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THE LEFSETZ LETTER: Artistic Requirements


In the land of the phony it's your responsibility to speak from the heart in an unfiltered way. If you're second-guessing the audience, you're already in trouble. Put the beer company in your song and you've lost credibility, and credibility is key to believability and longevity. It's your duty to reach down into the hearts of the audience and resonate with their true feelings.


Nobody likes a wuss, nobody likes namby-pamby. If you're not offending someone, you're not doing it right. Likes are for Facebook, not art. Art has an edge. Art makes people uncomfortable. It makes people think. It makes people feel. If you rub off all the rough points no one will talk about you, no one will care about your art, and now, more than ever, the road to success is paved with discussion.

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.


We can debate all day long whether Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hour rule is accurate. All I can say is practice gives you a facility, an ability to be your best self. I'm a great skier, but only after being on the hill thirty days straight do I have the confidence and ability to ski between the rocks. Sure, amateurs can do it, but one false move and they're dead, literally. The practice gives you the recovery gene, you're able to accommodate mistakes instinctively. I admire John Oliver because he does his act so well, but the truth is it was honed on the "Daily Show." You're not a great performer the first time
you hit the stage. You learn by experience. What works with the audience and yourself. So you can buy a short cut, but then your life will be full of short cuts. You can sing the songs of hitmakers, but once you're no longer flavor of the month, when you're no longer privy to the best material, what are you going to do then? If you're a writer yourself, you can survive. And a great writer has a facility with words the same way I can ski between the rocks, it's got to be a reflex gene.


An artist creates. Constantly. That's their job. The same way a baseball player plays 162 games a season. You've got to keep doing it, you've got to love it. If you'd rather social network, be a businessman.


People will try to change you, say they're gonna kill your career and other hogwash. Don't bend. That does not mean you're always right, but if your inner tuning fork says you are, stand up for your viewpoint. Business is about manipulation, art is unselfconscious, it emanates from deep inside. Your best art will be made when you're not even trying, when you're channeling the gods.


Art is all about influence. The Beatles were influenced by "Pet Sounds." Be aware of the landscape, study the history, not so you can testify like an expert but so you can establish a jumping off point, so you can see you were not the only one who was confronted with this issue.


Sure, everybody wants to get paid. But if it's your primary desire, you're not an artist. First and foremost an artist wants to create and have his art experienced by as large an audience as possible. If you're concerned about money, go into tech, where if it doesn't pay, it doesn't play.


Unlike anything else. In the heyday of classic rock, Jethro Tull didn't sound like anything else, and when you first saw Alice Cooper your jaw dropped. Being me-too is not being an artist. An artist test limits, challenges the audience's preconceptions. If you're operating behind the audience, or are at the same place they are, you're stagnant, you're not being an artist.


If you're cocksure, always confident you're on the right path, you're not an artist. An artist is an explorer. And sometimes he finds himself atop a snowy mountain in the wrong place without a compass.


If you're looking to others you're ceding your artistry. You must know what you want. Others' ideas can stimulate you, but they can't provide for you, they can't give you your starting point.


A businessman says yes and then lies in the future to try and get what he wants. An artist is pure, an artist won't do that which is uncomfortable, the business and the audience bend to the artist, not vice versa.


Apologize if you're wrong, but defend yourself if you're not. Just because someone is criticizing you, that does not mean they're right.


It's tough to be an artist, especially today, when there are so many diversions and the only thing anybody talks about is money. But the truth is money pales in comparison to art. Art slays money. And usually generates a pile of it anyway. Being an artist is a sentence, it's painful, and if you don't feel this you're not one.


Only superseded by love.