Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Interesting article on the changed business model for popular music. Older acts are the big concert attractions, and touring is where the money is. This has probably been true for jazz musicians for a couple of generations, of course, and is probably more true than ever for jazz, but it's a reality for rock too, and it's the "heritage acts" that are cashing in. Recorded music made an artifact-- the recording itself-- into a new art form, but the wheel has turned. I thought it was interesting that younger acts aren't necessarily putting on the sorts of shows that they need to in order to fill the big venues. Spectacle is a big part of what people are plunking their bucks for, and that's certainly a different skill from songwriting of guitar slinging. When you look at video of "Greetings From Asbury Park" era Springsteen it is pretty clear that he'd figured it out-- he knew how to perform for an audience and how to make records, and that combination and some patience on the part of his label made it happen for him. There are acts out there that can do this-- The Supersuckers come to mind-- but it is a complex blend. A certain kind of fan is always going to be there for the musicianship, but playing for them isn't going to buy a house in Malibu.

As we were driving in this morning Fleetwood Mac's "Hypnotized" came on, and I mused about that band. We'll never see anything quite like that again is my feeling. Basically a rhythm section which was defined by whoever rotated into the songwriter/guitarist chair, who'd have the patience with an act like that? Back when I was in college, just before they became the biggest thing in the whole world ever, a copy of "Bare Trees" in someone's collection was an indication of taste and discernment, particularly if there were one or two additional Fleetwood Mac sides on the shelf next to it. "Kiln House", maybe, or maybe "Mystery to Me". There were a lot of bands like that-- FM radio staples. Nobody ran out to buy "Future Games", trust me, and it's hard to believe that Reprise kept them under contract. Because they did a lot of records ended up being sold, and it may even be true that because a lot of records got sold some artists who wouldn't have gotten a shot were subsidized.

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