THE LEFSETZ LETTER: Shakira


I don't care. If the South American dame knocked on my door I wouldn't open it. She was the most credible of Latin artists and then she came to America and blanded herself out to such a degree that she was unrecognizable to anybody who'd ever been exposed to her. If only she could comprehend English, she never would have pursued this dumb path in the United States. Wherein she looks less like Alanis Morissette circa 1995 and more like Charo circa 1975.

I'm supposed to be ga-ga that Charlie Walk masterminded this incredible plan to resuscitate the dead record of a barely more than one hit wonder? So he got together with Verizon V-Cast Did you ever count the number of people who actually HAVE that service? Never mind those who give a shit about Shakira? The tie-in with Yahoo WAS brilliant, allowing the hoi polloi to make their own videos. But to strip in a track after the fact just alienates the core fan (assuming Shakira has any of these, which based on the sales of the CD BEFORE "Hips Don't Lie" broke is questionable) showing that the major labels don't give a shit about careers and artist development. They just need to look good TODAY!

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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.

"Hips Don't Lie" is the kind of irrelevant fodder that we used to sell in the seventies on AM radio, when everybody tuned out.

Yes, THAT'S the story here. Not the marketing plan, not how many downloads were recorded, not how many spins took place, but HOW FEW PEOPLE CARE!

It's 1969 all over again. Believe me, if there was a new Woodstock, the guys at the major labels wouldn't even attend, they'd say it was IRRELEVANT! That nobody was interested, that that's not where the action is.

We're at a pivotal point in the movie. It started last summer with Mariah Carey. And now it's plain as day with this Wyclef/Shakira track. A hit don't mean crap. Ubiquity is passe. In other words, the only people who care about these manufactured wonders are the purveyors. It's a giant circle jerk. Participated in by the labels and what's left of terrestrial radio. They run this crap up the flagpole and then smile beatifically as if it means something. And it DOESN'T!

The only people who don't know this is a manufactured hit are those who don't care. Yes, the people buying this single at iTunes, all 250,000 of them last week, like that's a huge number in a country of 300 MILLION, are the lowest common denominator. Those to whom music is an AFTERTHOUGHT! Anybody with a brain, anybody who cares about music, has tuned this whole system OUT! And is trolling on the Internet, listening to his buddies, finding out about stuff that's CREDIBLE, that they can BELIEVE IN!

There was AM radio in the seventies. Top Forty radio. You can comb the "Billboard" charts and read what was played. But AM radio was the last bastion of those who didn't get the memo. For all the hits of these artists, most couldn't do CRAP on the road. For the real action was over on AOR, where the career bands lived. Believe me, "Afternoon Delight" was a HUGE hit, but Starland Vocal Band couldn't draw a fly, whereas FM staples like Lynyrd Skynyrd were filling up stadiums.

If you want to be on TV magazine shows. If you want to be gossiped about in the tabloids. If you want to SUPERSEDE the music you make with your identity. THEN you belong on a major label. Where they'll pull out ALL the stops to make their quarterly numbers. But if you're a true artist, you won't do anything for a buck. You won't sell your soul to the company man. Your fans come first, and they know it.

The more the mainstream beats its chest, saying it's where it's at, the greater the number of disaffected, looking elsewhere, for something that's more than empty calories. Oh, the major labels will survive to purvey crap like "Hips Don't Lie", but crap like this will be the sideshow. As bands the majors pooh-poohed, steered by twentysomethings like Geffen and Azoff in their heyday, build careers on the Net and road and generate cash the supposed big players of today can only ENVY!

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