1. Excellence

If it’s not great, don’t release it. Put it up on YouTube, not the album, if you’re trying to get everybody’s attention, make sure your music deserves it.

2. Availability

Put your complete album on YouTube and all streaming services. That’s where people discover your music. Your hard core fans will buy it, for now anyway, but casual users sample, and see if they’re interested. There’s plenty of money if you can get people to focus and continue to listen.

3. Be your own curator.

Don’t put out ten tracks, call it an album and leave us to discover what’s good. Sure, you can focus on a single, but too often it’s trying to be all things to all people and is not great. So point us to the two or three tracks we need to listen to.

4. Trust your heart.

Don’t listen to anybody else. Push the cuts that resonate with you, that make your heart sing, jump for joy and cry. People are drawn to emotion, they want to be touched. Don’t second guess, unless you’re playing the singles game, and that’s a game controlled by the usual suspects, unless your track was made by Dr. Luke and Max Martin, don’t bother.

5. Press is a circle jerk.

Kinda like the wannabes want to send a CD that the writer won’t listen to in order to make themselves feel good, ancient acts believe if they get enough ink, TV and radio play that they’ve done their job, but the truth is they haven’t even scratched the surface. It’s a direct to fan era. Know who your hard core is and give them tracks for free, if they’re good, they’ll spread the word. Fire your PR person and read Malcolm Gladwell’s “Tipping Point.”

6. Virality

Your goal is to keep your music alive. There’s nothing more frustrating than spending a year on an album and then seeing it disappear in a month, never to be heard again as you ply the boards playing your greatest hits.

7. Reviews

Only matter if EVERYBODY says something is great.

8. Hunger

It’s a conundrum, the audience has got no time, yet is desirous of something new and exciting that will not only satiate them, but they can turn others on to. That’s your job, to feed this machine. Don’t ask for the audience’s time, don’t put yourself above them, it’s a privilege to be heard, your job is to serve the audience. Interestingly, the more you focus inward, on your art, the greater chance you have of succeeding. The two biggest left field hits in recent memory are all about the track, not the campaign… Lorde’s “Royals” and Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used To Know.” The tracks infected listeners and they spread the word.

9. Sound

Don’t master for radio if your track will never be played. Extreme loudness and compression is a disservice to your music unless you’re playing the hit game.

10. Fame

Is no guarantee anybody will listen to anything more than a single. Which is why your single must absolutely kill. It’s like your first line in a bar, if it’s bad, you’ve blown your chance.

11. It’s something you feel.

Great records cannot be described. They contain something that penetrates you in a way that stops time and you can’t focus on anything but the pure sound and how it makes you feel. I still remember hearing “Sexual Healing” the first time…driving on the 10 East, between National and Robertson… Ha!

12. They call it show business.

But it starts with art. Business is easy, and always comes last. You can always hire someone to do your business, but you can’t easily hire someone to create magic.

13. Don’t fake it.

If you’re losing your voice (or looks!) don’t cover it up! The imperfections will appeal to people. Owning who you are is so enticing.

14. Artwork and album title and running order.

Are irrelevant. The art is a tiny square on a person’s computer or mobile, and the title is only memorable if your album is, as for running order, no one listens that way anymore, if they listen to the whole album at all.

15. Don’t pay attention to musos.

It’s great people live for albums and music, but they vocally skew the discussion, the same way they’ve convinced everybody that vinyl is making a comeback, it’s not, it’s a pimple on the ass of the music business. Don’t be afraid to alienate the holier-than-thou.


These albums sound so bad on the streaming services. They say they’re at 320kbps, both Spotify and MOG if you’ve got premium, but they’re a far cry from the CD, which is a far cry from the vinyl, which still isn’t as good as the master tape. In other words, what kind of world do we live in where this stuff is recorded digitally, on computers, but we can’t have the version direct from the source? It’s got to be compressed and remastered and by time we hear it it sounds like it’s being transmitted via two Dixie Cups on a string.

In the old days I probably would have bought McCartney’s new album, I’m a fan. Maybe not the CD, CDs were always too expensive, you had to think twice before you laid your money down, vinyl led to experimentation. And I would have gotten home and broken the shrinkwrap and dropped the needle on my mega-stereo and been engrossed by the sound.

But today, even with great computer speakers, even with the ultra-popular Beats headphones, which are mediocre, the source is so crappy that what comes out is not music.

Oh, I know, you can hear a hit through mud. I believe that. But I also believe we get the music we deserve. Which is over-compressed, bass-heavy drivel, because something more sensitive loses all its sensitivity in today’s digital translation.

And sensitive is what “Early Days” is.

I’m playing McCartney’s new album, because I’m a fan, because it’s scannable on Spotify, and if you’re holding back from streaming services you’re verging on irrelevance, like Thom Yorke’s Atoms For Peace. The main challenge today isn’t getting paid, it’s getting someone to listen, and almost no one can accomplish this goal.

Exhibit one, Miley Cyrus.

Even grandmothers know who she is. Miley executed the best promotional campaign of the decade. But still no one wants the album, she only sold 270,417 copies of “Bangerz” last week, which to say is commendable is like lauding Miguel Cabrera if he hit 275 and 20 home runs. Sure, better than many, but still…positively mediocre.

But almost no one can sell an album these days. Certainly not Paul McCartney. Just look at Elton John, who had an even better publicity campaign, spouting nonsense that he has never sung better, Elton’s sold 78,109 copies of “The Diving Board” in three weeks, only 11,816 last week, it’s on its way to being completely forgotten before Thanksgiving.

So what does Paul McCartney do?

What everybody else does.

He goes on Stern, he plays unannounced gigs. But none of this has to do with the music. That’s the problem with Miley Cyrus, she’s a celebrity, her tunes are made by committee, she’s a modern pop star with nothing to say, we just want to see the antics.

But McCartney, once upon a time he had something to say.

But first I listen for music. And I find this track “Early Days.”

“New” gave people what McCartney thought they wanted. Something upbeat that hearkened back to what came before. But the problem with second-guessing the audience is it only works if you’re truly in touch with the audience, like Dr. Luke, the oldsters are clueless, they’re best off trusting their instincts.

Like with “Early Days,” which was not made for radio, but home listening. It’s so intimate. It’s got that White Album feel. You know, that intimacy like Paul is literally sitting inside the speaker singing just for you. Anybody who was ever a fan will get it. But I doubt most fans will ever hear it. Oh, what a conundrum.

One other track stuck out, “I Can Bet,” which is pedestrian until it has a change so delicious 35 seconds in you’ll immediately start smiling and nodding your head, wondering if you’re seeing the world through sixties glasses, viewing today, but having it look so much better.

That’s what McCartney used to specialize in, the changes, the flourishes, no one’s better.

And after getting hooked by these two cuts, , when I started the album from the top again it sounded better than the first time through, I was having the old experience, but almost no one is.

So where does this leave us?

In a singles world in an attention economy.

The album is a failed enterprise because despite so many lauding it, most have abandoned it, they just don’t have the time for it, and therefore they wait for a single to surface before they pay attention, and when one doesn’t, they move on, kind of like with the Elton album.

Oh, we could say it’s all about radio. And oldsters do listen to their NPR. But despite ridiculous protestations from the radio industry, it’s dying.

Not that an EP is always the answer. Fleetwood Mac released one and it’s like it didn’t come out.

Maybe like the Dead, these acts have to insert a few new cuts in their live shows, convince audiences that way first. If everybody’s going to the bathroom, it goes straight to the dumper itself. If you can get everybody to like it at the show, you’ve got something, maybe you then push it out to attendees for free in e-mail, I mean why are we selling these albums anyway, all the money for McCartney is on the road.

What McCartney wants most is to be heard. And he deserves to be. Not because he’s Paul McCartney, but because “Early Days” and “I Can Bet” are good. But that was not the message of the hype, which was all bland and non-specific.

Granted McCartney’s old. And an occasional act, like Drake and Justin Timberlake, can sell an album. Their audience believes they’re making a statement. But McCartney was the voice of his generation.

I guess we’re all dependent upon virality.

And McCartney’s got none. As a result, his album is gonna tank, maybe not as fast as Elton’s, but soon.

That’s what you need. Virality. To start a fire. If only these old acts realized we live in a new world and it’s incumbent upon them to deliver excellence and go straight to the tastemakers, not the press, which will spread the message.

The press is old school. Even television. They’re too cold. What these acts need is fans sending links. And they must focus on tracks as opposed to albums. Because no one’s got time for filler.

And if you were never a McCartney fan, move right along.

But if you are one, try these:

“Early Days”:



“I Can Bet”:







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Category: Friday Night Jazz, Music

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

10 Responses to “McCartney Rules”

  1. JasonR says:

    I was thinking about the album format recently myself. My thoughts boiled down to this:

    Individual songs evoke emotions and often memories, but only fleetingly given their length. Albums evoke emotions and memories over a longer period, in which has time to reflect upon these experiences. Listening to songs randomly cannot evoke the same response.

    I like to listen to a new album start-to-finish while doing nothing else. The 45-or-so minutes isn’t long compared to movies or TV shows. This was something I used to do with bandmates and it was very rewarding. This is also how I started listening to my parents’ Beatles albums when I was a kid, so maybe I’m just weird or old or both.

    By the way, I suggest getting professional monitor headphones instead of consumer ones if you want the most accurate reproduction of recorded music. They’re not overly expensive.

    So ends my elitist babbling. I’m going to go buy McCartney’s new CD now.

  2. holzter says:

    It’s been over ten years now since a German magazine rounded up a roomful of audiophiles and did a blind listening test, comparing CDs and mp3′s (various musical genres, high-end audio equipment). The result? At a constant bitrate of 256Kbps, nobody could reliably distinguish between the mp3′s and the CD’s — i.e., the mp3 was chosen as best as often as the CD.


    But hark! Here comes Bob Lefsetz to let us know that, not only can he hear the difference between a CD and a 320Kbps mp3 but, ZOMG, the mp3 “sounds like it’s being transmitted via two Dixie Cups on a string.”

    The ability of the human brain to “hear what it wants to hear, and disregard the rest” is a spooky thing indeed.

  3. Sara Stein MD says:

    Spot on! Thanks

  4. theexpertisin says:

    I bet BR could extrapolate the above into sound investment advice.

    McCartney is not the world’s greatest musician – far,far from it. But he has longevity and an artistic perspective that makes him one of the most admirable pop music artists of our age.Sir Paul does not need to be in a stupor with his ass hanging out of costume yelling mindless, poorly conceived music to be successful. His artistic stages speak for themselves with class. He does it his way.

  5. Jojo says:

    Oh, we could say it’s all about radio. And oldsters do listen to their NPR. But despite ridiculous protestations from the radio industry, it’s dying.
    I love listening to internet radio via the Tunein cellphone app. I listen to either jazz or classical. I have some favorite stations in the USA and in various European countries. Switzerland and Germany have some damm good stations!

  6. Joe says:

    I don’t count. I’m an album buyer because regardless of how much I like the single, I buy the album because I’m interested in discovering an artist whose music I like. Some times you get the Strawberry Alarm Clock, and sometimes you get The Doors or Procol Harum. That should tell you all you need to know about me and why I no longer count.

  7. jmay says:

    I believe Paul McCartney is one of the top five songwriters who ever lived.

    And “New” is one of the worst songs I’ve ever heard.

  8. beaufou says:

    Now, if McCartney had ever released an “Avalon” “Passion” or “Breakfast in America” I’d be paying attention. But he never has made a full album worth listening to from start to finish. He may be a Beatle, but a Peter Gabriel he will never be.

    • I assume you mean as a solo artist, and not as a Beatle . . .

      Breakfast in America, an admittedly great album, was the only major success they had in that format. And Roxy Music similarly never achieved that level of greatness of Avalon (though Flesh & Blood came close)

      You know I am a huge Gabriel fan, and so you wont get any argument from me about him