Joe Rogan Sells to Spotify

Photo by Jonathan Velasquez on Unsplash

Podcaster Joe Rogan has sold his immensely popular podcast to Spotify:

https://www.theguardian.com/media/2020/may/24/spotify-podcast-deal-the-joe-rogan-experience

From the article:

“By requiring Rogan’s listeners to use the Spotify app to tune in, the company gains far deeper data about who, when and where their audiences are; that, in turn, can be fed through to advertisers, who are more likely to pay higher rates if they can be assured that the target audience is listening. Control of the player also allows Spotify to vary the advertising to the audience, again increasing revenue.”

Alex Hern, The Guardian

This is unfortunate. I understand the need for these podcasters to generate revenue for their shows – they deserve something for their effort and advertising is one way to do that, however I prefer the more direct ‘donation/subscription’ model of someone like Sam Harris – where I feel I’m more directly supporting the person and their work vs. paying a large corporation who’s going to track my actions and advertise back at me. There are several other people on the internet who’s work I feel I directly benefit from and therefore I’m happy to support directlyBrad Warner and Ben Weaver among them. This move by Spotify will effectively position it as the Facebook of Podcasting. 99% of people probably won’t care – and to me that’s part of the problem.

I’d never used Spotify for several reasons, I am happy with Apple Music and I didn’t like their app/interface. This gives me one more reason to opt out. It will be a shame because if/when Rogan’s show goes exclusive on the platform, I’ll miss it.

Fargo Rock City

I recently re-read Chuck Klosterman’s ‘Fargo Rock City’. If you ever owned even one metal record in the 80’s and haven’t read it, it’s a must-read. Period. It’s a bit dated now, but still fantastic. As such, I’m rolling through my old cassette collection from back in the day thanks to the modern magic of Apple Music. A forgotten gem right here – Bulletboys. I didn’t realize these cats were a: still putting records out; b: had such the revolving door of members over the years including the likes of DJ Ashba, Stephen Adler, Keri Kelli and more. These guys were fringe back in the day but their videos for ‘Smooth Up In Ya’ and ‘For the Love of Money’ got heavy rotation on MTV. Listening back now, they had a lot of Van Halen going on in ‘em – in a good way. I was just commenting to @tyler how I preferred my metal vocalists to be more of the ‘gritty’ sound than the more operatic (i.e. Jani Lane) sound. Marq Torien fit that bill, and apparently is currently the only original member of the band. Works for me. Excuse me while I do some scissor kicks. 

Catching Up With Old Musical Friends

Our Lady Peace’s first record hit me like a bag of bricks. Unreal. Still a go to. Came out in1994?! Damn. I had a ‘relationship’ with this band before I was married. I’ve had a ‘relationship’ with this band longer than I’ve been married. Maybe this band influenced my decision to marry a Canadian. Them and Rush. There were, of course, other reasons I chose to marry my wife, but Canadian Rock seems almost as good as any of those.

OLP are touring this year with Matthew Good. Another Canadian man/band I have a long-time ‘relationship’ with. There’s a YouTube clip of a modern-day Raine Maida and Matthew Good visiting the archives of what used to be MuchMusic and watching videos of themselves from their first appearances on the network. It’s like visiting a house you used to share with 5 friends that’s now inhabited by someone else. It’s wistful, weird, nostalgic, sad, uncomfortable and creepy all at the same time.

I saw OLP at the 9:30 Club in DC on the Clumsy tour with my best friend at the time – a buddy that would later be my Best Man. I think maybe 250 people were there – 500 tops. Nuts. That’s my hipster ‘I liked ‘em before they were ‘uge – at least in the States’ – cred.

I dug subsequent records after the first one. Clumsy, Happiness is a Fish… We started to drift apart a bit with Spiritual Machines.

Then I completely lost them over the years. Chalk it up to the usual stupidity. I was ignorant. I still wanted ‘em to sound like Naveed. I completely refused to acknowledge that as I’ve grown as a person so has the band, we are now different people (in some respects, quite literally), but in some ways the same. Perhaps I didn’t want to acknowledge my ascent into adulthood. Even in musical terms.

Their new record popped up on Apple Music this week. I haven’t listened to anything since Spiritual Machines. Listening to Somethingness is like catching up with old friends. Neither one of us is the person we were for that first record anymore, and I’ve learned we shouldn’t expect that of each other. Further down this road we’re on, it’s been nice to run into ‘em again.

It really doesn’t matter if you think this record is any good or not. Or if I tell you that it is and you agree or disagree. At this point in our relationship, everything is between me and them.

The Long, Lingering Death of the CD

The Grammy winning packaging for Tool’s album, 10,000 Days, art directed by band member Adam Jones. Photo by Josh Janicek

Best Buy to Pull CDs from Retail Stores

It’s been at least a year, maybe two since I bought a physical CD. As someone who’s library was at one point pushing the 1,000 unit mark, I find that fascinating.

I held on to my CDs for a long time, even after subscribing to Apple Music. I finally unloaded them all to a collector a few months ago for a painstakingly low sum when contrasted against the sentimental value they had for me. But the value was just that, sentimental.

At some point I bought in to the subscription music model. I still believe in supporting the artists in whatever way I can. Regrettably, the current music landscape has shifted so that artists no longer make the most of their money on sales – their money comes from touring and live shows – something I rarely take in anymore. Though I was – and continue to be -at odds with how artists are paid by streaming services, I had at some point to simply give up, and hope that somewhere, somehow, there were people working to make sure that artists were fairly paid for licensing their work to steaming services. History and a gut feeling about the industry tells me that the reality is, they probably aren’t.

I used to spend hours with new CDs. When I got a new CD from a favorite artist, I poured over photos, liner notes and detritus for clues about the artist and the music the album contained. I loved seeing new and innovative ways to package CDs – jewel cases, paper folios, gatefold packaging and the like. I believe there’s even a Grammy handed out for best packaging – what will become of that now?

I wonder if there will ever be a resurgence of CD interest in the same way there has been vinyl, but I doubt it. There simply isn’t the same attraction. I was a ‘middle’ kid – I discovered music in the age of the cassette and subsequently the CD, so vinyl never held the same nostalgic feel for me, but CDs do.

I wonder how my kids and future kids will develop their relationships with music and the artists in a world where physical product has become extinct and the emphasis has become more on ‘quick-hits’ vs. albums and artists are becoming increasingly more ‘flash in the pan’ and a disposable commodity.

When I dumped my CD collection, there were some I refused to get rid of. My Rush catalogue – simply because they’ve been my favorite band consistently over the years. Some CDs by friends or local artists that aren’t available online anywhere. Then there are bands like Tool, who’ve never licensed their albums to be on iTunes/Apple Music for example. I kept all my Tool CDs. With rumors of a new Tool album sometime in the future, one wonders if they will maintain that stance. If they’re committed, one wonders how they would release new material. Digital download direct sales? Will they actually produce physical product? An interesting question as they have consistently been a band who was at the forefront of design, packaging and presentation throughout the years.

Many artists are now releasing ‘pre-order’ packages for albums or digital downloads that still include physical copies of the album – either on CD or Vinyl, along with a download code, in addition to other select, sometimes exclusive, merchandise. Perhaps this will become the norm. One wonders at what point though, the production of physical product will become a financial liability to the point that it isn’t worth the expense and it will disappear all together.

The Boombox Theory of Zen


When I was in 5th or 6th grade – I don’t remember exactly and I’m terrible with matching time periods and events – no doubt a by product of indulgences I would undertake many years later – I managed to save up one hundred of my very own dollars to go down to the Dart Drug and buy a Panasonic boom box.

This is significant in two ways: one, because if you knew me then – or now, really – you’d know that I’m terrible at saving money; two, because it would form the basis for the lifelong relationship with music I’ve had to this day.

At the time one of my favorite pastimes was to create ‘mix tapes’ – though, not in the fancy way you’re thinking of in the later years of double cassette decks and CDs. This was old school record-the-song-live-from-the-radio mix tape production.

For the uninitiated, this meant when you were hanging out in your room, or doing homework or whatever, if a song came on you liked (or you were lucky enough to have the DJ announce it was coming up) you would FLY across your room – often banging some sort of body part on errant furniture – to get to the radio and hit the magic ‘record/play’ mash of buttons to record the song and capture it on your mixtape forever.

It was never perfect. Often times you’d end up catching the song 10 seconds in. It wasn’t uncommon to get the DJ talking over the beginning or end of your song. There was no ‘fade’. Your song transitions were abrupt, and often would feature a snippet of the previous/following song – which there was a good chance you hated.

But, bottom line, if you could capture it, you had it.

Often times, on weekends, when I knew the Top 40 show was gonna be on, I would sit, right in front of the boom box, and wait, like a hunter waits for the game. This was a good technique as usually, the songs were announced beforehand, but unfortunately the DJ almost always talked over the beginning and end of the tune. There was also the seemingly unending downtime of sitting through songs you couldn’t care less about hoping the next one was a keeper.

The upside however, is that the painstaking process it was has music and many of those songs ingrained in the fiber of my being, and many of those songs to this day are with me on a cellular level, regardless of the fact that I may have never owned the record they were released on. Judas Priest’s ‘You’ve Got Another Thing Coming’ is a perfect example. Every time I hear it, I am transported back to the time I was able to catch it on tape. I still don’t own a Priest album. Never have. Never really listened to any other tunes, but that one – maaaaan, it comes on the radio (or even Muzak somewhere, FFS) and it’s ON.

At the time, amongst your peers, those songs were prizes and status symbols. It was the true origins of street cred as you knew you’d glean some juice from your friends if you were hanging out and they commented on or were envious of the contents of your mix tape.

I wonder how kids of these generations will reflect on their time with music. Will it be as wistful and nostalgic? I’m sure they relate and form experiences with music, but I have a feeling it will be considerably different. As a father of 4, I’ve already been able to observe live case studies in the wild.

With advent of Apple Music, Spotify, YouTube and the myriad of other services – free and premium – that are out there, and an industry and artists who for a variety of reasons discussed at length on the internet, pretty much have to give their music away at this point to remain viable – these generations of music fans have never really had to *work* for their music. I have to admit to being an enabler in this capacity. Apple Music’s family subscription is only a couple of bucks a month more than an individual one (damn you Eddy Cue) so I sprung for it, partly (perhaps foolishly, only time will tell) thinking that sharing music would be a way to connect/bond with my kids. Still though, there’s no time or effort invested. Everything is on-demand.

When I was able to actually buy albums I spent hours pouring over liner notes – lyrics, artist comments, who played what instruments on what song, where it was recorded, who did the artwork. I paid attention to these things and could weave connecting threads between artists. “Oh, that dude also did the artwork for so-and-so’s record.” “Oh, he recorded this at The Record Plant in NYC, so did so-and-so.” I became a fan of not just the music and the musicians but other ‘artists-at-large’ – visual artists, producers, engineers, and created meccas-in-my-mind of the studios/spaces they recorded in. Indeed throughout my life I have often followed the careers of these individuals and who they’ve worked with as much as the musicians that initially brought them to my attention.

Liner notes of today are – with a few exceptions – artist websites and social media feeds. Exclusive videos, ‘album trailers’ and sneak peeks. Access and news from/about artists has never been easier to glean, yet it doesn’t feel the same to me without something tangible.

I also sense these generations of music fans have little concept of the music as a created artwork and that the artist(s) should in some way be compensated for that. I think they have a disconnect between what they want to consume/experience and the livelihood of those making it.

While listening to the radio in the truck the other day (yea, I still listen to the radio in the truck), Heart’s ‘Crazy on You’ came on. Now, I will ashamedly or unashamedly admit to owning several Heart records – and even seeing them in concert – depending on the circumstance, but I never owned an album with this song on it. Still, to this day, it comes on the radio, I know all the breaks, all the lyrics, can air guitar the solos and drum fills. Then I wondered, “How the hell is it that I know this song inside out? How is it that after all these years* I have forgotten so much other crap, yet I have this, perfectly preserved in the vault of my consciousness?” I mean, I still mix up which years my kids were born.

The more I think about it now, maybe this and coming generations of music listeners will have a deep, if not deeper, connection with their music if only for the fact that, really, no one has to listen to music they don’t like anymore. The ability to dial up exactly what you want, when you want it, means you can – in essence – ‘Clockwork Orange’ these songs into your mind to the extent there’s no way they’ll escape. The flip side of that though, is if you don’t have to wade through stuff you don’t like, work or pay for the music, does it lose it’s special value and significance and simply become ‘what is’? Is it then ‘nothing special’?

Shunryu Suzuki writes in Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind :

“As Chinese poem says, “There is nothing special. If you visit there, there is nothing special. However Rosan is famous for its misty mountains, and Sekko is famous for its water.” This is Zen. There is nothing special. If you go there, there is nothing special. But people think Rosan is wonderful. It is wonderful to see the range of mountains covered by mist; to see the misty mountains in Rosan is wonderful. And people say it is wonderful to see the water covers all the earth. It is wonderful, they may say, but if you go there, you see just water, and you see just mountain. There is nothing special. But it is a kind of mystery that for the people who have no experience of enlightenment, enlightenment is something wonderful; but if they attain it, that is nothing. Although it is nothing, it is not nothing. Do you understand? For some person — for the mother who has children, to have children is nothing — nothing special. But if she lose her children, what will she feel?”

If this and coming generations have unlimited access to music (and/or art) without any sort of effort to attain it, does it become “nothing special” within the context of their greater experience?


* “Crazy on You” was the first single following the release of their debut album Dreamboat Annie, released in 1976 – and there’s no way I heard it then. I’m guessing it was probably 2-3 years before I heard it and no doubt it’s heavy rotation on ‘classic rock’ radio, which I favored in high school, has been the major contributor to it’s etching on my musical psyche.