THE LEFSETZ LETTER: Bruno

Am I the only person sickened by the overhype on this movie?


This is why we hate the mainstream press. Isn’t there a single outlet that can say no to hype? That’s what this was, pure and simple. Endless stunts that would make Lee Solters smile in his grave. But this isn’t the 1950’s anymore, when we’re victims of few news outlets and what we know is controlled by a small coterie of power-mongers. Today, we have a more flattened society. The stars have been pulled down to earth and the hoi polloi have risen from their buried positions to roam amongst the so-called he-men of the universe. Imagine some nut appearing in front of your high school dressed in a bizarre outfit every day for months. Would you think he was cool? You’d avoid him, and if the school newspaper covered the story at all, they’d report how creepy he was. Instead, in the real world, we’ve got a zillion dollar media eating up all this bullshit with no discernment whatsoever. Like seeing any film will truly change our lives, never mind some improvised comedy.


Bob Lefsetz, Santa Monica-based industry legend, is the author of the e-mail newsletter, "The Lefsetz Letter". Famous for being beholden to no one, and speaking the truth, Lefsetz addresses the issues that are at the core of the music business: downloading, copy protection, pricing and the music itself.

His intense brilliance captivates readers from Steven Tyler to Rick Nielsen to Bryan Adams to Quincy Jones to music business honchos like Michael Rapino, Randy Phillips, Don Ienner, Cliff Burnstein, Irving Azoff and Tom Freston.

Never boring, always entertaining, Mr. Lefsetz's insights are fueled by his stint as an entertainment business attorney, majordomo of Sanctuary Music's American division and consultancies to major labels.

Bob has been a weekly contributor to CelebrityAccess and Encore since 2001, and we plan many more years of partnership with him. While we here at CelebrityAccess and Encore do not necessarily agree with all of Bob's opinions, we are proud to help share them with you.

Is it improvised? I don’t know. "Borat" was. So this one probably is too. I didn’t love this guy as Ali G, I thought there were a few moments of laughter in "Borat", I spend little time thinking of Sacha Baron Cohen and his "creativity". But, then I’m bombarded with his bullshit, I just can’t steer clear! Michael Jackson dies and mourners can’t reach his star on Hollywood Boulevard, there’s a "Bruno" promotion!


But I thought maybe I was too old. That the younger generation, which hasn’t been subjected to decades of market manipulation, could be convinced "Bruno" is the hot new thing and flock to the theaters.


But they didn’t!


Do not believe the press stories, that "Bruno" opened at number one! Grossing $30.4 million! They’re true, but they don’t prove the point.


Point is, "Bruno" is an amazing failure. How do we know? By the steep decline in ticket sales over the weekend.


The "Wall Street Journal" reports that on Friday, "Bruno" sold $14.4 million worth of tickets. But, when word got out what a stinker it was, receipts fell 39% on Saturday to $8.8 million. And if you expect sales to steady hereafter, with months worth of lucrative playdates across the nation, you haven’t been alive for the last decade. Only the best films can play for weeks on end. Like "The Hangover" and "Up".



Now if you know you’ve got a stinker, best to refuse to show it to reviewers and make as much money as you can before word gets out. But today, word gets out almost instantly! Read this article about the Twitter effect:


http://www.thewrap.com/article/summer-box-office-twitter-effect_4229


In the old days, you could text to one person saying the movie sucked. Today you can tell thousands, instantly!


So when you create that marketing campaign for your new record, carefully scripting all the hype, the underlying product better be fantastic, or you’re going to have a sales day of one. When the hard core purchase it out of sheer pent-up demand. Because everybody else is going to get the word and stay away.


In other words, the nineties paradigm is dead. Wherein Clive Davis or Tommy Mottola orchestrates TV appearances and print pieces trumpeting the new release by a star and a dumb public pays up to twenty dollars for a CD and finds out there’s only one good track. Homey don’t play that no more. If I’ve never heard of you, I want the track at best. To buy more, I’m going to have to hear more. To overpay to see you live I’m going to have to be convinced you’ve got a career, that you’re here to stay. You can’t jam anything down people’s throats anymore.


Unlike films, records only succeed if they’ve got a long shelf life. You just can’t sell enough in a day or a week to recoup your costs. So better to create product that sells itself! That is so good, people will embrace it and tell others about it!


At least the movie studios are not ignorant enough to blame their customers when a film fails. The record companies say it leaked before release date, that their marketing was undermined, that the game just isn’t fair. It was never fair! It was rigged in their favor! But now the customer has power, and is using it.


I’m down on Sacha Baron Cohen. I’d like to see him take his millions and retire. The constant overhype, for over a year before release date, has made me hate him. Yes, I’m on backlash. He’d have to earn my trust before I’d give him another dollar. Or create something great, that stands on its own merits, that I hear about from others. Yes, there’s a cost to jamming. We burn out on you by seeing your mug in front of us at all turns. We want to see you fail. The mantra of the Internet age is slow and steady. Actually, you’ve got to be afraid of the reverse. A sudden explosion that makes you famous overnight and creates unreal expectations. The dreaded Pitchfork syndrome. The site makes you, you sell product and tour to many, then the site says your next album is not as good and you’re OVER!


Be careful what you wish for. If you do happen to blow up on the Net, don’t go on your publicity cleanup tour.


Nobody at the company will tell you any of this. They don’t give a shit about you. They just need someone to sell. If your career burns out, they’ll find someone else. Agents want their ten percent, labels want their billing… Long term thinkers are few and far between in the business world. Not only on Wall Street, but in music. We hear about monetization, we hear all the business bullshit. But the public has a fine-tuned bullshit detector that will kill your income overnight. Never forget it. An artist is in business with his fans, not his manager, not his agent, not his label and not his promoter.

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