THE LEFSETZ LETTER: It's A Pop World Because…

1. We all want something to rally around, something to discuss, a club to belong to, and right now pop is it.


2. Popularity breeds popularity. That which gains traction and sustains, becomes ever bigger.


3. They know it's about the song. Hooks, choruses, catchiness. If only other musicmakers realized this. Never forget, the Beatles didn't break these rules, and they could sing too!


4. The younger generation driving pop has never experienced anything different. Sure, they might have heard some classic rock via their parents, maybe, never forget today's kids were not brought up by baby boomers but Generation-X, but they're a post-Napster generation to whom fluffiness and selling out are de rigueur. They don't know about musical credibility, being able to either play or be true to only yourself, because they've never experienced it. Meanwhile, all those hewing to their own rules, marching to the beat of their own drummer, consistently break rule #3 above.


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.

5. Radio rules. Bigger than Pandora, bigger than Spotify, bigger than YouTube when it comes to breaking acts. There's no pull, it's all push. You don't get to decide what's playing, you're subject to it. Furthermore, the pop stations are run like upbeat clubs wherein possibilities are endless and you're just a step or heartbeat away from your crush. Do you really expect me to move to the doldrums of depression where life is not good? That comes later, and if you think college radio rules, you can probably name its top ten, no one else can.


6. Media loves a winner. And mass media likes to trumpet that which appeals to most.


7. A criterion of pop is that you're physically attractive. And looks, and sexiness, sell.



8. Those not making pop don't stand for anything other than themselves. They don't know how to be universal. And today you don't bubble up from the bottom, but percolate down from the top. Hook them first and expand their horizons later. It's almost always been thus. From the aforementioned Beatles to John "Cougar" Mellencamp.


9. We live in a money culture, and everybody in the food chain cares about money more than music. That's right, the label heads who work for the corporation and want their bonuses to the agents filling venues. Everybody's looking out for themselves. If it ain't obvious, if it doesn't appeal to the masses, they're not interested. In other words, if your label or agent tells you different, chances are you're entering a backwater ghetto. If you're fine with that, great, but don't complain.


10. Music doesn't drive the culture, hasn't since the seventies, certainly not since the nineties. It's prevalent, but if you want to know which way the wind blows, you don't put on a record.


11. The Internet blew a hole in the scene, making it incomprehensible to most, so they gravitate to where everybody else is. See #2 above.


12. It's inoffensive. You might think it's edgy, but the truth is culture has moved, gays can marry, teens sext, what you think is pushing the boundaries is not. Pop is the perfect corporate music, which is why corporations are dying to tie up with it.


13. Income inequality. To question the system you must believe you've got access to the system. If you're an underclass loser desiring a ticket in you're willing to compromise, to do what's expedient to make it. You don't insist on writing your own songs, you're afraid of being bounced from the system, you don't want to be exiled. American classic rock was made by the middle class. The middle class doesn't exist anymore.


Pop is forever, but not this pop. The paradigm will be broken just like the Beatles killed girl groups and hip-hop killed classic rock. Especially since pop is not expanding but growing ever smaller in influence and sound, the same people write and produce all the hits.


But FM ushered in classic rock and MTV ushered in new wave and ultimately hip-hop and we're just in the middle of this internet period, we still don't know where we're going. The internet has caused chaos in the music world, as a result everyone's gravitated to order, i.e. pop. But this will not be forever. Not long from now we'll all listen via the same system. Some kind of streaming. Whether it be provided by Apple, Google or Spotify. And that new system will usher in a new paradigm, radio will become secondary. New people will come along to utilize this new system to expand the horizons. However, in the race to please everybody many will bland their sound down to do so. But it's the outliers who will triumph, those who get no traction today. And their music will be pooh-poohed at first, but what will shine most brightly is the music itself. Image is not so important in the digital age, how you look is no longer everything. And in an era where everybody can play, we respect talent. We're going to gravitate to talent.


So, if you want to make it, practice and write stuff that grabs people instantly. If you can't play and sing, you're not gonna be a big part of the new world. And EDM is playing, just in case you didn't know. The better you are and the more you risk the greater your chances. But you're gonna be the leader, next comes the audience and after that the labels and agents. That's right, the music business infrastructure likes pop, execs understand it, they can replicate the formula. If you expect them to take a chance…


Don't.

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