DIGGING DEEP INTO AMERICA

Sunday, April 15, 2012

IT'S A NEW MUSIC BUSINESS.





The revolution wasn't televised, but that doesn't mean it didn't happen, 
electronic dance music RULES!

So I'm standing in the Mojave tent watching Dawes and Lisa comes up, leans in my 
ear, and says "YOU'VE GOT TO SEE WHAT'S HAPPENING IN THE NEXT TENT OVER, YOU 
WON'T BELIEVE IT."

Yes, there are five stages at Coachella. The main one, called the "Coachella 
Stage", the one you've seen in all the photographs, next to it another outdoor 
stage, monikered "Outdoor Stage", and then, side by side, three tents, "Gobi", 
"Mojave" and "Sahara". Not that they're really tents, not something you'd sleep 
in for the summer, but giant pavilions, open-sided edifices with high roofs. And 
as a result, sound bleeds from one to another. If you make soft music, avoid 
Coachella, you'll get drowned out.

But if you come to the festival, if you want to know what's truly happening, you 
can spend your entire visit at the Sahara tent, that's where the deejays hold 
court and the little boys and girls twirl and dance and are mesmerized to the 
point of ecstasy.

I'd love to tell you the story of Gary Clark, Jr. I saw the man at a private 
show in Hollywood two months back. Overworked by the label, I just didn't get 
it. But Mr. Clark ruled in the Gobi tent, where the audience could feel the 
energy and experience a guitarslinger for maybe the very first time. He broke 
his career wide open. That can happen at Coachella, where the rules of radio are 
thrown out the door, you experience the smorgasbord of music and are open to 
being closed.

But most acts didn't close these kids.

And it is kids.

You see Coachella has become a rite of passage. Thank god their parents didn't 
come with them. The girls were wearing bikinis even though it was fifty degrees 
with sporadic raindrops. The boys were wearing costumes, everything from space 
helmets to raccoon hats. They came to see and be seen. And to dance to the 
music.

It's a different culture. The baby boomers are about winning, becoming a shining 
star, dominating. Gen-X'ers are just pissed they didn't get to sip at the 
trough, the boomers ruined it for them.

And Gen-Y and the Millennials are nothing like their forebears. They want to be 
a member of the group, they want to PARTICIPATE!

This is a radical change. It's less about being on stage and being a star than 
being with your homies in the audience having fun. That whole concept of us vs. 
them, performer vs. audience, that has ruled for decades is toast. Now the 
performers and the audience are all in it together. And the mainstream music 
business just doesn't understand.

If I ran Coachella, I'd eliminate the old acts. And the new too. Everyone with a 
guitar, everyone with a band. Because most people just don't care.

Supposedly the Black Keys are one of the hottest bands in America. But they were 
smoked by Swedish House Mafia. It was no contest.

I'm not saying the Keys were bad. In fact, they were very good.

But most people just didn't care.

But forty minutes after they were done, when it was fifty two degrees and still 
raining, Swedish House Mafia took the main stage, the Coachella stage, and 
blasted a sound that united the masses.

Yes, for the first time all day, there was a crowd, covering the entire field. A 
sea of humanity, a swarm jumping, writhing, dancing, all the way back.

This is how it works. About thirty percent of the way back from the main stage 
there's a sound booth. And until the Black Keys played, not a single act could 
fill past this point. Jimmy Cliff KILLED! If you ever saw "The Harder They 
Come", you'd be thrilled. He hit the stage to the brass notes of "You Can Get It 
If You Really Want", it was magical. But almost no one cared. Applause was 
minimal. As was attendance.

But when Swedish House Mafia took the stage, you were reminded of a rally in 
Nazi Germany or the U.S.S.R. You know, you've seen the pictures, endless people 
and massive power, scary to those not there. And electronic dance music is scary 
to the old guard. We were busy debating it in the AEG trailer all night long. 
Could it fill an arena on a Monday night. What venues, what price.

But what's fascinating is these deejays are not prima donnas. They'll do arenas 
one night, stadiums another, and clubs and theaters thereafter. It's all about 
the music, it's all about the sound.

So I finish watching Dawes play to a limited audience and then Lisa starts 
telling me the story. That in the middle of the set her eye caught people 
RUNNING to the Sahara tent. I pulled out my guide as we walked there. Madeon was 
spinning.

I guarantee you ninety plus percent of my audience has no idea who this guy is. 
I certainly didn't.

But the kids did.

Not because of television, not because of radio, but because of the Internet.

And word wasn't spread by some faux social media specialist. There was no 
"campaign". Madeon is owned by the people.

He's a seventeen year old French kid. Paul Tollett had to get his parents' 
permission for him to come.

And you couldn't even get in the Sahara tent. You could barely get near it. But 
you could see the lights, you could hear the music, it was infectious.

This week Kraftwerk is playing at the Modern. I saw the band during their 
"Computer World" tour. At the Santa Monica Civic. Long before many of you were 
even born. In the very early eighties.

It was one of the best shows I've ever seen. And it was all electronic.

Swedish House Mafia is all electronic. They were revealed on stage and the place 
went NUTS!

And so did I.

I felt the energy, the pulse, the adrenaline that a great show delivers. That 
the pop acts and the oldsters so often don't. The three guys are up there like a 
parody of an SNL skit but it worked.

That's what you've got to know, this electronic music works. It's owned by the 
kids. And it's got nothing to do with what came before, record companies are 
irrelevant. Hell, Swedish House Mafia is headlining Coachella AND THEY'VE NEVER 
PUT OUT A PROPER ALBUM!

Think about that. You're sitting at home crafting ten tunes to make you feel 
good. To make you believe you're a musician.

No, a musician plays music. It's just that simple. And recordings have become 
secondary to live because it's all about the experience, that's what the younger 
generation treasures.

You should have been there last night. Or in the Sahara tent all day long, it 
was always full.

It's a new music business.

And it's THRILLING! 

BY:  Bob Lefsetz

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