Forgotten. By, Bob Lefsetz

Posted on November 13, 2012 by


Van Halen, ZZ Top, Donald Fagen and now Aerosmith.

What do they all have in common?

They put out new albums and they expected the world to care. For the waters to part and people to partake. They’re all utilizing a seventies model and that was forty years ago.

Wanna succeed today?

Know who your audience is.

Making albums?

They’re only for your hard core fans. You’re not gonna get lucky. No mainstream media review or radio airplay is gonna blow you up. Unless it’s Top Forty, and none of these acts make that kind of music.

In other words, if you’re a classic rocker making new music, you’re in the data business. Without it, you’ve got a stiff.

First and foremost you’ve got to know who your audience is. I’m not talking a demo, I mean the e-mail addresses. Yes, you’re taking names. If you’re gonna put out new music, you’d better start at least two years before collecting names. And that cannot be all. You’ve got to give these people something on a regular basis. Via Twitter, Facebook…you’ve got to be engaged with them so they don’t forget you. Oh, of course they know you, but they’re not thinking of you. As for those whose e-mail addresses you do not have, chances are they won’t even know you’ve got a new album out. And they’ve been burned so many times, they’re not gonna lay down their money to find out their preconceived notion is wrong. They’re not even gonna read about you somewhere and click through to hear a sample track, that’s too much work in this harried, media overload world.

In other words, all these old acts are playing to the gatekeepers.

They’ve got to play to their audience.

Steven Tyler’s full time job should be tweeting, a constant stream of bon mots that addict his fans which they’ll pass on.

And he should create a game, wherein winners can meet him and have dinner.

Late night TV is almost meaningless, except for the video that results. Newspapers are ignored by almost everybody. You’re better off getting on NPR than being in print, then again, many of these acts don’t play that kind of music.

Think small, not big. If you’re playing to everybody, you’re doing it wrong. You’ve just got to play to the somebodies who are actively engaged with your music.

Wanna put out new studio stuff?

Then release a steady stream of free live classics to whet people’s appetites. A live take of “Sweet Emotion.” Beatles covers.

And if you’re gonna play new music, play small halls and charge little. Let people know what they’re in for. Don’t expect them to pay a hundred bucks and sit through five new songs, that’s gonna piss them off.

Reviews don’t matter. Good or bad. You’re in the word of mouth business. Can you build it and sustain it?

If you’re not working on your career, it’s probably not moving forward. It’s a full time job. Mystery is history. Let it all hang out. Let your audience in.

And be in it for the long haul. It might take you three cycles of new music to inure your audience to listening, to lift you from the doldrums of has-been to now happening.

If you wanna get new fans, focus on those actively engaged. I.e. the young ‘uns. You do this by playing with their favorites at festivals. Sitting in. Showing that not only are you famous, but you can blow everybody else off the stage.

If you’re not willing to do all this, don’t even bother putting out new music. Just overcharge for your live show and be thankful people still remember your hits.

Don’t swing for the fences.


It might take a walk and a hit to come home. But you still get a run.

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