Bob Lefsetz writes the Lefsetz Letter, an publication about the music industry:
In case you missed it, and the point here is you probably did, the mainstream media has been debating the left-leaning Democratic Presidential candidates since the debates. The right is this year’s left. As in, they can’t really nominate one of these lefties, going on about Medicare for all and taxing the rich, and the left is playing the role of the right, as in are we losing control of our party?
But the truth is most people are not paying attention. Oh, they’re interested in politics, but they’re not getting their info from the usual suspects, certainly not the spin.
This has happened in the music business too. The mainstream media and the major labels have detached from music itself. The belief is that which is hyped, written about in these same mainstream media outlets, dominates, but it does not.
How did we get here?
Via the internet.
First, there was the infiltration of the internet. Call it Napster. Suddenly the purveyors were not in control. Furthermore, it turned out listeners wanted what the purveyors weren’t offering, like live tracks and alternate takes and…
Used to be a live album was de rigueur, but why now, when all that stuff is on the internet?
At first musicians and labels bitched about leaks, they didn’t want the public to know an album was a stiff before it was released. This is still haunting the movie business, railing at RottenTomatoes.
But then the situation switched. Suddenly, you couldn’t gain attention. So you posted live takes on YouTube, you gave away music on Soundcloud, anything to make it easier for listeners to partake, to gain attention. Meanwhile, the big shots focused on radio, believing it was best to go where the most ears were. This is just like the TV networks saying they’re the best place to still find mass for advertisers. The ratings are a fraction of what they once were, the audience hates ads, and all the action is on Netflix. Talk about missing a paradigm change.
So not only are the columnists in papers unlistened to, other than in their personal echo chambers, but they’re out of touch to boot. This is how the media miscalled the election in 2016. This is the same media that miscalled the election in 2018. Don’t you remember on election night, for days thereafter, they thought the Republican wall had held, and that the Democrats had made no inroads?
Most people don’t get their news from newspapers anymore. And they certainly don’t get it from TV. Ever check the ratings for Fox News, never mind MSNBC, they’re positively anemic. And they’re trumped by those of the late night TV talk shows, which the music industry now knows don’t sell music whatsoever. If you want to do it, if you want a free videoclip, be my guest, but don’t expect a bump.
This is like the focus on SNL.
I wrote about how Sebastian Maniscalco was a second-rate comic with little mainstream traction and I was inundated by fans, telling me not only that he was funny, but he’d done multiple Madison Square Gardens. They thought since they were in the know, everybody else was too. But they’re not! And I still think he’s second-rate and unfunny.
Used to be a sold out date at MSG meant you made it, you were a superstar. Then again, Phish played thirteen sold-out dates there in a row and most people have never heard their music.
This failing of the power hierarchy is very important, and it does not only apply to news and music. The truth is, today things break from the bottom up. You get your news from your friends. They give you the spin. Only the junkies are addicted to Fox News and MSNBC, and there are few junkies. Like hip-hop. However big it is, and it’s the biggest genre there is today, it’s nowhere near as big as rock was, or Motown, to compare the two is like saying Mariah Carey has the impact of the Beatles, since she has almost the same number of “Billboard” Top Ten hits. “Billboard” itself doesn’t mean the same thing anymore. At least it’s pivoted from the industry to the public-at-large, but the truth is the publication is its own private backwater.
So how does this change?
In the music business, they call it ticket sales. They don’t look like the Spotify Top 50, never mind the radio Top Forty. It’s not only hip-hop and pop, it turns out the public demands many genres of entertainment, you’d think that the recording industry would speak to this, but it doesn’t. And expect these other genres to overwhelm hip-hop and pop. First it’s left field, then it’s mainstream, and then it’s superseded by something else. But one thing is for sure, the starmakers are not in control.
That’s what the Republican Party learned. It did not want Trump.
And now the whole party has gone Trump, because he’s speaking to the party’s hard core, its true base. Turns out there are many more disaffected blue collar workers than professionals, never mind billionaires. Which is why these same rich(er) people should beware of what’s coming down the pike. Sure, Trump has taken care of them this time around, but it’s not what his base wants. It’s just that he’s satiating his base by pointing to enemies/scapegoats, like immigrants.
And the Democrats… The DNC is as clueless as the RNC was in 2016. It thinks it is in control, but it is not. So it’s freaked out when left-leaning candidates get traction. But these same candidates are tapping into the true base of the Democratic party, not the one ruled by professional elites that lost all these elections. If you’re beaten down, working two jobs, you don’t want gradual change, you want to turn over the table, you want instant revolution.
But the so-called experts in the media will talk about history. That’s like predicting the aforementioned Beatles by listening to Pat Boone and the Four Seasons.
And these same people are confounded when things go quite differently from what they expect.
The public sees the talking heads, the columnists, as no different from internet influencers. People striving for attention, wanting to get rich by being in our faces.
But we don’t have to pay attention to the internet influencers.
And very few pay attention to the mainstream media analysts/pundits.
At best, the biggest names are cheerleaders. Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson? They twist the facts and say heinous things on a regular basis. But ever been to a high school football game, where it’s all about destroying the enemy? As for Rachel Maddow, she appeals to these same Democratic elites, overeducated with time to watch her, that have lost touch with where the nation is going. Rachel is most famous for the history lessons that start her show. Do you think most people care?
All we hear are battles between left and right.
But the war is being fought online. And it’s not so much fake ads, as leveraging information to tighten bonds with voters. You want someone who speaks your language. The writers/pundits in the mainstream media don’t. So they’re not paid attention to.
Meanwhile, the mainstream is all about saving the past. Bookstores, time away from smartphones, decrying what was lost. But the truth is most people would rather not make dinner and love delivery. The same way they’d rather order from Amazon at home. And all the out of it oldsters can talk about is Wal-Mart destroying Main Street. The mall is history. Maybe the fast food outlet too. The key is to adjust.
But the mainstream does not know how to do this.
Who under the age of forty (sixty?) watches the network news? I dare you to name the anchors. Sure, they reach more people than Carlson and Maddow, but that’s just like the music business. The off the chart acts have more sustained passion than the mainstream ones.
If you want to know what’s going on in this country, go online. Connect with your friends. Surf the net. Try to find the pulse.
Meanwhile, Chuck Schumer still uses a flip-phone.
But Buttigieg didn’t even know who Alfred E. Neuman was.
And plenty of people don’t trust the mainstream anyway. Hell, look at the anti-vaxxers, most of them educated and wealthy, they don’t believe the science touted and printed by the mainstream media.
Think about this. Expand this concept. Don’t make it about right or wrong.
The anti-vaxxers do it to feel powerful, in a world where they’ve got little true power. They think if they’re educated and have a few bucks they’re entitled to their own say, to make up their own facts. Sound like someone you know…TRUMP!
One thing’s for sure. The fourth estate has lost touch. Journalists don’t realize we’re living in the age of the cult of personality. That’s what’s gonna give a Democratic candidate the chance to win, not a utilization of old paradigms to try to define the present. Baseball went to statistics and the NBA went to three-point shots, nearly overnight.
But in media…
It’s the same as it ever was.
Visit the archive: http://lefsetz.com/wordpress/
If you would like to subscribe to the LefsetzLetter