THE LEFSETZ LETTER: Mainstream/Spotify/Money

Music is a popularity contest.


That's right, you can't bitch about your Spotify payments if no one wants to listen to your music.


This is where we've arrived, the data-centric world. The old days of Tommy Noonan manipulating the "Billboard" chart are done. Now all we've got is raw statistics, which will leave most people out.


And they don't like it.


That's the number one bitch in the music business, that you can't make any money, that the internet destroyed the paradigm and now you're broke.


Well, just like Sam Kinison said not to send food to Africa, but suitcases, if you want to make money…MAKE MUSIC PEOPLE WANT TO LISTEN TO!


Sounds simple, I know.


But you don't want to do it. You want to make the music you want to make, and then bitch that people won't listen to it, that the label won't sign it and that radio won't play it, ignoring the fact that YouTube and Spotify are open worlds, and if there's any demand, it can be instantly filled.


Are you a member of a club that is marginalizing yourself? Are you so busy talking to your friends in the echo chamber that you don't realize you've got to convince those outside it to make money?


Being a hipster might make you cool, but it won't make you rich.


Of course, some hipster music breaks through. And that's great, we need the bleeding edge, that's what's wrong with too much of today's pop, the formula. But most hipster music is just not made for mainstream consumption, which is fine, but please stop complaining that no one wants it.


Imagine making a tech product no one wants. Do these people complain, no they PIVOT! An incredible percentage of tech companies started out making something different, and when no one wanted it, they took the essence and turned it into something else.


Which means if you know how to play, you don't only have to play the music you do.


And if you can't sing, you can get someone who can.


And you can learn how to write songs.


Just because the barrier to entry in music is so low that does not mean everyone is entitled to be successful.


As for Taylor Swift bitching about Spotify payments, not only is she already rich, she gave the biggest injection of publicity to the Swedish streaming music service ever. Now everybody knows what Spotify is. Thanks Taylor!


And if you're successful on Spotify you're gonna get rich. Don't conflate low Pandora payments with Spotify royalties, they're a different animal, although songwriter payments need to be improved (thank the government for screwing that up.)


There's tons of money in music. You've just got to make stuff people want!


And if you're decrying everything successful as pabulum, the joke is on you.

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