Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Blackout Tuesday | Lefsetz Letter

Could the music industry do any LESS?

I’m talking about the recorded music industry, the live business has been blacked out for months, with no light on the horizon.

But the labels…

Let me see… Warner, Sony and Universal. Keep congratulating yourself as you only sign and promote hip-hop and pop. Oh, don’t tell me about the exceptions, own the truth. You’re leaving out a whole swath of America, to the point that the “hit” music business means less than ever before.

Music has gone tribal. And the labels and the streaming services, everybody in the food chain, to a great degree the same players who were there pre-Napster, act like nothing is different. We’ve got forty hits, and the rest don’t matter, just like black people in America.

Don’t you get it? That the killing of George Floyd was just a flash point, and the hardships African-Americans must bear are only a part of the picture.

You see the U.S. is screwed-up.

There, I said it.

We’re first in almost no category. But we keep hearing about freedom and comparisons to “socialist” countries that have health care and high taxes and…you wouldn’t want that, would you? OF COURSE WE WOULD!

The music business is just like the Democrats and the Republicans and big media, they’re following the story, they’re not prepared to get ahead of it, they’ve been blind to the future for decades.

Come on, black music is the bread and butter of these three big labels and it took this to get them to say something? Where were they when Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner and the rest were killed. NOWHERE!

And this is not 1992, this is not the L.A. riots. Back then the first thing that occurred to me was Ice-T WAS RIGHT! N.W.A. too. They’d been telling us about police abuse for years, finally we woke up and confronted the truth.

In Los Angeles. The rest of the country thought it was a local problem. That it couldn’t happen there. And now they’re protesting in Salt Lake City? Have you been there? Cities and states don’t come any more white. It’d be like preschoolers agitating for abortion rights, completely incomprehensible.

But maybe foreseeable.

Forget those that disagree with you. NOW! Of course Trump is still president, of course Fox News still has power, of course there are white nationalists, but the truth is there are more of us than them, but we let them set the agenda, whether it be reopening in the wake of Covid-19 or immigration or…

It’s like parents complaining they’re at the mercy of their children. When are left wingers gonna look themselves in the mirror and man-up?

Well, a whole bunch of them just did, and D.C. and the media think it’s an isolated event, that will blow over.

No way!

They’re protesting for change at Facebook today:

Facebook Employees Stage Virtual Walkout to Protest Trump Posts

Workers want Zuck to grow a pair and do the right thing. Ever hear of the right thing? I don’t think so in today’s mercenary culture.

So, where are today’s anthems, that we can all rally around?


I’m not sure if they could ever exist today, but the recorded music business has its head so far up its rear end that it can’t see what is going on, that it’s lost purchase on most of the public. This was proven by Adele, she sells ten times the number of records as anybody else but do we get more Adeles? NO WAY!

And now I’m in dangerous territory, you can’t say anything against hip-hop or black people in the music business.

But I will.

Where are all the tracks speaking to the human condition, auguring for change? No, it’s all about getting rich, the lifestyle, accumulating enough money to live behind a gate.

Except for the struggling. We don’t hear from struggling basketball players, why do we keep hearing about struggling musicians? Maybe they’re just not up to snuff, don’t have the talent!

So why don’t the black acts refuse to record for their labels until they hire more African-Americans? One thing is for sure, the artist has the power, ALWAYS! Where have the artists been as incomes go down and the white man rules? Crickets. Of course there are exceptions, but…

We just hear that Jay Z called the governor. Nothing wrong with that, but what does that mean?

The only words that have mattered have been those of Killer Mike:

But he was co-opted by the powers-that-be, he asked for calm when the protesters were not ready to be calm, unlike Kareem Abdul-Jabbar:

Op-Ed: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Don’t understand the protests? What you’re seeing is people pushed to the edge

No one likes to be criticized, but it’s the only way you can hear the truth. Sycophants feel good, but the truth is what’s important.

Kinda like Lady Gaga… She’s being criticized for being out of touch with the times, wanting to dance and party while our cities are burning. Well, that was just timing. But, her album is being criticized everywhere for being a return to what once was, that it’s safe. This is not what artists do, they keep pushing the envelope, changing, getting ahead of the audience. If you give people what they want they’re gonna forget you. Because you’ve got to give them what they NEED!

And Lady Gaga is white, but Marvin Gaye was and Stevie Wonder still is black. And Marvin put out “What’s Going On” and Stevie gained control of his recording career too and amongst his gems was “Living For The City.” Ever listen to the break in that song? Same as it ever was. Blacks being arrested. But we’ve never heard Stevie say I’M A BUSINESS, MAN! It was always about the art.

And with Kanye it’s all about himself.

And the white acts are just as bad. It’s our selfish culture imbued with braggadocio. But the truth is not everybody can be famous, not everybody can be rich, WHAT ABOUT THEM?

And statistically African-Americans get the short end of the stick, but god forbid a white person sacrifice.

What exactly is the sacrifice in Blackout Tuesday? People won’t work for ten minutes? What does that do? Where’s the call to action? Nowhere, because the recorded music industry doesn’t want controversy, it just wants to go on raping and pillaging like it always has. With opaque royalties.

As for the Viacom channels… This is free press, MTV and VH1 haven’t meant anything in music for eons. What next, record stores going dark?

Do you really think ten minutes of silence is gonna change anything? Do you really think the public at large IS EVEN GONNA KNOW?

Music has power, but it’s been totally abdicated. It’s about having hits so you can get sponsorships, maybe even your own line of clothing and/or perfume and living a high lifestyle in St. Bart’s. This is what you’re selling? Many are even proud of their privates, even when they do them for dictators.

As for another concert, another charity single…

Concerts only appeal to a slice of the audience and singles flop, because they’re always a bad song, usually a creepy ballad, a kumbaya moment for different genres to get together when the truth is they never coexist anywhere else, on concert stages, on radio… Bonnie Raitt always had legendary blues people opening her show. Laura Nyro employed Miles Davis. We don’t see that cross-culturalization anymore.

But black music drives the youth, is the most defining musical culture, even though it’s not as pervasive as the labels, radio and press tell us it is. So that’s the conundrum, the youth love hip-hop but their parents seem ignorant of this. That’s right, not only the president of the United States must sometimes have to stand naked.

So the whites control the corporations and the blacks are big in entertainment but entertainment doesn’t matter. But last I checked, entertainment WAS ALL that mattered! Without culture, a country is hollow. Then again, they’ve eliminated all the music and art programs from public schools as Betsy DeVos gives money to the private schools.

But that story doesn’t get spread.

But the protesters CAN FEEL IT! Their futures have been sold down the river! Do you really think this many white people would be out protesting with African-Americans if it was only about George Floyd? NO WAY! There were race riots in the sixties, but they were localized, and there were very few white faces, you’d only get white faces at antiwar protests.

Everybody keeps thinking they’re immune. But no one is immune.

The hoi polloi get $1200 and all we keep hearing is about corporations that don’t get enough. The focus is on the big companies, the economy must be saved. How about saying jobs must be saved? How about a living wage? How about free child care so those in poverty can be lifted up? How about free health care so breadwinners can continue to work?

No, these are all takers.

You see the government and media have been selling us falsehoods for decades. You’re a winner, if you pull yourself up by your bootstraps you’ll make it! But we can’t even get the government to forgive school loans to veterans who were hoodwinked by for-profit institutions.


Yes, America is all about ripping you off. And selling an image that makes you feel worse about yourself. What’s the latest, Kylie Jenner cheated and she’s not really a billionaire? Is that really the role model we want, a young, uneducated nincompoop who just happens to be rich?

And Barack Obama is elected president and we think we’ve made headway. But he’s so afraid of appearing the angry black man that he lets the whites walk all over him. Look at his pronouncements now, there’s little emotion, little anger, because he’ll be excoriated by the commentariat. WHO CARES ABOUT THE COMMENTARIAT? They’re not in control of the country!

That’s what we’ve learned in the past week. There’s not enough government to control the mob. As for obeying curfews…let me see, Trump told all his followers not to wear masks, what makes you think people are gonna obey curfews?

The little people have to obey the rules, whereas the big people break them and go scot-free.

It gets worse and worse. Zuck is so myopic he can’t do the right thing. And Jack Dorsey does the right thing and even the left gives him a hard time. Baby steps first. Unless you’re so slow that you engender revolt. Yup, it’s those in the public eye who have to make the first move, not some faceless people at the label going out for a smoke break.

So what we’ve learned here is the music business has lost its power. It used to reach everybody and there was no greater influence. Today, streaming TV gets all the attention and generates the most influence. Because that’s where risk is taken, where outside voices are amplified, where real life is reflected.

Let me see… Have you ever even seen a Rolls? Unless you’re in L.A. or Atlanta, probably not. Do you own a yacht? Do you even have a college education?

The recorded music business gets younger and younger… Tell me again what Billie Eilish knows about life, she was even home-schooled! She’s got no clue what’s going on, but we keep on lionizing her.

The Grammys kick out their female boss because the old men want no change. And you’re surprised the doors in business are closed to outsiders? I thought entertainment was supposed to be fluid!

And the NFL’s got few black coaches.

Yup, there’s systemic racism.

But there’s more than that.

There’s income inequality and disinformation…

You’re worried about Trump getting re-elected, by those who want law and order. Do you really think he’ll stay in office and everything will be hunky-dory? OF COURSE NOT! You haven’t seen riots in the street like you’ll see if Trump wins, this weekend was just a dress rehearsal. And don’t tell me these protests can be contained, they’ve been going on for days!

Those in power are clueless. You’ve got to fall in behind the negatively affected, learn and then take charge, support people.

But that’s not what happens. Enlightened lefties self-flagellate, the right goes underground and there’s no change.

Meanwhile, we keep hearing in the media that they nailed Harvey Weinstein.

Did they nail my boss at the trucking company?

You can spread any word you want to now. Whether you’re with or against the protesters, whether you’re for change or you’re not. DOESN’T MATTER! The proletariat suddenly took control of this country. Trump couldn’t see it and hasn’t known how to react as he’s huddled deep in the White House bunker. We keep hearing politicians’ hands are tied, there’s nothing they can do, and if you’d just vote…

I’m gonna vote, but I’m not hopeful for change. Because the truth is the elite of this nation have pushed the hoi polloi down so far that there’s absolutely no way people can pick themselves up. But it’s worse, they left people behind and then pissed on them, and told them they could be rappers or athletes. How much opportunity do you have in the inner city? They took money from the schools and you endure bullies and gangs outside your domicile and if you move to the suburbs the whites want you to leave your culture behind, to be just like them.


Can you find one person who predicted the riots and protests of the past five days? I can’t. But I am a student of history, and it’s all about flash points. We’re in the middle of one. And one thing is for sure, we’re not returning to where we were, no way. A new society will arise and I ask, are you part of the problem or part of the solution?

If you make 400k and pay all your taxes… That’s not enough, you should be paying more, you should be giving money away, the system worked for you, make it work for everybody else.

If you’re rich and you made it through your own hard efforts…CONGRATULATIONS! But just because you created some snappy software that does not mean you can solve the problems of the inner city.

Zuck gave money away…TO HIMSELF! I’d recite the details, but the truth is he avoided taxes, the money is not spent and he’s still in control of it. That’s what the government allows you to do. What does the government allow poor people to do?

You must obey the rules, stand behind the lines, when the media keeps clapping for outside rule-breakers like Elon Musk. What message are we sending here?

Oh, that’s right, socialism for the rich, capitalism for the poor.

It’s not only the music business that is out of touch. All our institutions have lost touch with our citizens. So, they don’t know what to do. They’ve been running unfettered for decades. They kept their cash overseas and when they were forced to bring it back they paid pennies on the dollar in taxes.

Meanwhile, you got $1200. How far will that go? That’s dinner for music business people, if it even covers the bill.

You were lucky, think about those less fortunate.

Revolution always comes from the bottom. And the truth is we’re in the midst of the revolution right now. WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON?

I want to see Rob Stringer in the streets. Stephen Cooper. I want Blavatnik to offer up his private jet to fly leaders to D.C…

I want Fox News and the president and other elected officials to stop saying it’s a few bad actors, antifa, white nationalists…there aren’t enough of them everywhere to have been protesting in all these cities these past few days. This is the same logic they’re using to hobble voting by mail…all those miscreants who are gonna abuse the system. Who are these people, aren’t they the ones in office?

So if you want to do something, work towards a solution. Take a stand. Be unafraid of the man. Say you can do as opposed to you cannot. Lay down your money but speak with your mind.

This is judgment day.

Get ready.

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