MAJOR LABELS

Survive. Because they’ve got the money and the relationships with radio. Wanna compete? Have the money and the relationships. Until the radio hegemony is broken, the major labels will sustain.

RADIO

It’s the curation, stupid! And the ability to garner and maintain an audience. No one wants to go where no one else is. Prior to the Internet there was very little off the grid and we were all aware of it. Now, music, like information, is infinite. Do you really want to live on Pluto?

SOUNDSCAN

Toast.

Let’s see, they get their “accurate” numbers from record stores, which are declining, and sales no longer mean anything, gross does. Look at your bottom line, not specific elements. Add up your recording and streaming revenue and tickets, merch and sponsorship dollars then tell me whether you’re winning or not. Tickets are much more expensive than they used to be. And sponsorship dwarfs the dollars of yore. To focus on recording dollars is to miss the point.

SPOTIFY

Helped Universal’s numbers. Read the reports. If you believe streaming is the death of music and there are no dollars involved, you’re uneducated, you’re probably still saying that P2P is gonna kill the incentive to record! But the truth is there are more recordings than ever and I don’t know anybody who steals music anymore, why?

BILLBOARD

The bible no more! To think Janice Min can save “Billboard” is to believe Guggenheim didn’t overpay for it! But focusing on pictures and celebrities in an era where viewpoint and voice matter…is to miss the point. In other words, whatever “Billboard” was it will never be again.

ROLLING STONE

Losing Matt Taibbi is like your lead singer quitting the band. Just like MTV, “Rolling Stone” fumbled its digital future. Neither of these outlets mean much online. There’s still a vacuum without an inhabiting music site. Wanna know why? Because everybody in music is so busy saying their stuff is better, and there’s so little money involved, that anybody with a brain is in tech and all we’re left with is the nerds who believe the mainstream is anathema. But the truth is, we’re all gravitating towards the mainstream, it’s inevitable in a Tower of Babel society, you want to find someone who can speak your language, anyone.

BLOCKBUSTERS

Will rule the future. If you’re not a star, you’re a nobody. Sure, fans will support journeymen, but the old saw wherein you pay your dues and you gradually climb up the ranks? It don’t happen that way no more. Now either you write and play music that many can get, or you reside in your niche.

MANAGERS

Same as it ever was. Every hit act has one. Having a great manager is more important than having a great deal, just ask the Beatles!

ALBUMS

Look at it from the perspective of the listener… He’s time constrained and only wants the best. No one has a short attention span, everybody can just separate the wheat from the chaff, instantly. Don’t tell people they have to give your music time to percolate, no one’s got that time. You’re in the hit business whether you’re radio-friendly or not. You need to create the one hit listen. Which is why Max Martin and Dr. Luke are so successful, they understand the game. You might pooh-pooh the hits, but a lot of work went into them and they’re not easy to create. Making money is hard. Not because people don’t want to pay, but because they don’t want to pay for crap! If every one of the tracks on your album is a certifiable smash, release an LP. But it turns out the public only had time for Adele’s “21.”

VISIBILITY

This week’s soon to be forgotten new album…BECK’S! An unbelievable publicity campaign with absolutely no sticking power. Next week there’s no story. Unless your track is going to get radio play or you’re constantly on the road playing it it’s got a shelf life of close to zero. Your hard core fans buy it, everybody else forgets it. Tomorrow’s musicians have a full time job staying in the public eye. It’s your job to figure out how to do this. But the best way is to dribble out quality music. Because remember…it’s about the bottom line, not anemic record sales.

EXPERIENCE

Not everybody can divine a hit. Not everybody knows where the bodies are buried. Which is why the business is run by old men (and a few women!) They’ve got intuition. You might think you know what’s going on, but you really don’t. Pay your dues!

TAYLOR SWIFT

Is the second most influential artist working. The first is the rappers. Anyone can be a rapper, note I didn’t say a GOOD rapper, but a rapper. Learning how to play an instrument and write songs requires a bigger investment. But people are making it. Just like Mariah Carey begat Christina Aguilera and the Melisma Maddies of TV singing competitions, we’re going to have a bunch of girls singing songs from the heart. Ms. Swift is the biggest star in America, if you’re not trying to replicate her success, you’re looking up a blind alley. She’s represents everything classic rock used to…catchy stuff sung from the heart that sets your mind free.

COUNTRY

Is only going to get bigger. Because not everybody’s a hipster and people clamor for songs that speak to their condition that they can sing along with.

YOUTUBE

Just like Netflix is the majority of bandwidth, YouTube is propped up by music. It’s where fans go to testify. If they’re not making videos of themselves singing your song…it’s not a hit. Video is the new radio. Especially now that everybody can compete. Not everybody is listening to the same radio station, if they’re listening at all. But everybody has YouTube at their fingertips and visits the site on a regular basis. It’s America’s radio station. Just check the views of those monster hits!

ELECTRONIC MUSIC

Who knows? It survives. Does it surpass hip-hop to become the dominant format? Maybe… After all, Avicii’s “Wake Me Up” just became the most played Spotify track of all time. Worldwide. And it is a worldwide business, more than ever before. Everybody’s got money, music is the universal language, speak it.

CREDIBILITY

Do not conflate the wannabe famous no-talent youngsters with true stars. Biggest star of the under twenty set this year? Lorde, with “Royals.” Yes, the less than perfectly good looking geek with the nerdy boyfriend who speaks her mind and truth to power. If you think it’s about cozying up to the Fortune 500, you’re still living in the last decade, or admitting to yourself your music doesn’t capture the zeitgeist, and therefore most people are not interested in it, or can enjoy it today and then forget it. Quick quiz… Name two songs from Jay Z’s Samsung album! Better yet, two songs from Beyonce’s new LP! How about two from Springsteen’s! Those three albums had reams of press, but none of them have stuck. Sticking is the key, not mainstream media coverage, certainly not paid for by an electronics company that’s hipper than your tunes.

CLASSIC ROCK

Soon to be dead on the road. We’ve got somewhere between five and ten years left. See ‘em now, before they lose their voices or die. We’re in the middle of a transition wherein the younger acts are generating the touring dollars. It’s happening.

MBAs

Will continue to have no place in the music business, because art can’t be quantified and one hit record blows all your projections to hell. Sure, controlling costs and knowing where the dollars are is important, but not as much as great music. There’s no soul in tech, but soul is the foundation of music.

 

 


Visit the archive:   http://lefsetz.com/wordpress/

@Twitter  http://www.twitter.com/lefsetz

If you would like to subscribe to the LefsetzLetter

Category: Music, Think Tank, Weekend

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.

3 Responses to “The Future”

  1. VennData says:

    Calling Talyor Swift an artist is comical. Bye cred.

    Incentives to produce music? I don’t want people who want to make money selling their music. They are shit, a priori. Go become an investment banker.

    You will see that music will devolve from something to be socially acceptable with, to something where trusted small time IJs (internet jockeys) will be followed based on how similar your in tests are, your tastes.

    Rolling Stone? Who cares?

  2. swag says:

    What a bizarre, clueless rant, from my perspective, but really, I don’t give a shit about the music industry or the business side of things because I don’t have to. Plenty of independent musicians are releasing quality records and playing great shows, without much of a care about making it big in the music biz. Some make a living, some still work their day jobs, but most just care about making some music that they love.

    Where I live, it’s all about vinyl: albums, eps, and singles. Bands are releasing tons of records on vinyl, with gorgeous artwork and mp3 download certificates, sometimes in small batches, sometimes in large ones. Sometimes, an indy gem will get snagged for a soundtrack (e.g., “Django” by Federale for the Tarantino film, and it will pay for the entire self-released enterprise).

    Mississippi Records in Portland digs deep into the past, releasing small batches by old blues and folk artists – incredible records with great backstories and songs. I can walk from my house to two, wonderfully curated independent record stores and load up on more treasures than I can possibly afford in a month.

    I get paid to DJ at various bars around town, my specialty being the punk and new wave that prevailed from 1975 – 1983. I have a show on a new radio station in town with a similar focus. I spin all vinyl. Other DJs (“curators”, if you will) take a similar approach.

    Sorry to ramble, but I’m just trying to frame my perspective on this oddly aggressive blog post. This guy can keep his Spotify and his Taylor Swift. That ain’t the music world I live in, and that ain’t the future.

  3. pilastr says:

    Who is the audience for this rant? It resembles the irrelevance of music journalism that it describes. It’s not only megahit monoculture of music that defies useful analysis, it’s all massive scale monoculture. Does USA Today exist, yes thanks to the powerful foie gras rod used to bypass all appropriate gag reflex. But is it meaningful to analyze it as the future of journalism? Only if you delude yourself into thinking hotel lobbies are your marketplace too. Preening like an industry titan is of course the NYC/LA way to con others but who is the audience for this rant? Those 20 cruise ship entertainers who imagine they are poised to become international freak of the week? Those investors wondering whether to invest in Pandora? Then be honest and speak plainly to them in language of money grubbing, don’t pretend to artistic relevance.

    Meanwhile, honest reporting, just like music, food, poetry, painting, comedy and fashion, continues to innovate at the street level well away from the capitalist. To be sure, this rant addresses the withering capitalist, who seeks to squelch local culture not through any honed intuition but with the bludgeon granted them by class privilege, The latest implements, streaming free media services, only aim to mow down the widest possible cultural field with industrial efficiency, nipping all grass roots before they can develop into an idiosyncratic cultural ecosystem of the sort Alan Lomax honored, instead threshing and bailing them for export to the cube-drone milquetoast. Anyway, flock to your “madding crowd” and congratulate yourself on your grand plan to subsist on processed cereal, how humans can navigate the complexities of the human psyche on a diet of frosted flakes is beyond me.