Despite boasting a career of more than 15 years in the gaming ecosystem, John Caldwell, co-founder of software company ASG Solutions, had a whole different life in the music business before gambling.
Working alongside acts that boasted sales of more than 60 million in the 1990s, Caldwell, who now works in the gambling/crypto intersection, recounts his time in music in a CasinoBeats column.
In August of 1994, the Stone Temple Pilots tour was a juggernaut. Roll into town, play a sold-out show, lather, rinse, repeat.
We specifically went out of our way to spend up on production. Many acts at the time were firmly implanted in the ‘less is more’ minimalist approach to production. Some lights, a couple large Persian rugs and the band’s gear were generally it as far as a stage presentation went.
This was ‘The Big Rock Show’, however, and we were determined to give young music fans value for their buck. Two twenty foot high lava lamps were planted on either side of the drum kit, and a light show that would harken back to the days of Queen, Kiss and many of the other acts that people of our generation held dear as kids.
But with outsized production came outsized reactions. I remember one night in Philadelphia. 14,000 people. Philly is a notoriously exuberant rock crowd. I was out at the sound board when the band hit the stage.
First, I saw a couple people from the back hop the guard rails and run down front. Then a few more. Before long hundreds of people were charging the front and were determined to get up on stage. To what end, I have no idea.
The security, while world class for concert security, were completely overwhelmed. I myself punched one and wrestled another guy who were trying to rip the sound and light control boards down off their moorings. Total chaos.
The band had to stop and restart more than once. The singer, Scott, finally had to get on the mic himself and let people know that they had two choices: Back to their seat or back home.
Order was eventually restored, but I learned a valuable lesson that day. If a large enough crowd wants to go somewhere or do something, there isn’t a lot you or anyone else can do about it. There becomes sort of this ‘irrationality of exuberance’, and it’s highly contagious. Common sense goes out the window.
We have seen this in the Bitcoin markets. Late 2017 to early 2018, we had this same ‘irrationality of exuberance’. Everyone had to have Bitcoin, but 90+ per cent of those people weren’t really sure *why*.
Fundamentals go out the window, and common sense with it. Many of the people that bought in that winter of 17/18 got burned. Some are still bitter through this current rally, vowing never to touch BTC again.
The last three years has helped us answer that critical question: Why. Why Bitcoin? Could Bitcoin, often lauded by skeptics as crazy actually be the *sane option* as it relates to many global currencies – whose supply is at the whim of a small number of people who can simply choose to switch on the printer and make more?
But when you see legitimate companies putting BTC on their balance sheets, or you see panels at high end investment conferences with titles like “How can I get BTC exposure for my clients?”, you know we’ve crossed a very critical hurdle.
The gaming business is no different. Online casinos are continuing to add and refine their digital payments strategy, while crypto native operators grow quickly and at a (seemingly) unabated rate.
But what stage are we as an industry in? I would argue the crypto rally of 2017/18 actually did the gaming industry a big favour – long term. As I’ve detailed in previous columns, in 2017/18 the interest from the meat of the gambling industry collapsed faster than the price of BTC did. This sort of prevented the industry from ever entering that irrational exuberance phase.
And with exuberance comes excitement. That excitement is contagious. That never happened to the broader gambling industry. Frustrating for those of us who worked on that side of the space, but nonetheless, it has allowed the industry to think about crypto in a more considered way. This to me bodes well for the long term health of digital payments in gaming.
If you need a beacon of light (or two) to guide you on your BTC discovery journey, I may have a solution. I believe there are still a couple twenty foot high lava lamps sitting in a warehouse in Chatsworth, California. Lightly used.