Those who ignore the past are doomed to repeat it. But in music, those who don’t understand the past are just plain doomed.
Jay Z’s not so smart. He may have been able to extract cash from Samsung, but he’s living in the last decade, if not the last century. You remember the 1990s, don’t you? When the music business was controlled by labels and you couldn’t play without radio, money and MTV — when acts were invulnerable, and there was a clear distinction between them and us.
The Tidal app fell out of the top 700 on the download chart. If you had a number that low on SoundScan, you’d be barely selling enough copies of your LP to keep you in Coke. And I mean the drink. The fact is the public is not embracing Tidal. Jay Z’s army is composed of only those onstage with him when Tidal was announced, and their image has taken a hit. Turns out musicians have to love the music. They have to do it for the experience, not the cash. Artists’ power is in their believability and their credibility — like Marcus Mumford, who looks pretty good by pooh-poohing the moribund music service.
The days of hype are through. You can throw it against the wall, but it’s never gonna stick. You need to concentrate on bonding with your fans in mutual respect as opposed to bitching that you’re poor and you’re gonna save the music business, when all you’re really interested in is saving yourself.
No one wanted to do the hard work at Tidal; no one wanted to do the heavy lifting. Spotify was in the States for three-plus years before most people even knew what it was. But Tidal thinks it can jump-start success? Apple’s got a head start because it’s got a platform already that people are visiting, and it’s got everybody’s credit card number. That’s the heavy lifting.
What is Tidal doing? Trying to make its owners richer. And what fan cares about that?
Meanwhile, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has screwed around with the past in a different way. And it’s gotten to the point where the only people who seem to care about the place anymore are the old men on the nominating committee and those desirous of getting third-rate talent inducted.
Music has twisted and turned, completely mutated, since the Hall’s core members were inducted. Now the Rock Hall of Fame is all politics — about getting people in. If you think Ringo Starr deserves to be included as a solo act, you’ve never heard Yes. “Roundabout” means more than all of Ringo’s solo hits combined. But for some reason, prog rock is sorely underrepresented.
We’ve all got a list of deserving artists who are not enshrined. But we’ve also given up hope. When KISS and Rush get in before Steve Miller and Kraftwerk — never mind Deep Purple — those who truly care throw their hands in the air and ignore the whole process.
And the Hall lumbers on, ignorant of how music fans feel — making the ceremony bigger, including youngsters for the telecast the same way the Grammys include TV stars, which has got nothing to do with rock and roll.
The problem with rock is that innovation has stopped. There are some good bands, but they barely test the limits or stretch the dynamics of those who’ve come before. It’s endless repeats of an old formula. And if you think that’s interesting, you’re probably addicted to your Nintendo 64.
Maybe it’s time for a Hip-Hop Hall of Fame, with an EDM Hall right next to it. And while you’re at it, include one for Pop — with a special one-hit wonders exhibit that’s certain to draw throngs.