THE LEFSETZ LETTER: Hype

It's not news, it's an awareness campaign!


I gave up reading the "Arts & Leisure" section. Because every article contained therein was linked to a product. There was no story, just a desire to make me know a new movie, play or record was coming out and I should buy it.


Kind of like the Mick Jagger/James Brown movie hype. It's been in every publication known to man. What are the odds the flick will be good? About as high that I need to stop everything and check out Jenny Lewis's new album, which was featured in the "Times" Magazine. I could say I'm too old, but the truth is the entertainment industry is operating with a pre-Internet paradigm and those of us living in the twenty first century, which seems to be everybody but them, are burned out on it. It's as if they believe if they scream loud enough, they'll accomplish their goal.


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.


Did you notice all the Weird Al publicity came after the fact? And that there was no run-up to last year's release of Beyonce's video album? How can these artists get it so right and others get it so wrong?


Kind of like Tom Petty. There's not a publication I peruse that has not had a Tom Petty story. His album is poised to enter the chart next week at number one, whoop-de-doo, and then it will be instantly forgotten. Yup, after everybody slaps each other on the back they'll move on to selling something else. I dare you to list the films released two weeks ago. And that's what the music world has become, the inane film business where products most people will never see are promoted for a shelf life of a week. But at least there's DVD and streaming thereafter, but there's no second life for an album, either it triumphs or is relegated to the dustbin. And music, when done right, lasts. But the hype is momentary and we've seen the trick and no one writing about music is interested after the fact, they're so dazzled by the access at the advent that we've got antiquated marketers employing brain-dead writers to spread the word to a public that shrugs.


You want your effort to endure. There's no counter on YouTube or Spotify telling how many streams your track had in its initial week, it's about the cumulative effort, why is our whole industry focused on only the front end of the tail?


Is it the executives? Who are compensated on short term numbers and are fearful if they don't make noise their artists will be upset and disappear?


Is it the managers, who like the wannabes believe better to do something, even if it's a complete time and money-waster? Yup, every wannabe wants a tastemaker to take his CD, even though today's computers don't even have a disk drive, and every manager wants ink and late night television so they can tell their artists they've left no stone unturned, that the problem does not lie with them.


Everybody's buying fake insurance to make sure they get no blame. It's like the whole Internet revolution never happened. Every label is selling Palm, and you know what happened to that company. Yup, we all heard about it but it sank like a stone (the ultimate iteration, the tiny smartphone, not the Pilots of yore.)


Never has there been a disconnect so large between buyer and seller. Sellers in the music business believe in publicity and radio, when the buyers want to stream their heart's desire for eons and just don't care about everything else.


Having a new album is not a story. At this point, with a 24/7 news cycle online, what's happened in your life is not a story. The hard core already knows what's you're up to and the rest don't care. If you think a story in a magazine is going to energize the casual fan to buy your album/check it out online, you believe that Windows phones and BlackBerries are poised for a comeback, that they're going to dethrone Android and iOS.


Your only hope is to feed those already paying attention so that they will spread the word, so that they'll get their marginally interested friends to listen and discover you.


Weird Al's album sold because of virality, because fans told other people to check out the videos, which lived online. Where's the virality in the Tom Petty campaign, you're just beating me over the head!


And really, Jenny Lewis in the "New York Times" Magazine? It makes me laugh at that publication the same way I now do at "60 Minutes," manipulated by marketers like Amazon, you were really that hungry for a non-story, you really fell for the hype? I can't name one Jenny Lewis song and neither can you, because she's yet to cut one that exceeded the circle of her cult. And if this is the case, just let her publicity stay within her cult. And if she wants a larger audience she should put out a cut so good people tell me about it.


But I doubt she did this. Almost no one does this.


Isn't it interesting that which triumphs usually comes from left field, usually bubbles up from nowhere and then we all hear about it and embrace it, whether it be "Gangnam Style," "Wake Me Up" or even "Blurred Lines." But those people understand the new game. They know it begins with the track, and the key is to get listeners talking about it, not intermediaries in the challenged media business.


But change comes slowly in the arts.


It used to be the other way around, musicians and painters were at the bleeding edge, challenging our preconceptions, the story was the work. Today they're mostly complainers utilizing old paradigms to get us to check out their substandard efforts.


If it don't last, it ain't worth anything.


It's like the whole music industry is a beauty pageant, where you get to see the candidates from afar for an hour, really only their exterior, and then you're asked to marry them. Huh?

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