I’ve been wanting to interview myself to get answers to burning questions about recent topics in the news, but as usual it’s been a challenge to find the time on both our busy schedules. So once again we had to use email. But we were able to complete the interview in less than a week!
Q: What did you think of Bob Dylan winning the Nobel Prize in Literature?
A: Long overdue! His lyrical approach, beginning in the early to mid-60s, changed the whole business model of rock as I’ve alluded to here and here. Lyrics were no longer an afterthought in popular music after Dylan’s arrival in the mainstream. Hit songs could include political and poetic content for years afterwards. Top songwriters (e.g., John Lennon, Paul Simon) took full advantage of it.
Q: Are lyrics still as important?
A: Well, the percussive effect of words, more than their meaning, is absolutely critical to dance, which has been the major trend in popular music for a while. But plain-spoken street talk—including sexual candor—is also part of the equation now, a product of pop and hip-hop “hooking up.” There is artistry involved in that, which can be heard in many of the top singles now. Yet I miss the fact that a song with such surrealistic imagery as Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” could once rule the charts and radio.
Q: How much longer will we be talking about radio?
A: The answer, my friend, is blowing in the airwaves.
Q: Is rock & roll alive?
A: Well, I’m a sucker for hit singles, and rock isn't doing so well in that department. But it will never go away. There’s always good indie rock. That’s why I blog about Walk Off The Earth every chance I get.
Q: So you say rock & roll is here to stay?
A: I’m just echoing Danny & the Juniors. That’s as close to an infallible source as you’ll find.
Q: And what about a rock & roll approach to business?
A: That's pretty well explicated here, in my last self-interview. This week—though some would say this year—I'm giving myself a vacation from deep thoughts.
Q: What do you think about album sales falling year after year?
A: Yes, that’s true for pop music as a whole. Every year unit sales are worse. But streaming (a mixed benefit for artists) is sharply rising, so more people are listening to popular music—and rock—than ever before. As I've said before, neuroscientists believe that 90% of adolescents’ brains are song lyrics. So there's hope for civilization—and for songwriters who want to gain brain share.
Q: I know that you and I (who often see things the same way) have been wondering about the effect that this U.S. presidential election will have on the music industry—not to mention business in general. What are your latest thoughts?
A: Well, if a blustering buffoon with a psychiatric disorder (I’m speaking in purely hypothetical terms here) were to win the election and gain access to the nuclear launch codes in January, it would be a major boost to popular music, which flourishes in times of crisis. Political polemics like "Eve of Destruction" and rock bands at protest rallies would come back in style and it would be the 1960s all over again. So, looking at it in financial terms, it would be a good time for me as a musician, blogger—and even business consultant.
Q: But is that the right attitude?
A: Good question. Looking at the worst-case election outcome, I'm confident that in dealing with a dangerous situation any true American—after much soul-searching—will be thinking, "How can I make some cash off this?"
Q: But is that right for the world?
A: Oh, world markets may suffer and I would have to start blogging in an underground bunker. This week I'm hearing that businesses everywhere are sitting on their money to see if the next elected U.S. President—and leader of the Free World—is someone capable of stringing together two coherent sentences in a row that don't physically threaten anyone.
Q: Assuming a saner outcome in the election, would you say the economy will continue to improve?
A: Yes, but the jobs' outlook isn’t as stable as I’d like to see it. I just read that Wells Fargo has started laying off Congressmen.
Q: Well, my time is up. Hopefully you've enjoyed this interview?
A: The pleasure has been all yours.