Bob Lefsetz is an American music industry analyst and critic, and author of the email newsletter and blog, the Lefsetz Letter. The newsletter has tens of thousands of subscribers and is widely read by powerful, industry insiders. His apporach completely unfiltered and isn’t for everyone but in today’s letter he talks about Bernie Sanders…..a lot. In fact the subject line in the email was “Bernie Sanders”.
Here’s the email:
Could this be the future of the music business?
Oldsters lament the disappearance of this. Wherein labels subsidized the creativity of musicians. The term has been bastardized in the twenty first century, “artist development” means jetting an act from nowhere to stardom over a short period of time, usually in one album cycle. But the artist development of yore was based on seeing something nascent in the act that could shine in the future. It wasn’t about having a hit on the first record, employing songwriters for hire to ensure this, but laying down the essence of the act’s vision on wax and then going on the road and trying to develop a fanbase, one which would spread the word. Sure, radio was an integral element, but prior to the corporatization, classification and codification of FM in the midseventies, with the resulting tight playlists, the goal was to infect the audience and have it spread the word. Fans would beget more fans, and when the johnny-come-latelies came on board there was a treasure trove of material for them
to digest, illustrating how the act had gotten from there to here. There just weren’t hits, but different sounds, different producers, experiments, one felt one was invested in a living, breathing entity, it was rewarding.
Which is another way to say “credibility.” Used to be fans believed in the acts, which is why “Rolling Stone” burgeoned, not only did we want to get closer, we wanted to know what our heroes had to say. Now we’re back to a “16” magazine formula. Which is information with no depth. But the truth is we all need someone to believe in. Unfortunately, that role has been usurped today by corporations, people fight about Android versus iOS more passionately than they do about any acts. If you don’t stand for anything, you’ve got no Velcro to hook people’s loops with. You start outside and then drag the center to you. Which is what Bernie Sanders is doing. He’s focusing on the issue of income inequality, something none of the other candidates wants anything to do with. Oh, they pay lip service to it, but the truth is they depend on the fat cats for cash, they’re not about to undermine their game. But Bernie Sanders has raised nearly as much as Hillary Clinton in the last cycle, $26 to her
$28 million. And he’s done it through small donations from individuals. Corporations are no match for the wrath of individuals, never forget that. Individuals ruined the record business. Individuals can turn on a company or a creator in an instant if you don’t treat people right, the news is filled with rip-off enterprises. Whereas if you spread your base wide, you can’t be hurt by a few defections, your house is built upon a solid foundation.
Don’t be afraid to tackle the tough issues and don’t be afraid to state unpopular positions. Ed Sheeran, one of the biggest acts in the world, has gone on record again and again about the virtues of Spotify. He’s winning while those bitching about streaming are losing. The public doesn’t care that someone moved your cheese, that you can’t make the money you used to in the old paradigm. The public is living in the new world. Which is why all the vinyl comeback stories are irrelevant, as well as the “Billboard” chart. That chart is incomprehensible. Weighted for sales and track equivalent albums and streaming… They print these statistics in the antiquated press and the consumers completely ignore them. Give me something I can understand, obfuscation is for wimps. You know, those afraid to stand up for what they believe is right because someone might get pissed. And the left is as guilty as the right, with all its trigger notices and other politically correct b.s. If you’re trying to
please everybody, you’re ultimately pleasing nobody.
Reddit is the epicenter of the Bernie Sanders fundraising campaign. I bet you few in Washington know what it is, and if they do they don’t go there. And Reddit is all about community. That’s one of the reasons Apple Music failed, because Jimmy Iovine’s been living in the bubble so long he doesn’t know how the internet works. There aren’t fan playlists on Apple Music, there’s no sharing. People want to own the campaign and they want to own music. (Not “own” as in CDs or MP3s, if you can’t read and comprehend you’re lost in the new economy. Sign up for an English course, it’ll do you good.) Once you exclude people, you’re dead. You’ve got to welcome them inside, you’ve got to play on their level. Information spreads slow and fast. Usually the fast stuff is evanescent, here today gone tomorrow train-wreck stuff. Everything worth owning, worth paying attention to, takes a long time to gain traction. Don’t cry if the media is not paying attention, this is the same media focusing on Trump
and Biden, both of whom have no chance of winning, they do it so they can sell papers/advertising, they’re on to another storytomorrow. Bernie Sanders gets little press because his story is not sexy, he too can’t win but he’s not a buffoon and he doesn’t come from an exalted place and the only people who care are his supporters. But he’s got supporters! Turns out for all his press Scott Walker did not! Proving, once again, not to believe the press, statistics are everything. Data rules. And the data illustrates that Bernie Sanders has a dedicated fanbase which is working for free and ponying up dollars. Never dismiss an army of millions.
AGE DOESN’T MATTER
Bernie is 74, and his campaign is being driven forward by those a third his age. In music we want malleable, the younger the better, easier to impress the target demo of teenagers, with money and desire. Age is just a number if you’re still cooking, still open to change, if you still care. How is it that Bernie Sanders is relevant at his age while most of his contemporaries are retired? Yet, people still pay beaucoup bucks to see the musicians of his vintage, like the Stones and the slightly less old Eagles. They built upon the above formula. Instead of criticizing the internet, Don Henley should be embracing it, mobilizing fans instead of alienating them. His new music works, it’s just his marketing message that’s all screwed up. The internet may have ruined the record business but it’s also its savior. Maybe Don should go on Reddit. Maybe he should depend upon his diehard fans to market him as opposed to the traditional media. And I focus on Don because he’s still vital, he’s
still testing limits, as opposed to those who are afraid to put out new music or employ the hitmaker and cowriter du jour. You dig your own grave. Or climb out of it and keep marching forward.
Income inequality is the story of our age. People are sick and tired of being sick and tired. Yet no one with any power is doing anything to address this issue. Supposedly taxes are anathema, the government can’t shoot straight and socialism is death. But Bernie Sanders is a socialist and his message is resonating with so many? Instead of running from what the bullies say can’t be done, maybe you should run towards it! Deliver what the people want as opposed to what the institutions say you should deliver.
Hillary Clinton will probably win. And that’s fine with me, she’s a professional, unlike the leading Republican bozos. This is where we get involved and send him a message telling him he’s wrong about that: Email him here – firstname.lastname@example.org – Lefsetz continues: To elect Trump or Fiorina or Carson would be like asking Mark Zuckerberg to produce the new Metallica record. Yup, since he’s rich he must know best. Used to be professionalism meant something in music, you honed your craft and paid your dues and you got a shot at the big time. That didn’t mean you won, it just meant you got a chance. But today’s wannabes believe the crap fed to them by the leeches selling services and the oldsters who can no longer make a buck and we don’t stop hearing how music is broken and you can’t get rich.
Come on, music ain’t broken at all, it’s there for the taking.
Bernie Sanders ain’t good looking, and he’s a member of the tribe to boot! Gays can get married, we’ve got a black President, and just because nincompoops keep asking for Obama’s birth certificate that does not take away from the fact that he was elected twice and still rules.
That’s the power of the people.
And that’s what we’re talking about here. The people will support you. Gatekeepers’ influence is greatly diminished. You’ve got to get your hands dirty and wade into the vast wilderness known as the internet to find out if your message resonates, and if it does you’ve got to build a tribe one by one, like guerilla warfare. Isn’t that why the Viet Cong won, they had the hearts and minds?
Those rules still apply. It’s war out there. Just ask Mike Ovitz. Who ruled until the game changed.
And the game has changed across America today. We’re looking for heroes in a link-bait world where duplicity rules and everybody’s out for a buck.
But there’s plenty of money out there if you resonate, like I said, Bernie Sanders just raised $26 million.
But you’ve got to know how to ask for it.
The revolution will not be televised. It will be streamed on the internet. Everybody clamoring for a return to the past is toast. CDs are history as is manufacturing in America. But that does not mean people don’t want music and jobs! You’ve just got to thread the needle in a new way.
The audience is ready, willing and able.
Give ’em everything you’ve got.
And if you’re not in it for the long haul, if you’re not willing to drip some blood on both the saddle and the tracks, we’re not interested. We’re looking for a few good lifers, who believe in themselves and are willing to play to their fans as opposed to the institutions.
Are you ready?
Bernie’s $26 million – “Bernie Sanders’s Campaign, Hitting Fund-Raising Milestone, Broadens Focus”: http://nyti.ms/1M6C9n4
“Young Grape Picker Gives Sanders a Cash Boost – Tech-savvy 23-year-old’s Reddit group helps Democratic presidential candidate raise $26 million”: http://on.wsj.com/1LY8fFW
I want you to listen to these two tracks from Henley’s latest LP. They’re not singles and they’re at the very end of the album so they’ve been effectively buried, but I point them out to anyone who believes old people can’t make good music that resonates, especially with their core audience. In a world where everybody old seems to want to be young, Henley sings “I like where I am now.” Older is happier, statistics state this, data rules…if you’re paying attention. Furthermore, “Train In The Distance” reminisces about the past without getting smarmily nostalgic. It’s got that album cut feel baby boomers treasure. And through the magic of the internet, you can sample these wares without paying for them. Isn’t this better than keeping the music locked up like in the past? If you like it, you can spread the word. You can pay and get a higher quality stream and pick and choose the songs you want to play on your mobile. This is the new world, everything is different now:
Email Bob Lefsetz here: email@example.com