THE LEFSETZ LETTER: Being Liked

"The world's most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money."


Those are the words of Matt Taibbi, and although they may not be as famous as the lyrics of a few rappers and Top Ten titans, they proved a lot more powerful. They're the ones that got the government off its ass and holding the banking industry's feet to the fire.


Not that anybody went to jail. Taibbi's still pissed about that.


The Millennials see life differently from the baby boomers. Being a member of the group is much more important than sticking out. As a result, too many young artists are looking to be liked as opposed to significant. They check the data to see if their message is resonating, and then keep doing their best to be inoffensive.


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.

The country acts are the worst. They won't take a stand unless it's a hard right wing one that supposedly resonates with the country base. Look at the Dixie Chicks, they were excommunicated for saying what we all knew…


And then there's Bon Jovi. If you can find Jon Bon Jovi saying something negative about anything, being controversial at all, please forward it to me, I'd love to be proven wrong.


But the truth is artists have sacrificed their innate power, which is to challenge power, via the truth of their message.


The truth of their message today is that they want to be rich and famous and climb out of the hole the rest of the godforsaken underclass inhabits.




The truth is, if you're afraid to be hated, your art is going to be worthless.


So…


Artists blaze their own path, not one prescribed by the suit or what came before. The reason classic rock is so is because the artists jumped off from their influences to create something unique.


Artists know the power of their work is much more important than marketing. Otherwise, Procter & Gamble would be in the music business. Oh, that's right, there's not enough money in it. Name a few P&G products. Kinda hard for the average consumer. But you can name a plethora of Beatle, Stones and Zeppelin tracks. Because artists have an identity. And their work is singular and memorable, not just serviceable.


Artists don't apologize, they're people of their convictions. Sure, everybody can make a mistake. But if you're making an artistic choice, stand by it. Don't double back once people start to complain.


Artists lead, not follow.


Artists are tuning forks. Their goal is to create resonance in the audience.


Artists don't bow to the whims of society. They stay the path, changing only when it feels right inside.


Artists have no trouble saying no.


Artists make choices based on feelings, not spreadsheets.


Artists don't have other career options. This is all they can do. But they know they're not entitled to success, either monetary compensation or public acclaim.


The only thing more powerful than art is sex. And most people can't have sex on demand and can't do it 24/7, but there are people who listen to music all of their waking hours. And watch movies and television too.


But music is more powerful than movies and TV, because there's less collaboration. Collaboration waters down the message. Great art is about dictators, about getting it right. Unfortunately, today more people are getting it right in television than music. As for movies…they're so focused on playing around the world to instant grosses that they've turned into P&G above. You can't name the purveyors…quick, who runs the studios, name the studios! And in most cases, you forget their films.


Art sticks, commerce does not. Not that you do it to last. Peter Grant famously sold out Led Zeppelin's royalty interest because he thought no one would want their music in the future. Artists are so wrapped up in the moment, that the future is unfathomable.


Artists don't have plans. Those are for corporations.


Artists know that one production can not only change their fortune, but the entire world.


Artists know it's not how you look, but what you sing and play.


Artists are always learning.


Artists are always questioning.


Artists were not the popular ones in high school. And chances are they're not the popular ones today. Oh, everybody might know their name, but they're often socially awkward and unable to fully integrate.


How did we get so off track? How did the message get so muddled?


Blame MTV, it put a lot more money into the music equation. And the suits wanted more of it, so they took control from the artists.


And then income inequality left the creative class so far behind, it didn't even know it.


And then reality TV made it possible for everybody to become a star, even without talent.


And then the Internet removed all barriers to entry.


And parents told their kids they were not only talented, but deserving of an audience.


And the end result is we've got a lot of me-too stuff that is almost a parody of itself. Because we no longer have artists, but wannabe business people.


If you can't say no to the corporation, if you can't leave money on the table, if you've got nothing to say…


Then we're not interested, not for long.


"Raging Against Hacks With Matt Taibbi": http://nym.ag/1naQQid


Relevant quotes:


"I think people are more willing to trust individuals than they are organizations."


"…journalists should be dark, funny, mean people. It's appropriate for their antagonistic, adversarial role."


"I think it's a lost art in this country – developing that narrative voice where readers connect with you as a human being. They want to see how you react individually to things. And if you think something is outrageous, and you write about it in a tone without outrage, then that's just deception, you know?"

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