It's the theory that those at the top of the industry in these interweb days - Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, the septuagenarian Stones - make all sorts of money. (They do, you can look it up). They sell $100 concert tickets; they sell singles, they even sell whole albums on CD.
Then there's lots and lots of folks playing hard, playing music for the people - the free music, the small festivals, the musicians that play all over the world - that you always mean to go see downtown and forget about because it's hot-cold-rainy-flooded out, and they get bupkis.
Penny dust per YouTube hit.
The band ALO, from Saratoga, Calif, performs at Some Kind of Jam 8, which was held April 26 through 28 in Schuylkill Haven.
Beer money - and if the working musicians are paid in anything, it's lots and lots of beer, which has not yet been made to power motor vehicles.
The working musicians are the Long Tail, a low, long line on a graph that shows compensation in cash and that theory resonates with a complaint heard a lot around here from lots of folks who are starting to realize they're not listening to what the kids are listening to: "Everyone sold out, man."
Selling out is a topic that needs thousands of words to address properly: Does it happen when the band prints its first T-shirt? When they make a song for the soundtrack of a Michael Bay movie?
Wherever you draw the line, there's this nostalgic idea floating around that says there was some point when the money became too big a deal, when the music business stopped being about discovering the beautiful and the good and became all about the cash grab.
Whenever you're feeling like putting on some tie-dyed tinted glasses and reminiscing about the Good Times, it's helpful to remember it has always been about the money for business operators. The reason so many absurd projects were greenlit in the '70s was that studio executives had no idea what the kids were on or up to, so anyone who walked into an office with some talent and some funky clothes got cash thrown their way.
But the rich times rarely last and the Moneymakers figured that the promotion of product still made more money than music (or art, or philosophy, or dance pick your "humanity") and so the music became product promotion, and funding stuff that didn't sell didn't make any sense.
While all the time the real doers: they keep on playing, making, living, loving.
The pop music business is screwed up. It's old and creaky.
What that doesn't mean is that the music isn't getting made. It's just a bit more hidden.
You have to go places like the Schuylkill County Fairgrounds on the last weekend of April and hear musicians who play everywhere in the world fill up a little valley with sound, from four stages, for hours and hours on end.
Jibberjazz Productions' eighth Some Kind of Jam festival brought together a whole bunch of bands for three days, and the fun thing about the independent festival circuit which thrives in Pennsylvania is that you can't know all the players going in.
Turkuaz was one group that made people want to hear them more with their Friday night set. Out of Brooklyn, they bring a 10-piece jumpsuited High Energy attack to make their original tunes and selected covers like "Trampled Underfoot" by Led Zep and "Feelin' Alright" into Apocalyptic Power Funk.
Then there was gray-haired, raspy-voiced Johnny Dowd singing country songs, and playing with a keyboardist and a drummer who were grinding out heavy, rolling lines. They're abstract and yet rootsy enough to be loved in Europe. Seed, from Connecticut, played long, intricate, Miles Davis-esque grooves on sax, keys, guitar, bass and drums.
And Animal Liberation Orchestra (ALO), a veteran California group, jammed out in typically laid back West Coats fashion on original pop songs - "Shapeshifter" has a fantastic takeaway lyric - and other tunes, like "My Favorite Things."
That's not a tenth of the good music that went on, in one weekend. And those weekends happen every weekend, in many places, especially from now through the summer months.