THE LEFSETZ LETTER: 2005 Awards

I PAY LIP-SERVICE TO THE MUSIC BUT I'M ONLY IN IT FOR THE MONEY AWARD

Jimmy Iovine

(Why else would he have that film deal and have his hands in so many ventures. Did Ahmet get a deal with Paramount? John Hammond? Hell, if it ain't money Jimmy's looking for, it's power. And both of those are far from the tunes.)

JACK ABRAMOFF AWARD

Mitch Bainwol

(While standing up for the major labels Mitch and his minions state that they're looking out for the artist. Nothing could be further from the truth.


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.

Internet distribution via monetized P2P is the artist's friend. Only one problem, if it takes hold most artists will have no need for a major label.)

LOOKING OVER HIS SHOULDER AWARD

Edgar Bronfman, Jr.

(I truly believe that Edgar loves music. Only one problem, Thomas H. Lee loves money. The recent dividend is a slap in the face of all the workers who were laid off, never mind the musicians still "employed" by this label. Based on his Universal experience, I believe Edgar wants to do better, but his bosses won't let him. And not wanting to be squeezed out again, Edgar's looking over his shoulder for approval all the time.)

WHO AWARD

Fred Durst

(No, not Who as in Townshend, rather Who as in…WHO GIVES A SHIT, WHO CARES, WHO'S THAT GUY WITH THE SHORTS AND TATTOOS AGAIN? Look at it this way, even Vanilla Ice has more traction.)

IRRELEVANT AWARD

Neil Portnow.

(Sure, NARAS had to be healed, but could Neil take a LOWER profile? Every organization needs a public face. NARAS is still waiting for one.)

BLOWHARD AWARD

Clive Davis

(Did he invent music? Clive, you release middle of the road pap that you've engineered by committee so it's got about as much soul as "Cheaper By The Dozen 2". Your talent lies in hype, not music. You seem to have convinced the straight press that you're the most talented person in the business and you matter. You'll be forgotten not long after you die, THANK GOD!)

TWO-FACED AWARD

Don Henley

(Sure, you donated your proceeds from Mitzvahpalooza to Walden Woods, but isn't this like Goering donating his salary to an orphanage? Sure, cheap shot Don. But we have to believe in somebody, and we used to believe in you. You've got a long way to go to regain our trust. You can start by apologizing.)

WINNER OF THE YEAR AWARD

Tom Freston

(Jimmy Iovine could take a lesson here. THIS is how you graduate from the music business to world dominance. Could it be that Tom is friendly to everyone and a real person whereas most label execs think they're God's gift to the world? One can be humble, and possess some hubris, yet not be a phony equivalent to the lame-asses who win Grammys and thank God. As Bill Maher puts it, God had nothing to do with it. Tom Freston won fair and square. And, if you think about it, he even beat music business legend David Geffen. Oh, at this point Geffen might have more money, but Geffen sold HIS company, DreamWorks SKG, to Paramount/Tom and Tom's got all that power that Geffen always dreamed of.)

MAKING A DIFFERENCE AWARD

Derek Sivers

(The opposite of Jimmy Iovine. Solely in it for the music/artists. Truly the indie's best friend.)

YOU'VE GOT TO BE CRAZY AWARD

Tony Brummel

(Sure, he's successful. But he's crazy. Maybe with a bit of psychotherapy he could rein in some of his abuses and his acts would love him more and not leave him. Still, like someone with bipolar disorder, Brummel's genius allows him to accomplish things managers at conventional labels only DREAM of.)

ABANDONED TEAM AWARD

Indie retailers

(How in the HELL did the majors abandon the only people who they could count on, the only people who cared, the only people who
BELIEVED! By chasing the almighty dollar, the major labels undercut the indies, putting them out of business. Hell, indie stores should be able to buy the product CHEAPER!)

RUSE AWARD

iTunes Music Store

(If you believe the future is selling copy-protected individual downloads for an exorbitant price you probably work for the RIAA.)

FLUNKING ECONOMICS AWARD

Cellphone companies

(They might as well charge ten bucks a download. They got ahead by lowering the price of their service, can't they say the future is CHEAPER music?)

WITHERING ON THE VINE AWARD

The CD

(So the business killed the 78, the 45, the 33, the 8-track and the cassette but suddenly decides to stop and hold at the CD? How screwed up is that. Why don't we all just drive Oldsmobile Cutlasses.)

SELF-IMPRESSED AWARD

The movie business.

(Just because it costs a lot to make doesn't mean it's important.)

WORST THING THAT EVER HAPPENED TO THE MUSIC BUSINESS AWARD

Wall Street

(Take out the quarterly reports and you bring back artist development, you've got a healthy business again.)

BEST THING SINCE SLICED BREAD AWARD

XM Radio

(Sirius is good, but XM is great. It sounds better, it comes in better and there's a broader range of material played, it's a music lover's dream. Sirius is terrestrial on satellite. Playing to the average guy. XM plays to the smartest guy in the room. It puts a smile on your face every time you turn it on.)

MOST TREASURED DEVICE AWARD

iPod

(Sir Howard stated iPod is Dopi spelled backward. And there you have it. Mr. Stringer is a manager and Steve Jobs is a visionary. If there was a visionary at the major labels he's been fired or neutered. But every exec has got an iPod. Talk to people under the age of twenty, hell, talk to ANYBODY! I hear it all the time. The iPod is their most treasured device. Sure, it's brilliantly designed, but it doesn't work without music. Can't the labels understand that they provide the FUEL! That there's a DEMAND for this fuel? And that the future is more music for more people at a lower aliquot price? I guess not.)

INSANITY AWARD

Variable pricing at the iTunes Music Store

(It's simple, it's easy, and it's irrelevant. But even though the iTMS doesn't count, the fact that labels want to raise the prices, and that's what variable pricing is, just shows how completely out of it they truly are.)

SITE OF THE YEAR AWARD

Pitchforkmedia.com

(For breaking Arcade Fire.)

BELIEVABILITY AWARD

Arcade Fire

(Sure, they made a publishing deal, but they stayed with their indie label, they didn't sell out. As a result, their fans believe in them. Without this belief you've got… Let's see…J. Lo., Ashlee, Good Charlotte…)

DUMBASS AWARD

Creative

(For thinking it's about HARDWARE! The iPod succeeds because of SOFTWARE!)

EVIL GIANT AWARD

Microsoft

(Always Microsoft. If you think the company has the public's best interests at heart, you haven't used Windows. They're angling to own online music, at the cost of…transferability, usability and raw dollars. The fact that the labels would throw in with these guys shows how uninformed they are. It's equivalent to earthlings boarding the flying saucer in the "To Serve Man" episode of "The Twilight Zone". Just because someone nods their head and delivers what you THINK you want that doesn't mean they don't want to screw you and take over your business. STEVE JOBS is the business' friend. But since he's a real person, speaking truth, HE'S the one who's castigated. Unreal.)

SUING TRADING SITES IS DUMB AWARD

The major labels.

(Uh…did you realize you can trade files almost instantly, in a completely unmonitored fashion, via IM? Or, are you planning to snoop on IM the way George Bush snooped on American citizens under the aegis of saving the world. Then again, Mitch Bainwol IS a Republican…)

COMPLETE IDIOT AWARD

Andy Lack

(Notice he hasn't gone on record with any heinous big picture announcements recently, not since the rootkit problem broke wide. How long is it until SOMEONE fires this guy's ass.)

MOST POWERFUL MAN IN RADIO AWARD

Eliot Spitzer

(Not that it really makes a difference. The major labels still control the airwaves, it's just CHEAPER for them.)

HISTORY AWARD

Eminem

(How can a cutting edge artist relinquish his throne so EASILY? Let me tell you. By cutting a second-rate record and going on tour with a side band. By not admitting that Dre has musical talent and you don't. By being so caught up in your own family drama that you don't know which way is up or down. A modern day Elvis. But with a lot fewer hits.)

UNRECOGNIZABLE AWARD

VH1

DEATH SENTENCE AWARD

Auto-tune

(Eliminate this and you'd TRULY level the playing field.)

GREED AWARD

Agents

(Then again, is it the managers, or the acts themselves. Where is it written that you have to take ALL of the money out of the market? Concerts have gone from a routine activity to event status. And, the business has tanked along with this. Has variable pricing helped the concert industry? Then again, who should I attack first, the agents or TicketMaster…)

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