There’s a belief in the world of music that we’re still living in 1964 or 1984, when music ruled the world via the Beatles and Michael Jackson, via radio and MTV. I’m sick and tired of people saying it’s just like it used to be, because it’s not. Music is rarely cutting edge and almost never drives the conversation and the culture, it’s just a placeholder to be consumed like milk. Sure, some people are passionate about acts, but the rest of us go to festivals where we look at each other and eat food.
Take the TV channels. MTV is a dying enterprise which is not based on music, but lowest common denominator losers in reality shows. The Food Network had to split in two, there was that much demand. They’re mixing ingredients we thought didn’t go together, and everybody in music is playing in their own niche ghetto, complaining that it’s not bigger.
Going to the show is expensive. But food has gone downmarket. You can eat gourmet at a food truck for under 10 bucks. Try seeing a music star live for that price. Musicians are trying to sell out, get in bed with the Fortune 500, whereas food doesn’t scale that way, it’s an end unto itself. It used to be that way in music, before everybody got a scent and a clothing line.
But we all are still listening, just like we all are still eating, how can the game be changed?
You’re always looking for new tastes in the food world. But somehow, we believe in selling the same old thing in music. Just listen to the Top 40. But when something is different, it triumphs in unforeseen ways. Mumford & Sons becomes one of the biggest bands in the land by employing a banjo and making folk music. Everybody on the inside said no, everybody on the outside said yes.
Most restaurants don’t scale. You’re in it for the love of the experience. Where is it written that musicians must be rich?
Music is all about lowest common denominator, hitting the target as opposed to exceeding expectations. Danny Meyer’s Shake Shack was better than the competition, it delivered the unexpected treat, at a fair price. In other words, if you can play your guitar and sing and write, people notice, you’ll gain a following!
PAY YOUR DUES
Although there are always stories of teenage chefs, they’re anomalies. The greats have all been trained, at culinary institutes or in restaurants. How come in music you need no background, no skill, no underpinnings?
SOMETHING FOR EVERYBODY
There’s not only McDonald’s, there’s not only Chez Panisse. In food, there are tastes and styles and prices for everybody. And everybody’s searching for excellence.
LET THE MUSIC DO THE TALKING!
The chef rarely comes out of the kitchen. What sells restaurants is the food. Whereas in music, it’s all about the hype.
They don’t continue to sell us Emeril. They add Iron Chefs. But in music, we think it’s the film business, that we want tentpoles we can sell to the people again and again. But the movie business is stale and stagnant, everybody’s moved to television. We need new blood not only on the performance side, but the business side too.
It comes from the food, not the atmosphere. Beautiful restaurants with lousy food don’t last. Unlike the Washington Post article, I don’t think food has taken money from the musical sphere, but I do say I’ve lived long enough to know that trends and opportunities change. In other words, as Bob Dylan sang, “He not busy being born is busy dying.” Quote me some lyrics from today’s artists.