THE LEFSETZ LETTER: Getting On The Right Track

1. Focus on music not money. There's too much talk about grosses and too much bitching about Spotify. Amazon rolls out robots and we all ooh and ahh, there's forward motion in the music business and everybody complains. Change is inevitable, the future comes, the social landscape will be rearranged…best to acknowledge this and move forward as opposed to trying ineffectively to hold it back. Yes, people will lose their jobs because of Amazon robots, the same way recording studios closed and CD plants too. This is sad, but this has become the story of the music business, what we have lost instead of what we have gained. This sends the wrong message to the consumer. Yes, there are rabid fans embracing the work of artists. But in order for music to be healthy once again we need to reach the casual consumer, who can tell you the difference between the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus but not that between Iggy Azalea and Ariana Grande.


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.

2. If you fail come back to the marketplace quickly. The Fire phone was a disaster. But instead of licking its wounds, Amazon is now hyping its aforementioned robots. When there's a failure in the music business the act retires for a year or two and is oftentimes forgotten by time it returns. Create often. Failure is inevitable. One hit trumps a raft of disasters.


3. The SoundScan chart ruined music. Because there was a different number one each week. The business will burgeon when it becomes comprehensible, when the same tracks dominate for a period of time. The chart is all about satisfying the industry, not the consumer. The industry wants to divvy out number ones, wants to influence dying retail. But when a record slips off the chart it's usually gone for good, whereas movies come and go on the chart but then they get another life on DVD, pay cable, Netflix… The film chart position pays long term dividends in terms of advertising. Music chart positions are momentary.


4. Focus on what people are listening to, not what they're buying. Buying an album does not mean one listens to it, oftentimes people only listen to the hit. Streaming, whether it be on YouTube or Spotify, indicates what is truly popular. Note to the wannabe…not everything is popular, never was, never will be.


5. The "Voice" is good for television, it's bad for music. Because it's a karaoke show and the music business depends on a steady stream of new hits. We need to extol the songwriter, who is sometimes the performer, not the face. Otherwise we're focusing on the zit, not the acne. And acne is an infection, and that's the goal of music, to infect people.


6. Acknowledge the inability to get a song out of your head is a good thing. That's the key to Meghan Trainor's "All About That Bass." You may go on in your holier-than-thou fashion that it sucks, but if you hear it once you can't stop singing it to yourself. We need more of that.


7. Embrace experimentation. Today's artists are so worried about losing traction that they just replicate what they've done before. Test limits.


8. Identity and edge are everything. All the tech titans have rough edges. Hell, Travis Kalanick has dominated the news cycle and Uber just gets bigger. Whereas "artists" dress up instead of down and keep paying penance to their sponsors. Who can believe in that?


9. Utilize your power. Musicians dominate social media. But they don't use it to move music forward. Only oldsters like Bob Geldof and Bono seem to understand the power of music to open the discussion, to change things. Young artists can do this too. But they have to be educated, they have to realize the advantage, they have to understand that if you don't stand for something, you don't stand for anything at all.


10. The music business is the canary in the coal mine, everything happens to it first, yet everybody in it keeps complaining about this change. People run from those who whine, offer no insight and refuse to get with the program. Artists have to give hope. Hope to consumers who too are affected by the new world and are trying to navigate their way. Music needs to run shotgun with these people. Music needs to be indispensable. We've got to stop the warring within and acknowledge it's nearly impossible to break through and boost those who do. The biggest story of the year was Taylor Swift's media campaign and resulting sales. I wish she wasn't a front for Max Martin, but everyone agreed her social media campaign was brilliant, the ancient sales construct of a million copies in a week was repeated everywhere, her disdain for Spotify made headlines. Why wasn't there a concomitant news story when Avicii's "Wake Me Up" became the biggest track in the history of Spotify? Why do you hate on EDM? Why do we not realize that music done right is not formula, but cutting edge variations on the bedrock basics? You've got to be able to sing, write and play or get out of the way. We've got to separate the pretenders from the winners. And your job is to dethrone said winners. Not to bitch that they've got your spot, but to do something better that trumps them.

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