78 Comments

"In other words, industry insiders learned the wrong lesson from the Swift episode."

I'm waiting for the moment when an insider learns the right lesson! Might be here for a long, long while though.

And I hope that as people lose faith in the web, they slowly integrate back in the real world and we can bring some balance back into humanity.

Expand full comment

Yeah, the real world is great and everything, but I'd really like a search engine that delivers the info I'm really after.

Expand full comment

The record companies have always been thugs. But since the explosion of thug training programs in the 80s -- what we call MBAs -- we've seen exploitative and mercenary behavior across industry. (Speaking as someone who attended one of those appalling programs.)

Expand full comment

Great potpourri, Ted, as usual.

I abandoned google several years ago, after too many paid search results filling the first page. When I worked in the online industry, I learned how few people searching on google ever went to a second page or beyond (or scrolled to the bottom of a page, although phones and tablets have now trained users to scroll to their own doom).

I've been using duck duck go for searching, and as a web browser from time to time. It isn't easy to break out of the google vice, particularly if you like the apps like google docs and google earth, which I find useful. And hey, learning to use the docs programs permitted me to deep six all the Microsoft products I needed when I was a working stiff. Delete one behemoth and embrace another.... and so it goes.

Expand full comment

Duckduckgo is full of crap too. Its results are dreadful. I think it uses Bing by default. Brave search is also horrible, not sure who they use. With all of them you're forced into these completely imbecilic "solutions" to questions and results which are served up with this horrible smug assurance that "this is what you meant or were looking for". You're treated as this theoretical model of an "ideal" 60 IQ consumer who mindlessly clicks and buys stuff and is only looking for extremely low grade information which isn't really information but looks like information, so it makes them feel they have accessed information when it's really just noise. It's terrible. There is now an absolute gap in the market for something far better.

Expand full comment

So which search engine do you use?

Expand full comment

I use them all grudgingly often having to go through pages and pages of nonsense to find some kind of signal that might useful on a niche topic. For very general queries they might all be ok I guess. I often end up trying to refine the search different ways, although DDG doesn't really use operators very well and you can see it running out and reaching its limits. Although I hate Google there are times I use it just to get better results on a niche topic. But I use them all with annoyance.

Expand full comment

Brave doesn't use anybody. It's their own search engine.

DDG is not perfect but it's better than it was and is getting better. I can find mostly what I need on there. Absolutely would not use Google on principle ground and abandoned them years ago. On rare occasions when I searched through them, their first page is literally unusable. Filled with ads. Layout is crap. They are no longer the best even just by layout (even if putting the much bigger issue of algorithm aside.) The only reason people are using them is because if inertia. They're adapted to it and it's hard to go into an new ecosystem. Their push to default definitely is part of it. I now notice they've got arrangement for many sites to include this asinine Google login on site homepages and login pages. I always bypass it to login by my non-Google email, but so many people probably think it's a convenience and login with Google without a second thought. But as a search engine they're definitely awful and just riding on being integrated into people's systems. Much like Microsoft Office and Windows. But just as Google developed superior Google Suite, at some point someone else will develop a better search engine and search results page, and Google will fall behind. It will take a long time though for things to get there.

Expand full comment

I thought it was just me seeing those stupid “sign in with google” things that slide up from the bottom of my screen on ALMOST. EVERY. WEBSITE. Thanks for letting me know other folks have noticed. Any way to block them?

Expand full comment

Although I don't understand how it works, I know that google makes a lot of money from search engine traffic, and will fight like hell to keep its default status wherever it can, just as Microsoft did with Internet Explorer.

I left google to escape its tracking. Although I can't see a way to completely break free of its clutches, I'm satisfied with duck duck go's privacy policies, and I haven't been noticeably frustrated with its search returns.

Expand full comment

As artists we've been told "find your niche" and that we can thrive with just 1000 true fans. But when we find our niche, how do we get our potential 1000 true fans to find it also?

Expand full comment

This is THE question.

Expand full comment

So the Age of Enlightenment is being eclipsed by the Age of Poo, not Pooh. To bad.

Expand full comment

Total shame. My daughter LOVES Pooh.

Expand full comment

[wistfully]

"How sweet to be a cloud

Floating in the blue

Every little cloud

Always sings aloud"

Expand full comment

I've probably commented about this on one of your articles before, but I'll say it again.

When I was starting out with band nearly 19 years ago, I had an opportunity through a friend to have a meeting with the VP of Membership at ASCAP at the time (of which I'm a member). I was asking him for advice as my band had started to garner some attention. I distinctly remember him saying "Whatever you do, do not sign with a label." I was confused at the time - I couldn't see the long view. He followed up with a formula that has stuck with me. "Write, Record, Release, Perform, Repeat."

It's all made sense since then, and Taylor Swift illustrates why. If a label drops you, they own the sound recording. They can shelve it. They can do whatever they want - they own it. If they make you big, they can take you down. And not everyone is mega star rich enough to redo all their records.

The good news is the technology to have production sound like the majors is at just about everyone's fingertips now with virtual gear. It's definitely a good time for doing it yourself. And if you do it yourself, no one else can claim responsibility for your success, and no one can take it away from you.

Expand full comment

Knowing companies I have issues with are in deep financial shit is somehow heartening.

Expand full comment

Ah, the lowly browns. Dissed for their unrepentant earthiness, as usual, though the piety of their poverty still attracts some. But really, to reduce it all to poo, what pigment challenged eyesight!

Who doesn’t love the chestnut mare of the artists palette—Burnt Sienna. Or the spring mud of Raw Umber. Or the brunette mane of Burnt Umber. My god man, what would you say to a visual artist who said he didn’t like flat notes?

I’ll leave you with this lovely quotation about brown paper from G. K. Chesterton’s famous essay called “A Piece of Chalk.” Draw on it with white chalk or paint on it with acrylic, and you too can have the scales fall from your eyes!

“I not only liked brown paper, but liked the quality of brownness in paper, just as I like the quality of brownness in October woods, or in beer. Brown paper represents the primal twilight of the first toil of creation and with a bright-coloured chalk or two you can pick out points of fire in it, sparks of gold, and blood-red, and sea-green, like the first fierce stars that sprang out of divine darkness.”

Expand full comment

Brown paper also was used as a gauge of who could be let 'in' and who was 'out'.

Expand full comment

In and out of what?

Expand full comment

Polite* society

*pale

Expand full comment

these companies are "struggling" only if the target is ever increasing growth, more profits every quarter, so satisfy a bunch of analysts on Wall Street. what's wrong with just making billions of dollars year after year? remember when famous chefs had like one fucking restaurant instead of 20 in ten time zones while doing TV and selling shit online? Okay Disney doesn't want to lose billions making movies that flop, but if they only had the theme parks they'd still be a solid company. making money the old fashioned way. as opposed to umpteen digital/crypto ones that have never turned a profit but somehow always manage to find more billions from banks and investors until the zit pops.

I wouldn't worry so much about Apple and Disney, a better question is who's the next Theranos/WeWork/FTX out there?

Expand full comment

As usual a great mix. Thanks, Professor Gioia! re: Our Lady of Infinite Sorrows. In another less wholesome incarnation, I worked in nightclubs in NYC. One night, a couple of years after I'd managed to slither out of that net, I ran into an acquaintance from the demimonde who insisted I go to see the former coat-check girl from Danceteria who he said was going to be "huge, man, I mean absolutely massive." It was Madonna, who, along with a troupe of hip-hopish dancers skipped and shimmied around a nightclub stage with a DJ backing them up. I don't recall if she was singing to a backing track, but my increasingly defective memory sees her lip-synching. Obviously unhip and off the beam, I was somewhere between underwhelmed and appalled. I definitely didn't see her as the future "Queen of Pop," although the audience of largely gay men went wild for her. Given that she didn't have a record out then, I imagine it was economical for her to use recorded music, also trendy when having a DJ on stage when scratching etc, was still a bit "street." So rather the "recontectualizing" her catalogue she may just be going back to her roots. Or she may just be cheap. I wish I could say something nice about her, but I see her indeed "massive" effect on pop music and culture as malignant; in my mind her ascendance will always be associated with the ascendance of the cruel, vulgarity of the Reagan-Thatcher years.

Expand full comment

when Madonna appeared on the scene, all those many years ago, she sang of "Blonde Ambition" and being a "Material Girl"

she was manufactured for the Reagan Generation

Expand full comment
Comment deleted
Expand full comment

Evergreen FZ:

“The illusion of freedom will continue as long as it's profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, they will pull back the curtains..."

Expand full comment

Insightful on all fronts. I do wonder what music is evolving into. So much is ubiquitous. You have to be deliberate in your listening choices or you'll become bored.

Expand full comment

I think it's going to REvolve back to live music in small venues, to families making music together. I don't think the manufactured homogeneous recordings that are being produced are even listened to in any real sense. They provide background noise which most people now seem to not be able to function without. For those of us who like quiet and being able to order our thoughts in said quietude it's a nightmare.

Expand full comment

I agree, and hope for it. My 14-year-old rocker and budding guitarist and I play around the house. My wife sings along. It's a lot more fun than listening to someone else. And we love going out to see the local bands at the brewpub. I highly recommend "back to local" and "back to folk music" (Created by common folks, even if it's loud electric rock 'n roll).

Expand full comment

I agree with you! I was going to make a comment about feeling like we are on the verge of a new folk music emerging, but who wants to listen to me endlessly blather on :))

Expand full comment

Two great comments from JD Cotton and Blue Fairy Wren!

Expand full comment

Spot on about the background noise! I’m 40, and in conversations with the 20 year old people my son knows, I was amazed at the number that have NEVER listened to a whole album, or could speak of one song they recently heard that had genuinely touched them. For most of that generation, music is something to have on while they play online games or txt each other. It’s not the all enveloping “close your eyes and really listen” experience I remember having, and still have, with a great song or album.

Expand full comment

That's really sad. They will never know that experience of buying a whole album from just hearing the single. The anticipation as you pulled that shiny, never played vinyl from its cover, and listening, for the first time to the album from start to finish. I remember when itunes was a thing and discovering, with horror that people would listen to albums on "shuffle". What? That's not how the artist intended it to go. The album is a single work in twelve chapters. Would you read a novel jumping higgledy-piggledy from one chapter to another? Would you listen to a Beethoven symphony starting with the slow movement? Makes my teeth ache.

Expand full comment

You said:

The company has spent far too much time and money trying to bypass Hollywood and do everything itself. But, as these numbers show, Netflix still relies mostly on guesswork and luck.

I kinda think this is more or less what we want. Sure the business types don't want it. They want reliable income, which entails taking few risks, using established brands, and reliable plots. But is that what we, the viewer wants. I recall watching a video humorously titled "Who Killed Cinema?" recommended by someone that complained about these very things.

So, guesswork requires failure. It used to be, at least, that VCs in Silicon Valley recognized that only one in five of the projects they backed would be a success, and they were ok with that.

Expand full comment

I love a good brown. For me, it conjures up images of oak, chestnut, and other earthy things, not the business we do in the smallest rooms in our houses. What about all the lovely brown-eyed girls, Ted? Of course, one could also say that black is the color of cockroaches, oil spills, and Dick Cheney's heart, so it all depends on how you look at it, I guess . . .

Expand full comment
Comment deleted
Expand full comment

Um, I actually like the color black just fine. It was tongue and cheek to prove a point. And there are plenty of black cockroaches in the world too, by the way (https://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/urban/roaches/oriental_cockroach.htm). Now I'm going to check the Substack guidelines to see if I can report you for discriminating against black cockroaches. ;)

Expand full comment
founding

Hahaha. Probably. I should be reported for lots of things. I cannot/ will not click on this link. You underestimate my phobia.

I’m calling a hue of brown for all cockroaches on the planet. All brown. All of them.

Expand full comment

So what Ted is saying is "it was capitalism all along!". I suspect the reason Madonna is not employing a band is that at her age her voice is likely failing (not an ageist comment, simply a fact of life) and that she is in fact miming to her old tracks and not singing them live. Can't do that with a band.

I'm not sure that musicians reach their peak before 30. At best that statement can only apply to pop/rock genre musicians. One of the reasons that first albums are so good is because the musicians have worked on those songs for years and years before they even get a label to glance their way. It's very often the case that the first album is astoundingly good. Then there is pressure to release a second album in, say, a year. Then everyone says "meh, not as good as the first, the band is a one hit wonder". Then, there is also the case that as musicians they get bored with what is popular and will push the boundaries more and more. Things might get a little or a lot experimental and while this may be exciting to the musos it's often not the easiest listening. This doesn't really fly in the popular music space. The exact opposite is true in jazz where the audience is capable of and willing to follow you into uncharted and exciting territory.

Expand full comment

I just read your post I might relate to Madonna CEO and Netflix plus Americans contacting with dead I will leave without any comment ))😎

When it comes to greed of Madonna i would argue. She is weak singer but a great performer! According to me she is one of the hardest working and controlling her biz ppl. She's lonely, everything, her family is only for show! In my opinion she deserved such a price she lives NOT LIKE Johnny Depp 7 houses, Iceland... And debts only. She spends money very wisely. In my opinion she is not greedy, she was in the age of 50 looking like my grandmother in the age of 70 . Someone took her a photo once she was going down the street, didn't have to change her look, noone recognise her. Old, wrinkled, very sad, face, emptiness in her eyes and solitude and the only thing that left to her is a movie and celebrating 🥳🎉 to prove the World and most of all herself that she still means SOMETHING!!! That's it in short. I've been following her since 90ties. Trying to be objective. I think I am. Not a first time by the way I saw her sadness after flashes ended. She was struggling for better life, trying variety of things. No result but ppl read about it. Everything for show. True. But this is the only thing She has got! I hope she will be celebrating more and more dekads of her hard working.

Best wishes

Expand full comment