Monday, October 7, 2019

The Black Keys on Joe Rogan | Lefsetz Letter

The Black Keys Get Real About the Music Business | Joe Rogan

What kind of crazy, fucked-up world do we live in where an appearance on Joe Rogan’s podcast is more important than any TV show?

One in which Howard Stern gets all the A-listers. They make news on Stern, it’s all fluff on TV.

We’re in the era of the cult of personality. And the most important personalities are those who’ve been in the game for decades, honing their chops, just waiting for that moment when word spreads enough that they turn into a supernova. I can talk all day about what I’ve seen on TV and no one else has a clue, but if I talk about what happened on Stern, everybody knows! (And if you don’t, the joke is on you.) The biggest news splash re Billie Eilish was her interview with her brother on Stern last week. She appeared three-dimensional, and she reached the unreachable, so many in Howard’s audience have no time for anything else, they ignore hype, but they check out what Howard promotes, which is what makes him so powerful.

I remember when Joe Rogan hosted “Fear Factor,” back in the beginning of network reality TV, after “Survivor,” when it was about games and quasi-truth as opposed to the fake crap that followed it. I didn’t get Rogan and the show was canceled and I knew who he was and then I heard…

He was the king of MMA. Instead of worrying about whether boxing is relevant, whether it should be banned, the younger generation moved on to MMA and the UFC, where Rogan was a host. That turned him into one of them, someone on the edge, he became part of the fabric, to the point when he launched his podcast he had a built-in audience.

Not that I listen. I don’t find him that funny and I’ve got limited bandwidth, like all of us. But today I got an e-mail about the Black Keys being on his show:

Hi Bob,

I think you’ll enjoy this short video from the Joe Rogan show in which The Black Keys talk about the state of the music business (stay for the end for the story about Aerosmith at the MTV video awards)
The Black Keys Get Real About the Music Business | Joe Rogan

Stephen Humphries

Note, Humphries was not promoting himself. I laugh at those e-mails that say whatever I’m writing about is junk and _____ is the shit. And then I realize ___________ is the writer’s band! And I wanted to hear what the Black Keys had to say, so I clicked through.

Patrick Carney is explaining the bundle game. Wherein the act has to pay money from their tickets to get to number one on the Soundscan chart, how the money ends up in the label’s hands, and it only counts on Soundscan if the purchaser clicks for the digital album, and only half of them do this.

In other words, the Black Keys would be paying to be number one. WHAT WOULD THAT DO FOR THEM?

You see it every damn day, someone here or there promoting that they went to number one on the chart, the newspapers write about it, the brain-dead websites repeat it…BUT WHAT DOES IT REALLY BUY YOU?

You’re impressing people in the media, who matter less than ever before, there’s a reason why social media posters are called “influencers.”

It’s all a sham and you lose money in the process!

And everybody in the biz knows it’s a joke, oftentimes your album immediately drops off the chart.

And then Carney goes deeper. About kids running records up the chart by playing them a zillion times, like he did with Vanilla Ice. But is that good music, is that what people really want to hear, is that what music FANS really want to hear?

Now never forget, it’s this system that built the Black Keys. So, it’s easy to pooh-pooh it when you’ve been the beneficiary of it and can coast on the spoils, but…

Today a new act like the Black Keys can’t even play that game, the major labels don’t want to promote anything but hip-hop and pop.

Now it used to be there were two sides of the story, the outward-facing hype and the truth, and the hoi polloi were never privy to the truth. But in the era of the internet, it’s out there (along with a lot of b.s., but that’s another story). Artifice is revealed. And it’s credibility that has longevity.

Patrick Carney brilliantly delineates today’s music business. How the Spotify Top 50 is just a niche, oftentimes a manipulated niche, and only a small, relatively young audience is even listening.

The point is, where do we go from here?

If you’re chasing trends, the joke is on you. Sure, if you top the streaming chart, you can make real money. But never forget if the devil gets you there, i.e. the major label, he wants his pound of flesh. Whereas if you go your own way and own everything you can make all that money every musician is complaining they haven’t got.

But very few players deserve the attention. The barrier to entry is too low in all creative fields, anybody can make a record.

But if you can get on Joe Rogan…

People are gonna pay attention.


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