THE LEFSETZ LETTER: Ienner/Anthony

Okay. Howard Stringer fires Tommy Mottola. And inserts Andy Lack in his place. Then Andy Lack gets kicked upstairs and Sony's people get blown out. This isn't about Donnie and Marie as much as it is about the ineptitude of Sir Howard. The man with the teflon skin upon which the crap never resides.

Sure, Tommy overspent. But in comparison to what Sony's got now, Tommy looks like Bill Clinton. Someone flawed who could get the job done. Better to have reined Tommy in than blown him out, at least with hindsight.

Ironically, Tommy's paradigm is the only one that still works at major labels. Find some marginal talent and hype it to the ROOF in order to sell tonnage. Tommy wasn't interested in the little acts, and there's not a major label in the business that now is.


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Oh, don't get me wrong. Tommy had to go. You always have to fire the underling who will report to no one, who believes he's beholden to no one, but how did Howard get it so WRONG? Why didn't he hire someone with some EXPERIENCE? Tried to get Roger Ames when he was available. Oh, on the surface music looks simple. But in order to play you have to be involved for EONS! To know where all the bodies are buried. To install Andy Lack as head of Sony Music is to have CONTEMPT for music. And never forget, if Andy Lack had not been the general, the merger with BMG never would have taken place. One so lacking in details that you've got the present implosion. Wherein BMG basically runs the operation.

Rob Stringer is a good man. But it takes YEARS to take over and ramp up a label. Survey the landscape, put the right people in place and sign acts. By time Rob Stringer achieves critical mass the CD will be dead and major labels will be in free-fall.

Donnie Ienner is a brilliant promotion man. One who motivates his troops like no other. To give him a managerial position, one where he oversees as opposed to being in the trenches, is a huge mistake. It's like making Jay-Z an executive. WHOOPS! But that's America. Where someone has to be PROMOTED instead of being allowed to play at the same level, with more MONEY!

What's going on at Sony now is a mess. Charlie Walk is old school. A promotion man who's paid his dues and gotten power. Didn't we see this movie with Polly Anthony? And THAT certainly didn't work.

Greenberg is a decent A&R man. But a bad manager. Barnett is a good manager with no A&R skills. Tell me THAT'S going to work.

Then again, what were Donnie's options? With BMG breathing down his neck he had to pull a rabbit out of his hat, and that can't be done in the music business, it takes TIME! Do anything quickly, and it blows up in your face. After all, you need hit records!

As for Michele Anthony… I always saw her as Tommy's hit man/woman. I'm not sure what she added to the mix other than
intimidation. Sure, she's intelligent. But she was a lieutenant, not a visionary. And Clive Davis is a visionary.

Not that I'm in sync with Clive's vision. But it works for him.

And now Clive has won. Only one problem, he won't live forever. And THEN what? There's not a single soul in that operation who can succeed him.

So what you see today is an operation imploding. Through the ineptitude of Andy Lack, overseen by Howard Stringer, the smiling man SAVING Sony.

Maybe, like Jason Flom, Donnie gets another gig. Donnie's skills are not rusty. But would he be willing to run a label again?

Michele… She'll find a gig if she wants to. Maybe join a law firm.

But really, it's the end of an era. The Tommy Mottola era.

The slate's been wiped clean. But what's important here is the replacement slate is irrelevant. If you're still following the major label shenanigans, you don't have your eye on the ball. It's no longer about machinations, but acts. Working them from the ground up. Bonnaroo has got much more to do with the future of the record business than Top Forty radio.

The major labels are not prepared to deal with this paradigm. They want big acts, that they only coin money on from recorded music. This is a business, they'll continue to rule it, but its share of the music pie will be ever-decreasing.

Furthermore, as any teenager will tell you, the stuff on major labels is CRAP! Indie's where it's at.