It’s been forever since we’ve done a blog post outside of “Song of the Week.” This isn’t really a post either, but I think it’s pretty important stuff. Entertainment lawyer Bob Lefsetz writes a daily email called The Lefsetz Letter that goes out to almost anyone who gives a shit about music business. He can be surly and mean-spirited, or wise and illuminating. An email from last week was the latter.
Bob goes down the list of Billboard Top 100 records, explaining both massive (Mumford & Sons) and underwhelming numbers (Aimee Mann). His closing paragraphs are just perfect. Our band has been going back to the drawing board recently and thinking a lot about what makes us special & unique, and how we can capture that in music that essentially ours. Better to spend 10 hours in the rehearsal space rather than 10 minutes emailing potential booking agents or managers. Ah…growing pains.
Take it away, Bob.
Assuming you’re good, and for the umpteenth time I will say you’re probably not, Aimee Mann and Richie Sambora could compose circles around you in their sleep and they can’t get arrested, what you’re looking for is a reaction. If you’ve got none, go back to the drawing board. If you play your music for someone and they don’t start jumping up and down, clamoring for more, you didn’t get it right. Not in a commercial sense. And by commercial I mean earning enough to eat. You wanna do it in private, think it’s great, be my guest. But unless you’re suddenly consumed by rabid fans asking for more, either give up or get ready for a very long journey.
That’s what you want. People so rabid to hear it that they spread it. That’s what broke Mumford. It wasn’t their tweeting or social networking, it was the honesty of their music and message, in a phony world, their fans couldn’t stop spreading the word.
But to follow Mumford you have to give up everything you know. You’ve got to stop going on singing shows. You’ve got to stop angling for a major label record deal. You’ve got to stop haranguing gatekeepers to give you a chance. It’s only you and your music, in a world that doesn’t need it. We need food and water, we don’t need your music, it’s a luxury item. But can you somehow make it necessary? Can it stand alone?
Advertising doesn’t sell ice cream, it’s the experience itself. It’s just so damn good… Let me tell you about Phish Food, mmm, with chocolate and marshmallow and little chocolate goldfish… You see what I’m doing? I’m salivating, I’m trying to convince you to try it, not because I’m being paid by Ben & Jerry’s but because I want you too to experience the joy. And then I want to be in a club of like-minded people with you. That’s the music game.