October 2021: Drafting the Biz

The Texas Music scene in 2021 is kind of like your favorite sports team that hasn’t won a title in a couple years.  The roster is aging, the fanbase is satisfied but restless and everyone is waiting for the draft pick, coaching change or free agent signing that’s going to turn things back to a championship level.  This is not to mean that the squad isn’t scoring victories, because we’re racking up dubs with Cody Johnson selling out arenas nationwide, Koe Wetzel packing baseball stadiums, Parker McCollum playing the Opry, stalwarts like Randy Rogers Band and Wade Bowen keeping things fresh, the emergence of young talent like Kolby Cooper, Pecos and the Rooftops and Kat Hasty.  We’re not really taking L’s either.  Nobody has released a song as bad as the TikTok Applebee’s abomination, but we’re running the same offense we ran in 1999, 2006, 2012 and 2017.  The game has changed, but (as a whole) we haven’t.  

I don’t have the answers, I just notice the trends and needs.  In one of his recent letters, Bob Lefsetz stated ” I wish there was a single oppressor keeping players from scraping by. But there’s not. Times have changed, the cultural landscape is so different that anyone from the pre-internet era would not be able to fathom the business. Anyone who stopped paying attention in 2015 would not recognize the business.”  The old model of creating music, touring behind it and building a following will never go out of style.  But, that used to lead to the possibility of wild fame and massive fortune.  The possibility, not the guarantee.  Now, the mainstream doesn’t really exist and major labels have useful tools but lack the instruction manual.  There are a thousand disparate scenes, styles, genres.  The audience is their own DJ.  Where back in the day a DJ, radio station, MTV/CMT etc could break an artist.  Now it’s YouTube, TikTok, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Spotify…the internet.  Fans are the program director.  Fans are the A&R rep.  Fans are the label.  And there are millions of them.  Sign the artists that move you.  Make a playlist with what interests you.  Go see shows by the bands you dig. Avoid the rest.  No longer do you have to sit through 3 bad songs to hear the one you like.  No longer do you have to shell out $15.99 to buy a cd’s worth of tunes to get the 2 you want.
That paradigm is gone, but the mindset lingers for many.  Lefsetz continued, “Now the truth is if you’re totally independent, and work hard and connect, you can make a living via streaming and playing live. You get the money instead of the label. You just can’t get rich.”  

One thing that hasn’t changed is that you only enter the music field if it consumes you.  This is not something one can chase as a fleeting passion or hobby.  It must be what you breathe.  It must become part of your DNA.  You can’t do it half-way and get full-time results.  You used to need the network of bamboozlers, bookers, managers, agents, promoters and fly by nights to break even.  Now, you can be totally successful without them.  As long as you get the numbers.  Spotify, YouTube etc.  Get the views, get the streams, get the independence.  There are absolutely good people in the business and there is absolutely a need for the infrastructure it can provide…it’s just no longer necessary for success.  Artists now control more than ever.  Success is on their terms.  There’s also more competition than ever before too.  More noise to sift through.  More options for fans.  You must stand out.  You must be unique.  You must be authenic. Otherwise, you’re going to fall to the wayside.

Which brings me back to my original point.  Who is going to be the analogous coach, free agent, draft pick that takes the Texas/Red Dirt scene into the next season.  The future.  Everyone is freestyling, but with each era there has been a bandwagon driver.  Be it Pat Green, Ragweed, Randy Rogers, Josh Abbott, Turnpike or Koe.  Someone is poised to take that baton and run with it.  We just don’t know who they are yet.  That’s an exciting time.  I’m interested to see where all of this leads.  The foundation is solid.  The rules are known.  The game is the game; but innovation always leads.  When creative people are involved, magic can happen.  

MINOR CHORDS

-LJT in the fall seems like the best of both worlds.  Born and Raised happening on the same weekend was a bold move.  But, it proves yet again there are so many more of us who dig this music than we are ever given credit for by the powers that be.
-Fall is here.  Football is in full swing.  It’s probably the best time of the year weather and vibe wise…for about a month.  Then it just gets cold and gray for a few months.  But, man….there for a bit it is just simply perfect.
-Internet crime investigation (re. Gabby) is now a solidified profession.
-I went to a big 90’s/00’s nostalgia rock show the other night and saw 3 amazing performances and one of the worst (if not, the worst) performances I’ve ever seen.  I won’t name names because that’s not what this space is for.  But, if I told you the lineup was Everclear, Living Colour, Hoobastank and Wheatus…I’m imagining you could figure out which one was a true dirtbag of a show.

-Returning to the State Fair for the first time in a decade.  One time saw a show in the Cotton Bowl that featured Pat Green and Django Walker opening for the Dixie Chicks.  We need more package shows of that variety.

-Also, continuing my bucket list tour by seeing what’s left of the Rolling Stones at the Cotton Bowl  very soon.  Wish I could’ve made it to a gig with Charlie, but this will suffice.  

-This month’s recommended album: Jason Eady  –  To the Passage of Time.  Eady returns with a collection that is forlorn and mournful yet optimistic in just enough spots to give you hope that 2022 just might be better than the last 2 years.  Written and recorded amid the madness that is the world right now, you can feel it in the music and hear it in the lyrics.  Eady has always been great at delivering emotions in his music and is in fine form here.  He bends the swamp rock of his early stuff with the honky-tonk of his late stuff to create something all his.  We should all be thankful he continues to share it with us.

-“Of all the things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most.”  – Mark Twain

Brad Beheler

Raised in Waco, refined in the Hill Country, escaped from DFW. I've worked in just about every facet of the music business for 20 years. I like to write about it all. e-mail Brad Editor-in-Chief