What I Want. By, Bob Lefsetz

Posted on November 3, 2013 by

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TO FEEL A MEMBER OF THE GROUP

All this focus on social networks has been about money, i.e. ads, going public, but there’s been very little focus on what it feels like to be a member of society today.

Or not.

There’s this illusion since every rapper has a posse and every person has a social media presence that we’ve all got a large group of friends, but the truth is many are still lonely.

This is not an anti-Internet screed. I believe technology has been a godsend for the isolated, you can pursue your interests without leaving the house. But as we journey into the teens, I’m completely flummoxed as to my place in society.

I am not one of the rich.

And forget about the lifestyle, I’m locked out of the loop regarding power. That’s what money brings today. The ability to influence, to change or reinforce the rules of the game. I.e. hedge funds’ perpetuation of the carried interest rule. The fact that many readers have no idea what I’m talking about is exactly the point. Let’s just say the rich are getting richer.

And there’s this fantasy that the poor can get rich too. Statistics tell us otherwise, the American Dream looms larger in Europe, but many have now become disenchanted. It’s not only college students who cannot get a job, but Gen-X’ers and baby boomers who are scratching their heads also. Media has been influenced by the 1%. Everybody’s a winner. So why am I not? And what can I do about it?

And despite all the so-called disruption, the reinforcement of old models is a roadblock I did not see coming. You were supposed to be truly innovative and then the democratic web would rise you above via virality and you’d be a newly-minted star. But the truth is with everybody attempting this, those backed by cash and publicity are triumphing, it’s even worse than it was in the nineties. Wannabes were excluded then, but there were more stars, and a middle class not on MTV. Today we’ve got a thin layer of superstars and then a plethora of unknowns.

Which brings me back to my original premise. When there was a limited pool, we embraced the “unknowns.” But the truth was these unknowns were already on major labels, they had a leg up, and there weren’t that many of them, at least compared to today. No one was going around telling everybody about their local bar band, pressing cassettes into the hands of potential fans. No, either you had a deal or you didn’t.

And the end result was we were not the only people following the unknowns. They may have not been profitable, but their cult was already large.

And what we learned with Twitter was we all wanted to get a say, to feel like we belonged. But the focus was on the ratings of live events, all the writing was about the comeback of awards shows, as if they were somehow better. But they were the only things we could all talk about.

So Twitter is lionized, but this incomprehensible service really just told us that we’re all alone and want to belong.

And we’re sold false gods like Sheryl Sandberg. Who taught us that a smart, aggressive woman could leverage her assets and work at the flavor of the moment, i.e. Facebook. But if Facebook craters, or at least stalls, is her opinion still worth paying attention to?

I’d say not. I’d say it was not worth paying attention to in the first place.

We paid attention to Steve Jobs because he came back, he was not a one trick pony. It’d be like Neil Diamond reinventing himself as a deejay, and challenging Tiesto for worldwide domination.

Instead we’re just proffered false gods. An endless supply of them. Especially money-grubbing techies who claim to be changing the world, but just want to get rich.

Meanwhile, we’re getting poorer and poorer.

We don’t want endless music services providing the history of recordings so much as we want to be told what to listen to, and also informed that a huge chunk of the public is listening too. Not only do we want to know the tastemaker/star is into it, but the guy down the street, the girl at the supermarket, we want to be able to have a conversation, we want to belong.

Which is why big gigs get bigger and small ones disappear in the rearview mirror. And festivals are more about the experience than the music. At least we’re all there in the same limited environment, we can talk about what we ate and saw and feel a member of the tribe.

So I’m frustrated, overwhelmed, and might I even say a tad bit depressed.

Because I just don’t see my own personal path.

I’m not a cutthroat businessman. I could never be Jeff Bezos, I couldn’t screw that many people.

And as much as I decry the hype, the placed stories even in the “New York Times,” I see they’re having their desired effect, they’re making the masses, albeit smaller than before the Internet, aware of the new products.

But there’s little criticism involved. Everybody’s selling. And when everybody is doing this, we give up buying, never mind not having enough money to spend.

So let me just say we’re all in the same boat. We all want to be rich, we all want a plethora of friends. But we realize what we’ve been sold is a bill of goods. Facebook didn’t make us any happier, didn’t make us feel we belonged, certainly not after a couple of years of posting. And Twitter gave us the illusion of being heard, but then we found out no one was listening. And musicians decrying the evisceration of their business model didn’t realize the true problem was not monetization, but the inability to pierce the public consciousness, to break through all the marketing messages.

And I could tell you where it’s going, but I’m not exactly sure, other than it’s going to get worse, winners and losers in all walks of life. First it was the CEOs versus the workers. Then the bankers versus the workers. Then the techies versus the workers. One group got rich, and was venerated in the press, and the other group was pushed down and forgotten, given social media as a way to make them feel empowered when the truth was nothing of the sort.

And now I’m rambling.

But am I the only one confused?

The only one who believed in the possibility of the Internet but is now frustrated that I’m left even further behind, and that the winners are the usual suspects and the hucksters and a thin layer of innovators?

I’m stuck in the middle with you.

And we have power.

But mostly, I just want to communicate.

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