THE LEFSETZ LETTER: More Tidal

Enough already.


Tidal is a nonstarter, its only benefit is it shines light on the sphere, i.e. paid music streaming services. But the way the industry is talking about it you'd think it was a savior, it's not.


Because it doesn't put the consumer first.


That's our goal. To get the consumer to pay for music.


Instead, the whole industry is jockeying for position, putting money first and leaving so much on the table.


Tidal's flaw is it is not user-friendly. All it's got is a bunch of stars crowing about getting screwed and taking power and a few exclusives which are readily available where people now consume music, i.e. YouTube and BitTorrent. We've already seen this movie before. Put the content in a walled garden, tell people to be honest and support rich people, and they ignore this willy-nilly and steal to their hearts' content, assuming they're paying attention at all.


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.

And the disconnect is…


We've got uber-rich artists complaining they're just not making enough.


And a plethora of unknown wannabes saying the same thing.


And you wonder why people are confused and turned-off.


Meanwhile, the holy grail of the industry is to give Jimmy Iovine exclusives and get everybody to pay Apple. Jimmy's track record ain't that good. He got Apple to pay a lot for Beats, but his music service was inept and laughable. And let's not forget the Farm Club.


In other words, we're keeping a scorecard for a game that the public is not paying attention to.


First and foremost know that the public only cares about the stars and rising artists who break through. They don't care about much else. Sorry, mid-tier artists, it's not Spotify that's screwing you, but consumer indifference. When everything is available, no one's got time for you, the same way they've got no time for BlackBerry or Windows Phone, they're just not good enough, they just don't have critical mass.


And if you're a winner, you're making more money than any artist has in the history of the music business, because of endorsements and ticket prices, never mind being able to reach the whole world easily. This is actually a dream, allowing everybody to sample your music without paying an intermediary, i.e. radio and retail, and at no cost to boot! You give away the razor to sell the blades. But don't expect anybody in the music business to be smart.


And if Taylor Swift were so damn powerful, Spotify subscriptions would have tanked. But they didn't. BECAUSE HER AUDIENCE IS NOT PAYING! How do we get the youngsters to abandon YouTube, which is free, for paying streaming services? At first by getting them to sample them, then by convincing them their friends are all there, then by ultimately charging them. Kids don't have disposable income. They have to beg their parents for cash. They only do when they really need something and can't get it any other way. Now, there are a zillion ways to get music for free, even legally, on YouTube, and you want to change this by collecting rich superstars who want to get richer and providing miniscule content that can be had for free almost immediately? You must be dreaming!


And how is the CD still a thing? Apple launches a computer with no USB 3.0 ports, and we're still selling a disc no one has a drive to play? You look forward, not back. But the truth is the entity getting screwed here is the label. But don't cry for them, they've got catalog which will never expire, at least not in the U.S., where copyright keeps extending. Meanwhile, the acts are getting richer, they're even squeezing the promoter! No one writes about that, how the acts get all the money from live shows.


So the focus is all wrong. The focus has to be on listeners, the public.


If Tidal wants to win, let people stream for free for a year. Allow them to sample. And it may be part of the rap ethos to rip off the man, the corporation, but Tidal's ethos seems to be to rip off the public, because the musicians are supposedly being screwed. This is like having sympathy for a CEO because his options are underwater, huh?


Tidal is a bad tech play. It's just about gaining traction to get someone with a deep pocket to buy it. Something the music business does poorly. These are amateurs playing a professional game. And no one is stupid enough to pay. The reason Apple bought Beats is because it was way behind on music streaming, the company was myopic and hadn't developed a service. That's right, even tech companies can get it wrong. Just like the music business has been getting it wrong time and time again, because it just wants to jet back to the past, where people buy overpriced albums like lemmings.


But those days are through. And I say good riddance. People have all the time in the world for great music, but they don't like a gun to their head, forcing them to pay for that which they don't want.


Want to help the music industry?


Steer them to Spotify or another streaming service with a free tier. So they can sample it, so they can see how good it is. YouTube sucks on mobile, and we live in a mobile world. Spotify is great on the handset.


And I don't have a single share of Spotify stock, I've never gotten a cent from the company. But I'm realistic. There is only one winner online. And Spotify has a huge head start. Trying to topple Spotify is like trying to topple Google or Amazon, and we all have complaints about Amazon, but we all love their customer service, it's prompt and they'll take anything back. Just try to get ahold of someone at a ticketing company, never mind a record company, there's no such thing as customer service in the music industry, the public pays and pays and gets screwed and screwed and you think they're gonna wake up and "do the right thing"? Come on, don't be ridiculous.


Apple should have a free tier. Since not everybody subscribes to a streaming service, there's a chance Spotify could be dethroned. But not by an entity that's a walled garden. Meanwhile, by separating exclusives we're just forcing the public to steal. That's a solution? Spotify has reduced piracy and now we're gonna bring it back?


MTV was hampered by a small footprint. They gathered artists to launch the "I Want My MTV" campaign imploring fans to lobby their cable systems to add the service. What happened? SUCCESS! Where is this same campaign today? Everybody's so worried about giving the money to someone else that they're stuck in the past with rearguard efforts.


How are we going to get people to adopt streaming music services?


That's the question.


Getting them to pay COMES AFTER THAT!

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