Saturday, May 26, 2018

Women In The Music Business | Lefsetz Letter

Do we want them to act just like men? Aggressive, cutthroat, willing to do anything to make it?

Last Saturday I got into a discussion about a man in the music business. This woman deplored him, I had no problem with him. She said he told off-color jokes, I said men tell jokes like this to each other all the time. She deplored his lack of decorum. I said men who take chances, who are not bound by societal rules, win in the end.

Let’s be clear, this was not a discussion of physical abuse. This was all about style.

As someone once said to me, Mo Ostin, the most respected executive in the history of record labels, had sharp elbows. And he was seen as the mildest! Do women need these same sharp elbows to survive?

I was caught in traffic listening to an NPR show about citing women as experts. The reporters, one a man, the other a woman, said that fewer than a quarter of their quotes were from women. And there were the usual excuses, about men populating the big gigs, men recommending other men as sources, but both reporters agreed that by not being cited, women lost opportunities for recognition, being on panels, advisory boards, and this got me to thinking…

Maybe I was wrong. Maybe this woman Saturday night was right. Maybe women interact differently and instead of convincing them to be like us, maybe we need to be more like them.

Now some women have succeeded acting like men. Most famously, Helen Kushnick, who made sure Jay Leno “ate steak” every night, without knowing how she provided it, which in this case meant keeping A guests from other shows.

And I experienced this in the legal business in the seventies and eighties. Women who acted like men. My biggest threat ever came from a woman attorney, still practicing, I was doing a favor for a friend, he was negotiating for a role on a TV show, and when he ultimately didn’t like the terms and decided not to sign, this woman threatened to sue me! I knew she’d never win, after all there was no deal formalized, but who needed the headache, why’d she have to bring out the big guns? Ultimately my friend agreed to an altered deal, the pilot with a household name was made, but it was never picked up. But when I see this attorney’s name, quoted as one of the best, I not only stay away, I say if this is what it’s come to, what kind of world do we live in?

Now it’s fascinating the world we do live in. The pussy-grabber in chief is surrounded by men, and everybody on the other side, i.e. the left, the Democrats, are decrying his every action. But no one on Trump’s team is listening. Kinda like my Twitter feed. I don’t subscribe to the tweets of anybody I don’t agree with, so it’s an endless echo chamber. At least I get the “Wall Street Journal,” to see how the other team thinks, and tune in Fox News on Sirius for the same reason, but most people are so caught up in their own world that they don’t realize there could be another.

I mean women make up half of the population. Are we doing ourselves a disservice by excluding them from gigs, preventing their ascension because they won’t play our way?

The woman I had this conversation with on Saturday night is compassionate, more than any man I’ve ever come across in the music business. She’s loyal, she cares. And there’s no loyalty at a record label, none. What if we stopped saying it was just business and trotted out compassion and loyalty, and stopped trying to screw each other, take advantage of each other?

And I don’t know where the #MeToo line is. Did Al Franken really have to go? And as Dave Chappelle said, if you don’t involve men in the discussion, there will be no progress.

Then again, I was at dinner with Shirley Manson and she decried the clothing and posturing of so many women in this business. They play to raw sexuality, stripping down to almost nothing, playacting in videos and live, do they really have to do this to sell music? And are they doing it for men? Is it another form of prostitution?

There are many issues here. And it’s not as simple as promoting women, which is an admirable goal. Rather, it’s importing female culture into our business. And I’m no expert, I’m a man. But I’ve been thinking about this discussion ever since Saturday night. The male we were talking about is mega-successful, but does that excuse his bad behavior? Not illegal behavior, not behavior beyond the pale, but behavior abhorred by women?

Think about it.


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