Lefsetz: Facts

1. You don’t need to be good-looking to make it in music.

The MTV era is over, kaput, history. Now it’s about the track. Who even knows what Avicii or Calvin Harris look like! Don’t be dissuaded by the ink TV competition shows garner, that’s a dying paradigm. Sure, being attractive never hurt, but having an infectious track, a creative video, an innovative marketing campaign… Today it’s about the brain, not the body. Bodies are for YouTube, for the untalented, music is about talent once again. And if you can’t eclipse the impact of the teen heartthrobs on Top Forty, you’re probably not good enough, go back to the drawing board, the minions are looking for greatness 24/7, no stone goes unturned, you can make it if you’ve got it.

2. Money isn’t everything.

Twitter reports better numbers but that does not mean more people are using the service and enjoying it. Who am I supposed to follow? Twitter is so decentralized as to be almost incomprehensible and irrelevant. For all the vaunted multi-million follower names, the service is riddled with the self-promoters, all the way from the wannabe to Gilbert Gottfried, who used to tell jokes, but now just lists his appearances and retweets compliments. Why does everybody think people enjoy seeing you slap yourself on the back while you try to get ahead? Real time news is here to stay, but Twitter has yet to figure it out.

3. Don’t equate Facebook’s numbers with usage.

It’s like we’re all business people now. We see the financial pages trumpet Facebook’s numbers and we think the company is in the clear. But that’s more about selling advertising than stickiness of the service. Credit Facebook with figuring out mobile, selling to Madison Avenue, but what is keeping people going there…that’s still a challenging question. YouTube pays people for successful posts, Facebook does not. Facebook is where people go to gloat about their success more than they do to network. It turns off as many people as it turns on. Once you fill out your resume, connect with everybody you ever knew, then what? There’s a reason we don’t keep in contact with everybody we ever met, why we don’t call everyone from high school. Like Twitter, Facebook fills a need. We need a commons, we need a town square, but if you’re satisfied with Facebook, if you’re happily engaged, you keep posting what a winner you are and you’re turning off the rest of us, at least those still paying

4. Just because people own BlackBerries and talk about their preference, that does not mean the company is going to have a comeback.

This is kind of like the vinyl “comeback.” A few dedicated people participate, a brain-dead media complies and writes about it and the rest of us are supposed to care? Vinyl is a souvenir, a fetish. It’s steampunk. It’s for those reacting to this fast-paced, ever-changing world. I love the sound of vinyl, I’ve got a turntable, but I rarely use it, because the effort’s too high. If you’re sitting at home, spinning discs, reading the credits, I want you to admit you’re not on your smartphone, that you never multitask, that you hate convenience and abhor the new world. While we’re at it, why don’t we bring back carburetors and vent windows too. As for those trumpeting the comeback of cassettes, they weren’t any good to begin with!

5. Music executives are faceless.

You’d think it’s P&G for all the personality these people evidence. They’re so busy balancing the books and playing it safe that they demonstrate no personality, unlike the founders of this business, with rough edges, from Morris Levy to Ahmet Ertegun to… Music is all about personality, a nod and a wink, a tiny innovation is better than making the trains run on time. We know who runs Google, Amazon and Apple, Facebook too. But most people have no idea who runs music companies, because they’re wimps afraid of offending people, just like so many of the artists that they sign.

6. People will take your money.

Just because someone agrees to take on your project, don’t think it’s going to go anywhere. Yes, the PR person will mail out CDs, yes, the promotion person will say he’ll talk to radio, but if you believe you’re going to get traction… Ain’t that America, loaded with parasites feeding on the ignorant.

7. It’s 2014, do you know where your children are?

Grown up. The classic rock era was fifty years ago. If you don’t get today’s music it’s probably because you’re old. Do you want a car that breaks down, do you want to sit by the phone waiting for a call? Then jet back to the sixties where you belong. Kids today grew up with the internet and digital, they’re unaware of the pre-Napster era, they know neither good radio nor albums playable through and through. But since boomers and aged Gen-X’ers control radio and media they keep telling us it’s the same as it ever was, which it’s not.

8. The audience does not care about stupid country lyrics.

It’s a rare record that’s about the lyrics anyway. The new country hits are laden with hooks, that’s why they’re successful. Write a few and you can win too!

9. People take drugs at EDM shows.

But that does not make the music bad! The same people decrying EDM railed about hip-hop, and that just demonstrated their ignorance. Sure, there’s boring EDM. But not all of it. And unlike in the pop world, there’s culture, never underestimate culture.

10. The future is mobile, it’s just about the size.

Press says tablets are dying. But the only difference between a tablet and a smartphone is the size. Yup, we’re arguing about inches. The phone is getting bigger and you don’t buy a tablet every two years because they’re usually not subsidized.

11. Yesterday’s hero is today’s zero.

Like truck-based SUVs for women, Samsung became a fashion item. And now that the company keeps posting ever worse numbers will people avoid Samsung’s mobile products? Looks like it. If you want an Android phone, you might as well get a bargain basement one, the functionality’s almost the same. And never forget that people are cheap. Sure, there’s a cadre who will pay more for Apple, but most people are just trying to get by and aren’t going anywhere anyway, they just want to communicate with their friends and use the maps.

12. He not busy questioning himself is headed for irrelevance.

If you can’t investigate your position, your worth, your desirability, your basic existence, you’ve got no perspective and are on your way out. Ain’t that America, where no one can lose their job and no one can be challenged. When someone says you’re wrong, don’t fight back with a knee-jerk reaction. Think about what they’re saying. Life is about disruption, we’re being disrupted all the time. Used to be going to law school put you ahead of most, today applications and enrollment are down and most students are suckers with few job prospects. Things change, you’re gonna be affected, get over yourself.

13. Most trends burn out.

Like turntable.fm. We’re all interested in the shiny and new, but very little of it lasts. Now, more than ever, it’s not about the splash you make but whether you sustain, when companies invest millions before they even uncover a business model.

14. It’s all about audience.

That’s what we’re all fighting for, people who pay attention and hang on our every word. There are no shortcuts to developing a fan base. Sure, you can hype yourself, get yourself in the “New York Times” Magazine, but most still won’t care, and those who check you out probably won’t like you. Music careers are like politics, which are famously local. To have a lasting music career you need fans with identities, whose names you know, who will testify and sell your music to others, slowly. Everybody will come by for the train-wreck, but few will stay.

15. Have edges but don’t make yourself look dumb and out of touch.

Tom Petty railing against EDM is like Grandpa Simpson bitching about the Beatles.

16. Politics is for old people.

The youngsters know everybody in D.C. is bought and paid for and they believe nothing ever changes. Or else they’re ignorantly fighting for their parents’ position. The game won’t change until we’ve got candidates to believe in, and we haven’t had that spirit here since before the Eagles had a hit.

17. Tattoos and piercings are not rebellious.

They demonstrate your desire to fit in. Want to rebel? Keep your body clean!

18. Artists make it about money.

How is music supposed to triumph against finance when Jay Z and the rest of the winners keep talking about the cash?

19. Festivals used to be a badge of honor.

Now they’re just the multi-act show you go to to hang and eat and text your friends. Tell people you went to a festival other than Coachella, Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza and chances are they will have never heard of it, never mind be unaware of who performed. Go to have a good time, not to brag, because there’s nothing to brag about, these same acts are playing everywhere.

20. Comedy is hotter than music.

Because comedy is about truth. And people are addicted to truth. And with a new focus on standup as opposed to sitcoms, the scene is burgeoning.

21. Edge is everything.

Which is why Jon Stewart and John Oliver are more important than Jimmy Fallon. If you think eyeballs trump soul then you probably believe that Jay Leno left a legacy. But he didn’t. His show was just somewhere people went to promote their evanescent crap. We need stars, not placeholders.

22. Phony is history.

There are photographers everywhere. Proving your normalcy, as well as shining light on the extravagance you’d prefer to go unseen. You must own your own identity or you’re destined for the scrapheap.

23. Know which side you’re on.

Perez Hilton used to write about the stars, now he wants to be one himself. Never ever try to switch teams. This is like rock writers becoming punk musicians back in the seventies. Just because the barrier to entry is low, that does not mean the winners have no talent, have paid no dues.

24. Sports sustain because the outcome is unknown.

And people love to be members of tribes, which is what fandom is all about. In a world where everything’s so predictable, it’s good to be able to focus on something that is not.

25. Dating sites are all about looks.

It’s about the picture, stupid! Either you’re that good-looking to begin with or you’re going to disappoint people. There’s a reason why so many end up marrying their friends, because you know who your friends are, you can see beneath the surface.

26. People care about eating and getting laid.

The public can’t stay focused on one thing too long, which is good for corporations and bad for artists. Keeping people’s eyeballs glued is a full time job that’s insanely difficult to do.

27. Nobody’s got any answers you don’t.

If you’re in the creative field, it’s all about what you feel inside, your instincts, your desires. Once you start listening to others you’re undercutting your essence, which is the only thing that makes you unique. Read business books to figure out how to become a member of the system, but if you want to triumph in art, you’ve got to go it alone, you’ve got to do it your way, there are no crutches, it’s just your thoughts bouncing inside your brain 24/7. You’re gonna make mistakes, you’re gonna be hated before you’re embraced, but what the world wants most is unique individuals who have something to say, who create stuff we could not think of that makes our lives easier and thrills us. Your move.


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