Winners And Losers. By, Bob Lefsetz

Posted on January 11, 2013 by


Otherwise known as the haves and the have-nots.

You get to choose. If you’re riding through life willy-nilly, thinking everything will work out fine, you’re delusional. Now, more than ever, there’s a dividing line. You’re up here…or you’re down there. And don’t expect the mainstream media and your friends and teachers to tell you. Kind of like they didn’t tell us Reagan-era greed would lead to income inequality.

I read about Michael Milken making half a billion dollars in the eighties. I saw my boomer brethren getting rich in that decade. I just thought it wasn’t my turn yet. Or to quote Led Zeppelin, my time was gonna come.

The joke was on me. As the years wore on you could only become truly rich if you were involved in finance. As for the rest of us, James McMurtry had it right, we can’t make it here anymore.

That’s right. I will never be one of the one percent. Because I don’t do the right kind of job. I was riding the lift in Vail when my seatmate talked about buying a shirt at the Plaza. He’d forgotten his button-down, he went down to the hotel store, got up to the cash register and it turned out the new item was $1700. Yup, you’ve got that right. There’s no decimal point in between the zeros. And another seatmate said “So you put it back on the rack, right?” And this guy said “No, I was already at the cash register, what could I do?” But it gets even worse! Turns out he had his button-down shirt in his suitcase. It was packed at the bottom. But he never returned his purchase.

Can you afford a $1700 shirt?

I certainly can’t.

And you can tell me you don’t need one, but you would like access to the best doctors and the ability to sway government policy and if you think you’ve got the same ability to do this as the rich, you probably think Rebecca Black is talented and Carly Rae Jepsen has a career.

But now we’re in the Internet era. We’ve got hucksters like Chris Anderson telling you there’s a long tail, that there’s a market for everything online!

Put it in the iTunes Store. It won’t move. Most of the material does not. People only want what is exceptional. It’s like society in general, we’ve got winners and losers.

But you got a trophy for participating in soccer. Your mother loves you. Of course the world is gonna embrace your art.


Oh, you don’t take my word for it? You think I’m a narcissistic prick constantly raining on your parade? Then how about the words of Marc Andreessen, who launched Netscape and is now a big VC.

“In liberal arts, only the best of the best will make top dollar, a person will have to be good enough that his book is a best seller or her song goes global…”

In other words, there’s no place for a journeyman, no place for a middling act, you’re either Lady Gaga or Katy Perry or you’re living four to a room, maybe in your mother’s basement, driving a van to gigs waiting for that one big break that’s never gonna come.

The odds are longer than they’ve ever been before. With everything available online consumers only have time for the best, hell, they barely have any time at all. Just like Wal-Mart destroyed Main Street with its buying power and resulting cheap prices, the old game has been killed. Kind of like Amazon put the stake in the heart of Best Buy.

If you want to succeed in the future, you’ve got to get the right degree from the right institution.

Or, as Andreessen puts it:

“In two words, ‘study STEM’ (science, technology, engineering and math)…”

Physics is too hard? Computer science too challenging? That’s fine, let the computer tell you what to do as opposed to the reverse. That’s the dividing line today, according to Andreessen, do you tell the computer what to do or vice versa? Do you own Burger King or serve shakes?

And, as Andreessen says:

“If you have a degree in English from a tier B state school, you’re not prepared.”

You don’t like hearing this. I don’t like hearing this. But I didn’t like hearing that bankers were raping and pillaging in the eighties. But you know who was left out, me!

And read Tom Wolfe’s essay in “Newsweek.” All the money on Wall Street is now in high speed trading. With the Quants. And the mainstream press didn’t write a single story about it until a decade after it debuted.

So you’re at home, Facebooking, making your tunes in GarageBand, believing you’re just an inch away from stardom. Because no one will tell you the truth. Oh, you hear music is a hard game, but you see all those stars from…YESTERYEAR! Coldplay benefited from MTV airplay. As did Dave Matthews Band. Without it, they’d be a fraction as big as they are today. Even the vaunted Phish… They’re not growing new fans, it’s the same damn audience that keeps them alive, and Phish has been doing it for DECADES!

But no, you’re gonna break the rules. With little effort and a lot of chutzpah, you’re gonna make it. You’re gonna use the tools of the web to get in everybody’s face and will yourself to success, as if you yourself didn’t ignore spam all day long. You watch “Gangnam Style” more than once but you cannot name a single other video you’ve sat through completely. You went to see “Skyfall” but haven’t been to the movies since. Your calendar is so full of activities that you can’t even schedule a dinner. Meanwhile, you’re looking over your shoulder, worried the guy behind you is gonna steal your job, that you’ll never reach the guy in front of you.

Oh, you still don’t believe me! Then look at the app world. Sure, you use Yelp! And look at Instagram, sold for a billion dollars! But most apps are black holes that don’t even return their investment. Read the below story in the “New York Times” for edification. Oh, that’s right, you don’t like anybody raining on your parade, you’re a positive person, you’re different.


Quants make millions of dollars in an instant, and they grow nothing. They’re gaming the system. Major labels buy YouTube views. The game is so stacked against you that if you knew the truth you wouldn’t even start.

So, if you like playing music, be my guest.

If you can book a few gigs, even go on tour, great!

But if you’re expecting a lifetime of riches, a career, a NetJet account and vacations on Richard Branson’s private island…PLAY THE LOTTERY!

Andreessen-“Jobs fight: Haves vs. the have-nots”:

“As Boom Lures App Creators, Tough Part Is Making a Living”:

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