Thursday, January 25, 2018

The Product Is Not Enough | Lefsetz Letter

If you build it they will not come.

Your challenge is getting noticed.

So you may be sitting at home, in your beautiful house, with your beautiful wife, asking me…DIDN’T YOU SAY JUST THE COMPLETE OPPOSITE?

Yes, in the last decade. Things changed. Bob Dylan sang about that, but no one seems to realize the puck keeps moving, and media ain’t hockey, the rules change too.

In a world where people are overwhelmed by content, they don’t want to hear about yours. And the problem is great content gets cast aside as well as horrible content. You did the work and nothing is happening, what’s up?

It’s not your fault. You just have to find a way to run the gauntlet.

If you’re a musician your greatest asset is your friends, your fellow musicians. You can trade favors and trade secrets. They’ve been there before you, they can recommend others, they can give you a leg up. How hip-hop has figured this all out and other genres have not is beyond me. Feature an up and comer on your track and suddenly they’re known too. Great managers realize this. Used to be you let the agent and promoter decide on the opening act. Now you manage the act, give the headliner a piece of the action and build this new act underneath them. This is how Five Seconds Of Summer was built under One Direction and Hey Violet! under Five Seconds Of Summer. Opening for other acts in stadia and arenas pays dividends, because they get to SEE YOU!

Assuming you have a manager to put this all together.

You need a representative. Without one you can’t get ahead.

If you’re a live act, maybe you focus on an agent first. One who gets you gigs.

But you only sign with those who are passionate. Better to be with the second-tier rep who cares than the first-tier one who doesn’t. It’s gonna be a lot of work no matter who’s involved, who is going to really do it, not give up when the going gets hard.

But once you’ve got your team, the hard work really begins.

First and foremost, you must be great where and whenever the rubber meets the road, you must deliver, but so many concepts pooh-poohed the last decade…are not so onerous today.


It only matters once you’ve flown above the fray. If you can only say no, you won’t get ahead. Seemingly every classic rock band who said no said yes to endorsements/promotions before they hit it big, just check YouTube for the adverts. If no one knows who you are, it doesn’t matter what you believe.

A story… Once you’ve got people’s attention, you must have one. Willing to do anything to make it from a broken home is not one. You must evidence an identity, that’s what the social networking era has taught us. But Instagram is lowest common denominator, it’s just how you look, whereas an artist wins by evidencing how they THINK! And don’t be afraid to offend, unless you’ve got a strong point of view, chances are the passionate early adopters will not, adopt you that is.

Meanwhile, you need a steady stream of product. In this fast-moving world you never want to abandon your hard core, satiate them as you continue to troll for new fans, otherwise they’ll move on to something else.

Next comes streaming services. It’s where it happens first, and where you find out if you win or lose. You must be with handlers who have relationships, who can get you on playlists, where the streaming companies can find out if you react. Radio is way down the line. If your handler/representative talks about radio first, abandon them, they’re built for the past, not the future. Sure, radio can reach mass, but long after streaming services, it’s for the least interested, you’re looking for the hard core to make you happen and stay with you. Furthermore, many radio formats are nearly meaningless. You can be on AAA or Active Rock and be number one and play clubs, and that just sucks. You’re a second-rate character in a third-rate world and life is too hard to end up in a backwater, you’ve got to shoot higher. You want to be on the Spotify Top 50. If you’re not playing for all the marbles you’re gonna get almost none, that’s the world we live in. Set your sights high, better to fail in the center ring than succeed outside the building.

As for newspapers and TV…

The newspaper is for other business people, not to make fans. The goal there is to get others in the business of bartering, booking and selling talent interested. Which is why all press must not be standard who, what, why, where and when. There has to be an angle, without one no one is hooked. And statistics about how far you’ve already come. Everybody lies, you should too, entertainment is built on falsehood, either your project will succeed or be forgotten about.

And television is way overrated, there’s just too much of it. Unless you get lucky and have the theme song for a hit cable drama that’s played every week it’s a long shot. As for appearing on late night shows, there’s no buzz, a video at best.

And meanwhile you should be making them, YouTube is your friend. If you say otherwise none of the above applies, you’ve already made it.

Sure, the work is most important.

But that’s when the job is just beginning.

There’s endless product and ever more gatekeepers, how do you break through? Just putting your stuff up on the internet is not enough. Just spamming everybody you know is not enough. Building success is a job and a science unto itself.

Think about it.

P.S. Social networking is for satiating your fans, it’s not where you break your career. Sure, there are exceptions, like Khaled, but just like with Radiohead’s “In Rainbows” or PSY’s “Gangnam Style” once people have seen the trick it can never be replicated. As for promotional stunts, rarely do they succeed, it’s more about hard work.


No comments: