THE LEFSETZ LETTER: Rhapsody America

What if MTV just doesn't count anymore.

MTV is like a band. Which instead of worrying about its integrity, pursued the flavor of the moment, did what was expedient, to garner cash now. If only Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam ran MTV, then it might mean something.

Kind of laughable if you think about it. In this sold-out era, MTV has sold itself out, and is left with a meaningless carcass. MTV promoting a music service is like a whore promoting abstinence. It's a disconnect.

Oh, don't tell me about the VMAs. The VMAs are a meaningless trainwreck equivalent to a TMZ broadcast. If you think it's about music, then you don't listen to music. Really, it's about advertising.


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.

MTV will do whatever it can to sell advertising. Leaving a hail of bullets and used up reputations in its wake. How about an update on all those who've appeared on MTV. Not only the rappers, but the reality "stars". I'd say MTV ruins lives. But, it did this after it helped ruin music.

Yup, MTV ruined music. Through OVEREXPOSURE! Acts take time to develop. Put them on TV right away, and you kill them, they never get to "Sticky Fingers", but are stuck at "Tell Me" and "Not Fade Away". Decent tracks, but the Stones would be a footnote if they hadn't developed over a series of albums.

And that's the Vedder/Pearl Jam point. They know the axiom isn't true. All publicity isn't good publicity. It just makes you a joke. Pearl Jam can sell out arenas. Vanilla Ice? All the one hit wonders broken on MTV? They can't even sell out clubs.

So, this channel, which has failed online, with not only its own site but Urge, is suddenly going to be successful in the Net music sphere?

Make me laugh.

First and foremost, MTV has to explain rental/subscription. That's too complicated for the idiots both steering and populating the channel. They can display boob jobs. And conspicuous consumption. But the intellectual quotient of MTV is equivalent to that of a Twinkie. Nonexistent.

Funny how in an era where it's all about respect, and that's what Facebook has, respect for its audience, MTV is about appealing to a lowest common denominator, it has CONTEMPT for its audience. To watch MTV isn't to be a member of the club, but to laugh at the idiots on the channel. THIS is going to sell a music service? ARE YOU NUTS?

I can't blame Rob Glaser/Real/Rhapsody. They need to pull a rabbit out of the hat, they need some momentum. This will give them the advertising they can't afford, but it won't turn the service into a powerhouse.

Rhapsody is a great concept. Unfortunately, if it's not the Antichrist, it's the anti-Apple. Why is Apple successful? USABILITY!

I consider myself a geek, and I like Rhapsody, but damned if I can figure out how to use it. The interface is so complicated, that "intuitive" never comes into the picture. You've got to search on album or act or title, there's not one global search like in iTunes. There are different clicks for seemingly every performance option. And I STILL can't figure out how to play one track continuously, and I've been using the site for YEARS!

So suddenly, all those MTV watchers are gonna sign up and love it?

There were MP3 players before the iPod. But they had no traction. Software stunk, and file transfer was slow. This MTV/Rhapsody alliance is no threat to the Cupertino company.

For another reason too. The Real Rhapsody Sansa player is the best advertisement for the iPod ever made. Transfer can take forever. It's got the durability of a Pez dispenser. And, once again, it's so counterintuitive you want to throw it against the wall out of frustration.

Conceptually, Rhapsody plus Sansa is great. As a practical matter? It's not in the league of iTunes plus iPod. Hell, if Steve Jobs created a subscription service, he'd kill Rhapsody in an hour. But Steve says he doesn't want to do this. Steve's about as trustworthy as Alberto Gonzalez, but if what he says is true, rental subscription will continue to be a nonstarter.

As for selling non-DRM tracks at Wal-Mart. Did you read Jobs' diatribe? iPod owners buy almost NO tracks at the iTunes Store.

You want to know what sold the iPod? And continues to sell it?

Word of mouth. Oh, don't tell me about expense and battery problems, iPod owners are the equivalent of Moonies. They wear those white earbuds, even though they sound like crap, so everybody will know how with-it they are. And they rave about their devices. And buy Macs to go with them. Apple is affordable BMW/Ferrari. Not only do their products LOOK cool, they work INCREDIBLY!

Sale by track is death. If you doubt me, look at the statistics.

People aren't buying iPods to download from the iTunes Store. They're buying them to fill with their ripped CDs, their friends' ripped CDs and tracks stolen P2P. That's a fact. No amount of advertising on MTV is gonna change this behavior.

That's what's wrong with major media. It misses the point.

The days of push advertising are done. Now it's about quality products. That people pull, that sell themselves. That's Apple. Deal.

If you want to compete with the behemoth, don't try to convince people to buy what they don't want, create a usable product, which is cheaper and better.

Let's see… Who has failed so far? Not only Creative, but Dell. Apple's CLEANING UP! They've got well-designed machines that anybody can use. And they win because what the press said was their Achilles heel, the ownership/control of both hardware and software, is their silver lining.

Don't believe the hype. Rhapsody America won't make a dent.

And MTV no longer matters.

Rhapsody itself is a great service, but it's more beta than final draft. And when the public experiences it, it's gonna reject it, and the iPod/iTunes monolith will grow ever stronger

Related Post