Thursday, July 12, 2018

Article 13 (And The So-Called Value Gap) | Lefsetz Letter

I’m against it.

That’s right, I could say I’m with the industry and have my inbox overflow, but that’s not how I feel.

You can’t hold back the future.

Enough with the “value gap.” The truth is songs are streamed more on Spotify than they are on YouTube these days. Furthermore, YouTube gives people a chance to sample new wares. Sure, I like to see musicians make more money, but the truth is MOST MUSICIANS DON’T DESERVE TO BE PAID!

Now I’ve got your attention.

We’ve entered a new era. Where it’s all about consumption. Anyone can make music, the cost is almost negligible, post it online and dun people to listen to it, BUT THEY DON’T!

Used to be you needed a major label. It was hard to get a deal, but if you did a good chunk of change was spent on recording and promoting you, you were known, you could have a career, even if you never had a hit, even if you never got on the radio. The label kept you in business and you had fans. Now…

No one cares about those acts. With so much music available, the middle artist is getting squeezed out. Not by Google, not by Spotify, but by the CONSUMER! The consumer doesn’t want to listen to your music.

The classic rock acts, the ones bitching five years ago, all their hits now have triple-digit million streams on Spotify, never mind Apple. Sure, they may have crappy legacy deals, but this is not the fault of the streaming service, they’re paying out in excess of fifty percent of the income, they’re cutting a better deal than the physical retailers of yore, and the label has no manufacturing and shipping costs, never mind returns. Such that if you hit, you’re making a fortune. Sure, it’s a winner-take-all world, but that reflects the rest of society, with everything available, people race to quality. Google and Amazon, are you gonna compete with them? It’s like being a nobody and bitching you’re not making the coin of Drake.


The dirty little secret is the industry wants to kill the nooks and crannies, the gems. Napster surfaced all these cuts we never even knew existed. They’re on YouTube now. Hell, in a recent podcast Malcolm Gladwell tells you to go online and watch Sammy Davis, Jr.’s appearance at the 1972 GOP convention. If the music industry had its way, IT WOULD NOT BE AVAILABLE!

Or you could be the inane publishing industry, which killed e-books so it could maintain its old numbers. Amazon wanted to push the industry into the future, GROW the business, with all titles under ten bucks. But NO! (Where is John Belushi when you need him?) Now e-books cost as much as, and sometimes even MORE, than physical. The book industry thinks it won, but it lost. Come on, people don’t want to feel ripped-off. This is how the music industry got into this situation to begin with, with one good track on a fifteen dollar CD. They thought they were ENTITLED to this money. Were buggy-whip manufacturers entitled?

And when rappers sampled old records rightsholders demanded such onerous payments that the hip-hop world gave up on sampling, and then switched to beats. Was this a good thing? I’m not sure, to a great degree melody is gone. I’m not saying that the creators shouldn’t have been paid, but when you try to shut down the present, you oftentimes cripple the future.

That’s right, it could get worse. Kinda like radio after Spitzer. Fearful of indie payments the major stations ONLY played major label material, neutering the decision. Put limits on outlets/distributors and ironically you’re gonna cripple the business, not sustain it.

You thought the music industry would have learned its lesson.

Everybody bitching about streaming…IT’S SAVING THE BUSINESS! Revenues are UP! Maybe not for you, but…bitching about Daniel Ek… Once again, streaming is the greatest thing for labels, FEWER COSTS!

Don’t hold back progress. Otherwise you’re living in France. Trying to protect your culture against globalization, when the truth is globalization is saving music. Not only is Spotify from Sweden, suddenly your music can be heard around the world at almost no cost and all profit. Spotify doesn’t say give us a discounted rate so we can start up in a new country, like the labels did with CDs, they’re paying the freight.

As for musicians lining up behind this bill…

Show me a musician who’s good with business, and I’ll show you a lousy musician.

You’ve got to let the river flow.

Funny how music is all about innovation, but the business is about bringing people into the past.

They said the internet would kill the incentive to make music.

Now there’s more music than ever before.

They said streaming would kill the business, now it’s the savior.

Files were death, now people are lamenting they’re fading.

I’m not saying to trust Google, but just that Google is subject to the same forces everybody else is, without a catalog to leverage its future. In tech, you’re only as good as what you’ve done lately. So you’ve got to continue to improve.

Netflix decimated television. Therefore, Rupert Murdoch is selling Fox assets. Shari Redstone wants to merge CBS with Viacom and sell the whole thing. They want to get out before it all crashes.

Luckily, in music, we’ve figured it out, we’re on an upswing. Not to mention the concert business which is burgeoning out of control. How are people going to hear all that music if not for the internet/streaming/YouTube, they certainly won’t go to a show if they can’t hear it. Today more acts can tour than ever before. Maybe not to millionaire status, but they can speak to their fans…

This is a money grab, pure and simple.

And YouTube is challenged on the handset anyway. It doesn’t translate. It’s a bad product. Which is why Spotify and Apple and Amazon are winning.


Look ahead.

Things will work out, if you let them.

The future is coming, hold it back to your detriment.


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