THE LEFSETZ LETTER: The Grammy Ratings

Where do we start? U2 sweeping the night? Or Madge opening the show?

The people running NARAS are under the illusion that it's the seventies. When music drove the popular culture, when the biggest icons on the landscape were music stars, when bands sold out stadiums and you were lucky to get a ticket to the show. Those days are done. History. Finito.

Baby boomers are ruining the movie business, the music business and legitimate theatre. With their stranglehold on the means of distribution they're purveying lowest common denominator crap that they believe everybody will consume in mass quantities ad infinitum.

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.

Remembering when there were only three networks and no choice.

But today the means of production are in the hands of the proletariat. EVERYBODY can afford the computer to make music. Hell,
Macs even come with the program, GarageBand, PREINSTALLED! And video cameras can be copped for less than half a grand. So we have an explosion of creativity. People don't dream of going to Hollywood, Hollywood now exists in their BEDROOM! In their own HOMETOWN!

It's kind of like when the pricks in charge talk about the midwest, the FLYOVER people. There ARE no flyover people anymore. With cable in Iowa as good as cable in L.A., with the Internet everywhere, EVERYBODY'S PLUGGED IN! And knows the score. So, the old b.s. methods of hype don't work. People see the manipulation behind the machine. And reject it.

Let's start with Madonna.

I hate to tell you this, but Madonna is FORTY SEVEN YEARS OLD! In some areas of the country, people this age are GRANDMOTHERS! The fact that TWENTY YEARS AGO Madonna took a nascent medium by storm, creating a new concept of a star, is INTERESTING, but best read about in history books. Hell, hate to tell you, but MTV doesn't PLAY any music anymore!!!

But Madonna has cred in the old system. The one of favors and obligations. She can sell tickets. She's famous for creating
spectacles that garner ink. But don't you know that no one under twenty five CARES???

Or how about U2. Talk about credibility. "How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb" is mediocre U2! Worried about losing the franchise, in the wake of the disappointing, almost disastrous "Pop Mart" album and tour, U2 has played it safe ever since. God, if kids, if PEOPLE cared about the new U2 album, it wouldn't have had the sales arc it did. Which is over a YEAR ago, before CHRISTMAS, it sold like hotcakes, and then despite endless hype, endless videos, endless touring, it's barely sold since. If it was that good, wouldn't people still WANT IT? So, not only do people not want to tune in to hear "Vertigo", a hit in excess of a year old, when this band of almost fiftysomethings wins all the awards the Grammys lose all credibility.

And then there's Bruce Springsteen. He's older than Madge AND U2!

And Paul McCartney. He IS a grandfather!

Who BUILT this show? With every has-been star of the baby boomer generation, even down to a brain dead Sly Stone.

Even Mariah. The younger generation started paying attention with the Backstreet Boys and 'N Sync. Mariah is over thirty, she's OLD! God, the Beatles had BROKEN UP by the time they were thirty!

As for Kanye… I truly believe this is a critic's hype. Needing something to believe in, this guy has been anointed. I love what he said about Bush at the Katrina benefit. But if this is a superstar, we're SCREWED!

And Kelly Clarkson. That's a great track. But if you think ANYBODY believes in Kelly Clarkson you're sorely mistaken.

This show was so misguided as to be a disaster from the inception.

The game is to get viewers. Viewers that COUNT! Viewers under the age of thirty five.

So, what do you?

Create interactive features. Appear to be on the cutting edge, rather than be dead.

Vote for worst dress. Worst speech. Best dress. Best speech. Yup, dial in and vote and we put the results on the screen, which they even do in FOOTBALL TELECASTS!

Text message your feedback. Put up the best on screen prior to commercial breaks.

Make the whole show INTERACTIVE! Send everybody to the Website. Where they can vote on the foregoing, where they can PARTICIPATE! Doesn't ANYONE AT NARAS USE A COMPUTER?

Generations have COMPLETELY changed. It's no longer about being a star, but BEING A MEMBER OF THE GROUP! NARAS should have built a COMMUNITY around the awards. Put up a Website where people could get free MP3s. Download live performances JUST AFTER THEY HAPPENED! Create GAMES to play as the show continued. Hasn't anybody read the press, that people now have wireless networks in their homes and surf the Web on their laptops WHILE they're watching TV? It's been all over the "Wall Street Journal", doesn't ANYBODY at NARAS read?

One of the reasons "American Idol" works is because people MAKE FUN of celebrities and others on TV. They watch not to ROOT for the contestants, but to LAUGH AT THEM! Tell me all day long you want the Grammys to be dignified, but I'll tell you if nobody's watching they're IRRELEVANT! MTV built irreverence into the VMAs FIFTEEN YEARS AGO! Ever notice how nobody cares who wins on that show? THAT'S the new paradigm. We're all in it together. THAT'S why we laugh at Mariah…she needs it so BAD! She's so out of TOUCH!

And the other reason "Idol" works is because of Simon Cowell. He says what we all think.

God, even Suzy Kolber will ask the losing coach tough questions on the sideline at halftime. Where are the tough questions for the artists at the Grammys? Don't tell me they won't answer. The football coaches know it's part of the deal. It comes with the money. If you don't want to be questioned, DON'T SHOW UP!

God is this business screwed up. Those in charge have raped and pillaged, eliminated all that was special about music and as a result the younger generation just doesn't give a crap about it.

First, the acts must have talent.

Mariah might be able to sing, but nobody believes she wrote that record.

People can marvel at a great guitarist, a great songwriter. They don't marvel at what's been pushed down their throat by a marketing machine, THEY REACT AGAINST IT!

Second, the acts can't whore themselves out EVERYWHERE! In this scorched-earth sales trip/marketing juggernaut they end up being sold out soulless cartoons that the public derides. LET THE MUSIC DO THE TALKING!

Third, we need new, credible acts, under the age of thirty. Oh, we've got a few. And plenty most people have never heard of. But most kids believe a music star is someone good-looking who sells his soul to the company man in order to get good drugs, good pussy and free drinks at the Palms Hotel.

God, can't the screen even look like Fox? With all that data while you're watching the game? Young kids are able to multitask. Give them straight music on TV, and they're BORED!

The Grammys had no SIZZLE! No EXCITEMENT! Nothing UNEXPECTED! It wasn't a SHOW! It was positively old school. Performed by old school players. Give the Oscars credit, they got Jon Stewart, they tried out Chris Rock. They know without the younger generation they're dead. But music continues to whistle by the graveyard. Soon the old players will be IN the graveyard. Put there by their own ineptitude and the rising power of young kids with tools who deliver what their peers really want.