THE LEFSETZ LETTER: Doing Business

One of the reasons the major labels missed the Net revolution is those who ran them were not computer-savvy. When they finally got e-mail, they had their

assistants print it out, and type responses. is it any wonder they couldn’t understand the merits of file-trading? They never used it!

I still maintain that’s the problem… If label heads, and artists even, experienced the joy of discovery, the ability to have the world of music at your

fingertips for the sampling, not only the studio releases but the rarities, P2P would be legitimized, its power would be harnessed. Hell, that’s what turned

me around. I was a Napster hater until rare tracks started flowing down the pipe to my sister’s Windows computer in the summer of 2000.


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.

But my point is not about P2P. It’s got do with artistry. You see it’s no longer enough.

Years ago, you could get away with just being the artist. You’d surround

yourself with handlers and they’d get the day to day, er, shitwork, done. This was an extremely labor intensive system, but it worked because very few

artists got this treatment, and those that did were throwing off huge sums of cash, to pay for it.

Those huge sums are gone. Except for a handful of superstar acts. And there’s not enough manpower to service each and every act down the food chain. In other

words, you’ve got to be your own manager, your own publicity agent, sometimes even your own booking agent!

I know, I know, you don’t want to do this. You just want free time to sit around and write, to smoke pot, to watch DVDs… But that’s not how our world is

constructed anymore. Along with the burden of needing two incomes to support a family, a lot of the lifting in life, some of it quite heavy, has been put on

the shoulders of the individual. We do our own banking, whether it be at the ATM or online. We chart our stocks. And we like some of the modern conveniences.

I’ve had bank clerks make mistakes, but never ATMs.

In other words, being a musician is not enough. Thumbing through ancient "Rolling Stone" magazines, you might yearn for that lifestyle, but it’s gone. A new

act can’t get the kind of traction needed to sustain those numbers. And the new paradigm is coming down off your perch and interacting with fans.

So, you’ve got to be able to type. I’d say to put this in front of guitar lessons (assuming you already know how to play!) If you can’t type, quickly,

without mistakes, you’re going to be left out of the Web world, and everything is driven by the Web now. Sure, radio delivers its own hits, but those acts

are usually flashes in the pan anyway.

2. You must familiarize yourself with music sites and blogs. If you don’t know what Pitchfork and the Hype Machine are, chances are you’re not going to make

it. Furthermore, you’ve got to know what’s hot. That iMeem is streaming more music than not only Yahoo, but MySpace

Imeem Unseats Yahoo: Top U.S. Music-Streaming Site

Stop concentrating on acting cool and start tracking cool.

3. You must have a Web presence. A front door to your music, your career. It must be more about information than flashy graphics. It must run fast and

feature an extensive bio, that is not cookie-cutter, but unique, written by you, and a plethora of photos, not only studio shots, but candids, to humanize

you. At least stream your entire new album. And give away at least one MP3. Your music is your calling card. If you can’t give your card away, how is someone

going to remember you, how are they going to spread the word? And, if you’re really lucky, the word will be spread via the P2P mentioned above. Or via instant messenger. You do know you can speedily transfer files

via IM, right? And you must post new content, preferably the story of your career, your struggles and heartbreaks, to your site every day. At least three

times a week at least. So people will keep coming back, so they can bond with you. If you’re not willing to answer all your e-mail, quickly, put up a

forum/message board. Or, do both. As for creating this site? Speak to your friends. If you don’t have someone knowledgeable who will do this for free, then

you don’t have any friends. People want to give, to be involved!

4. No one will come to see you live if they don’t know who you are. Create a frenzy online then give a concert. Use Eventful.com to book shows. Go where the

demand is, don’t think just because you set up your gear people are interested. Maybe you’re in New York, but your fan base is in Wisconsin. You can track

not only the location of the demand via Eventful, but you can use Google’s stats to find out about who’s coming to your site, and just this week YouTube

announced they’re delivering a ton of info to video posters. Use this data! It’s the new SoundScan. Cliff Burnstein is the master of SoundScan, this almost

math Ph.D. uses this information to plot and steer careers. Utilize this new information to your benefit. You don’t have to be a math major yourself, this

information is not that complicated to understand, but you must dig in!

5. You’re the retailer. And the wholesaler. And the manufacturer. You’ve got to sell stuff on your site. It’s about satiating the core more than scouring for

new fans. They want to download your music for free and buy a CD and/or vinyl record. They want t-shirts. They want autographed photos. All of this is easily

provided. Maybe your spouse or girlfriend or boyfriend has to do the heavy lifting, but they love you, right? It’s a way for you to get closer! That’s the

focus, on the core team, not looking for some heavyweight to rescue you. How can they, they just started reading their own e-mail, they can’t type at all,

they’re not net-savvy, they’re going to save you? Save yourself!

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