You know, the nerd in the “New York Times” who called the election, trumping all the bloviating blowhards on television who think a fact is something you make up.

So you just don’t care.

But you should.

Because Nate Silver is a superstar. He’s the model for tomorrow’s musical acts, but you just don’t know it yet.

Unlike today’s adolescents dominating the YouTube, SoundScan story, Silver wasn’t born yesterday, as in he’s got a history. Not only is he educated, he did stuff before the “Times,” which signed him and where he ended up so successful he pissed everybody off.

Jealousy… That’s the heart of the baby boomer story. And now Gen X’ers, who are finally pushing fifty, too. They created the world and they believe they own it, but they don’t.

Now if the “New York Times” had a television network… Then it might have had a chance to keep Silver. But the paper couldn’t compete with the ABC/ESPN duality. As for print? Who needs it, when you’ve got the web? Yes, Silver holds on to his FiveThirtyEight.com domain, he’s the star, not the paper.

And this goes against everything we’ve learned in mass media for eons. This is the oldster’s worst nightmare. Because suddenly, talent is doing it for itself.

This is the story of Arcade Fire. Personally, I don’t love their music, but enough people do. Same deal with Nate Silver. Not everybody knows his name, but enough do. That’s the goal. To amass your audience and triumph.

That’s what you could never do before. Build and own your audience. You were dependent upon middlemen. This is what is wrong with the major label model of today, they take all your money and give you very little in return, telling you that without radio and their relationships at retail, you just can’t succeed. But if Nate Silver can succeed without the “Times,” can’t you?

Now let’s start at the beginning. Not everybody is as talented as Nate Silver. Yes, I know you hate that, you were taught by your parents that you were great and if you just believed in yourself you would succeed, but this is categorically untrue.

And as stated earlier, success is dependent upon education and hard work, something that’s abhorred in Snookiville. Today’s wannabe musicians can make great YouTube videos and social network and spam you to death, but they rarely make great music.

And Nate Silver has confidence. This is something that’s been evidenced by great musicians from John Lennon to Elton John to… They weren’t blowhards, telling us they were great, it’s just that they weren’t all humble and touchy-feely, they radiated an inner strength we were drawn to, as opposed to a modern “musician” who drapes himself in diamonds and then declares bankruptcy.

And you always start off far from the radar screen. That’s what today’s wannabe musicians don’t get. Recognition comes LAST! Be happy to play the gig most people don’t go to, that’s where you hone your chops.

And ask for more. This is what people hate about the Eagles, their confidence and their demands, their desire to do it their way. People would rather drag you down into the hole they’re in, they want you to apologize and make like you’re just like them. But I’m certainly not a statistics whiz like Nate Silver and I doubt you are either.

Nate didn’t want to be pigeonholed, he did not want to be limited to the niche the “Times” gave him. This is no different from an act telling the label they don’t want to cowrite, they don’t want advice, they just want to do it their way. But unlike today’s musicians, Nate Silver was willing to walk.

Now granted, Nate Silver did not go totally independent, unlike the delusional Andrew Sullivan, who believed by tapping his audience for cash he’d grow instead of being marginalized. In other words, there’s no harm in selling your wares to the highest bidder…as long as it is done on your terms, not theirs.

So where does this leave us?

On the cusp of new superstars. All the oldsters were built by the old system, yes, even Radiohead, certainly Coldplay and Dave Matthews, they benefited from MTV and VH1 and radio airplay when it truly meant something. As for today’s YouTube stars… Justin Bieber is self-destructing before our very eyes. It’s a much more riveting performance than his music. But soon we’ll have more Arcade Fires, and some of them will have mass appeal. Tom Petty’s lyric about the label not hearing a single will make about as much sense to the younger generation as the skips on a vinyl record. Huh?

Talent is finally king.

Because distribution is free.

But in order to truly be king you have to believe in yourself and play by your own rules.

Disruption is continuing in the music sphere. Because the old game continues to wane. SoundScan numbers tank and are almost completely irrelevant, one wonders why Jay Z even cares.

Wanna ensnare a superstar?

Offer him exposure in all venues.

Cut him a great deal.

And know that he’s boss.

If you’re not kissing the ass of talent, if you’re not giving it all it wants and deserves, you’re destined for the scrapheap.

P.S. Silver graduated from the University of Chicago, where you can’t take business courses and internships don’t give you credit. It’s a hard-assed experience most would shy away from, even if they could get in.


Nate Silver Went Against the Grain for Some at The Times

QUEST FOR SILVER: How ESPN/ABC stole Nate Silver from The New York Times — Young data guru promised Oscars role; may expand franchise to education, economics, weather”

“Nate Silver – Renowned Statistician, Author and Founder of FiveThirtyEight – Joins ESPN in Multi-Faceted Role, Will Also Contribute Regularly to ABC News Platforms”


Subscribe to the LefsetzLetter

Visit the archive





Category: Financial Press, Think Tank

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

20 Responses to “The Nate Silver Kerfuffle”

  1. rd says:

    Nate Silver also had a lot of luck that most people shouldn’t expect.

    He did a great job predicting the last presidential election. The luck part was that most everyone else didn’t so he could really stand out of the crowd. There was a confluence of events that came together that propelled him to the forefront, instead of just being another prediction hack. Many other elections, he would not have come across as special because the other people’s models would have been functional since they were largely based on the previous elections.

    Periods of change open up opportunities and there is a lot of luck involved in being in the right place at the right time. JK Rowling was able to set up her own e-book shop because she kept hte e-publishing rights when she signed book contracts before the publishers figured out that there was a lot of money in it.

  2. NMR says:

    There are other sources. I’d actually rate Mr Wang at Princeton more highly. Who knows maybe the NYT will hire him. Either way both of them are an huge advance on the Noonan’s and Brook’s of this world whose ‘analysis’ is totally worthless.

  3. S Brennan says:

    You kinda lost me right here:

    “Jealousy… That’s the heart of the baby boomer story. And now Gen X’ers, who are finally pushing fifty, too. They created the world and they believe they own it, but they don’t.”

    Whatever Nate did/did-not do to cause him to leave NYT, he sure as hell didn’t leave because a nation of incensed baby boomers and Gen X’ers rose up and metaphorically took to the streets with pitchforks & torches calling for Nate’s head. Most [93.87-97.98%?...ask Nate...to be sure] of the aforementioned groups wouldn’t even know his name, please, go sell your tired generational war meme to somebody else…sheesh.

    Let me give you the skinny on what is, [apparently], a little known secret…people from all generations are threatened by the unknown, get jealous, throw temper tantrums and do all sorts of foolish things…that’s human nature. The negative aspects of humans are not confined on a generational basis…even though each generation always produces a subset, who in a thinly disguised canard to advance their personal interests…will say so.

    • ottnott says:

      That can’t be true.

      If jealousy isn’t “the heart of the baby boomer story”, and if boomers don’t actually believe that they own the world, then Lefsetz would be like “the bloviating blowhards on television who think a fact is something you make up”.

      Tell me it isn’t so.

      At any rate, nice of Lefsetz to take a week off from ragging on those total failures, the Rolling something or others.

    • Slash says:

      Yeah, this. I mean, anything that puts Brooks and Noonan out to pasture sooner (I think, however, both of them will hold onto to their undeserved, high-profile gigs until they have to be pried from their cold, dead hands) is a good thing, and Silver is awesome, but this “Boomers and X-ers are old news! They’re a bunch of jerks who hate everything new! Us young’uns know all the things now! We should be in charge!” stuff is not helpful.

      In a way, it makes you look no better than Noonan or Brooks, just in a different direction.

      My Fox News-loving mom has never heard of Nate Silver.

  4. DeDude says:

    There is no doubt that the direct author to consumer route will be the future. Both have huge incentives to cut out the expensive middle men, and that will also remove the content rationing that those middle men have been responsible for.

    I predict that one of the great victims of this will be Apple. When people on other devices can download something from the author for less than 49 cents but Apple users have to pay 99 cents, then the incentive to drop Apple devices will be huge. The company will almost certainly be way to late in realizing that their “cool” and “user friendly” advantages cannot carry such a high premium, and there is nothing more difficult than getting people who dropped a brand to come back to it again.

  5. bobmitchell says:

    This whole piece is nonsense, beginning with the tory sensibilities that the author doles out to his presumed music audience. But, on closer inspection, he’s talking to “agents”, part of the “industry” he is “disrupting”.

    It might be more effective if he could actually come up with evidence in his reported “industry”, and not drool over some technocrat wonk who has nothing to do with music, and who would probably laugh at the post if bob weren’t blowing him.

    “Wanna ensnare a superstar?

    Offer him exposure in all venues.

    Cut him a great deal.”

    “he started into dealing with slaves and something inside him died”– Like a chicken with his head cut off he still dances, cursing life.

  6. Bridget says:

    Next stop, Las Vegas bookmakers.

  7. Paradox4 says:

    “P.S. Silver graduated from the University of Chicago, where you can’t take business courses and internships don’t give you credit. It’s a hard-assed experience most would shy away from, even if they could get in.”

    This would be news to the faculty/staff/students at Booth. Tough to get in, check. Hard-assed, check.
    Non-existent B-school?? In the Silver spirit would suggest fact checking before making statements.

    • ottnott says:

      He’s probably referring to the undergrad courses, but it is still no big deal. The lack of business courses does not define “hard-assed”, and many schools don’t give credit for internships.

    • cowboyinthejungle says:

      Read more closely. It doesn’t say there is no business school. Their undergraduate offerings do not include business. They have a professional business school only.

      • I was surprised so many people misunderstood that.

        Is our confirmation bias really that strong? Apparently so (he said, confirming what he already believed!)

  8. PaulOlivetti says:

    Elton John and John Lennon’s music was the product of massive investment of rehearsal, songwriting time, studios, studio musicians, engineers, equipment.

    Just because music distribution is possible to do cheaply doesn’t mean great music production is cheap.

    All you people who think bands like Arcade Fire prove the viability of the “new music” model don’t realize how much better their music could be if they could just find some investment. But no…music should be free…fight the power!

    Well guess what? Arcade Fire’s music doesn’t have 1/100th the quality of the Beatles or the Stones. And how could it if they have to do everything themselves unpaid? Thanks to people like you, there will never be another Beatles or Elton John. Just random kids with guitars out of their parents’ basements who fade away completely forgotten after a few years.

  9. JAK says:

    Agree with your comments on “blowing” up the system; print media is stuck in the past. Re Arcade Fire, Ryan Lewis & Macklemore are a more apt comparison / example of a game changer in the music industry (http://www.thembj.org/2012/12/profile-of-an-indie-artist-macklemore-and-ryan-lewis/). I believe their success story is now even taught as a case study in the industry.

  10. Frilton Miedman says:

    Signal – noise = the future.

    Nate’s gift to journalism, in an age where the internet drowns us in verbosity, largely mixed with opinion or promotion of a bias, we want the conclusion, spare the time consuming noise, cut to the chase.

  11. boveri says:

    The gambler sites on the internet had it right all along so methinks they must also be superstars.

  12. [...] What the Nate Silver “kerfuffle” tells us about distribution and the market for talent.  (Big Picture) [...]

  13. V says:

    Let me get this straight, he calls an election in a country where it doesn’t matter what side of the political fence you are on the policies remain the same. OK its a great effort but in practice what does it mean?
    Its all bread and circus’s, does predicting who is the ringmaster mean anything? The way everyones carrying on you would think he has cured cancer, HIV and created the ability to regrow human organs.


    BR: No, you dont have it quite straight — indeed, your summation is rather warped and reflects a somewhat of a misunderstanding of the authors points