The Way John Fogerty Should Have Done It

1. E-Mail Addresses

If you’re gonna sell anything, you’ve got to know who your audience is. Not generally, but specifically, i.e. their names, their addresses.

In the old days it was important to know the gatekeepers.

Now, whatever gatekeepers are left are less powerful than ever before.

The Internet allows you to go direct. Why do you want to use a middle man?

Apple knows this. That’s why they built their own online store. And burnished it with free help at the Genius Bar in the retail establishment.

You want everybody to rally around you.

Used to be everybody rallied around the label. Yes, the gatekeepers, especially retail, had a relationship with the label. The acts didn’t especially matter, as long as something sold. Now you’ve got to step up and establish relationships yourself, which hopefully will last forever. As for retail, anybody can get on iTunes and Spotify. And if you’re not on Spotify, you’re reducing the chance of your music being sampled.

If you’re a heritage artist, you’ve got to start early, way in advance of the release of new material.

a. E-mail addresses… You need a clipboard at every gig. You need a song giveaway on your website in exchange for an e-mail address. You don’t need to employ your list on a regular basis, the addresses are land mines ready to be deployed when you’ve got something to sell. If you want to interact on a regular basis, do so, but it’s not necessary if you’ve already got a profile. But you must be able to push the button and reach your people when you’re ready.

b. Facebook… Have a presence there, especially if you’re an old act. People go to your website and Facebook, keep updating them with content, which will bring people back, so that when you do have something new to sell, they’ll see it, because they’re visiting.

c. Twitter… You want a high count. You can buy a starter base, so you don’t look like you’re nowhere, but the key is to grow it. Easiest way if you’re a star? Announce you’re going on Twitter and tweet up a storm for a week. You can lay off then, after you’ve gained all your followers. Almost nobody unfollows on Twitter. When you finally have something to say, your audience will see it…well, at least part of your audience, no one sees everything on Twitter. And if you want to tweet on a regular basis, go for it! But it must be you and it must be personal. If you’re not evidencing your personality online, don’t participate. We may not be interested in what a friend had for breakfast, but we love finding out you hate eggs and drink beer first thing in the morning.


Since no one is interested in your new material, don’t overload us. An album is for hard core fans anyway. But since your fans are antiques, and barely buy any new material, you’re gonna sell bupkes. Furthermore, it’s all about ticket sales anyway. You want your number to go up. So you want some new excitement, which motivates the oldsters to go and take their kids.

So you need one certifiable hit.

This may require you to write and record ten or twenty. It might be necessary to cowrite. You might have to humble yourself, let other people hear your music and tell you what’s wrong with it, how it can be improved. If what you release isn’t a one listen smash, don’t even bother.

Since Fogerty came back once with “Centerfield,” he could probably do it again.

3. Target

If you’re going for radio…

The only thing that counts, that sells tonnage, is Top Forty. (And of course country, but that’s something wholly different, and they hate intruders, Hootie made it, but Bon Jovi’s been frozen out…you’ve got to be humble, play the game, call Doc McGhee to find out how he did it with Darius Rucker, or else hire him if this is your game! Sheryl Crow is laying the groundwork for a country crossover right now. She’s almost off the radar, which is rare for her. She knows country is a club, and the members decide if you get in.)

As for Top Forty, you’re lucky, the spectrum of music the format is playing is expanding, it’s not solely beat-driven drivel. If you want to be on Top Forty, call the people who win there, maybe even use them. Whether it be Dr. Luke or Max Martin.

If you don’t want to play the Top Forty game, you’ve got to find the niche where your new music applies…

Maybe it’s television. Your new track has to be the signature sound of a station, not only featured in an episode of a drama. Make it the summer anthem of ESPN, even the bumper music for HBO, be creative.

And don’t be afraid to think small, as long as it’s not TOO small…

You can be the NASCAR theme. The NHL theme. All those people talk, if you deliver, they will spread the word.

4. From The Bottom Up

Your success depends upon the people. They’re gonna break your record, not the press. Press is a baby boomer circle jerk. The writers love you and you love showing your oldster friends the ink, but it doesn’t move the needle. Otherwise the biggest stars in music would be Kacey Musgraves and Jason Isbell, with loving pieces in the “New York Times Magazine” that barely moved the needle.

You’re better off doing reddit than the “Times.”

Then again, Fogerty did this. And he did Marc Maron too.

But Maron’s crappy with musicians, they’re not in his wheelhouse.

You’re better off doing Alec Baldwin, who at least asks intelligent questions.

And there are other podcasts to be on. All of them may have small audiences, but their listeners are PASSIONATE! They don’t stop talking about their favorites. They can get the buzz going if you’ve got something that delivers.

5. Delivering

If Fogerty’s smart, he’ll use this covers album as a set-up. And release that one new song…soon. I’d say July 1st, while there’s still some heat from the promo. Certainly no later than September 1st.

Then we’d be blown away.

P.S. Regarding Jason Isbell… I got a bunch of e-mail about the piece in the “Times.” Turning me on to a great artist? No, making sure I saw his inane comments about Spotify! Not one person e-mailed me about his music! It doesn’t matter what your musician friends, oftentimes out of touch and ignorant, have to say, but the public, the audience, the people who spend their hard-earned cash to keep you alive.

“He used a single word, ‘evil,’ to describe Spotify, the online music-streaming service. ‘I think Spotify is honestly just another one of Sean Parker’s ways of ripping musicians off,’ Isbell said, referring to the Napster co-founder who has a stake in Spotify. His comic mini-rant about Parker was so expletive-filled that, to paraphrase Mary McCarthy, even the words ‘and’ and ‘the’ from it are not printable here. But the gist of his complaint is this: ‘People can listen to your album over and over on Spotify, and you don’t really make anything on it.'”

a. Mr. Isbell may know something about music, but he knows nothing about business. Spotify gives a minimum of 70% of revenues to rightsholders. And when the service scales, a lot of money rains down, this is already happening overseas. I guess Jason wouldn’t invest in a wireless company, seeing all that upfront expense…to make BILLIONS later! And sure, Spotify revenues in the U.S. are low now, and the service is being built upon the backs of artists, but it’s better than THEFT, which Spotify reduces.

b. If not on Spotify, where is someone to hear Mr. Isbell’s music? You’ve got to allow people to sample for free. If you think they’re going to purchase your album without hearing it first, you’re still buying CDs at the record shop and missed out on the entire twenty first century. It’s a privilege to have your music heard. In today’s market, it’s almost an impossibility. There’s plenty of money to be made if you have fans. And the way you grow fans is by having them hear your music, you’ve got to make it EASY!

c. Wanna know how I know the “Times” article had little impact, no virality? By utilizing the link-shortening service bitly. The Isbell article in the “Times” was only clicked on 16 times. The data’s all here: Furthermore, notice that the sharing was on Friday, when the article was online, not on Sunday, when it hit the street in print form.

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