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What I like most about this site is that the Dave Matthews Band hasn’t told anybody about it. Hasn’t issued a press release saying how cool they are, how much they love their fans.

What I like almost as much is they haven’t sued someone to shut down. The DMB is not as dumb as the RIAA. You don’t sue your foremost fans, you ENCOURAGE THEM!

I got e-mail from a fan testifying how hot the DMB were on their summer tour. But what truly intrigued me was the reference to them doing "Sledgehammer". A new number with the unfortunate name of Peter Gabriel’s most famous hit, or a COVER OF A CLASSIC?

Turned out to be the latter…

Don’t fuck with me. You know and I know that the best Peter Gabriel album is the third, with the sensational side closer known as "Biko". But the public at large didn’t get Peter’s greatness until that ubiquitous 1986 video, arguably the best one ever made. I needed to HEAR this cover.

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.

So, not waiting for the e-mailer to send it to me, I fired up the site he referenced, Upon first glance, it looked like a news site. Then I scrolled down on the left and clicked on "MP3 Downloads". Whereupon I found a cornucopia of MP3s, available via Sendspace.

That’s how we get our music these days. Sendspace. Or Rapidshare. Or Yousendit. The bigwigs probably have no idea what I’m talking about, they’re too focused on P2P. Fuck P2P, this is DIRECT DOWNLOADING!

I clicked on "Sledgehammer". What came down was recorded just too far from the stage. It was like being in the audience, whereas I wanted a soundboard recording. It was for fans only.

But I’m a fan. So I fired up YouTube, to see if there were any clips. OF COURSE THERE WERE! But they too sounded shitty. So I started playing the next track I downloaded, "The Dreaming Tree".

This is the DMB’s best number, in my estimation. It’s got all the dreaminess of days gone by without being meandering. This is the kind of music you want to listen to alone in your bedroom in the middle of the night, when you’ve got more questions than answers.

Even better was the take of "Some Devil", from Dave’s solo album. "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)" wasn’t quite as good, but still inspirational… In an era where the shows of the so-called superstars are synched to hard drives. A DMB show is akin to a musical performance before recording devices. It’s ALL about the show. A one time event, special. A living, breathing entity that is just not a repetition of what was done in the previous twenty cities. HELLO CLEVELAND! Listening to these covers makes you want to go to the show. You may not hear these numbers, but who knows what Dave will cook up?

The DMB has benefited from some radio hits. But that’s not what is fueling their present success. What’s bringing tens of thousands to the gig is the gig itself, the live show. THAT’S THE PRODUCT! It’s not about driving a single up the chart, it’s about making it easy for fans to partake. Tickets are cheap, and if you join the fan club you WILL get a good seat, AT A REASONABLE PRICE!

How can the DMB get it so right and everybody else get it so wrong?

Because it’s only about the music. Not the production, not the tabloids. The fan is the customer, not radio, TV or print.

This is the modern model. A band is not locked into playing its "hits". The audience ENCOURAGES experimentation. The audience is a partner, along for the ride. Fans have to come to multiple shows, it’s not a one time affair, but something you attend year after year.

But there’s none of the sexiness, none of the sheen of what the major labels are purveying! The major labels DON’T KNOW HOW TO SELL THIS MUSIC! Their relationships are with the old outlets. Live Nation knows more about this audience than Universal Music. Which is why if you want to sign a 360 deal, if you want all that money up front, you make a deal with Rapino, not Iovine. Jimmy can concoct a frothy milkshake made up of empty calories that can be consumed and then forgotten. Whereas Rapino’s show is truly evanescent, it disappears after a matter of hours, but it lives on in the hearts and minds of those who were there.
The customer is not the enemy. He’s your key to success, he’s your road to riches. Let him record the music. Let him trade it. Give him whatever he needs to be addicted. And don’t worry about informing anybody BUT fans. If I’d read a press release, I would have seen it as media manipulation, I wouldn’t have checked out. But the passion of one true fan caused me to investigate.
And I know he’s not the only one. Because six minutes into "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)", the band drops out. The number appears to be over. But then, after a few moments of silence, the AUDIENCE STARTS TO SING!

Thank you for lettin’ me be myself again
Thank you for lettin’ me be myself again

They go on for nearly a minute. Alone. In full reverie. I’ve been there, you’ve been there. Deep into the concert experience. When it’s no longer about stars on stage, but the music itself, how it makes you feel.

Music is a participatory sport. When done right, it’s not about watching, BUT BEING INVOLVED! That’s when you truly start to tingle. When the show is YOURS!

Oh, I’ve sung at the top of my lungs at these moments. I only wish I was there.

After almost an entire minute, the band kicks back in. And when they finally finish, you should hear the ROAR!

Doesn’t matter if you don’t like the DMB. Doesn’t matter what you think at all. It just matters what the fans think.

It’s all about the fans. Don’t rip them off, respect them.