The Lefsetz Letter: The Millennial Switch

We've been inundated with stories about the survival of classic rock bands, their road numbers, and the legacies of the early MTV acts, this is obscuring a fact that is becoming self-evident, the millennials have taken over. While boomers debated online music, decried Napster, bought iPods and then believed in files, the millennials weren't even paying attention. File-trading was de rigueur and streaming is now the standard. It's the oldsters who are reluctant to sign up for Spotify, not the youngsters, which is why the U.S. Top Fifty contains acts you've never heard of and don't want to hear, because you're still living in the last century, maybe even the first decade of this century, but it's now 2017.


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.

Maybe you caught the ascension of Kanye, his attack upon Taylor Swift, the sideshow. You'd seen it before, rap artist and teen phenom. But that obscured what was really going on. Hell, Kanye committed his faux pas at the MTV Video Music Awards. When was the last time you watched MTV? Do you even know what channel it is on? And when was the last time you even watched the VMAs, admit it, you stopped half a decade or so ago, when you no longer recognized the acts, which are all evanescent popsters.

That's the new world.

The classic acts are irrelevant. Do you even know that Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie have a new album? They're much more famous than all the acts on the top of the chart, but they haven't even reached six digits on all tracks but one on Spotify. BECAUSE YOU'RE NOT LISTENING! You either didn't sign up or don't care or both. And the point is if you're waiting for boomer acts to rescue the business, to bring rock back, to have an impact, you're DREAMING! It almost doesn't matter whether their new material is good or bad, MILLENNIALS DON'T CARE!

We keep hearing that there are no headliners. While Rihanna and rappers sell out arenas. Come on, you want an up close and personal experience, you don't even want to go if you're in the front row, not with 20,000 others. BUT THEY DO! It's a tribal rite wherein they take selfies and document their adventures and bask in the glow of the new music.

Kind of like the EDM scene. How would you know what's going on, ever been to a rave, never mind EDC? You're clueless! Which is fine, because you're old. But don't crap on the youngsters.

The youngsters don't expect the acts to last. And they don't care about the album. And they care a lot about the backstory, the feuds, they research these acts on Wikipedia, follow them online. They just need something to listen to, they don't care if it's what they were listening to last week or the year before. And they don't even care what the genre is, as long as it's popular. They want to belong. They want to know what their brethren are listening to. And the experience is different. You sat in front of the stereo with your seeds and stems and nodded to the album. They take their music everywhere, it's in the air, it's the soundtrack to their multifarious lives.

And these are the same millennials pissed about college debt. The same millennials who threw a monkey wrench in the election on both the left and the right. That's the story of 2016, how both the Republicans and the Democrats were clueless. How Sanders and Trump made such inroads. But Hillary keeps complaining it was somebody else's fault and the Republicans are dumbstruck, unclear whether to follow Trump to the abyss or stand up for what they used to. Even Rubio is defending Trump!

And then there's acquisition and driving. Boomers are about owning things. Remember the aphorism "He who dies with the most toys wins."? Millennials don't want to own ANYTHING, not even a car. They consume services, which they expect to be on demand. And why waste time going to a retail store when it can all be delivered to your house and sent back for free.

Of course there are exceptions, of course there are young shoppers and drivers, but we are concerned with the trends. And while the oldsters weren't looking, the millennials took over. It wasn't a coup, they don't care about the aged, they just kept marching forward in their own direction, and with their mass and attention and spending power they moved the needle. Not only do you not see classic rock acts in the Top Fifty, you don't see jam bands. You've got Max Martin saying songs have to hook you immediately and have multiple hooks and you've got rock bands with thirty second intros with lame vocals. Did you think this was gonna go on forever?

The change happened in plain sight.

Some people adjusted. Like Live Nation. Last year attendance at Bonnaroo was abysmal. So this year they stacked the stage with blue chips and youngsters, to see if the festival was viable. Even Coachella, going with Beyonce and then ultimately Gaga. It's a young people's business, they're the ones supporting it, and you either play to them or…

You're history.

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