From the Barstool of the Publisher – April, 2008


The music industry is desperately in need of a healthy dose of “wow.”
In recent months I’ve seen a lot of shows, listened to a bunch of new releases and all of them seem to have one thing in common, a staggering deficit of anything that would make you exclaim, “Wow!”
Now a wow factor is a difficult thing to measure because, of course, something that makes me say “wow” might leave you saying “blah,” but I think that regardless of differing opinions, music fans right now are poised to embrace something special, as long as that something special reveals itself with some guts and substance.
Bands often ask me for advice on their acts (like I’d have some great insight, beyond telling them how to get press). But my new stock answer is going to be, “make something that people will say ‘wow’ about” — whether it’s a performance or a recording, or even a show poster.
In these MySpace-infested times, I think way too many acts are sitting back and waiting for that mediocre new song that they’ve posted on their profile to blow up. There’s a lack of hustle, it seems, like everyone is just maintaining status quo and not pushing their abilities, or even their own material with any fervor. Complacent acts beget complacent audiences.
I talked with one local band (who shall remain nameless) recently, and they were complaining about the turnout at one of their shows. This is a band that plays around these parts pretty frequently, but since their last set of shows, they have released nothing new (not even on the web), they didn’t work to get any press for the show, and they didn’t even do the old trick of hanging up posters and passing out handbills prior to the show. “We sent out a couple MySpace bulletins,” they told me. My response at the time was tactful and kind, but what I should have said was, “Well, what the hell did you expect?” If fans don’t have a good reason to come see you, or to go buy your album, they’re not going to make the effort or spend the cash.
And this isn’t true just for local bands, the same goes for the bigwigs. Look at my review this month of the new Black Crowes album. It’s been seven years in the making and it’s a giant disappointment, because there’s nothing that can possibly make you go “wow.”
Maybe it’s our country’s current political environment, or the economy, or the fact that we’ve all seen way too many talentless hacks become “the next big thing” in recent years, but until the musicians who are dying to “make it” start turning out substance instead of forgettable drivel tailor-made for executives, the paradigm is never going to shift. Come on artists! We NEED you … probably now, more than ever.
See you at the shows.

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  1. Hi Brian,

    I love reading your articles (Especially Industry Profiles) because they are honest and helpful. You make a very good point about the “Wow” factor. Brilliant advice. I appreciate the encouragement. Please don’t give up on us locals. That “wow” music by definition will be extremely rare, but it’s coming.

    PolyJane (Aspiring “wow” person)

  2. Your website is hot and your voice is as strong as ever. We concur, good sir. Perhaps you should plan to attend the Trapper Creek bluegrass festival. There’s room in our tent.