about music it fills up with insults. How can I not like this hit, how can I have such terrible taste? But music is nearly incomprehensible, there’s so much product, so many niches, and then you tune in the hype of the month and listen and say…Eh. But you watch one of these TV shows and they titillate you.
It won’t be this way forever. They’re gonna run out of potential subscribers, they’re gonna tighten the spigot. But Netflix has already eclipsed HBO, not only in subscribers, but content. Every comedian jumped from HBO to Netflix, because of the MONEY! Kinda like the live heyday ushered in by Led Zeppelin. If the gig was gonna sell out anyway, the promoter should only get 10%. Everybody wants to see the new Chappelle and Chris Rock specials, and you sign the stars and that’s where the newcomers want to be.
The second season of “Master of None” is not perfect. But the peaks are new and different, they touch your soul.
And isn’t that what living is all about?