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Op Ed: The Artists Are On The Wrong Side – Bob Lefsetz

On the front page of today’s "New York Times" there’s a fascinating story on the economic crisis in Europe. The public is pissed. The government and the banks ruined the economy and they’re supposed to pay for it?

This thinking is bubbling under the surface in America. But it is rarely acknowledged. The American paradigm is no longer we’re all in it together but I’m climbing over you to get mine and leave you behind.

The only problem is you depend on the little guy to pay your bills, to get by. And if you alienate him, you’re in trouble.

Despite the brand names, oil companies and banks are essentially faceless. Who exactly controls Exxon Mobil? Damned if I know. Sure, I’m aware of Lloyd Blankfein, and they’re parading a bunch of bankers in the media seemingly every day, but the average person is worried about one thing and one thing only…his job.

If you’re not worried about your job, you’re independently wealthy, you don’t have to work. The rest of us are completely freaked out. Demoralized that we cannot find work or frightened that the work we do won’t continue.

And you want to parade your rich lifestyle and charge insane prices for concert tickets so you can do your best to imitate Lloyd Blankfein?

It’s not only the artists, it’s the executives. Exactly which side are Azoff and Rapino on. Never mind Bronfman and Cohen. They’re running as fast as they can to keep up with their heroes, fat cats without household names who fly in private jets and vacation on private islands. The people running these music companies don’t care about music, they care about money. And if you think this is untrue, just ask them to work for nothing. Or even $100,000 a year. They’ll laugh and pass, say they just can’t do it.

But that’s what you’ve got to do to be a successful artist today. You’ve got to put money on the back burner, you’ve got to align yourself with your fans. Ironically, by doing this you will ultimately get richer, because fans will believe in you. Sounds a bit counterintuitive, but it’s not.

Artists are supposed to be leaders. Now they look like tools.

Did you see the Forbes list of the highest paid musicians? What do you think the public thinks of these people? I’ll tell you one thing, they don’t think twice about stealing their music, hell, they’re ALREADY RICH! They don’t think the artist is on their side. If you truly want to be rich and successful, your goal is to hide your wealth, to stay off the "Forbes" list. You want to make the public believe you’re in bed with them, that you feel their pain.

And speaking of that Clinton cliche, you’ve got to realize we’re not living in the nineties any longer. When there was prosperity even into the tiniest nooks and crannies, the dash for cash was legitimized. But when there’s financial and emotional and medical pain, it’s only a matter of time before the disadvantaged rebel.

Stay ahead of the curve. Get on the side of the public TODAY!

Stop singing about your rich and famous lifestyle. Drive that Benz (although you’re better off with a Prius), just don’t TELL anybody!

Charge not what the market can bear, but a fair price for concert tickets. If Dave Matthews and Taylor Swift can do it, why can’t you? As for the tickets ending up in the hands of scalpers… There are ways to combat this, but even if you cannot, don’t lament that all the money doesn’t go to you, it’s an investment in your future.

Take the case of Pearl Jam. Standing up to Ticketmaster and losing.

It was one of the best things that ever happened to the band. People still talk about it today. It fuels their career. Pearl Jam was on OUR side.

As opposed to Metallica. Sure, people should pay for music, but the band illustrated ignorance of the Internet and separated themselves from their fans. You don’t get people on your side by labeling them crooks. This stand still hurts Metallica to this day.

Take a stand against ticket fees. Yup, be a band that delineates where every dollar in fees goes. Ticketmaster may hate you, the promoter and the agent too, but if you can sell every ticket, they’re gonna play ball. They want to get paid. That’s the power of stardom.

Use that power for yourself. Know that acts come and go, that no one on the inside is really on your team. The only people who will give you the time of day after you’ve lost your record deal, your manager and your agent are your fans. They’ll keep you in business if you play on their side.

Economics are complicated. Balancing budgets may look like a good move, but they can hurt recovery. The economy is fueled by individual spending. If people don’t have jobs, they don’t spend money. If they’re afraid of losing their jobs, they’re tight-fisted. All this negatively impacts the economy.

But that’s not your mission, to fix the economy.

Your mission is to understand it, to your advantage.

Despite what the fat cats say we’re undergoing a worldwide transition, an incredible tumult fueled by the Internet. The have-nots are rebelling against the haves all over the world. The proletariat is feeling its power. Hell, this is what happened in the last U.S. election. People ousted the incumbents because they wanted change, they wanted jobs. And Obama will have a hard time being reelected if he doesn’t produce jobs and right the economy.

And you’ll have a hard time having long term success if you chase the dollar, if you’re on the side of the rich and famous as opposed to the poor and unknown.

There are many more faceless middle class and poor people than rich people. They can fuel your financial success if you respect them, if you play to them.

The time for cynicism is dead. People are disillusioned, they’re sick of income inequality, what’s happened to our world, and they’re looking for someone to be on their side.

It’s not going to be Exxon Mobil. Certainly not going to be Goldman Sachs. It’s not even going to be Live Nation or Warner Music.

It’s going to be you, the artist.

You’re the leader.

And without an army, you’re nothing.

Your army is made up of the great unwashed looking for direction, leadership, a way out. It’s your duty to pick up the mantle. And you get richer getting everybody to spend a few bucks than getting a few to spend many. There’s plenty of money.

If you just don’t put money first.

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