Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Fake News | Lefsetz Letter

We’ve got it in the record business too.

Let’s start with the charts. WRONG! They exist for the producers, not the customers. They don’t calculate what people are listening to, not when there’s a formula of paid streams, video streams, sales and… But the bottom line is what is #1 may not be that big at all.

That’s the story of the 2016 election, how the usual suspects missed the Trump surge. How august institutions thought they knew what was going on when they didn’t.

Let’s start with promotion/lifespan.

It’s no longer a sprint, it’s a marathon, more than ever. No one sells enough product in a week to make their numbers right away. If it doesn’t sustain, you’re not making any money. So when you ramp up all the publicity on the front end, the joke is on you. If you’re smart, and this is a dumb business, you’ll build the story over a year. If you do it right, the triumph will come months after release, even a year.

And you still may not feel like you’re making any headway.

We did not see this coming.

The usual suspects said free music would disincentivize people to create. Well, just the opposite happened. With the barrier to entry so low, seemingly everybody is making music, and hounding us for attention.

Now, more than ever, you want to start small. It’s about your fan base. Reaching it and sustaining it. Everybody else is an afterthought, especially if it’s at the cost of your hard core fan. Hard core fans want constant communication and constant music, even if it’s just covers on YouTube, satiate them.

Hip-hop is big, but not that big. It’s the biggest genre, but it doesn’t populate outside its fan base. This is unlike the sixties with AM radio and unlike the MTV era, when we were all listening to the same stuff. The business abhors chaos, it’s trying to codify that which cannot be. Now is the time to follow your own muse, if labels were smart, and they’re not, they’d sign non-hit acts, acts that don’t follow trends, that are unique unto themselves. Because it’s easy to reach somebody, and if you get it right, they’ll spread the word to more people, and then you’ll have a presence.

It’s not only late night shows that don’t move the needle. NOTHING on television moves the needle. Yes, morning television might let alta kachers know your aged act is on tour, but you’re running on fumes anyway, you’re on the tail end of this business that’s built on creativity and innovation, and if you’re just playing the hits…

Every show should be unique, every show should be different, to build excitement, to make people want to come more than once.

We’re breaking away from not only TV, but radio. The last bastion of the old system. Yes, terrestrial radio has a big reach, but it’s smaller than ever before, you’re much better off spending your time pitching streaming services to get on their playlists.

Our business is in turmoil heretofore unseen.

Jay Z and Beyonce do a video at the Louvre and most people never see it. This is a far cry from Michael Jackson and “Thriller.”

And on one hand, you should contemplate what can reach everybody.

On the other you shouldn’t worry about it, because there are enough spoils for everybody good, even though most people are not.

Ignore the Soundscan charts. Completely. Laugh when you read them in the newspaper, illustrating how out of touch those outfits are.

The only statistics that are truly meaningful are touring numbers and streaming numbers. And at this late date, many genres still have not embraced the streaming model. No one is pushing non-hip-hop listeners to streaming, and therefore these other genres are being left behind. We can’t see them on streaming services, they don’t show up, not in prodigious numbers, so hip-hop rules and everything else seems irrelevant, but we know this is untrue.

Now, more than ever, is the time to be different. Genre is irrelevant, quality and creativity are. Creativity is about inspiration, the opposite of the collaborative track written by sixteen people. When music is massaged for consumption you’ve lost the plot. And isn’t it funny that big hits like “The Greatest Showman” don’t sound like anything else, but the audience gets them.

Everybody’s inured to the old game.

Then you’ve got John Mayer who’s turning it on its head. He blew up his career in “Playboy,” dated Katy Perry and wanted more hits, fired his manager after not having any and ultimately ended up becoming a road dog with endless runway and endless bucks. Dead and Company just played their 100th gig. Turns out people are fans of music, not hits.

Then again, there’s a dearth of singable songs out there.

Opportunity is rife for those thinking outside of the box.

Meanwhile, too many of those inside keep slinging fake news.


No comments: