Thursday, July 11, 2019

The Warren Analogy | Lefsetz Letter

She’s not using consultants.

And she raised $19.1 million dollars last quarter, nearly as much as Biden and Buttigieg. Even more dramatically, she’s not doing the fat cat fundraisers and phone calls.

How did she do this? Via message, via credibility, via eschewing the conventional wisdom.

Message. That’s the song. It always comes down to the song. And if you’ve got one good enough, that’s not the usual dreck, when people hear it, they resonate.

In other words, the infrastructure doesn’t get it, but the public does.

The infrastructure has decided it’s all hip-hop all the time.

At this point hip-hop has had an almost forty year run, nearly as long as rock. Rock faded, will hip-hop?

That doesn’t matter. Although they are different. Hip-hop is about culture. It is oftentimes like professional wrestling. The players/wrestlers come and go, it’s more about the game. And some people, like Kanye, are so outrageous they draw in viewers. And there are beefs and…

Rock was never this kind of lifestyle, it was sometimes about attitude, but mostly about songs.

Sinatra and what came before…all about songs.

So, is there room for genres other than hip-hop? Don’t forget, the mainstream media, the infrastructure, said that Elizabeth Warren had no chance. But now there’s a good chance she’ll be the Democratic nominee.

Warren continued to hammer ideas, i.e. release new material, when no one was listening/paying attention. But her tsunami of policy proposals caught fire, and when attention shifted to her, she had a catalog. You always want a catalog, when people love your hit, they want to go back and check out what you’ve done before.

Then there comes credibility. This is a matter of ideas and behavior. Your message must hew to a consistent philosophy, message is always first. But then, you can do nothing that undermines that message. This is where music has lost the plot. First and foremost, what is the message? Furthermore, musicians are always willing to sell out to the highest bidder. Most usually the corporation. And the infrastructure says it makes no difference, but it does. When you sell out to the man, you become a professional wrestler, willing to do anything and everything, which screws up your message, and you’re not outside the system, but inside. Corporations are not your friend. Your goal is to stand up to them. What kind of bizarre world do we live in where Warren knows this, and “musicians” don’t.

And then it comes down to money. Conventional wisdom is you need the deep pockets of the label to break through. But Warren did it based on her fans.

And you need a slew of high-priced consultants to get the message out. I.e. the label and its radio promotion people and the indie promotion people and the video/TV person and… They’re bleeding you dry. Not only do they own your copyrights, they’re charging back most of this “work” to you, decimating your royalties.

And the label does it the old way in a new world.

Instead of buying TV ads, Warren spent the money on the ground, one to one, because that’s how you infect an audience today, by getting down to their level, by not talking down to them.

So Elizabeth Warren becomes a sui generis rock star. The kind we used to make in the music industry. Someone who is outside the system doing it her way.

They always say you don’t have the right look, the right presentation…Warren can’t win because she comes across as a schoolmarm. No, she appears dedicated and enthusiastic, she’s doing her act and her act only, she doesn’t care what others say. She’s a rock star. She pivoted in her early life, she developed over time, not like the nitwit twelve year olds we think will save music, will go to the top of the chart.

This is how it always happens with something new, something of substance, something outside that becomes inside. It begins off the radar screen, when no one says you’ve got a chance. And then, while the mainstream isn’t paying attention, it becomes an overnight sensation.

As for the Pocahontas thing… On the internet, there are new memes every day, almost nothing sticks. You just keep powering on. As for youthful behavior you now regret, have you seen this Cream ad for Falstaff beer?

Falstaff Beer Commercial

Elizabeth Warren don’t need no stinking label.

And she’s not complaining that the system is rigged against her, just that it’s rigged in general. You’ve got to speak truth, you’ve got to be an agent for change.

This portends the future of the music business. There won’t be a lock on the game by the usual suspects in the future. Maybe there might be new usual suspects, but not the same ones. The majors got Spotify to stop direct uploads, the streaming company’s investment in the marketing of acts. They call that leverage. Too often the old man employs it to keep the status quo. But still, in an era of change, there are ways around this.

That’s what the internet delivers.

We keep hearing the internet broke music. Quite the opposite, it provided a zillion opportunities! You can make your music cheaply with technology, post it online, and market it via the internet for free.

But you can only gain traction this way if you’ve got something to say.

Like Elizabeth Warren.

“Can Elizabeth Warren help break the political consulting cartel?”


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