What I Want For Christmas

Bob Lefsetz is a music industry observer, and publisher of the Lefsetz letter:


1. Spotify In The States

Spotify kills piracy dead. Isn’t this what the rightsholders want?

As for it being free on the computer… I hate to tell you, music is already free on the computer, ever heard of YouTube?

Yes, we’re moving to streaming, and we’re moving to a mobile world. You’ve got to pay to use Spotify on your mobile, people will do it (and for those unfamiliar with Spotify, thousands of songs live on your handheld, so even if you’re out of range, like on the top of Everest, you’ll be able to listen to music on your mobile…well, at least as long as the battery holds out.)

2. All-In Ticketing

What kind of crazy fucked up world do we live in where the most hated corporation in America, Live Nation/Ticketmaster, is the leader on this?

Can’t we all take the pledge? The add-ons are only hurting overall business.

If you believe in add-ons, I hope your record deal has a discount for breakage. Add-ons are a result of promoters’ inability to make money. Then again, if there’s all-in ticketing, the acts want to commission that too. You may hate Live Nation, I hate the greedy acts and agents more.

3. Lower Concert Ticket Prices

Can’t anybody in this business leave some money on the table now so they can reap rewards in the future?

Oh yeah, that’s right, the Dave Matthews Band, Phish, all those touring acts that care more about their customers than their pocketbooks.

If you’re ripping off your audience, it’s only a matter of time until people turn on you. Just ask the record labels who discontinued singles and made you pay twenty bucks for a CD with only one good track.

4. Uniform Licensing

I want anyone with a startup to be able to get all the rights they need for a clearly stated price. Yup, everything. Recording rights, publishing rights, even sync rights. I’m not saying the deals should be cheap, but they should be easy. And upfront payments, if they exist at all, should be small. Imagine if you had to pay for all of your kids’ college expenses when they were born, even though you’re young and starting a career. That’s what it’s like trying to license music for a startup.

5. A Uniform Music Social Network

There’s only one site online. Competition is a pipe dream. Every site exists side by side, just a click away. The best one wins. There’s only one Amazon, one iTunes, one Facebook… Face it. I’m not saying there won’t be competition on the way to the standard, or that standards can’t be eclipsed, as Facebook did with MySpace, I’m just saying there will only be one winner. Get over it.

And stop focusing on the money-losing Vevo, playing to the advertisers everybody hates, and go directly to the public. Let them come in for free, then upsell them with virtual and exclusive goods. Look to Zynga/FarmVille for instruction.

Let’s get everybody excited about music. Let’s get everybody playing the music game. We don’t want an exclusive world, we want an INCLUSIVE world!

6. A Tax On Any Act That Doesn’t Release New Music Every Year

The album is an archaic financial product. If you’re truly making a full-length statement and need sixty minutes to do so, that’s fine with me, but almost no one does. Most acts need to make a full length to justify their existence. Just like they need to send reporters a finished CD to feel good about themselves. If you make music people want, they’ll climb mountains to get it. Focus on creating incredibly desirable music. And I hate to tell you, in this world, even ten year olds are challenged for time. Make it easy. Release singles. If you’re good, people will want everything you do. And just because you make a steady stream of finished singles does not mean we don’t want your rehearsal recordings and road videos and… The key is to put enough out there so that if you’re a fan, you can dig for hours and be satiated… And continue to be satiated.

7. The Disbanding Of The RIAA

The record companies no longer rule. This organization has done more harm than good. I’m all for a music trade organization to lobby in Washington, D.C., but the RIAA is not it.

8. A Reduction In The Number of Grammy Awards

Ten tops.

Now if you can’t get nominated for a Grammy, you didn’t release a record. If the Grammys are about rewarding excellence in all genres, an insider circle jerk, cancel the TV show and don’t publish the endless nominations. But most of NARAS’s money comes from CBS… Can we at least make the awards comprehensible? And how about transparency as to who’s actually voting? Or maybe an insiders’ award. One voted on by those who were Top Ten in music sales and touring revenue.

9. Discontinuation Of The Fallacy That There’s No Cost To Tying In With Corporations

If you want to sell out, it’s your choice. But there’s always a cost, nothing’s free in this world. If you don’t know that, you’re still wet behind the ears. If you’re taking corporate money, you’re more into money than music. You love success more than playing. You can make it without the Fortune 500. But it’ll be slower, you’ll struggle. But it’s this struggle that makes great art.

10. The Best Of Howard Stern on Terrestrial Radio

Cut up a daily four hour show and turn it into a best of two hour broadcast for terrestrial the very next day. This is a win/win/win. For Howard, Sirius XM and terrestrial radio. If you don’t know Howard Stern is the best broadcaster in existence today, more honest than anybody else on the radio, you haven’t listened to him. It’s pitiful that such a powerful voice has such a limited audience.

11. The Failure Of American Idol

I’ll get this one, I don’t even need to wish and hope. “American Idol” was always about TV, not music. Now you eliminate all the drama?

12. Lady GaGa Must Perform In Street Clothes

She’s made it, can she afford to make it about the music?

13. U2 Must Donate The Entire Proceeds Of Their Concert Tour To RED

They’re tax exiles. Bono’s trying to save the world while he’s lining his own pockets. Put your money where your mouth is.

14. Every Touring Act Must Do A Minimum Of Five Club Gigs

Sure, tickets will be impossible to get. Scalpers will sell them for zillions. But imagine the buzz!

15. Paperless Ticketing

Goes a long way towards eliminating scalping. But demonstrates exactly what demand truly is, which oftentimes is lower than public perception.

16. The Death Of ReverbNation

And Constant Contact and all the other sites that spam consumers under the aegis of helping performers. These are just sham organizations, ripping off wannabes and cluttering our inboxes. Maybe there should be a fine for unwanted musical e-mail.

17. Top Forty Radio Must Be Renamed “Rhythmic” or “Beat” Or Really Play All Genres Of Music

18. The Demise Of EMI

Why are we delaying the inevitable.

Sell the publishing to Warner and the recordings to Bertelsmann, or maybe both to Bertelsmann. Now the company is playing with both hands tied behind its back. If you’re signing to EMI, you’re naive. By time your record comes out, not only will the employees be gone, it’ll be owned by someone else. That’s if your record comes out.

19. Everybody In The Music Business Gets Paid On The Upside

No big salaries, just rewards upon success.

20. Twenty Five Percent Of Every Music Corporation’s Employees Must Be Under The Age Of Twenty Five

And they must make twenty five percent of the payroll.

Kids buy the music, they know technology, why are they frozen out of the business?

21. Newspapers Must Publish The Weekly Touring Grosses Alongside The Record Sales

Touring means more. Why don’t the papers know this? Oh, that’s right, the papers are on the road to extinction.

22. MTV Is No Longer “Music Television”, Can We Eliminate It From The Discussion?

23. If You Can’t Play, Write Or Sing, You Can’t Get A Record Deal

24. Fifty Percent Of Every Record Must Be Made By The Artist

There’s singing, playing, writing… Just like CanCon, you must be an authentic musician or you can’t release a record.

25. Jimmy Iovine Must Decide Whether He’s A Record Exec Or An Entrepreneur

Jim Guerinot had to leave A&M when his management client Offspring was more successful than any act on the label. How can Jimmy sell Beats and HP sound and still work at Interscope?

26. Doug Morris Can’t Work At Sony Until He Gets Interviewed By…

We want accountability. Transparency. Honesty. Every exec must have a Twitter account and a published e-mail address. How come everybody in music lives in an ivory tower, yet gets to bitch that the public is ripping them off? You’ve got to listen to the public if you want to complain.

27. Stop Saying Google’s The Savior

It’s a one hit wonder. They do search really well. They bought Android. Everything else they’ve done is a failure…Wave, TV, the list goes on and on. We don’t hold up Vanilla Ice as the great hope for the music business, why do we put our faith in Google?

28. Cessation Of Discussion About Apple Acquiring Music Rights

In your dreams. Why would they do this? So they can listen to managers and acts bitch? Apple’s a retailer. A very good one. One that is relying on music ever less.

29. A Great Music App

That is customizable, that allows me to track any and all of my favorite artists.

30. Cheaper Prices At The iTunes Store

They didn’t raise the prices on typewriters when the computer took hold, why have they raised the prices of tracks? Music ownership is a declining paradigm. Hell, if Netflix is a streaming company, what makes you believe people are gonna want to own music?

31. Cessation Of The Argument Re The Value Of Music

What’s your computer worth? Your iPhone? Stop telling me about your blood, sweat and tears, what your music should sell for, think of all the technology, the R&D at your fingertips. Get a grip.

32. Elimination Of Play/Spin Buying

Why is everybody a crook? Look, you can have a million views on YouTube and still be a stiff.

33. Recognition That Video Is Subservient To Music

So you can make a cool video. A great track needs NO visuals, a lousy one is not improved by dazzling images.

34. Recognition That It’s About Continuity

Where’s Atomic Tom today? Never mind the rest of the YouTube wonders. You’re hot on YouTube for a day, maybe a week at most, then what? Music, more than ever, is about what have you done for me lately?

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