Month: June 2017

Why Rock Died

Why Rock Died

It’s no longer the sound of the street.

The initial burst came with the Beatles and the British Invasion, a new sound everybody went wild for.

Then came the late sixties free-form FM era, everything from the Doors’ “The End” to Cream’s “Tales Of Brave Ulysses” to Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze.” Sure, some of these tracks crossed over to AM, were single hits, but this was the era, after “Sgt. Pepper,” when you wanted to make an album length STATEMENT!

In the early seventies, it was about experimentation and musicianship. Ergo, the prog rock bands. Even Queen. We admired those with chops.

Then came the codification and consolidation of FM radio by Lee Abrams and suddenly all the action was on FM and bands being banged on that format went nuclear. Stadium shows were de rigueur. There was so much money involved that it could not be overlooked, ergo, corporate rock, music made to make money.

Which punk was a reaction to.

But punk got press and little sales and they were both, rock and punk, trampled by disco, which ironically survives, even though it’s labeled something different, and is still triumphant.

And then disco records were blown up in Comiskey Park and the music business tanked and then was resuscitated by MTV and the CD.

MTV gave a second wind to rock. Especially the oldsters. But then young acts like Culture Club and Duran Duran got traction, but shortly thereafter so did Michael Jackson and Wham! Rock reacted the same way it did a decade before, with hair bands. Spandex-clad wankers singing safe ballads that were supposed to titillate women. But then that crashed, just like corporate rock before it, and there was a brief heyday of Guns N’ Roses, and then the Seattle sound, and then rock cratered completely. Oh, it splintered, into indie and metal and…

Rock acts were no longer dominant.

Rock survives as country. Albeit too often with lame lyrics.

But all those guys and gals with guitars, they’re goners. Just look at the Spotify statistics.

Now don’t go all vinyl on me. Don’t build up the niche acts. Don’t say Spotify is not representative. That’s like denying Amazon sales. Denying data in an era where data rules. The Spotify Top 50 are rolling in dough, and everyone else is bitching about streaming, playing to a limited audience, unless they were superstars way back when, or on the undercard at the festival.

So there’s a rock-influenced business, it’s just far from dominant.

How did this happen?

Like I stated above, it lost touch with the street. Everybody can make hip-hop. There’s a constantly changing cast of characters, new people are winning all the time, but rock is self-referential and repetitive. We need a new punk movement, something to shake it all up, but all we have is acts that are repeating forty year old formulas. Or moving off in unlistenable directions.

Once upon a time Led Zeppelin was heavy metal. Black Sabbath was seen as tuneless. Now those acts are seen as soft compared to what’s sold as metal today. Which is more noise than music. Hell, I just said that to raise your ire. My only point is today’s metal is not mainstream. Most people don’t like it.

As for the Americana acts, the acts that appeal to the intelligentsia, too many can’t sing. Maybe Bob Dylan didn’t have the best voice, but he was THE BEST LYRICIST OF ALL TIME!

Except for maybe Joni Mitchell. But we got a pale imitation of Mitchell with Sarah McLachlan, since then… Oh, we got Taylor Swift…AND SHE’S THE BIGGEST ACT IN THE WORLD!

Except for maybe Adele.

But the point is singing about your life pays, issuing truth pays. That’s when hip-hop is best. But today’s rock is redundant and features mediocre singers singing lame lyrics. One thing you can say about the Beatles…THEY COULD SING!

So there’s no harmony and no bridge and little lyrical content and the music is not a great leap forward, this is not Yes after Herman’s Hermits, but just a slight twist on what came before.

As for Adele… She too has a great voice, singing songs about feelings with changes. It’s not like it’s a hidden formula. It is about the material, but no one in rock wants to admit that. They just want to sling on a Stratocaster, make a racket and wait for the money to roll in, which it doesn’t.

And it never will.

Rock has hit a dead end. Just like jazz before it. Oh, rock will never die, but it won’t bloom again either. First and foremost we need a new sound. And there’s none on the horizon and all the fields may have been plowed. This is a problem with hip-hop too, enough of the fake drum/TR-808 sound. I mean you’ve got all the winners of yore complaining about Lil Yachty, and I won’t enter that debate, but one thing’s for sure, to survive a medium must progress, keep swimming, or it dies.

Like rock.

But there is a way out. Combining the Adele/Swift formula. Be able to sing well about your life. If you’re not an excellent singer, you’d better be the best player or the best songwriter. But in an era where everybody can participate, everybody believes they’re entitled to a trophy.

It’s not like this isn’t hiding in plain sight. Did you see the WaPo story about the death of the electric guitar? Sales tanked. Kids would rather use Ableton. And I must say, it seems to be that it’s the electronic sounds that always catch my ear these days. You may despise Justin Bieber, but he works with some of the best producers extant. Diplo and DJ Snake are testing the limits. An equivalent person in rock?

Well, we’ve got Dave Cobb, he did a wonderful job for Chris Stapleton. And what happened? EVERYBODY CLAMORED! They wanted the authenticity, not the written for hire songs about babies and church and the rest of the drivel on the country playlists. Proving that people know it when they hear it. But they’re not hearing anything in rock.

I know, I know, you’re a believer.

But even Pete Townshend got old. And classic stars are dropping like flies.

Then again, the Who wrote the first rock opera. Where’s the innovation in rock today? And the Eagles wrote perfectly produced singable songs sung well. The cognoscenti hate the Eagles, but they own the biggest selling album of all time. Who’s right? And before you answer, admit you hated Journey and now you love them.

And Journey was a middling band before the addition of Steve Perry.

So go back to the basics, vocals, lyrics, harmonies, bridges, songs…

Or wallow in your marginalization.

“The Death Of The Electric Guitar”


via Lefsetz Letter

June 30, 2017 at 01:57PM


Facebook Makes TV

Facebook Makes TV

Distribution is king.

Never ever forget that.

What boosted all those channels on cable television… Was their availability on cable. They survived on payments from the cable systems, based on the number of subscribers. Even worse, for customers, the giants scooped up the little players and used their leverage to get inclusion and more money.

But now that’s all done. The internet has leveled the playing field. Everybody can play. But can everybody get eyeballs?

That’s what Facebook has, which Amazon does not. I’m plowing my way through “Bosch,” the cop drama on Amazon Prime, I recommend it, it’s very good, a cut above network fare, but it’s not part of the discussion, few imbibe at Amazon Video, despite it being included with the price of Prime. They don’t know how to get there, there are extra steps involved, but everything’s up front and center on Facebook.

Credit Mark Zuckerberg, he refuses to stand still. He might not be Steve Jobs, utilizing others’ baby steps and blowing them into gobsmacking juggernauts, but whenever confronted with a competitor Zuckerberg joins in, and is always marching forward. And if you think you’re gonna get your television directly from your cable provider in the future, you must not be a fan of on demand, and on demand rules.

We want it everywhere and we want it now. And if you break this rule you’re doomed.

But the problem is there’s too much product. Over 400 scripted shows annually. And it’s a golden age for creators, if you’ve got a track record and an idea you’ve got a better chance of getting it funded than ever before.

And Facebook is not the only company in the game, never mind Amazon and Netflix, but Apple’s in too. And Spotify to a degree. And they all won’t win, and there will be further consolidation, and a fall-off in the market/production, but tomorrow’s winners will not be today’s.

Because these players have deep pockets and they can sustain losses in building their market/mindshare. Hell, that’s how they won to begin with.

And the new entrants, like Facebook and Apple, have learned from their predecessors. YouTube thought they could go it alone, that techies were as savvy and smart as the Hollywood denizens. But that proved untrue. YouTube wasted tons of cash, mostly on unproven providers, and has yet to have a breakout hit scripted show.

But Netflix has.

But the landscape is tilting. Which is one reason Bewkes laid off Time Warner on AT&T. Most people don’t realize Time Warner Cable was spun off long ago, today’s Time Warner is a production house. And AT&T has no potential growth in mobile phones, so like its competitor Verizon, it’s going into content. And so far, Verizon has failed. You wonder who is running the ship. But they do own distribution.

Or does Apple? With its iPhone?

Yes, Apple wrested distribution from the mobile providers. You no longer get crapware on your device. For that you need Android. So Apple is primed to make inroads in scripted TV, and now that they’ve hired experienced executives…

The studios still own their libraries. And content is essentially rented, not sold, so like the major record labels, they won’t be wiped out. But their leverage will decrease. Just as it did when networks were allowed to make and own their own programming.

But two lessons are learned here.

One, Zuckerberg is constantly reinventing Facebook, he’s not standing still. If you think of the site as a place to connect with old friends and share photos of your lifestyle, you don’t realize it’s a new portal and Facebook owns Instagram and WhatsApp too, even though Snapchat gets all the press.

Second, he who has a direct line to the customer has a huge advantage. There’s a reason Amazon patented its one-click checkout software. You want to make it as easy as possible. You log on to Facebook, which dominates eyeballs online, and you see the option to see a new show you’ve heard about and the effort to click is…


How can you make the effort to experience your wares minimal?

That’s the challenge you’re confronting today.


via Lefsetz Letter

June 30, 2017 at 01:57PM

Travis Kalanick

Travis Kalanick

Am I the only person who believes he shouldn’t have been fired?

Now Travis is a prick. Unfriendly and self-serving. Granted, my interactions with him have been limited to two panels, but he exuded a self-righteousness and pomposity that were undeniable. But he built Uber out of whole cloth.

Read Brad Stone’s “The Upstarts.” Uber wasn’t the first in the game, but it won. It wasn’t even the first into everyday drivers, known to many as UberX, it was black car only when competitors leapfrogged in front of it. And you’re gonna throw this guy out the door?

That’s what I hate about America, those on the sidelines who think they know better. Like the board of Uber. Arianna Huffington? Are you kidding me, one of the worst figureheads of all time! The people who built the “Huffington Post” into a triumphant juggernaut sold it to AOL and moved on, most notably to Buzzfeed. What is the newly-labeled “HuffPo” now? Just another site with little traction and no point of view, it’s the MySpace of news, surfing the zeitgeist one day, behind the wave the next. It was the left wing news site of record and then Arianna expanded into verticals with no traction, kinda like Perez Hilton, and the site was overrun with linkbait and no one goes there anymore. It’s so 2007. And my point is Arianna is on Uber’s board and we have to read again and again how this self-appointed sleep guru is changing the culture of the company. Put a woman on the board, put many, but how about someone with a track record of winning, not a tireless self-promoter, but someone with accomplishments. And boards themselves are notoriously out of touch and overrated. Steve Jobs came back to Apple and cleared house. Apple was almost run into the ground after his firing, by a series of nobodies approved by the board. Never underestimate the power of the individual. Never ever. Van Halen and Genesis might have recovered from the loss of their lead singer, but almost no other band has. From the Doors to Blind Melon. But society says Uber’s culture is corrupt and Travis must go.


This is the same social outcry that had Warner Music jettisoning Interscope. Which ended up building the Universal Music Group into a monolith. Hell, let’s go back to that group’s genesis. MCA Records was moribund, they brought in Irving Azoff to save it. And he did! Most famously with black music. But rock too. And after almost a decade Irving moved on and Al Teller replaced him and today MCA Records doesn’t even exist! You bet on people, they’re much more powerful than institutions, especially in tech, where if you’re not thinking about tomorrow, you might as well pack it in today. Hell, I was on CNBC railing that BlackBerry was toast and every single analyst and the host disagreed with me. This was AFTER the numbers started tanking. If you’re being influenced by the press, you’ve already lost your direction.

You kill all competitors. Hell, Google was just sanctioned for this by the EU, but the nincompoops at Uber open the door for Lyft. You know why I don’t use Lyft? Because first and foremost I’m about service. I want a car as soon as possible, especially in the Hollywood Hills. If you think I’m gonna wait an extra half hour for a more politically correct ride, you’re dreaming, or you never use a ride-hailing app. But that’s America also, everybody’s got an opinion, even if they never saw the movie, never used the product, they’re an expert, screaming loudly.

Was there rampant sexual discrimination? Did HR mishandle complaints?


Give Travis some time off. Establish guidelines. But you don’t can your leader in the middle of a war, especially during the initial skirmish.

We’re only at the beginning folks. Soon there won’t be any citizen drivers at all, autonomous cars will arrive on demand. Hell, the WSJ says it’ll be in less than half a decade. Kalanick knows this, but the punters going on about Uber’s culture are the same idiots who want to buy CDs and physical books, not believing the future will ever come. Did you see that UK youngsters prefer Spotify to YouTube? I’ve been saying this for over a year, you only have to look at play counts to see this. But no, IFPI and the RIAA and the rest of the Luddites keep complaining about the value gap, and they’re STILL bitching about piracy. We’re not living in 2002 anymore!

And one of the other great advantages of Uber is its no-tipping policy. I want to know what the cost of a ride is. Danny Meyer gets rid of tipping at his restaurants and the blowhards complain that Uber drivers can’t get extra money. Hell, how much do I tip, how does it affect my rating? Did anybody ever contemplate the consequences of adding tips? As for drivers… Come on, ever hear of surge pricing? If remuneration is too bad, drivers won’t, drive that is. Kalanick knows all this, but the lunatics who’ve taken over Uber don’t.

Ignore the bad press. How many times have we heard Amazon is the enemy, now people LOVE Amazon! And who doesn’t love Prime, with its two day delivery.

America can’t handle the truth. It wants it all touchy-feely and then complains when the stock craters and service isn’t up to its expectations. Do women need protection, a leg up? Absolutely, but making Kalanick the poster boy for Silicon Valley’s bro behavior, making him pay the ultimate price, is like singling out one marijuana smoker and jailing him for life for taking a toke.


Sure, Uber went through a bad patch, but it’s nothing that’s not fixable. And we forgive mistakes all the time, and in today’s fast-paced digital culture what happens today is forgotten tomorrow, if it even takes that long. Uber is a business, not a cultural institution living on charity. You get to vote based on usage. And it’s not the public complaining about Uber, but the press and the digerati and everybody not using the service. It’d be like private jet owners complaining about seat pitch on commercial airlines.

Yup, Travis Kalanick was Uber’s Jack Nicholson. And he and a few good men built a business out of whole cloth, unfortunately too many men, but still they built it. And they’ve fought off challengers and governments and… When I go to a foreign country and there’s no Uber I wince, how the hell am I gonna get around? And if you say by taxi…you must own a cab. Never mind that I’ve got no idea what the price is. Hell, you can go on Amazon and buy all day for a visible cost but an Uber breakthrough is being able to tip??

Give me a break.


via Lefsetz Letter

June 30, 2017 at 01:57PM

The Dilution Delusion?

The Dilution Delusion?

I hesitate to add to the fallout from Matal v. Tam, the Supreme Court’s decision last week invalidating the disparagement clause of Section 2(a) of the Trademark Act. That said, here I go.

Many trademark practitioners, separate and apart from their reaction to the decision itself, now ask “where do we go from here?” The next shoe to drop, it seems, will see courts assessing the constitutionality of other provisions of the Lanham Act. One prevalent target – dilution, and it seems some observers are not optimistic about its future. Over at SCOTUSblog, Lisa Ramsey suggests “dilution laws and other expansive trademark doctrines that allow the government to prohibit or punish non-misleading uses of protected trademarks may not survive constitutional scrutiny after Tam.” She argues “Companies accused of trademark dilution may be able to argue that the dilution statute is an unconstitutional content-based regulation of non-misleading expression and is facially invalid under the First Amendment.”

This raises a broader question, one I have wondered since first studying trademark law: is the “bite” of trademark dilution as bad as its “bark”? It’s certainly fodder for trademark litigation – dilution claims are part and parcel of virtually all infringement complaints for famous trademarks. For a quick primer, “Trademark anti-dilution laws are intended to enable trademark owners to prevent the gradual weakening or whittling away of the strength of their marks, through blurring or tarnishment, even if the public is not likely to be confused.”

Screen Shot 2017-06-30 at 8.23.51 AM Screen Shot 2017-06-30 at 8.23.45 AM

An aptly-timed study from New York University entitled Is Trademark Dilution a Unicorn? An Experimental Investigation raises the same question, and raises a controversial conclusion: “dilution is theoretically plausible, but remains empirically unproven.” According to the study, the conventional wisdom to support trademark dilution relies on “a set of studies showing that respondents are slower to match brands to their product categories and product attributes after being exposed to an advertisement for a different product using the same or a similar brand name.” But the study’s authors say these studies were flawed – their “evidence of trademark dilution is actually the artifact of a flawed experimental design that fails to control for the effect of seeing a surprising advertisement.”

Food for thought as the Tam precedent spreads into other trademark statutes – the constitutional question may be less compelling than the empirical question – that is, whether dilution statutes protect consumers at all.

The post The Dilution Delusion? appeared first on DuetsBlog.


via DuetsBlog

June 30, 2017 at 09:30AM

Friday Link Pack

Friday Link Pack

Michael Ventura spoke at CreativeMornings/NYC on how we have savant-like talents residing in us and we don’t take enough changes to find out.

– Super cool: NASA Apollo Saturn V Lego set

– You can now search for jobs on Google. Wow.

– I could use this at the office: Tip-Proof drinkware.

These photographs are stunning.

Chill desk looks super versatile.

Instagram tests favorites, a major rethinking of private sharing (via)

Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders?

Neuroscience Tells Us How to Hack Our Brains for Success

– KILD architects have designed a wildlife crossing that will help animals pass over a busy highway near Seoul in South Korea. Beautiful.

The 25 most influential people on the internet, according to TIME Magazine.

– Every citizen of the U.S.A should know about

Go Pro now offers a drone. This is the first time I’d consider getting one.

It’s a Llama. It’s a doorstop. It made me laugh.

Wealthsimple is beautifully designed and seems incredibly thoughtful.

Our Mothers as We Never Saw Them

– Do you ever wonder if you’re normal? can help.

– My friend raved about Chime, an app to find a babysitter. Looks really good.

– Hey New Yorkers with interest in Swiss culture: Alain Tanner movies are coming to Metrograph in NYC.

How to Live With Critics (Whether You’re an Artist or the President)

– Lovely: A DIY Japanese kite kit that comes in its own reusable cardboard briefcase.

Philographics is a visual dictionary of philosophy explaining big ideas in simple shapes.

– How did I not know about


via Swiss Miss

June 30, 2017 at 06:48AM

The Professor, The Artist, The Writer, And The Dots

The Professor, The Artist, The Writer, And The Dots

Real Artists Don't StarveHave you ever experienced a lightning strike when reading a book, listening to a song, or staring at a painting?

That thing that’s been hanging in the background emerges with a clear path ahead of it. You know what to do—how to paint that portrait, how to sing that song, how to frame that book. It’s as if all the ideas in the universe came together at that moment to clear the way for one big idea—an idea that relied on you being in that exact place and time.

This line from F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Last Tycoon fueled a “What It Takes” article last year:

“I can always tell people are nice,” the stewardess said approvingly, “if they wrap their gum in paper before they put it in there.”

This week I’ve been going back and forth between Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood and Jeff Goin’s Real Artists Don’t Starve.

Toward the beginning of Norwegian Wood lives a spin on that old “you are what you eat” saying:

“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”

I typed it into my file of lines—those strands of words that double as defibrillators for my brain. When I stall, a read of those lines gets the noggin’ pumping again.

So it was with that line in my head that I started reading Real Artists Don’t Starve.

The back cover says the book debunks the myth of the starving artist.

While that might be what it is about, the book itself is an example of connecting the dots, which is what Greats do best.

The book starts with a story about Professor Rab Hatfield. Hatfield was in Florence researching Michelangelo. Next thing he knew . . . yada yada yada . . . Hatfield shattered what we thought we knew about the famed artist. Turns out he was a fat cat, full of dough. Hatfield tracked down 500 year old bank records that challenged the myth.

Jeff’s point in this story is that Michelangelo wasn’t broke—and artists today don’t have to be broke either. I agree. I hate the starving artist narrative. Everytime I meet art students, I beg them to take at least one course on contracts and basic accounting. This is the same advice you might give to someone buying a car or a house. You don’t have to be an expert, but you do need to know enough to identify when you’re getting screwed—or on the other hand, when a good deal is staring you in the face.

What got me thinking in the Michaelangelo story, though, wasn’t related to the artist, but to the professor instead.

The information was out there.

The professor wasn’t the first to dig around in the files.

And yet . . . That bit of magic occurred when he was traveling one track and then . . . BOOM! Lightning strikes and operates like a train switch. New track.

From Real Artists Don’t Starve:

“I was really looking for something else!” the professor yelled into the phone from his office in Italy, decades later. “Every time I run across something, it’s because I was looking for something else, which I consider real discovery. It’s when you don’t expect it that you really discover something.”

Instead of staying on track he flung open the door and on the other side made a discovery. Had he kept his blinders on, there’s a good chance Jeff wouldn’t be writing about him, nor would I.

But he did go off track and he did connect the dots.

Many of the articles and books and interviews Jeff cited are new to me. Thus, had I sat down to write this book it would have been completely different. He was a specific person in a specific time with specific background and specific experiences. The result? He connected the dots for the rest of us.

What does this mean for the rest of us, trying to write our own books?

We can’t predict the best time and place for the magic to take place, but . . .

We can open the door.

In order to connect the dots, Professor Hatfield had to open the door. When he started straying off track, which will happen with research, he kept going.

While reading the resource list at the back of Real Artists Don’t Starve, I imagined Jeff doing the same, going down the rabbit hole of research, without getting lost—with the ability to distinguish a door from a dead end.

This is what great artists do. But in order to connect the magnificent great big idea dots, they have to have boatloads of smaller idea dots.

Back to Haruki Murakami’s quote again:

“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”

If you limit your intake, you’ll limit your output.

The more ideas entering your noggin’ the more it’ll have to chew on—and the more likely it is that you’ll be a recipient of a bit of magic.

Imagine Georges Seurat sitting in front of his canvas, one dot at a time until “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” emerged. Had he combined the wrong colors . . . Used fewer “dots” . . . Instead, he put the dots together and . . .

Lightning Strike.


A masterpiece was born.


via Steven Pressfield

June 30, 2017 at 03:35AM