THE LEFSETZ LETTER: Rules Of Engagement

1. Long Haul, Not Front-Load


Front-loading is for movies and SoundScan. You're not making movies and SoundScan means less than ever before and will continue to die.


You wanted a big first week in SoundScan so retailers would order more music and the mainstream press would hype your debut. Physical retail is dying and now inventory is unlimited online. Elvis Presley dies and there are few records in the store, it takes weeks to catch up with demand. Michael Jackson passes and albums and tracks start flying out of the iTunes Store immediately. If there's demand, it can be fulfilled today. But you've got to create the demand. One spike of publicity is not going to do it. At best, it creates a bit of awareness. But it doesn't get anybody to listen. Assuming you're paying attention to the mainstream press, it's a long way from there to listening to the music. How can you get people to listen to the music first?


"Gone Girl" was a viral sensation. Most people weren't even aware of the hype


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.

upon release. Great word of mouth sold the book. Music is now more like books, taking a while to marinate and spread in society. But music, when done right, lasts even longer. Your goal is to have a career.


If you're doing publicity at all, and publicity is only for pussies, your artwork should sell itself, a campaign should last at least a year. Or don't even start.


2. Lead With Your Art


A great publicity campaign for a lame record is worthless. Kind of like a great video for a lame song. Focus on the art. Date of release doesn't matter. Some things blow up immediately, most take a while to find their niche and grow. Think about what you're selling and focus on that. PSY wasn't selling a song but a video. So he made sure the video was excellent. What sold the video was viral word of mouth. The mainstream press was last. The mainstream press is only first on what is lame and evanescent. What's cool starts off the radar.


3. Celebrity Imprimatur


The Carly Rae Jepsen story. Justin Bieber tweeted about "Call Me Maybe." Celebrities endorsing music that they've got no investment in draws attention to it. It's the best way to reach new listeners. This used to be the opening band syndrome. That can still work a bit, but people have been trained to think the opening act at a concert is lame, that it may not even square with the taste of the audience, that their placement is more about money than music. Look at the Twitter followings of some of these famous musicians. They can reach the target audience much better than the mainstream press. Unlike the mainstream press they're trusted. This paradigm works now, it might be abused into irrelevance in the future. Just like YouTube views and Amazon reviews are now faked.


4. Give Your Audience The Tools


If you want mystery today, put up the video, release the track online and then say and do nothing else. Create a frenzy surrounding your track, have questions asked. That's a reasonable way to go. But even more reasonable is to have a plethora of information available to surfers once they get hooked. Wikipedia and Facebook pages, a Twitter feed. The problem with mainstream media is it stops. Whereas if you really entice someone they want more. Online is about endless links and discovery. Allow those who are interested to do this.


5. Be Outside


In the eighties and nineties we had a monoculture. Driven by MTV and radio. Whereas in the sixties we had the mainstream and alternative. We've got the mainstream and alternative today. The mainstream is dependent upon hits. A ton of exposure. It's more about the mania than the art. There is a business in this, but less than ever before. Many used to sell double digit millions. Now only Adele can do this. You want to align with your fans, not the machine. That's the key to longevity. If you get so big the machine is interested you can play with it, but last. If you put the machine first, you're alienating those sneezers who will push you over the tipping point.


6. Your Fans Do The Work

If nobody is retweeting, if your video count doesn't go up, maybe your art and its message are not good enough. If you can't inspire people to do your work for you, you won't make it today. We're inundated with publicity, it washes right off of us. The only thing that sticks is the words of our friends.

7. Steady Stream Of Art


Don't be worried about killing what's breaking. The longer you stay on something, the shorter your career. Money men are interested in milking the hit, artists want to have careers. Keep pushing stuff out there. Satisfy the bleeding edge. These people are the ones who broke you to begin with.


8. Touring Is A Victory Lap


It used to be where you made fans, now it's where you cement relationships and make money. Don't tour so long you avoid your online presence. Online is a fire that you must continually stoke.


9. Mobile


If your site and its attendant elements don't work seamlessly on handheld devices you're operating with one hand behind your back.


10. Statistics Versus Money

Be your own barometer. Worry about pleasing yourself, not others. Don't worry if all your sales are not counted, if you're not mentioned in the trades. Have your own plan and be satisfied with your achievements. If you're Amazon, you keep growing and put profits in the future. If you're a fad, the money comes first. Create your own plan.



11. Have Your Own Schedule


The disadvantage of being tied to a major label is their agenda is different. They've got quarterly profit reports, they want you to put out your music during the Christmas selling season. Furthermore, major corporations are the opposite of nimble. They need agreement and approval which can take forever to achieve. You want to be able to turn on a dime. Maybe you need a second video. Maybe you need a new track. The web is about fast and slow. Fast to make changes, slow to grow.


12. Immediate Is Not Necessary


It costs nothing to have your video up on YouTube. No one's going to delete it or ship it back. It's a land mine waiting to be discovered. If you believe, stay the course. You never know what might trigger interest.


13. Fake Is Found Out


Society is more sophisticated than ever before. Websites are dedicated to decoding the truth. If you try to break the rules, you'll be found out, and you may never recover from the hurt.


14. New Forums


First came Twitter, then came Tumblr, Pinterest… Don't cover everything in a scorched earth policy, participate where your fans are, where it fits for you. Tumblr allows you to go on at length. Pinterest is for pictures. If you're a photo whore, Pinterest might be where you want to be. The key is to take chances and have fun. The web is all about risks, which are anathema to major labels and the rest of the old guard.


15. Radio


Comes last. If it's first and your track fails, which even those of the superstars do, it's done. Better to percolate online and be added by radio long after the fact. Cee Lo's "Forget You" percolated online long before it became a radio staple. Hell, the original version with the obscenity was a web phenomenon. Perfect execution. Drop it without publicity and let the online denizens build it into a monolith. Surfers owned it, the mainstream press was picking up the crumbs.


16. Cycles

Are permanent now. It's just like life. You're working and creating constantly. Sure, it takes up all your time, but creators want to create. If you feel burdened by the constant need to be in your audience's face…you won't make it. This is what Amanda Palmer does best. That's why she raised over a mil on Kickstarter. She continues rallying her troops, posting on her site, oftentimes not even about music, but life. She's three-dimensional, people are drawn to her.


17. Not All Your Fans Are Hipsters


There are very few hipsters out there. The regular people will support you, play to them.


18. TV


Ain't what it used to be. Whether it be late night or track placements. It's hard to game the system anymore. Late night will give you a professional video, but it won't sell records. If your song is so good that it'll break out of a TV show, chances are it'll break just fine alone online.


19. No Rules


These are just guidelines. Create new ways of doing things constantly. Just don't do it the old way. It ain't even working for the old farts.

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