Art is Going to Save Us: My First House Show Tour Recap

Art is Going to Save Us: My First House Show Tour Recap

Shared experiences; they are what life is really about.

I spent the past weekend with two of my band members performing house shows in Portland, Maine; Scranton, Pennsylvania; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The purpose of our short tour was to test the waters and see if this whole house show thing is something that people would enjoy, to find out whether performing a stripped-down, stories-behind-the-songs collection of my music would resonate the way my full productions do. (Spoiler alert: it did!)

But it was also to get back to a grassroots way of meeting people, making new friends, and connecting one-on-one with individuals.

The response was more than we could have asked for.

We learned quite a lot on our trip, and one of the things we learned is that people are yearning for a personal connection with their favorite artists.

In a time when the internet affords artists the opportunity to connect one-on-one with the fans of their work, we normally only hear from our favorite artists when they have something they want us to buy. And even then, that’s usually every two or three years when their new album comes out.

Albums. That’s another thing…

The album format has been exploded.

I recorded a podcast while in Portland at Gateway Mastering Studios with renowned mastering engineer Adam Ayan (Shakira, Luis Fonsi, Carrie Underwood, Queen, et al.), and he told me that he is mastering more singles and EPs than ever before, with albums sprinkled in here and there.

So, if you’re making an album, and you’re not being forced to do so because you’re signed to a record label, why are you doing it??

Unless you’re making an album of metal music—which studies show have the hands-down most loyal fanbase, a fanbase which still buys CDs and generally avoids streaming, clinging to the past—you’re swimming against the tide.

But I digress. Back to the matter at hand: connection.

In Portland, two of our Bullfighters (fan club members) are people who travel all over the country to see their favorite artists. They’ve been to countless shows and seen some of the most talented musicians perform in large and small venues. They told us they’d never experienced such an up-close-and-personal performance before, and they loved it.

The sentiment was shared by our new Portland friends, who took us out to dinner before the show. They enjoy treating bands (and their entire crew) to meals when they come through Portland, because they understand the struggle and the sacrifices being made to travel and get after a career in music. They, too, were blown away by the intimacy of the show, and said they had never been a part of something like that.

In Scranton, we visited with my good friend Phil, who is the program director at Alt 92.1 FM. He showed us around the station—which includes a 200-capacity theater with a 1932 Steinway grand piano. He said he is going to begin spinning my music on the radio, and will work with us to help put together an event when we return to the Scranton area.

And in Pittsburgh, as I was walking the streets, talking with locals and handing out flyers before our performance, I received many compliments and kudos on our “guerrilla marketing,” and that “your passion looks good on you; never stop doing what you’re doing.”

The people we connected with on this tour are incredibly supportive of our journey, and were kind enough to treat us to meals and allow us to stay the night in their homes.

We must have made a good impression, because they can’t wait for us to return so they can bring their family and friends and share the experience.

Which brings me to this article on the generosity of fans of music, and art in general:

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/08/170803091933.htm

That’s right, folks. Art is going to save us!

But it’s not going to come from Taylor Swift, or Drake, or Bieber, or Luke Bryan, or Future, or Adele, or Max Martin, or Migos, or Shellback, or Dr. Luke, or Mark Ronson, or any of the other major players in today’s music game.

No, it’s going to come from THE PEOPLE, those fans of talented artists and the work they produce!

Need proof? Here it is, straight from Spotify…

John Stein, an editor focused on indie, alternative, and electronic music for some of Spotify’s biggest mood playlists explained to The Verge that there’s a difference between a live hit and a Spotify hit.

From The Verge article: “[Stein] likes to find out what songs people are singing along to in the real world. ‘That’s something we don’t see in the data,’ he says. ‘They’re not always the catchy ones. They’re surprises. And over time, people come back to those more.’ He says he likes music that has substance, which you ‘can’t fake,’ not just perfectly crafted pop songs with the chorus at the front. ‘You can’t build real fans by following such a formula in that way.’”

Amen.

Follow me on Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/artist/7Lx9QDuqrvKCyr1jr1Q324

There is no art in a factory; not even in an art factory. — Eric “Mixerman” Sarafin

P.S. The researchers concluded that one implication of their findings for policy-makers is the potential for “substantial social and economic gains” from investing in the arts. They argue that these may be achieved “effectively by policies or investments that make the arts more widely available and ensure that access is not restricted only to the wealthy.” … Arts Council England’s Director of Communication and Public Policy, Mags Patten, said: “This paper makes a significant contribution to growing evidence of a causal link between taking part in the arts, individual wellbeing, and the strength of communities. This valuable piece of research will be important reading for those already studying in this vital area, and it should encourage new studies of the social impact of the arts.”

P.P.S. Become a Bullfighter today, and my band and I will perform in your area within a calendar year of your enrollment, guaranteed, or your money back. 😀

———
Visit the archive: https://therealjohnkay.wordpress.com

Website: https://therealjohnkay.com
Music: Spotify Artist Page
Podcast: Get After It w/ John Kay on iTunes
Twitter: @TheRealJohnKay
Instagram: @therealjohnkay
Facebook: /TheRealJohnKay

Let he who would move the world first move himself. — Socrates

Copyright © 2017 John Kay, All rights reserved.

Advertisements

Sturgill Simpson Busking at the CMAs

Sturgill Simpson Busking at the CMAs

I have a love/hate relationship with country music…

On the day I was born, my father was hired to work as a DJ at WWWW 106.7 FM in downtown Detroit.

He missed Howard Stern by a week, after Stern left when the station switched formats to country.

“W4 Country,” as the station was known, kept a roof over my family’s heads and put food on our plates for 14 years.

Willie Nelson held me in his arms as a toddler. In fact, so did the members of Alabama and the Oak Ridge Boys, along with Ronnie Milsap, Eddie Rabbit, Roger Miller, George Strait, and countless other country stars of the early-to-mid-1980s and prior.

Accompanying my dad to all of the big gigs he’d work for the station, getting to meet so many amazing musicians and watching them perform night after night, seeing the audience’s reaction to the music and the production, and feeling the energy and the love in the arena…

These are the things that made me want to become a musician. And country music winds its way into many of my songs to this day.

Today’s country music just isn’t the same.

I can’t say that it’s bad, because music is like wine — if you like it, it’s good; and a lot of people like mainstream country music.

But I hate it.

Because mainstream country music, and Nashville itself, has been co-opted by Big Music and the pop machine. Hell, even Willie stopped recording in Nashville. He’s been making his more recent stuff down in Austin, Texas.

Many of today’s most popular country songs are being manufactured in “hit factories” in the same fashion as pop songs are, trying to make earworms.

But Chris Stapleton is the one winning the awards, by being authentic and doing things his way. (He took home this year’s CMAs for Male Vocalist of the Year and Album of the Year.)

And then you’ve got Sturgill Simpson, whose busking outside the CMAs prompted me to write this missive.

My future brother-in-law tried to turn me on to Simpson two years ago. It didn’t take. To be honest, most of the time, when people suggest music to me, I am reluctant to listen or check it out.

It’s not because I’m not interested, it’s because I don’t have time!

Between work and family, I don’t have any time alone to sit by myself and soak in new music, the way I did when I was still in school. If and when I discover new music, it’s because I intentionally make time to listen to Spotify in the studio as I write or do something else.

That’s another thing! Music has become background noise, instead of the medium which drives the culture and informs the public consciousness.

Which is why Sturgill Simpson busking outside the CMAs resonated with me…

Much like Chris Stapleton, Simpson doesn’t really fit with the country mainstream, and the CMAs are all about the mainstream, which is why Simpson was on the outside looking in.

But that’s not an issue for him.

He won this year’s Grammy for Best Country Album, and his Grammy was sitting in his guitar case as he performed on the sidewalk, answering questions as they came in from fans on Facebook Live, and any donations he received went to the ACLU; that’s the American Civil Liberties Union, for those who don’t know.

And after playing songs and waxing on his appreciation of Kanye West and bluegrass music, he was asked to give a would-be speech if he won a CMA.

Here’s what he said…

“Nobody needs a machine gun, coming from a guy who owns quite a few guns. Gay people should have the right to be happy and live their life any way they want to and get married if they want to without fear of getting drug down the road behind a pickup truck. Black people are probably tired of getting shot in the streets and being enslaved by the industrial prison complex. And hegemony and fascism is alive and well in Nashville, Tennessee.

“Thank you very much.”

Artists are supposed to speak truth to power, and that’s what Sturgill Simpson did, albeit outside the CMAs.

Before they became personal brands with fragrance and cosmetics deals, or their own clothing line, artists used their work to awaken consciousness in others, helping to shape and inform public opinion in a positive direction. Hip-hop has been doing this for decades.

And hip-hop dominates today, but the most popular song on the most popular streaming service (Spotify) is Post Malone’s “rockstar” which begins with the line “I’ve been fuckin’ hoes and poppin’ pillies” and continues with “fuckin’ with me, call up on a Uzi” — it has almost 2 million daily plays in the U.S. and over 5.3 million daily plays worldwide.

Do you sometimes wonder why we have a nationwide opioid epidemic and a rampant gun problem?? Yes, Big Pharma and the NRA are the major drivers, but when the most popular music in the United States (and the world) is glorifying getting high on pills and shooting up rivals, it doesn’t help.

At any rate, my point is this…

Instead of taking the easy route and using the formula that mainstream artists use, and/or pandering to the lowest common denominator, artists such as Sturgill Simpson and Chris Stapleton create music that speaks to our better nature as humans.

And when they sing their songs, one can hear in their voices the pain, the heartache, the courage, the hope, the love about which they sing, because it comes from deep within themselves, from their experiences in life.

My music comes from that same place: of me and by me.

And I can’t wait to perform it for you. 🙂

11/16 Portland, ME — 8 Arundel Road, Kennebunkport 04046
11/17 Scranton, PA — currently finalizing booking
11/18 Pittsburgh, PA — 1111 Woodland Avenue, Pittsburgh 15212

Tickets for these intimate, stories-behind-the-songs house shows are only $10 and will be available at the door.

Doors will open at 8pm, and shows will start at 9pm, or once tickets are sold out. Once again, only 30 tickets will be available for each performance, so plan to arrive early!

P.S. Every Bullfighter — fan club member — gets two tickets per year to see me when I come to town, so they never have to worry about a show selling out!

P.P.S. Below is a comprehensive list of Bullfighter cities across the United States. Don’t see your city or state listed? Become a Bullfighter today and we’ll be performing there soon! 😀

  • Montgomery, AL
  • Tucson, AZ
  • Gilbert, AZ
  • Pasadena, CA
  • San Francisco, CA
  • Denver, CO
  • Fort Collins, CO
  • Bell, FL
  • Kissimmee, FL
  • Chicago, IL
  • Louisville, KY
  • Boston, MA
  • Portland, ME
  • Detroit, MI
  • Grand Rapids, MI
  • Pittsburgh, PA
  • Houston, TX
  • San Antonio, TX
  • Tacoma, WA
  • Beckley, WV
  • Huntington, WV

———
Visit the archive: https://therealjohnkay.wordpress.com

Website: https://therealjohnkay.com
Music: Spotify Artist Page
Podcast: Get After It w/ John Kay on iTunes
Twitter: @TheRealJohnKay
Instagram: @therealjohnkay
Facebook: /TheRealJohnKay

Let he who would move the world first move himself. — Socrates

Copyright © 2017 John Kay, All rights reserved.

I’m a Believer

I’m a Believer

“I think that the thing that major labels have always done that is important in the business is provide highly sophisticated, robust, well-developed processes for artists to reach their highest potential,” VP of New Digital Business at Universal Music Group, Tuhin Roy said.

“At the end of the day, that’s why artists come to us, because they believe we’re going to help them reach their highest potential.”

One more time…

‘…because they believe we’re going to help them reach their highest potential.’

BELIEF.

It’s what drives all working artists, the belief that someday, somehow, their dreams will come true, their creations will break into the mainstream consciousness, and their years and years of hard work and commitment will pay off in the end.

And the major record labels have preyed on that precious belief and exploited it to the benefit of their own bank accounts for decades.

Major labels know that artists are willing to do almost anything to reach their goals and live out their dreams, and so they are able to tilt contracts heavily in favor of the label, the artist becoming a sort of indentured servant.

Since many artists are desperate and/or uninformed, they willingly sign a lopsided contract, hoping that their success will solve everything in the end.

The chances of that are next to nil.

And once the contract is signed, the artist is legally obligated to produce music at the label’s discretion, for the duration of the contract. The artist must now make music of the label, by the label, and for the label.

In fact, artists on major record labels today tend to not write their own music. They have their songs crafted at writers’ camps, which author John Seabrook says in his book The Song Machine are “like a pop-up hit factory.”

Record labels and big-time artists put these camps together, and they can last up to two weeks, but usually less than a week. A few dozen beat- and track-makers and melody-makers (“topliners”) get mixed and matched in every way possible until all combinations have been exhausted.

And if the artist happens to be present, they are floating from combo to combo, checking out what each team has going on, working on ideas here and there, keeping and discarding what they like or don’t like. This is how the artist gets credit if and when the song is released — “change a word, get a third” is a well-known phrase in the business.

From The Song Machine: “The peer pressure is such that virtually every session produces a song, which means twelve or more songs a day, or sixty a week, depending on the size of the camp.”

This is all to say that the major record labels wield a great deal of power over their artists, and often end up controlling their entire careers, to the point where an artist no longer produces their own work from a place of authenticity, but instead defers to data, polls, and metrics while choosing a potential earworm from a smorgasbord of songs whipped up in haste by committee.

But things are shifting in a new direction…

People used to complain about streaming services. Now, they appear to be saving the music industry…

Artists are foregoing record labels and securing their own publishing, licensing, and distribution…

And they are growing their fan bases organically, through grassroots campaigns and tours, and connecting via social media and email…

Today it costs virtually nothing to distribute music on the internet, worldwide, or to connect with fans directly…

So why would an artist need a label???

Answer: Relationships and capital.

That’s what the majors offer — they are people who know people who know people who know people, and all of these people have deep pockets, in a world where many artists can’t even afford to buy new pants.

But are those the relationships that artists truly need? Or should artists be more concerned about their relationship with the fans of their music??

And should artists be focused on money first? Always worrying about the bottom line? Or should the artist be serving the Muse, allowing the Muse to flow through them, transmuting its whispers into their art, critics be damned??

The internet has granted artists and fans the opportunity to take the power back from the suits, and show the world that great music matters more than “hits.”

And now Tuhin Roy is hoping to find the next big thing in music…before it’s too late…

From Mashable (10/17): “Universal…announced the launch of its accelerator network in an effort to encourage the emergence of music startups— with the goal of getting Universal in on the ground floor of the next big thing.

“The deal puts Universal at the earliest stage possible with entrepreneurs looking for help in trying something new. The label is working with accelerators at that application process, then lending expertise and mentorship to founders with music-focused startups.

“Justin Hendrix, executive director of NYC Media Lab, said that corporate partners are important for entrepreneurs who might not otherwise have those relationships.

“The goal is to encourage more entrepreneurs and accelerators to focus their energy on music, which can be a daunting and byzantine industry to deal with.

“Universal isn’t taking equity for its efforts, which is the usual deal between startups and acceleartors. Roy said the label sees value in hearing about new ideas from entrepreneurs and having the chance to work with startups from early days.

“‘There’s a reverse learning process for us. We actually learn as we engage in these startups how they view the business which is maybe a view for where things are heading,’ Roy said.”

The labels are starting to see the writing on the wall. They are learning that in order to reach their highest potential, artists don’t necessarily need a major record label anymore.

Sony Music CEO Rob Stringer on 11/03: “I have huge admiration for everything Spotify has done to build their business. We have a complicated relationship with it now because we have to make sure that we’re represented properly and they don’t bypass us. There’s a temptation there, if they’re valued at what they’re supposed to be valued at, they could become larger than all the labels put together. It is my job to maintain the balance. We don’t control distribution and we are therefore not as much in control of our destinies as we were during the boom of CDs, of the explosion of vinyl in the ‘60s.”

Thanks to the internet, artists just need to make great art and connect with the people who love it.

For me, those people are the Bullfighters. The Bullfighters are the members of my fan club, and my band and I only perform in areas within 50 miles of each Bullfighter.

Because the Bullfighters believe in me.

On that note…

I’m excited to announce I’m getting back on the road, and will begin performing my music next week!

Me and two of my band members are hitting the highway to perform a stripped-down, stories-behind-the-songs collection of my music, and we can’t wait to connect with old friends and make new ones.

These will be intimate house shows, taking place in a spacious living room, on a backyard patio, or in a basement or garage; basically, somewhere that will comfortably accommodate 25-30 adults.

Tickets are only $10 and will be available exclusively at the door. There will only be 30 tickets available for each performance, so plan to arrive as early as possible! Doors will open at 8pm, and shows will start at 9pm, or once tickets are sold out.

  • 11/16: Portland, ME (8 Arundel Road, Kennebunkport, ME 04046)
  • 11/17: Scranton, PA (currently finalizing booking)
  • 11/18: Pittsburgh, PA (1111 Woodland Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15212)

I can’t wait to play my music for you, and connect with old and new friends. See you out there on the road! 😀

P.S. Every Bullfighter get two tickets per year to see me when I come to town, so they never have to worry about a show selling out!

P.P.S. Below is a comprehensive list of Bullfighter cities across the United States. Don’t see your city or state listed? Become a Bullfighter today and we’ll be performing there soon! 🙂

  • Montgomery, AL
  • Tucson, AZ
  • Gilbert, AZ
  • Pasadena, CA
  • San Francisco, CA
  • Denver, CO
  • Fort Collins, CO
  • Bell, FL
  • Kissimmee, FL
  • Chicago, IL
  • Louisville, KY
  • Boston, MA
  • Portland, ME
  • Detroit, MI
  • Grand Rapids, MI
  • Pittsburgh, PA
  • Houston, TX
  • San Antonio, TX
  • Tacoma, WA
  • Beckley, WV
  • Huntington, WV
———
Visit the archive: https://therealjohnkay.wordpress.comWebsite: https://therealjohnkay.com
Music: Spotify Artist Page
Podcast: Get After It w/ John Kay on iTunes
Twitter: @TheRealJohnKay
Instagram: @therealjohnkay
Facebook: /TheRealJohnKay

Let he who would move the world first move himself. — Socrates

Copyright © 2017 John Kay, All rights reserved.

Dear Spotify, Apple Music, et al.: I’m Not the Guy from Steppenwolf

Dear Spotify, Apple Music, et al.: I’m Not the Guy from Steppenwolf

I’ve had an ongoing battle for the last five years behind the scenes…

Out of nowhere, one of my fans will hit me up with something to the effect of “Hey, I just saw that you’re playing in Atlantic City in a couple of weeks at the casino! Me and the wife will be there, dude!”

My response? “Um, I’m not booked in Atlantic City. Where are you seeing this??”

“It was posted on your Facebook page.”

I check my Facebook page. Sure enough, there’s my picture along with an event link, advertising that I’m playing in Atlantic City in a couple of weeks.

I immediately delete it.

Why??? Because I’m not booked in Atlantic City. The other John Kay is! The other JK is best known as the singer, songwriter, guitarist, and frontman of Steppenwolf.

Does anyone under 35 even know who Steppenwolf is??

Either way, his social media team has been linking his events to my accounts for years. I’ve reached out to them to resolve the issue, and they can’t figure out why it continues to happen.

That is the reason I changed all my social media handles to @TheRealJohnKay. It’s not because I’m pretentious, there’s a serious confusion here!

In fact, just yesterday, I went to my local health foods store, and was checking out with my regular cashier when she and I got to talking about what’s going on with me music-wise. After a brief chat, I wrote down my website URL and gave it to her.

“TheRealJohnKay.com, huh? Like the guy from Steppenwolf??” she remarked.

Anger, rising…

I smile, “Haha! Yeah, that’s an ongoing thing…”

I’ve been getting this my whole life from Boomers. “Oh, your name’s John Kay? Hey, like the guy from Steppenwolf!”

No. Not like the guy from Steppenwolf.

I’m tired of playing along with the “Oh, like the guy from Steppenwolf?” comments.

From now on, I’m going to say…“…Who?”

The guy from Steppenwolf is 73 years old, released “Born to Be Wild” and “Magic Carpet Ride” in 1968, had his last hit in 1972 (Boomers, can you name it without Googling??), and hasn’t released a studio album since 2001.

And, according to his Spotify analytics — which I was granted access to! — his fans also listen to Savoy Brown, Grand Funk Railroad, Leslie West, Robin Trower, Mountain, James Gang, Humble Pie, Johnny Winter, and Alvin Lee.

In other words…NOTHING NEW!!

This isn’t meant to derogate him or his fans. Hell, he’s essentially been touring since he first formed Steppenwolf in the ’60s. Good on him, and if people are coming to see him, all the better.

But the confusion and the cross-pollination has to end. As much as I appreciate his fans’ cursory exposure to my music by way of its misplacement on his pages, and welcome any of them who wish to enjoy my songs and see me perform, I’d much rather separate our catalogs.

I’ve been in touch with Spotify, who have been assisting me with this ridiculousness, and they have since gone ahead and created my own dedicated artist page.

And yet, my music distributor has been continuing to submit my songs to each of the streaming platforms as if I were the other John Kay, which means my new song “Hate U Back” was released under Mr. Steppenwolf’s artist page on Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, Google Play, and the lot this past Friday.

So, this is my public cry for help. Since the streaming platforms rely on the distributors to place their clients’ music correctly, and it’s not happening in my case despite repeated efforts…we need to take this fight to the streets.

To that point, I’m asking that you do these three simple things:

  1. Create a Spotify account if you don’t already have one; it’s free.
  2. Follow my actual artist page here: https://open.spotify.com/artist/7Lx9QDuqrvKCyr1jr1Q324
  3. Finally (and most important!) set up this playlist to play on continuous repeat: https://open.spotify.com/user/22qcpuhhd2wlo4lwvhh6yvnii/playlist/25xZUV2uGPOQ5ZA7eQSZij.

You can even mute and minimize Spotify in the background as you do your thing, just keep the playlist going.

The point is to rack up as many spins of MY music as possible in the next 24-48 hours to perhaps get the attention of Steppenwolf Guy’s team. (If you use another streaming platform, feel free to make your own playlist of my music, or humor me and sign up for Spotify just for this!) Maybe that will effect a change here.

Thanks in advance, everyone! 😀

———
Visit the archive: https://therealjohnkay.wordpress.com

Website: https://therealjohnkay.com
Music: Spotify Artist Page
Podcast: Get After It w/ John Kay on iTunes
Twitter: @TheRealJohnKay
Instagram: @therealjohnkay
Facebook: /TheRealJohnKay

Let he who would move the world first move himself. — Socrates

Copyright © 2017 John Kay, All rights reserved.

Hate U Back

Hate U Back

https://youtu.be/LunHybOKIjU

Our culture right now is all about attention (as I wrote last week), and Eminem got everyone’s attention for a good 24 hours and more. Whether or not that was his intent, who’s to say? The point is, he succeeded.

Why???

First off, like it or not, Eminem is a thought leader. He has a gift for using the English language in a visceral, commanding fashion, and he uses this gift to express himself in a way that is simultaneously vulnerable, honest, succinct, and powerful. His fans appreciate his candor and his willingness to draw a line in the sand and take a position, especially at a time when most musicians are scared to take a position on anything.

Second, the quality of his content. He wasn’t rapping about getting laid, or being drunk in da club, he was speaking out on the current state of our country in a way most artists are afraid to do for fear of alienating fans or, more to the point, losing their corporate deals.

Finally, he was authentic! He straight up bodied a freestyle in a parking structure, in an age where most superstars use backing tracks and lavish productions. He didn’t need a beat. He didn’t even need a microphone. He simply looked down the barrel of the camera, at US, and spoke truth to power.

It was what we’ve all been waiting for — an undeniable musician willing to speak out against the current administration, and put their name on it!

Speaking truth to power…hey, that’s what real artists are supposed to do!!

And I’m probably going to have people give me the whole “he should stick to rapping” bullshit like they did when I wrote about Meryl Streep last year (“stick to acting”). But that just shines a spotlight on their ignorance…

Understand: rap and hip-hop began as a way to give a voice to the powerless, to reveal the injustices in the African-American community, to preach positivity in the face of hopelessness, and help the disadvantaged find the strength and courage to stand up for themselves and demand what’s right in the name of humanity.

Over time it morphed into a fluid art form which would come to be criticized for its derogatory lyrics about women, its glorification of violence, and its promotion of drug dealing/use. And yes, Eminem is guilty of including those subjects in his oeuvre.

But this past Tuesday night, his freestyle about Orange 45 was about giving the rest of America a voice, fulfilling hip-hop’s foundational intentions.

You see, Eminem may not be putting out music as often as he used to, but in America, hip-hop rules, and Eminem is rap royalty. He’s on the Mount Rushmore of rap with Tupac, Kendrick Lamar, and Dr. Dre, as far as I’m concerned. He can go away for 10 years, come back, and sound just as fresh.

Yet, CNN commentator Matt Lewis says “he’s an aging guy who is clinging to relevance.”

Hardly. Eminem isn’t worried about relevance.

Because Eminem knows he has INFLUENCE.

Plus, he’s white! And he champions black culture and has a deep appreciation for it, unlike our leader.

And now my inbox is gonna blow up with those of you who think race isn’t a large component of what’s going on in this country right now.

But notice how the president has yet to fire back at Eminem on Twitter??

If he does, it will be a Pyrrhic victory: As Touré wrote, Eminem has pitted “whiteness against itself,” and now a good portion of his fans have to go to the bathroom…because that’s where the mirror is…and take a long, hard look and decide in which tribe they truly want to be…

“And any fan of mine, who’s a supporter of his, I’m drawing in the sand a line: You’re either for or against.

“And if you can’t decide who you like more, and you’re split on who should stand beside, I’ll do it for you with this: FUCK you!”

I feel the same way about my fans. And friends. And family members.

It seems as though people think that at a certain point, depending on what type of career you have, how much money you do or don’t make, and how big or small of a celebrity you are, you don’t have the right to speak your mind on the politics and the goings-on of our country and culture.

Where is this sliding scale?? The truth is, it doesn’t exist — every one of us has the right to speak our mind.

We are living in a crazy time right now, and we need more people of true influence to speak out against injustice, racism, sexism, and the lot.

Influence is the key word here — anyone can be concerned about what’s going on, but if one doesn’t have the means or the resources to actually influence a change in what they’re upset about, they’re like Sisyphus and his boulder, forever exerting energy in an effort doomed to fail.

Focus on your circle of influence, not your circle of concern, as the late Stephen Covey wrote in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Find out what you can do to make a positive impact in the world, based on your particular circumstances, and do it. We need you!

Don’t just sit at the computer or peck at your phone with complaints on social media about they way things are or how they should, take real action in the real world and make them so.

I choose to make my impact through my art, regardless of medium.

To that point…

Back in April, I released “Don’t Mess With My Routine,” which was written from the perspective of the folks in the red hats.

“Hate U Back” is written from the opposite perspective, and I am happy to announce that it is streaming on Spotify and the other major streaming services as of today!

If you’re like me, you’ll have a puff, put on your best headphones, and turn the volume up to 70% (protect your ears!).

I hope you dig it. 🙂

“Hate U Back”: https://open.spotify.com/album/62Cs1prjQ2mVYcDNY1kHP2

P.S. Since we’re living in an attention economy, I appreciate you taking time to listen to my music. Thank you in advance.

P.P.S. That said, I’d rather hear “I hate it” than nothing at all, so feel free to let me know what you think of “Hate U Back” by emailing me at jk [at] therealjohnkay [dot] com.

P.P.P.S. In order to make the most impact possible, I’m asking that everyone listen to “Hate U Back” on Spotify three times in a row in order to help get it included on some of Spotify’s playlists. Do this, and I’ll love you even more than I already do! 😀

———
Visit the archive: https://therealjohnkay.wordpress.comWebsite: https://therealjohnkay.com
Music: https://johnkay.bandcamp.com
Podcast: Get After It w/ John Kay on iTunes
Twitter: @TheRealJohnKay
Instagram: @therealjohnkay
Facebook: /TheRealJohnKay

Let he who would move the world first move himself. — Socrates

Copyright © 2017 John Kay, All rights reserved.

Bob Lefsetz’s Tom Petty Playlist

Bob Lefsetz’s Tom Petty Playlist

I LOVED Tom Petty, but you wouldn’t know it by my music collection.

I’m still really upset and puzzled over his passing. He was just here in Detroit back in July, and instead of going to see him perform, we had band rehearsal.

We debated skipping rehearsal and going to the show, and reasoned that we’d catch him the next time he came to town.

But he’s never coming back…

The weight of that last sentence hit me the moment I typed it. It birthed a sinking feeling in my gut, a hot sensation rising up and throughout my entire body, finally exiting out the extremities and filling the room with a stagnant energy I can only describe as blanketing.

Yeah, I talk about mortality a lot, but didn’t Benjamin Franklin say nothing is certain except death and taxes??

We all have mortality in common. And when someone dies whom we care about, we each grieve in our own way. The way I grieve is to reflect on their life, and learn from the impact they made on the world.

But I didn’t know how to start to do that with Tom Petty.

Of course I know the hits, and I own Hard Promises and Damn The Torpedoes on vinyl, so there are a few non-radio cuts I appreciate. (“What Are You Doin’ In My Life?” and “Letting You Go” are two of my favorites.)

Still, when I heard the news, I wanted to dive into an ocean of his music and listen to the tunes that spoke to the essence of a human who lived a life! Where to begin?

Thankfully, since I subscribe to the Lefsetz Letter, I received a link to a Spotify playlist of 40 songs which cover Petty’s entire recording career, showcasing his growth and range as an artist. It’s missing my all-time favorite Petty song, You Don’t Know How It Feels, but all in all, it’s a soothing ride from top to bottom.

If you’re mourning the loss of one of the great songwriters of our time, give this playlist a listen. Even though it made me miss him all the more, it helped.

May it help you.

P.S. I highly recommend subscribing to the Lefsetz Letter if you’re a rabid music fan. His analysis and missives are relevant, insightful, poignant, and from time to time, comical.

———
Visit the archive: https://therealjohnkay.wordpress.com

Website: https://therealjohnkay.com
Music: https://johnkay.bandcamp.com
Podcast: Get After It w/ John Kay on iTunes
Twitter: @TheRealJohnKay
Instagram: @therealjohnkay
Facebook: /TheRealJohnKay

Let he who would move the world first move himself. — Socrates

Copyright © 2017 John Kay, All rights reserved.

Spotify, Las Vegas, and Tom Petty: Welcome to the Attention Economy

Spotify, Las Vegas, and Tom Petty: Welcome to the Attention Economy
How do you pay attention these days?

It’s worth asking because…we can access anything we deem more interesting than whomever or whatever is in front of us by simply reaching into our pocket and pulling out our smartphone.

You see it all around you, always. Whether at home, with friends, at work, at the bar, at sporting events, at concerts.

Even at the movies, which I don’t understand; people will spend over ten bucks to sit in front of a screen but would rather look at the one they brought with them??

There are even certain groups of people who, when out to eat, have unwritten rules regarding their devices, even if they don’t realize it. (For example, I learned last year that it’s silently understood that if a group of five people are out together and conversation is happening, devices are a no-no unless at least three people are actively engaged in conversation. In a group of seven, at least four people have to be engaged.)

On that note, I’ve seen many couples out to eat and each of them are on their phones, not talking to the other, for almost the entire meal.

It’s become almost compulsory as soon as there is a lull or awkward pause in a conversation — the moment we begin to feel the s-l-i-g-h-t-e-s-t hint of boredom, we go online.

What are we all paying attention to??

Whatever we want, whenever we want — each individual has the ability to create his or her own bubble, and it’s harder each day to pierce the surface and make an impact.

And Big Business knows this, which makes getting your attention, and keeping it, their top priority.

To that point…

At a recent event in London, Drew Lam, who works in Spotify’s Artists and Management Resources in the UK, told an audience that the music industry is now a world of “attention economics.”

The music industry, Lam said, was “no longer in a retail model. We work on attention economics. The more attention you can get, the more streams, the more consumption.”

He’s right. But it’s not just music. It’s everything.

Everything’s amazing and nobody’s happy,” Louis CK opined on Conan this week in 2008.
Fast forward to October 2017, and the world has become even more amazing. The opportunities are boundless.

Yet, people are much more unhappy, angry even, some are downright vicious. We’re more polarized.

Maybe it’s because we’re retreating within our respective bubbles, paying too much attention to ourselves, and not focusing our attention on creating value for others and making a lasting, positive impact in the world.

I don’t know. Just a thought.

One thing is for sure, though. Today, it’s far easier to get attention by spraying bullets from an assault rifle into a crowd of country music fans from a Las Vegas hotel, than it is to follow one’s Muse and work hard at a craft, to create something of actual value to the world, something that resonates beyond simply dominating the news cycle for a mere week or less, something that stands the test of time.

Like Tom Petty’s music.

You see, true greatness compels our attention, it doesn’t demand it.  True greatness is undeniable because it speaks to a deeper part of who we are meant to be. It resonates with the core of who we are.

I tell people all the time, Millennials and Plurals don’t have short attention spans, or “ADD,” they just have highly-developed antennae for greatness!

Think about it: a large portion of our culture has never known a life without a broadband internet connection.

This means they’ve had access to the greatest films, literature, music, paintings, novels, photography, comedy, even food recipes…for their entire lives. They know within 5-7 seconds whether or not something cuts the mustard, whether it will resonate with them or not.

Bottom line, if it doesn’t have the lingering scent of greatness, they move on quick.

Unless, of course, trickery is involved.

And that’s why mainstream music and commercial radio “all sounds the same,” why it’s being written, recorded, and produced by the same major players using proven formulas: they purposely manufacture earworms — sugar-filled, candy-coated, hook-laden productions designed to “grab a listener by the throat” (as one music exec told me in 2016) and hold them captive for the duration of the song, preying upon and exploiting the human brain’s most natural tendencies.

But is that what stands the test of time? Earworms?? Songs that get stuck in your head not because you love them, because they speak to your soul, but because they are mathematically and scientifically designed to infect your mind???

Well, we’ll see in 20 years if people are still listening to Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do.”

But I’m not trying to be in the earworm business.

When one of my songs impacts another, I hope it’s due to the quality of the content, the meaning of the message, the depth of it all, not because I used some formulaic brain hack or blindly followed trends or wrote for a particular market. That’s how Petty did it.

Sure, the Bullfighters do collaborate in my creative process, and they play a special role in helping shape and inform my work.

But they don’t dictate it! Most importantly, they don’t presume to! They respect the craft and my Muse when offering their feedback, and although my music doesn’t have Taylor Swift-like numbers of streams, the future looks quite bright.

“When we talk about music at Spotify now,” Lam went on to say, “We need to think about the artist. How do you go from idea to pen to paper, to the studio — how does that then go to market? How do we help you find your listeners, and turn them into fans? They’re the ones who’ll buy your vinyl, your T-shirts, come to your shows.”

Lam went on to outline some of Spotify’s functionality. With its Spotify playlists, he said, “we wanted to get music to listeners as quickly as possible without any human curation.”

But at least as important, he said, was Spotify for Artists, which provides in-depth analytics to artists on how their music is being listened to, potentially helping them to plan tours, reach their most hardcore fans, and understand contexts in which people listen to their music.

How ironic: people were screaming for years that streaming was going to kill the music industry, and today it’s heralded as being responsible for the industry’s resurgence, all while its leading company is innovating new ways to help artists truly connect with their fans.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with Spotify for Artists recently, and they are currently creating my own Spotify page so that when someone searches for me, they will find me, not the guy from Steppenwolf.

And it’s good to know that Spotify has my back, because I’ll be working with them to include my music on some playlists, because…

We live in an attention economy…

And it just so happens that playlists are getting the most attention…

So it goes without saying that to increase the impact of my music, it needs to be on playlists.

But for me, at the end of the day, it’s not about attention…

It’s about connection!

P.S. My newest song, “Hate U Back” is officially Bullfighter-approved, and will be streaming on Spotify and the other major streaming services beginning next Friday, 10/13. The song is part two of a two-song set; click here to listen to part one.

P.P.S. I’m currently rehearsing a band to perform my music, and will begin booking intimate house shows within the next couple of months. If you’re interested in attending (or hosting!) a house show, or simply want to know if we’ll be performing in your area, send an email to shows [at] therealjohnkay [dot] com.

P.P.P.S. I had many people reach out to me after my last blog post to tell me they don’t view my missives as being negative, just honest, and to reassure me to keep doing what I’m doing and not worry. Thanks again for all of your kind words. I appreciate you very much. 🙂

P.P.P.P.S. Interested in becoming a Bullfighter?? The fan club is being migrated to a new online hosting service — Patreon — and will go fully live on November 1. In the meantime, you can send an email to fanclub [at] therealjohnkay [dot] com to get signed up ahead of time. Bullfighters get everything! 😀

———
Visit the archive: https://therealjohnkay.wordpress.com

Website: https://therealjohnkay.com
Music: https://johnkay.bandcamp.com
Podcast: Get After It w/ John Kay on iTunes
Twitter: @TheRealJohnKay
Instagram: @therealjohnkay
Facebook: /TheRealJohnKay

Let he who would move the world first move himself. — Socrates

Copyright © 2017 John Kay, All rights reserved.