written by Maurice Cardinal … originally published June 2022
Have you ever heard a song and wondered how that lame track made Top 10 with a bullet?
Who hasn’t? The reality, is that it rode into your consciousness on a psychophysiological horse called IMPRINTING–more specifically, conditioning using Pavlovian respondent processes. Major labels began to experiment with the behavioral chicanery in the ‘70s, and within a decade it was ubiquitous. It’s an incredibly powerful influencing technique, and an effective way to generate a mass following, and hopefully, a hit.
It’s highly probable that the new song isn’t as lame as you first thought. It’s more likely that it was just so different that you couldn’t get your head around it. Humans fear change.
The most common comment made by music FANS regarding the next release of an artist, is that fans want something different, but the same. It’s similar for visual artists, and drives some artists crazy because they feel it limits creativity.
Change is good, but if you change your style too much or too quickly you risk losing any momentum you’ve built, which can easily sideline a career. Artist managers know this very clearly, as do agents, promoters, and all the other specialists required to make an artist a star over the long term. If you’re an experienced artist and have been in the business for more than ten years, evolution and momentum are your daily mantras.
Regardless of the quality of the track, when you hear something over and over, through a psychophysiological process, it eventually becomes ingrained in your unconscious. If you hear it enough times you’ll become familiar, and your relational self will slowly start to accept, and even like it. With repetition, the channels in your grey matter expand in size and connect the synapses throughout your brain. These channels grow into rivers with fine tributaries until the track streams through your mind with little impediment. When a song flows freely without emotional resistance, it moves from your ears to your amygdala and literally blasts straight into your brain. The resulting unfiltered dopamine rush is the reason you tap your toe and have to dance.
Stimulation is a much different process when experiencing visual art, which goes from your eyes through your lateral geniculate and then floods the occipital lobe at the rear of your skull–your primary visual cortex. Because of this radiating process, the same image will wash over you differently each time you see it. Plus, our relational natures and tendency to slowly grow and evolve alter an image’s perception too. We literally can’t help ourselves. Every time we look at the Mona Lisa, it looks a bit different. It’s part of life.
Experiencing a visual image and audio simultaneously impacts your brain in many areas. It’s a large part of why we love videos, and film. Melomaniacs, those addicted to music, have unlimited choices today.
Biological channel growth within your brain, is part of the imprinting process.
The bigger the channel, the more massive the imprint.
When energy flows freely, your brain rewards your body with a shot of dopamine. The faster and easier it flows, the bigger the RUSH. It’s part of our DNA that has evolved from the beginning of human life.
We are naturally conditioned to not only accept something, but also like it.
TOKEN ECONOMICS is based on psychographic modelling.
Many people mistakenly believe that major labels force fans to march to their beat. Without doubt, for theatrics they do, to a point, but the reality is that major labels are mostly appealing to our natural instincts. More accurately, they simply give us more of what makes us feel good.
They feed our dopamine addictions.
If you’re happy doing OPEN MICS, keep doing what you’re doing and enjoy, but if you want a mass hit, you’ll have to learn about imprinting at a mass level.
Imprinting is NOT an option.
Back in the day, record label A&R execs illegally paid radio programming managers to put a tune into pre, and then regular rotation. This style of psychophysiology, was called PAYOLA, and it included cash, sex, blow, and vacations–anything untraceable. Music, even at the stadium level has always been a cash business when you can get away with it.
Cash was very common … I remember one night in particular at a northwest state fair; After settling the sold-out show, I was doing my ritual last sweep before leaving the backstage area when I noticed a briefcase sitting closed on a table in the wardrobe trailer. I was the last one out so I popped it open and saw it was stuffed with cash. Mostly twenties, no name, no paper, maybe $60 grand–box office walk up. I closed the case and slipped it under the couch where no one could easily see it–it was the early 90s before cell phones. I waved my driver over and asked him to stop at the gate so I could tell the backstage guard to radio the promoter. I knew the briefcase wasn’t owned by anyone in my entourage because I was the only one on my tour who handled that much cash. I told the state trooper, and while I listened he alerted the promoter, who admitted he forgot where he left the briefcase. He sounded cool about it, but I bet that the medics picked him up off the floor. In today’s numbers it transposes to about a quarter million. Cash was the grail because it’s untraceable!
Crypto is the next iteration of road cash and is already starting to change today’s touring base at club and stadium levels. Anything that naturally attaches to music touring is also in the audience stream, like fashion, band merch, Special Event MUSIC NFTs and Tour Unlockables, ART of all types, and where legally allowed, alcohol and cannabis … Music, Art, and Cannabis–the trifecta.
Crypto is cash with benefits.
The critical element in the old school STAR SYSTEM was that in order to have a HIT, an artist had to convince all radio stations to put the tune in pre-roll ALL AT THE SAME TIME. It was the most common way to drive a tune to Top 100, where you could then massage it to #1. Momentum still plays a huge role today. For example, if MIAMI has a track in pre-rotation and LA doesn’t, you won’t have national momentum. You might have a regional hit, but it will be next to impossible to drive it up the global charts.
Today, payola comes in an additional form.
In 2022, payola also hides behind INFLUENCE.
It’s the same psych process, but in new clothes.
The STAR SYSTEM STIFLES CHANGE in a covert and manipulative way.
The star system protects the biggest artists, and gatekeeps emerging artists from getting their name on the bill. Major labels have been known to sign emerging talent just so they can bury the artist to keep them from competing with one of the stars already on their roster. It’s only one reason why you should never sign a deal, Web3 or not, without the advice of a manager and lawyer.
Even though the star system is laden with corruption, if you kill it you have to replace it with something that will allow musicians to IMPRINT a new tune at critical mass levels. If you don’t, there will be no momentum and no mass following. The track could however still become popular regionally, which is absolutely fine if it’s all you want. However, if you want enough followers to support the arena or metaverse circuits, you have to design your own mass imprinting strategy, which is way harder to do than most artists realize.
The METAVERSE and Web 3 are designed to KILL the current STAR SYSTEM, and remake it in its own image, but don’t count on anyone rolling over without a fight. Major labels and live performance networks are powerful machines attached to organized crime syndicates. It is what it is, and you should know what you’re up against before you publicly try to kill one. Gangsters operate legitimately today so there is zero danger that anyone will harm you for attacking them, but they also won’t forget you, just like any other business. When you say and do naïve or hurtful things, people notice.
NFT music is a commitment.
If you go into STAR SYSTEM attack mode without some type of organizational plan, you’ll only spin your wheels while major labels and their artists hold your back bumper. I can’t foresee anytime soon where any of the power houses will be giving anything up, and if you think they will, you’re asking way too much of crypto and NFT.
Your best bet is to use one to leverage the other, and vice versa. Major entertainment is a big, lumbering ship. It can’t do everything, and especially at the speed that you, a smaller enterprise can manage. Do what they can’t. Do it better and stay one step ahead. Wasting energy thinking you’re going to somehow take them down only hurts you. If you’re serious about activism, then by all means, have at it. I’ve done it, and was wildly successful, but it is a fulltime and expensive commitment that leaves no time for much else–like creating art.
The metaverse is poised to be the star system killer, but unfortunately it is no where near ready to accept or handle that type of responsibility, at least not yet. It’s still trying to catch up to an NFT audience that showed up unannounced and en masse as a result of the pandemic. VR is desperately scrambling to deliver gear, which again unfortunately, is still so expensive it shuts out most of the audience. At this early stage, VR actually undermines Web3 equality and participation.
The metaverse is still immature. It has potential, but talk is cheap.
Are there solutions? Yes, of course.
Cross-platform is an efficient way at this very early stage to generate pre-interest and momentum. As an artist of any type, you need to be able to introduce people to your work half a dozen times before it consciously registers. Your audience also needs to know that others find your art interesting. Traders need similar assurance. If you ignore this step you’ll seriously limit your odds of reaching a larger crowd.
You have to be out there in every format possible – like Louie C Rhymes
NFT music platforms talk about changing the world and providing opportunity for artists, but they NEVER educate artists about basic psychological elements that matter, for example that the imprinting process is necessary to raise an artist’s visibility and grow an audience.
NFT platforms want to kill the star system because it’s great for their bottom line. Unfortunately, they don’t offer tangible solutions for artists to survive the transition. Instead, they use artists only as capital for their own builds and are oblivious to collateral damage suffered by artists.
If NFT platforms really want to make Web3 work, they’d address these issues in the open.
To be totally transparent though, which seems to now be a dirty word, for platforms to NOT find a solution, is also good for my business as an NFT MUSIC & ART advisor, but it’s not why I signed up. I want to build projects, not save drowning NFT artists. Artists who really want to make it work, are being forced to come to NFT specialists like me to help them understand an NFT platform process that is purposely made to be confusing. If you don’t understand it, you’ll go in circles until you run out of time and money–and even then who knows?
NFT platforms are currently indoctrinating a third wave of artists who are being manipulated in a way similar to the first group of sacrificial lambs, but unless you’ve been here from day one, you’d never know it. New NFT entrants ask the same questions we asked two years ago, which is insane because it indicates the NFT industry hasn’t grown in a responsible manner. Artists are still uneducated through no fault of their own, and are still being used as liquidity pawns by wealthy anon whales. In other words, you’re only financing a wealthy person’s growth, not yours as an artist!
NFT platforms, music or otherwise, have different agendas than visual artists and musicians. Regardless of what they say, their primary focus is generating revenue, not making you a star. Never forget that most are duplicating the major label power dynamic.
Here’s a video that explains more …
NFT for Collectors iADX
If you’re frustrated, and need help figuring NFT out, REACH OUT!