THE LEFSETZ LETTER: Credibility

Credibility: the quality of being trusted and believed in – New Oxford American Dictionary (via Apple OS X Tiger)

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CREDIBLE

Oprah

She features it on her show, people buy it. Not only James Blunt, but that inane "Secret" book. Maybe because she struggles with her weight, or she swore off tabloid issues long before everybody else, or maybe because some truth slips in now and again, which she doesn't apologize for, Oprah could be the most trusted public figure in America.

Tom Hanks

Still credible, but fading.

Eddie Vedder


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.

I still remember that expose in "Rolling Stone", wherein they revealed him to be the star of his high school's plays, one of the most popular kids on campus, undercutting his image as a pathetic loner. But that didn't seem to stick. Pearl Jam took on TicketMaster, they don't play the game, people still believe in the band, and their frontman.

Rick Rubin

Work with a has-been, it will do wonders for you. It looked like Russell Simmons emerged from the Def Jam breakup with most of the credibility, but by working with has-beens like Johnny Cash and Neil Diamond, Rick Rubin showed he was a fan of music, not just money, and people respect him. They also respect his track record, and the fact that he's not an endless hype machine.

Timbaland

Because he makes all the music. But if he does any more boastful press, and makes his own record, he's gonna lose people's trust.

Jimmy Iovine

Despite Clive Davis getting most of the press, the hoi polloi respect Jimmy. Because Jimmy never wears a suit, and is always seen as supporting the artist.

Google

Simple interface, you get the right answer immediately…what's not to love?

Steve Jobs

Mostly because he creates insanely great products, but also because he seems to do whatever the hell he wants, and that's the ESSENCE of credibility, marching to the beat of your own drummer.

Vinyl

It's retro, it's old school, and it sounds better.

The Club

Not the one you dance in, but the one you hear live music in. People want to be close, they want to FEEL the tunes.

Guitars

You can complain about drum machines, and bad synth programming, but no one ever bitches that there's guitar.

Writing Your Own Material

You don't need to do this to sell records, but you do need to do it to have credibility. And credibility leads to longevity.

Hip-Hop

It's become a cartoon. Which is sad, because it used to be the true voice of the street. Then again, the same thing happened to rock and roll.

Craig Ferguson

Yup, the doofus who ran Drew Carey's department store. There's a buzz on this guy far eclipsing that on Conan. People think he's funny, and at the core, honest. His refusal to beat up on a down and out Britney Spears cemented his position as one of us in the minds of his audience. And it's about owning an audience, and making fans feel like you could all hang together and have a drink, even if you don't want to.

The Sopranos

Ratings are irrelevant. It's not about numbers, but acknowledgement. The press says it's the best TV drama ever. The word has spread to the point where the public believes it. Then again, who wouldn't resonate with the honest depiction of family life against a Mob background.

iTunes

Not the store, the software. Let's say they wipe the DRM from the tracks… People will STILL buy from the iTunes Music Store, because no other jukebox software performs as well, never mind synchs with the iPod.

Ian MacKaye

Either you know him or you don't. And that's just the point. He never jammed his name and music down your throat.

SoundScan

The numbers are extrapolated, but they're seen as dead accurate not only by the business, but the public.

George Michael

Yes, the pot busts, never mind the sexual peccadilloes, have done wonders for his image. If he'd only make some good music, the public would welcome him back with open arms.

Wikipedia

Now accepted as the gold standard, even though it's not always accurate.

Mini

Is it the car, or the way it's sold? It's built like crap, but fun to drive. And when you buy one, you're now a member of the club. They say TV advertising is king. Bah, humbug. There's more innovation in the selling of Minis than ANYTHING on Top Forty radio.

Celine Dion

Seems incredible, I know. But even the most dyed-in-the-wool rockers who've seen her Vegas show have testified. She did it her way. She got off the road, she sees her kid every day, that's positively rock and roll.

Tool

They're playing to the core, screw everybody else.

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NOT CREDIBLE

Starbucks

Sure, get a bunch of Paul McCartney CDs in the stores and a few will move based on impulse, but not because people believe the disc has got the Starbucks imprimatur, and that it's good. Starbucks sold too much crap under its name. You might get positioning, but there's no positive endorsement.

Scott Weiland

Do enough drugs, and people stop paying attention. The DeLeo brothers have more credibility than Scott. And while I'm at it, Velvet Revolver has no credibility, and neither does Audioslave (maybe that's why they broke up!) No credibility and you get no longevity.

Justin Timberlake

Even Janet Jackson has more credibility. At least she didn't lie and apologize for the Super Bowl boobie fracas. Sure, Justin never had much cred when he was a boy band star, but now he's a guy who's constantly playing the game. Sure, people might like his music, but they don't believe in HIM!

RIAA

Oh, people hate the organization for suing its customers. But it's got no credibility because it doesn't own up to how you get music today. Trying to sue people back to the nineties is not a way to get them to see your point and believe in you.

Yahoo

Is it a directory, a search engine, a..?

Lose your focus, lose your momentum on the Web, and you can never regain it.

Dell

It's a box. Hardware in an era when software triumphs.

Jay-Z

I know, I know, it's a badge of honor for underclass blacks to sell out. But at what point is it too much? Jay-Z seems to have crossed that threshold. And that's one of the reasons his new album stiffed. Maybe if he'd gone on Oprah…

TicketMaster

You know how people were so mad about the price of CDs that they didn't care about stealing music? There's even MORE hatred of TicketMaster. If there were any other way to get tickets, the public would stick it to TM. TM needs some image rehabilitation.

The CD

Only seen as a means to rip, in an era where you can download.

Headset Mics

Even Garth Brooks, the progenitor, couldn't pull it off.

The Rolling Stones

Perception is it's only about the money. And if people didn't think Keith could die any minute, that this really COULD be the last tour, they wouldn't go.

Heroin

Once Artie Lange picks up the habit, you know it's passe. Road musicians is one thing, but COMEDIANS?

Mel Karmazin

Oh, the Street is rooting for him, but no one believes he's trustworthy, they've just made money on him before and hope to do so again.

Q, BlackJack and the Rest of the Me-Too Smart Phones

Smart phones are Treos or BlackBerries. And maybe iPhones. BlackBerries do e-mail best. Treos are the best PDAs. iPhones are in a league by themselves. Why buy a lame competitor when you can purchase the real thing?

MTV & Rolling Stone

Two passe brands running on fumes. They will never be able to compete online, because no one BELIEVES in them!

American Idol

But it's not SUPPOSED to be credible. People watch it because it's a vapid train-wreck, with one honest conductor, Simon Cowell.

Paris Hilton

But she's not selling credibility. She's an accident on the side of the freeway. One staged by immigrants perpetuating insurance fraud. Yes, she knows EXACTLY what she's doing, and she's laughing all the way to the bank.

The Next Big Thing From England

That's a different marketplace. Where there's national radio and a hunger for the new and different. Here, nobody's paying attention. And when the hype begins, we laugh. Get the feeling that Amy Winehouse is the new Arctic Monkeys?

SNL

At least the news used to be funny. Now with Tina Fey gone, even THAT'S bad.

Howard Stringer

How many jobs has it taken for his geniality to be revealed as a cover-up? Sony lost its credibility when it entered the film business, and Sir Howard has not been able to bring the luster back.

Lexus

Best built car in the world, with no cachet.

Madonna

She used to want to press our buttons, now she just wants to stay famous. Creepy.

Top Forty Radio

Not since the heyday of Cousin Brucie has Top Forty had credibility. The jive deejays, the tight playlists, they don't fit with today's times. If only they had a dash of Oprah…

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