05.31.14

Making a Pile in the Culture of Lickspittle

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Rock 'n' Roll at 12:44 pm by George Smith

Apple, with regard to music (now almost everything, actually) is similar to a disease for which finding the cure is fiendishly difficult. It’s tech malaria, with the efficiency and presence of the common cold thrown in. (Amazon fits the bill, too, but I’ve already spent a lot of time on the Empire of Bezos.)

The pic above is Apple’s Eddie Cue, the architect of the company’s recent deal to acquire Beats, the streamed music and half-assed tech company of which Dre, record mogul Jimmy Iovine and will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas, are equity partners.

This is what Cue had to say, as reprinted from RockNYCLiveand Recorded:

“Music is dying”, says Apple executive Eddie Cue, the man responsible for the Apple buy out of Dre and Iovine’s beats …

It is hard to know where to begin with this stuff but let’s start by saying OK, music is dying, how the hell does Apple buying Beats change anything at all?

Eddie Cue is being silly. If he means that the music business is dying, well, welcome to 2002, now fuck off.

Cue’s worth the derision. And read the whole thing, The Apple/Beats Deal For Dummies,” here. It’s short but effectively captures the nut of it.

Apple felt the need for a streaming music service because those services, the most famous of which is Spotify, are cutting into iTunes’ lunch. Streaming music, as opposed to downloading files of it, left Apple out of the mix.

In terms of being good for music or artists, neither are. People get paid less and less, unto virtually nothing, courtesy of the technology. Only those who own the services make the piles.

However, in paying $3 billion dollars to get a really-not-that-good music streaming company that started as a maker of unremarkable name-branded headphones, you have a really good example of how gargantuan piles of money are made in the Culture of Lickspittle.

Our world, any part of it, music or otherwise, hardly required Jimmy Iovine, Dr. Dre and will.i.am to be turned into tech billionaires for little more than being there.

It’s a working example of the central thesis of Thomas Piketty’s Capital, the one that says a big pile of money trumps everything, even world growth, because our social economic structure just makes big piles of cash bigger faster than everything else by dint of their nature as big piles.

So you can think you want about the latest scam as some kind of new tech coup of wonderfulness and disruption but if Iovine, Dre and company are the faces of innovation, I’m Ernest Hemingway.

An interview at Fortune with will.i.am underscores how nothing instantly becomes worth a billion dollars. The only thing necessary is to just be on the receiving end as the river of money goes sloshing by from A to B.

In the process people are seen to turn from human beings with good qualities, the making of music that has made millions happy, into model plutocrats. Someone already very wealthy is given another king’s ransom for, essentially, zip, a null that has only the most trivial social potential for good.

In one effortless step they’re catapulted into the realm of compensation of the maligned American corporate CEO, you know, the class that’s now the constant symbol of advancing inequality.

At Fortune, will.i.am is interviewed and extolled, for vesting into the billionaires club for just being himself. This is described as “tireless promotion.”

The quotes are fatuous. It’s remarkable anyone even sat still for them.

“This is the craziest rollercoaster I’ve ever been on,” will.i.am tells the interviewer of the couple of weeks it took to make the Apple/Beats deal.

In 2003, will.i.am tells the journalist he saw camera phones in the audience: “[And] I tell Jimmy, ‘We need to make hardware. The world has changed. Hardware, hardware, hardware, hardware.’ ”

So what’s world-changing hardware, hardware, hardware?

A headphone. That he didn’t make. Never mind the only reason the transaction occurred is because of Beats transition into a digital music service from one that sold unspectacular but high-priced headphones and speakers.

“It’s not just good for the company, it’s good for the culture,” continues will.i.am.

“You have to look at it like, How is it good for kids in inner cities first? How do kids in inner cities not only dream about being athletes and musicians, but now, entrepreneurs, and bringers of new, disruptive, cool, lifestyle products.”

I think we can be certain, new disruptive lifestyle products will not and do not solve impoverishment and zero opportunity in America.

It was Steve Jobs genius, well after Apple was virtually destroyed in the PC and corporate network business by Microsoft, to remake iStuff as “lifestyle products.”

And such lifestyle products they were and are, priced well more than what they’re worth, but which people have to own because they are the electronic convenience baubles of our age.

iStuff has certainly not increased opportunity or empowered everyone to be their own entrepreneur. Polls show, although hardly ever well-publicized, that the majority don’t even want to be “entrepreneurs.”

Live in the distressed section of Pasadena, like me, and everyone owns smartphones, many of them Apple “lifestyle products.” They act as sole connections to the global networks, one of the major conduits of entertainments, and the only phone service.

Although often hyped as modern Philosopher’s Stones, capable of transmuting your leaden life into gold, they are not. Ownership doesn’t make you a small businessman, a self-made man or woman, a maker of new and upcoming “products.”

What, the Fortune interviewer asks, did Jimmy Iovine “want [will.i.am] available for?”

Answer: “I still don’t know, to this day.”

6 Comments

  1. Iman said,

    May 31, 2014 at 12:56 pm

    it makes zero sense to me, I think you are right about the piles of money. Apple spent it because they couldn’t find anything else to do with

  2. George Smith said,

    May 31, 2014 at 1:06 pm

    I don’t know either. It partly has to do with Silicon Valley and tech industry’s personal delusion of making things “more abundant” or “creating abundance.”
    Streaming music, digital music — in general — seems to me to already be plenty abundant. How could it be made more so? The pie is already as big as it can be made.

  3. Chuck said,

    June 1, 2014 at 11:36 am

    I think that what comes from this is that music, in whatever form, has largely become background noise. It’s everywhere and 24:7. Watching a movie, TV sitcom or commercial without music seems eerie. We used to complain about elevator muzak or the stuff that oozes from the speakers in your local supermarket. Instead of making music more appreciated, it’s turned most of it to omnipresent dreck, not worth listening to. The message in music has become no more important than the commercial from the local used-car dealer.

    I have a vision where people will once again create their own music for their own entertainment and to communicate something worth communicating.

    As far as Silicon Valley, they’ve succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. Toys have been getting cheaper, while essentials have been getting expensive:

    http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/05/its-expensive-to-be-poor/361533/

    Thereby creating more of the “rich get richer and the poor can just stuff it”.

  4. Christoph Hechl said,

    June 3, 2014 at 2:50 am

    The one remarkable accomplishment of beats audio is the production of miniature speakers that produce actual bass.
    htc had incorporated those in their One and thus gave it internal speakers, that while not high-end at least sounded decent.
    I expect the next icrap to have speakers above and below the display.
    Most likely the design sits in the drawer already, but now with the posession of the necessary patents, the marketing machine can start rolling.
    Cue “leaks” and rumors about apples newest and greatest idea…

  5. George Smith said,

    June 4, 2014 at 12:03 pm

    The thing to add is the people who are the equity names of Beats didn’t actually make their speakers. But that’s the new scam and I see it fairly regularly.

    Famous musicians or stars of some kind who pop up bragging, or being bragged about, as having designed their own whatever devices. They’re neither engineers, scientists or even much as tinkerers, just people who attached their name.

  6. Christoph Hechl said,

    June 5, 2014 at 12:55 am

    I expect the marketing campaign to revolve around “how much apple cares about music” with the underlying implication of “see just how much money we spend even on a detail”, with the erstwhile statement being a kick in the nuts for actual musicians who haven’t made it to the top of the charts.