THE LEFSETZ LETTER: Attention

We're all fighting for it.


Welcome to 2014. The Internet is two decades old, at least in the mind of the consumer, we're all wired 24/7 and the primary feeling is one of exhaustion. We're at an endless buffet and we can't stop grazing even though we're full and after a while everything looks the same, nothing tastes that good.


Contrast this to the eighties, when music was expensive, everybody was watching MTV and we knew what was a hit and were familiar with it.


Now not only is SoundScan irrelevant, it's a chart we might see in the paper within which the records change seemingly every week and we're unfamiliar with most of them. Kind of like the movies. Don't like this week's offerings? Wait until next week!


So how do you capture my attention and keep it.


Old schoolers believe it's about a publicity campaign. But I hate to tell them it took years for "Breaking Bad" to break, despite so many testifying it was the best television show ever. Because it takes a lot to get us out of our comfort zones, to partake of something new, because so much disappoints and we've got no time and because of the opportunity cost…if I sample this, I'll have no time to sample that.


It's why people drop out of social media. They believe people are listening. That if they keep doing it their audience, their personal brand, will grow. But seemingly everybody I follow on Twitter rarely tweets anymore. Albert Brooks used to be a constant. Michael Moore had a presence. Now it's more like beating your head against the wall and so many huge players have given up because they don't believe it pays career dividends.

They're worn out.


I'm worn out too.


And so are you.


Which is why we turn to filters. Which is why radio is still the most powerful medium to break music. Despite Pandora and Spotify and YouTube and the ability to pick and choose exactly what you want to hear the greatest mass flocks to the oldest medium, because it's comprehensible. You only play a few tracks over and over again, you believe these are the ones I want to hear, so I listen.


And those not on radio hate this. Because they believe they're entitled to equal attention, they actually believe they're entitled to radio airplay. So we've got people yelling louder and the rest of us just tune out, we can't stand the noise.


Where are we going?


To greater concentration. That's what the future looks like. Sure, you're going to drive down deep into the niches that stimulate you, but in most categories you only want the guaranteed hits. Not only do you only want Google and Amazon, you only want a few tracks, a few outlets, you want your world to be made comprehensible.


So you've got techies looking to make coin shoving endless websites and apps down our throat. Many just a me-too variation on what's come before.


And we've got old wave media producers lamenting that the old days are gone. They acknowledge the game has changed, ironically they continue to play in the same damn way.



So don't invade my yard if I don't ask you to. I don't want anything that looks like spam. Because cleaning the crap out of my digital life is already taking too much time. This is how it is for everybody.


So the question is how do you get my attention and keep it?


Either very quickly or very slowly, usually the latter.


That's how you get it.


Keeping it?


It's all about the relationship. The friendship. This is how FM radio blew up, each station had a culture. It's one of the reasons radio is faltering today, there is no culture, in a world where honesty is king, they're positively false.

My friends respect me. My friends keep in touch. My friends don't overload me. My friends don't abuse the connection, asking for too much too soon, never mind all the time. My friends are there for me through thick and thin. I trust my friends. The bond runs deep.


Do you have a relationship with those who you are selling to? Do they even know who you are?


It's a complicated process, but it's today's reality.


Yup, everybody purveying must maintain a relationship with those who are consuming, continually. It's maintenance no different from making your art.


Sure, there are phenomena, that sell themselves.


But now, in an era where you can reach everybody with a click, it's even harder to get their attention and to keep them focused.


That's your challenge.

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