THE LEFSETZ LETTER: Tribes


Bob,

Thought you'd enjoy this very recent interview with Seth Godin

http://www.musicmarketing.com/2009/03/seth-godin.html

I don't remember how I first met Ritch Esra. I'm sure it was in e- mail, but I don't remember the content of his missive. But I'm sure
it was nice. Ritch is always nice, and enthusiastic and insightful.
We've developed a friendship. We go out to dinner at least once a year with Michael Laskow of TAXI and Ritch forwards me exclusive information on a regular basis. Which is probably why I agreed…

Suddenly, I remember how I met Ritch, he invited me to be on his radio show, broadcast to students. You might not be able to get me to do this today, especially the part about driving to Burbank, but we develop special relationships with people who are there for us in the beginning.


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.

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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.

My list had a fraction of the number of subscribers it does today. If someone was tracking me down to give me an opportunity to spread my message, I was accepting the offer.

Last year I spoke at Ritch's class at the Musicians Institute.
Because of our history, because of the relationship. Which is why I listened to this Seth Godin interview. I might have skipped it if someone else had posted the link, I certainly wouldn't have listened to the whole thing. If Seth Godin HIMSELF had told me to listen to the interview, I wouldn't have. I don't like promotion from the act itself. Even though I know Seth a bit. I'd say to him "Why are you working me?" Is that our relationship, where you use me to get
ahead? My friends don't market me, don't hype me, don't work me.
Maybe if Seth had sent a friendly note, explaining why he thought I'd be interested in the interview, I'd check it out. But this is
sensitive ground. Especially when someone already has traction.
We'll help the up and coming, if we know them personally. Bottom line, if you're up and coming and I don't know you, I owe you nothing. And if you're working me, you're violating our friendship, I won't view you in the same way ever again.


Furthermore, I listened to entire clip because I figured I might run into Ritch and he'd ask me about it, or e-mail me and want to discuss it further. Let's be clear here, Ritch was not asking me a favor, he made an assessment of who I was, what I was interested in, and sent me a targeted link. He doesn't do this every day, rarely, in fact. So, based on our friendship, I listened.

Anyway, the first half of this lengthy interview with Seth was ground I was quite familiar with. Then, when speaking about Tribes in the latter half of the conversation, Seth spoke about permission marketing, the relationship with the fan.

How do you build that relationship? How do you get people interested?

By doing something great. Seth unleashed his book, "Unleashing the
Ideavirus", online, for free, a decade ago, and gained fans that way.
He didn't compile an e-mail list and spam people, he focused on the work. And then using the distribution platform of the Web, he allowed people to pull it, for free! To the point where people implored him to print a hard copy, that they could buy, they wanted to own it. Is your music so great that it will draw its own followers? If not, you're going to have a hard time in the new universe. Listeners have unlimited choice, they don't care that you're broke, went to Berklee and have invested a ton in equipment. They've got no preexisting relationship. Your calling card must be your music. The number of friends you've got on MySpace, your stunting, they might garner passing interest, but a listener might wonder if you're better at marketing than music. And so many of today's wannabes are. They're computer-savvy, they've grown up online. But they haven't practiced their chops in their bedrooms alone, they haven't spent endless hours in the garage. So, there's nothing at the core.

And once you've got a fan, once they've found you, you've then got permission to contact them. But here's why I'm writing this, Seth said your tribe is people who would be DISAPPOINTED if they didn't hear from you!


Think about that. Kind of like a girl you met at a bar, at a friend's house. You exchanged phone numbers, e-mail addresses. You sent her a note, a text and…SHE DIDN'T RESPOND?

You wouldn't shrug your shoulders and not give it another thought.
You'd wonder, WHAT HAPPENED? Did she lose her phone? Does she not have computer access? Did she get in a car accident? When you spam me, telling me about your project I'm not interested in, I don't wonder if your mom has grounded you, if you've been in a car accident, I DON'T KNOW YOU AND I DON'T CARE ABOUT YOU! Whereas if a week went by and I didn't get an e-mail from Ritch Esra, I'd wonder… Did he go out of town? If two weeks went by and there was no e-mail from Ritch, I'd e-mail Laskow, I'd do a little research, DID SOMETHING HAPPEN?

Today's acts dun you for notice, and then when they've made it, they remove themselves. Whereas a relationship must be nurtured, and CONTINUED! Once you've got the relationship, you must KEEP IT UP! To make an album every three years is ridiculous. You've got to release a track, a demo, a video, SOMETHING for your regular fans. They're
starving, you've got to feed them, to keep up the relationship.
Believe me, the guy who doesn't hear from that girl doesn't think about her every minute of the day THREE YEARS LATER! He's on to something else.

The old model was limited product pushed down people's throats.

Today's model is endless product available to those who want it.

That's another thing Seth said. You can't try to reach everybody, only your tribe, only those who are interested. They've got enough money to support you. That's what the overpriced vinyl and books and
CD packages are about. Feeding the fan frenzy, not the casual buyer.
The true fan will pay ten bucks for the album at iTunes, he doesn't need to buy "No Line On The Horizon" for $3.99 at Amazon. Those sales are almost meaningless. Not only do they cannibalize those of the fans willing to pay more, the casual buyer enticed at this price is not going to buy an exorbitantly-priced concert ticket. (The casual fan would be better off getting free access…)


Point being, are you growing fans or just another SoundScan statistic? There are not enough album sales for the SoundScan
statistic to be truly meaningful. You've got to branch out, sell
more to the tribe, your fans, who truly care. If you've got a fan club it shouldn't be primarily about getting good seats to the show, but providing more of what fans truly want, communication, product and access.

Your tribe is enough to support you. As long as you have reasonable expectations. A klezmer musician may never reach 100 million people, but can sustain a career and a life, because of the passion of klezmer fans. He can't complain that he doesn't fly in a private jet, he must change his direction if he desires to do that. Then again, he might just have a fan who's that rich and is willing to put his Cessna at the musician's disposal.

It's amazing what friends/fans will do. But they won't do it for everybody.

Don't collect e-mail addresses, collect FANS! Don't spam people, don't give people what they don't want, it's hard enough navigating this world of endless media. Instead, hope your music is good enough to infect fans who will spread the word for you. Not because they're getting a reward, street teams are passe, but because they love your music and they want their friends' lives enriched.

I know, I know, this is not how the major labels do it, this is not what they taught you in business school, you're impatient. Well, welcome to the real world. People only need great. You've got to be great. And even if you are, you won't be an overnight success. But people are looking for great, and when they find it, they tell everybody they know.