Op-Ed: What We Know – By Bob Lefsetz

No one can know all the records, but god forbid you admit this, you're pilloried by the self-anointed cognoscenti who believe they're single-handedly carrying the torch of credibility and without them music would die.

Ubiquity died in 2013. Everybody knew "Get Lucky," "Blurred Lines" and "Royals." Today a star is someone who appeals to few who gets their name in all the media to the point they annoy us and we hate people we have never heard the music of.

Brands kill bands. But businessmen love to commission and players are so angry no one knows them they tie in with corporations to get ahead but they're being left behind. Your best hope is to align yourself with those who care, your fans, who will ensure longevity if you play it right. Best example, Wilco. The press loves them, their fans do too, and nobody who doesn't care already ever will. This is the modern paradigm. Just as long as you're willing to be Wilco. (And no amount of press about their free album in an era where everything is free and Jeff Tweedy's album with his son will make anybody listen to the music who hasn't been listening already. This is akin to Phish. It's the same damn 20k at every gig. We know who the band is, we don't want to go. But Phish is rich on the backs of these fans. And their business sustains without media attention. And both Wilco and Phish have never sold out and their careers have lasted decades when popsters can't draw an audience a year after their last hit.)

Executives have longer careers than the bands they champion. But no one under thirty with a brain wants to be a record executive because it's a cutthroat business where you can't make as much money as you can in tech or Wall Street and the main criterion for success is street smarts. Which is why book smart people without relationship skills never succeed in the music industry. This will sustain. Music cannot be quantified, so those into data and scale are doomed to the sidelines, to being peripheral players.

Say yes on the way up and no once you arrive. That's the power of success. You're hungry for any opportunity, any thrown bone, when you've got no status, but once you do…you hide behind your advisors. If you want to succeed in the music business align yourself with those on the bottom, no one on top needs your help.

Everyone is time-challenged. Realize this and deliver something bite-sized and instantly consumable that people can digest and testify about. Of course, you could turn this paradigm on its head, releasing one long "Tubular Bells"-type album, but what you do had better be revolutionary.

Records are the starting point, not the end point. Records are a way you hook your audience. Do nothing to get in the way of having people experience your music, make it available everywhere. It's a privilege for people to listen.

No one cares about music but the players and the listeners. Be skeptical of the streaming services and the rest of the techies, never mind the brands.

If you want to be instantly famous you've got to get on the radio. If you don't make music that is played on the radio, if you make this music but you are not aligned with a major label, you're going to have a long, hard slog of a career. Don't shoot the messenger. In an era of chaos, people look to filters. Which is why radio goes on music last and plays so few records. You may hate this, but it makes what's played comprehensible to the audience, which finds there are other people listening to what they are. Only losers want to live in a Tower of Babel society.

The music business is more exciting than the music. It's got twists and turns and revolutions. Whereas the music is me-too pop or substandard mediocrities played by people who just don't understand that the way you succeed is to have all the skills yet do something different. Jackson Pollock didn't start out with abstract expressionism, he jumped off from the basics. The Beatles couldn't cut the White Album, never mind "Sgt. Pepper," back in '64.

No one wants to hear complaints. Life is tough for everybody. You chose your path, make the most of it.

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