By, Bob Lefsetz at Lefsetz.com
We’ve got great tools. But too much mediocre music.
My goal is to get you to give up. If you’re a musician, I want you to stop. Oh, practice and play, be my guest. But please stop tweeting and Facebooking, keep stop trying to make it, you’re clogging the avenues, trying to uncover today’s great new music is like deciding to drive from Santa Monica to Staples Center during rush hour, essentially impossible. Not everyone qualifies to be a Navy Seal, hell, did you read the article in the “New York Times” delineating that both women and men have a hard time qualifying for the Marine Infantry? (http://nyti.ms/11YQo8n) Why do you think you should be able to be a successful musician. Desire is not everything, talent counts. Read the “Times” story about the hell they put these recruits through. If only we had a similar boot camp in the music business. Instead, we’ve got organizations like Sonicbids that prey on the wannabes, telling them they’re just an inch away from making it, when nothing could be further from the truth.
Benji Rogers used to be a musician. But he back-burnered his playing, he just couldn’t make it work, he started PledgeMusic. All those techies coming up with solutions, that’s a hell of a lot easier than writing hit tunes.
Can we have some reality here? And state that writing hits is nearly impossible?
You might deplore Dr. Luke, but he’s talented. As are Max Martin and Diane Warren. They might release formulaic material, but they’ve paid their dues, they’ve worked really hard, have you? And even if you have, does practicing on the sandlot mean you’re entitled to play shortstop for the Yankees? Even better, if you’re 5’3″, can you realistically expect to crack the NBA? Of course there’s Muggsy Bogues, there have been exceptions, but one or two, and everybody seems to want to make it in music.
I’m just saying that with everybody trying it’s making it more difficult for those who truly have talent and confusing the audience.
I love Benji. He’s a natural salesman. You want to go to dinner, talk about your girlfriend, you want to hang. That’s rare with successful musicians. Household name musicians are introverted, pains in the ass. Hell, I know a bunch and they’re all far from normal. This is oftentimes the only thing they can do. They practiced to get laid and have a career. Are you truly that maladjusted? Are you willing to endure rejection, starve, and keep going at it? Knowing that the odds are you won’t make it and if you do it won’t sustain?
You can’t handle the truth. You think since you own a computer you’re entitled to success. But that’s untrue.
PledgeMusic, Kickstarter, Indiegogo…they don’t solve the basic problem. Which is discovering and nurturing new talent. Benji told me the story of a talented artist who now has 500 pledgers on his third album? Five hundred? If I reached that few people with these missives, I’d give up. Hell, I’d give up with ten times that number.
If you’re an established act, these crowdfunding sites are brilliant, you can reach your fans, make your music and own your masters. But if you’re a wannabe, please don’t think that anybody’s gonna care other than your hard core fans.
Benji told me 46 acts have gotten deals as a result of their success on PledgeMusic. The labels track the campaigns. But how many got major deals? Maybe ten. How many of those had deals before? Maybe four. Huh? Be satisfied ANYBODY gives you money on these sites. Because that’s all you’re gonna get.
And then Benji told me about prospective partnerships with labels. This is where I got scared, this is where I wondered if he was doing the tech pivot, looking for more money. So I fund it and then the label takes 70% of my money to blow it up? Huh? If I’m that good, shouldn’t I be able to do it myself? Where’s the improvement on the old system? Now I do all the work and I STILL get screwed?
But having said all that, Benji convinced me he’s selling experiences. That it’s not about the end result, the album, so much as the ongoing relationship you get to have with your favorites. Hell, I’d pay for that. Almost everybody would. I want private updates from people whose music changed my life. Unfortunately, that doesn’t include you, sorry.
You tell PledgeMusic you want to play. You give them your data, Facebook friends, Twitter followers and e-mail list, and they tell you how much you can raise. Then, after getting your money, they insist you update constantly, with blog posts, videos and music. Stuff that can only be shared with those who pledge. Well, of course, everything can be captured and stolen online, but Benji says this is not a problem, because people don’t want to steal from the artists they’re giving money to. I’ll go with that, for the sake of discussion.
So you’re building community.
Very slowly if you’re not already famous.
And here we hit that classic dilemma. It’s those who were built by the majors who have the biggest success outside the system. Those without the initial investment stumble.
Except for Alabama Shakes.
What did Alabama Shakes have that none of the other wannabes had?
Come on, someone e-mailed you that live video of “Hold On” and you got it.
Is your music that good?
Seems like no one else’s is, there’s not been another Alabama Shakes since.
We’re ready, we want it, but we’ve been waiting for a new Beatles for nearly half a century and it’s never happened. Hell, we’d settle for a new Dave Clark 5!
Benji’s so good you get caught up in the reality distortion field. But it’s not about systems, it’s not about tools, it’s about MUSIC!
And it’s really damn hard to learn and even harder to do well to the point that masses of people are interested.
We don’t have an algorithm problem. We don’t even have a tool problem.
We’ve got a music problem.
Used to be only the best and the brightest got deals and made it. As for those excluded unjustly from the system, hogwash. How about all the acts that got signed and still didn’t make it, despite putting out good music?
But then the label mentality changed. It became solely about the money, as a result of the CD and MTV riches and banker envy. And everybody got the tools and decided they were entitled to success. Hell, blame baby boomer parents, who never told their progeny the truth, that they were normal, average.
And there’s nothing wrong with being average. Being a productive member of society, being a good worker, spouse and parent. But please don’t confuse this with being a musical star.
Hell, how many stars still have the same spouse? How many are good parents?
These are not normal people living normal lives. They’re staying up all hours of the night, they’re doing drugs, they’re irresponsible, but the tunes they create are magic.
But they’re rare.
Sorry to break the news.
P.S. And you wonder why everybody in the business is jaded. Because we’re inundated by the crap of the wannabes ad infinitum. That’s why we won’t listen. Blame your brethren, not us. The only difference between me and everybody else is I’m telling you the truth.