Posts filed under “Music”

Lefsetz: The Tiers


Are not bitching about what everybody else is. Money is not their issue. Everybody wants to be in business with them.

The transition in the business is evidenced by the fact that those who consistently sell out stadiums are younger generation acts, baby boomers cannot. Bruce Springsteen can do stadiums overseas, but not in the U.S. U2 may have been off the road long enough to try stadiums again, but without a hit new record, they probably shouldn’t.

So the number one worldwide stadium act is One Direction, which breaks merch records wherever it goes, which has more sponsorship/endorsement deals than you can count. If you think the music business is in trouble, you’re unfamiliar with their income. It only pales in comparison to those in finance/investment.

Then comes Taylor Swift. The opening act doesn’t matter. She made it on her music. If you hate Taylor Swift, either you were involved with her or she wrote a song about your or both, but Ms. Swift is everything that’s right about the music business, she told the story of her life in catchy songs, and you wonder why everybody is lining up to give her money?

And then there’s Luke Bryan, who fills the structures with support acts, as does Kenny Chesney, still Luke’s headliner status cannot be denied. He’s had years of hits and makes music in a style trendsetters and tastemakers say is unfashionable, i.e. rock and roll, even though they call it country.

More acts, however thin the layer, are selling out stadiums than in years. This is a good thing.


Radio hits got them here. That’s the power of FM. They might have gotten their start online, but radio is selling 15,000-20,000 tickets a night. More than ever, these acts are pop, because that’s what radio is. Will Katy Perry and Rihanna still sell ducats when they run out of hits? History says no, but we’re rewriting history as we sit here.

Ticket prices are astronomical, so even though recorded music revenues are down, today’s arena acts make more money than yesterday’s. In the heyday of the early seventies, tickets to the arena were less than ten dollars. Today?


And the classic example is the Eagles, who go clean everywhere at prices so high that there’s enough money to fly private and everybody takes home millions. Sure, it was easier to stay home and count record revenue than plying the boards, still, there’s a lot of money out there for classic acts that can still sell out arenas.

And then there are the neo-classics, like Metallica, which still make new albums that some people care about and may not do stadiums in the U.S., but do so outside of it. Illustrating, once again, the myopia of those who don’t realize there’s more money to be made outside the U.S. than in it.


The quintessential example is Outkast. Stay away long enough and festival promoters will pay you uber bucks to reunite and headline their weekend. Because festivals need a draw, and novelty sells. Payment is high, work is relatively easy, but when the festival season is over you’d have better saved your money, because your earning days, if not through, will probably not reach this stratospheric level again.


They’ve got to fill out the bill. If you’re a real name, who can sell tickets elsewhere, welcome to a decent payday. If you’ve done something and are new you’ll get an appearance. But do not believe playing the undercard means you will work next year, or get booked on festivals the following year. The festival is not about you. And only a few attendees care about you. And almost no act breaks out of, never mind is revived out of, festivals. Want to make money at a festival? Be the promoter!


Tend to be repackaged classic rockers. There’s a lot of money in it. Hundreds of thousands of dollars a night if you can sell tickets. The owners have to fill the seats, to satiate sponsors. They need draws. So Styx can work every year, as can Def Leppard, but most of these acts do have to work every year, income is good, but not enough to retire. You may be able to take one season off.

Then there are the new acts playing sheds. Occasionally there’s a breakout headliner, oftentimes it’s packages. These acts are on the way up as opposed to experiencing a victory lap. They are not rolling in dough. They are on the cusp. They’re not bitching about Spotify payments, but they’re looking at every avenue to make coin. They’re hungry for sponsorships, they want to get their music out there. They’ve broken through, their desire it to stay there.


It’s good business if you can get it. It means a few thousand people want to see you. If you cut it to the bone, you can make money on the road, but if you cut it to the bone, will people want to see you next time?

Younger acts invest more in the shows. Older acts, and those skewing older demographically, focus more on the music, that which resonates with their audience.

Theatre acts usually the hot ones. Those with the sound hipsters are talking about. The ones promoted by the public radio station and SiriusXM. They wish it were easier. They wish they could make money off of album sales. They wish there was a meaningful radio outlet that could blow them up. But either they need another hit single, yes, nascent Top Forty acts play theatres, or they’re caught in limbo, they can’t break through the ceiling. And there’s a good chance their audience won’t maintain.

So the good news is someone cares. The bad news is not enough. And going one step up is so hard.


There are two kinds of clubs. Ones holding over a thousand people, and there are many, like the Wiltern, are akin to theatres, the acts that play them are theatre acts.

And then there are the true clubs. Which hold a few hundred people at most.

Once upon a time, record companies kept clubs in business, by buying tables and drinks. They don’t do this anymore. Clubs have to make it on their own. So they can’t afford name talent and they need acts that can sell tickets. So frequently clubs feature acts many have not heard of and don’t draw. And it’s easier to break through online than it is to go on a club tour, unless you’re a great live act or a developing metal or punk band. You can get your business started, but it’s up to you to make it bigger.


You were someone once. Or you play adult-oriented folk. You complain that it ain’t the way it used to be. On the other hand, it can be a very good middle class living, but it’s the last stop, the dead end. You can make new music and sell it to those who attend, but no one else cares. It’s frustrating, but radio doesn’t want old people and old people, other than the ones who come to your shows, don’t want new music.


You must have millions of plays to be a sensation. Hopefully, double digit millions. If you hit triple digit millions, go on your instant victory lap, like PSY or Carly Rae Jepsen, that’s all you may ever get.

So if you’ve got millions of plays, pat yourself on the back, you’ve accomplished something. But not much.

How can that be?

There’s too much info, everybody’s a grazer, what have you done for me lately… You’re not even a one hit wonder, you’re making almost no money, you think you’re entitled to more but you’re not. You rail that no one’s buying your album. And you complain that streaming pays a pittance. But the truth is you’re just not big enough.


Congratulations, someone believes in you! Probably because you racked up a few million YouTube plays. Someone’s got money to invest, hopefully they’ll push you on the radio and get you started in theatres. But maybe not. The regime might change, tastes might change, maybe your record isn’t that good. And if the label cares, it’s not going to release that LP until they believe it’s got a hit. It’s their money, they don’t care about you, but them. Save every penny you can, it’s all you may ever see.


You can tell your friends and family you have a deal but there will be almost no investment in you and you’ll still be doing all the work. Sure, some indie albums break through, but those are the ones with labels attached to the major label machine, who decide to make you a priority. You think you’re in the music business, you think you deserve more, and you’re frustrated where you end up. The indie acts complain louder than anyone. They’re passionate about what they do so they believe everybody else should be too. They just can’t understand why they can’t get paid. They work so hard, they’re getting screwed by Spotify, they yearn for the pre-Internet era, not realizing in those years they wouldn’t be allowed to play at all, recording would be too expensive and they wouldn’t be able to get distribution into physical retail. Just because you’re on iTunes that does not make you an act worthy of attention.


Is in their basement, concocting tracks, devouring all the information on the web. While the top liners are too busy making money to dive into the minutiae, the hobbyist knows everything about Pandora and Spotify and voices their opinion constantly. The hobbyist wants to be in the game. But most don’t take action. They don’t want to give up their day job, they don’t believe in themselves enough. They’d rather complain about the game than play it. Beware of the words of the hobbyist.


The mirror star. The “Voice” expert. The couch potato. Someone who consumes media and plots their way to the top believing it’s all about short cuts and no hard work. They believe the business is a game alternately in their favor or stacked against them. They believe the judges really have power. They will do anything for stardom. Which bothers those further up the food chain, who believe they’re paying real dues. In reality, they’re passionate fans, who usually need a few more years to give up their dream.


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Category: Music, Weekend

Lefsetz’ Scorecard

MAJOR LABELS More powerful than at any time since Napster. Case in point, Sam Smith. One has to credit Capitol with a phenomenal publicity campaign. Mr. Smith has been featured in every major outlet, the press on his Apollo show alone was incredible. This is what a major label can do, it can build a…Read More

Category: Music, Think Tank, Weekend

Jetsetter Jazz & the Persuasive Sounds of Nutty

Nutty is a bizarre mash up of swingin’ jazz and crooning classic rock, with a healthy dollop of big band swing.

The result is a unique hybrid of lyrics, melody, musical hooks. Nutty’s arrangements have been called “musical martinis that are spiked, shaken and stirred.” It’s so much more than, simply, “jazzy versions of classic rock hits” — its irreverent, humorous, and sassy.

If you are into music and fond of mashups, then check out the band Nutty.

Here’s a blend of Henry Mancini’s Pink Panther with Jimi Hendrix’ Purple Haze:


And here is Dave Brubeck’s Take Five with The Moody Blue’s Nights in White Satin:

Hat tip: “James Kraus, author of iBooks cookbook Jet Age Cooking for the Bachelor Gourmet.” His writing ties in with Nutty’s Jetsetter Jazz sound.

More info after the jump

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Category: Friday Night Jazz, Music, Weekend


I smell money! I’ve been flying all over the world listening to an ever-decreasing number of old farts lamenting the music business ain’t what it used to be. That the kids have stolen all the music, that you just can’t get paid. And then I come to Las Vegas and find out we’re experiencing a…Read More

Category: Music, Think Tank, Weekend

Chrissie Hynde: Stockholm




I was a monster Pretenders fan back in the day. Their first album, Pretenders, is in the running for the greatest debut album ever. Its great rock and roll, with brilliant songwriting, sly and lovely melodies, ALL belied by the raucous punk production. It was the first album I ever saw that had the words PLAY LOUD on the cover. Now that’s a recording ethos I can get into.

If you have even the slightest doubt that their under-rated melody was the secret sauce of the Pretenders, check out the live acoustic album Isle of View recorded with a string quarter backing the Hynde instead of electric guitars and bass. Its just brilliant.

Yeah, I had a crush on her — I loved her rawness, the way she moaned Hmmmm, how she spat out lyrics, both plaintive (No, I’ll never feel Like a man in a man’s world) and nasty (I shot my mouth off, and you showed me what that hole was for). The power trio behind her was killer, and they could play soft if they wanted to (See Lovers of Today, or their cover of Ray Davie’s Stob Your Sobbing, both on the debut album). Hynde’s voice could range from tough as nails to crushingly vulnerable; her unique phrasing perfectly fit the music she crafted. Musically, everything about The Pretenders just worked.

I’ve always wanted to see a bio pic of the Pretenders, with Gina Gershon cast as Chrissie Hynde. Not me, baby, I’m too precious, I had to fuck off.


Soundcloud has two full songs, plus Chrissie discussing how the album came about (below).


Dark Sunglasses


You or No One





Her website is at

Stream full album at Soundcloud

Review of Stockholm by The Guardian

Chrissie Hynde, Minus the Pretenders (NYT)

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Category: Friday Night Jazz, Music, Weekend

Jack Johnson at Jones Beach 6.7.14

* JJ Blue


Long time readers know I am huge Jack Johnson fan — especially those first three albums – Brushfire Fairytales (2001), On And On (2003) and In Between Dreams (2005). (Start with the first one, and if you like it keep going).

We saw him play MSG in 2010 — and the music got lost in that venue (good photos though). Even though Mrs. Big Picture is a big fan, after the Garden show she had to be talked into going to see him again.

This weekend, he played Jones Beach — and it was phenomenal. We also had great seats (the photo above is from the crappy camera on an iPhone 5). It was just the right vibe for a laid back surfer dude singer songwriter. Open air theater, on the Great South Bay, less than a 1000 yards from the Atlantic Ocean.

If ever a venue and an artist were perfectly matched, this show was it! He should (liek James Taylor does) make this a regular stop on his tours.

If you have never seen a show at Jones Beach, it is highly recommended.
JJ JB setlist
Source: Setlist.FM


A Different Kind of Top 10 Music List For 2004 (December 24th, 2004)
A Different Kind of Music List: The Anti-”Best of 2005″ (December 29th, 2005)
Jack Johnson: Sleep Through The Static (February 12th, 2008)
Jack Johnson, MSG July 14, 2010 (July 15th, 2010)
Jack Johnson Photos from MSG Show (August 3rd, 2010)

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Category: Music, Weekend


“Why Uber just might be worth it at $18 billion‘ It’s all anybody talks about, other than Airbnb. This exalted status used to be occupied by music. How did this happen? Interestingly, Travis Kalanick, Uber’s majordomo, used to be in the file-trading business, with a company called Scour, you know how that turned out, the…Read More

Category: Music, Venture Capital, Weekend


1. Sales count. They’re almost as irrelevant as the old billboards on the Sunset Strip, they’re a way to stroke the egos of the players involved. It’s no longer whether someone buys your album, but whether they listen to it, that’s the relevant metric that everybody seems to ignore as they trumpet the anemic, irrelevant…Read More

Category: Music, Think Tank, Weekend

Whole Lotta Love

Back when music didn’t require autotune: “In late 1968, Led Zeppelin began pioneering a heavier, more metallic-sounding form of rock geared for FM radio’s new album-oriented stereo format. By combining a slashing electric guitar and wailing vocals with a rhythmic bass and locomotive drums, the band quickly became the darlings of better stereo systems and…Read More

Category: Friday Night Jazz, Music, Weekend

Fender Chases Star Power to Sell Guitars

Fender is the world’s largest manufacturer of guitars. But the recession, inexpensive manufacturers and the shift toward synthesizers and drum machines have threatened Fender’s profit margins. See also In Search of Star Power, Fender Enlists Members of U2

Category: Music, Weekend