Russell Simmons and Brett Ratner

“Russell Simmons and Brett Ratner face new allegations of sexual misconduct”

Sex is not the only thing they were entitled to.

Rock stars created the paradigm. Nobodies who became somebodies who could act with impunity. Prior to this, you had to be rich to get away with it. Fame helped too, but the rock stars were both. Which is why everybody wants to be a “rock star” today. There’s the rock stars of tech, the rock stars of finance, only they’re not, rock stars that is. Rock stars drew women to them based on their art, their songs, without them they were oftentimes dullards unable to speak to the opposite sex. Check history, seemingly every legend says he got into it so he could meet girls. That’s the power of song, when done right, rock music is life itself.

But most people cannot become rock stars.

You also have to realize men are in competition. There is not the community of women, happy just to be a member of the group. No, men are constantly climbing the ladder, pushing others down, showing off, and when they get to the top, they think they’re invulnerable. Like Harvey Weinstein. Forget that he did it, the fact that David Boies kept it out of the press undercuts our entire notion of society. We thought you paid for your sins. But you don’t. If you’re rich and famous you hire the best attorneys, who are thrilled to get paid and be members of the club, and you skate. Kinda like Brett Ratner. Everybody’s entitled to a defense, but Ratner’s attorney Martin Singer keeps bloviating that the accusations are false and is on a path to put questions in the public’s brain to allow Mr. Ratner to go free. Do you think you could afford the services of Mr. Singer? Would he even want to represent you if you’re a nobody? Give Louis C.K. credit, at least he admitted it. That’s what people with good upbringings used to do, until the President himself lied. That’s right, they were after Bill Clinton but he manipulated the truth and I don’t want to make this about left and right but when you see the upper class lying, why should you tell the truth?

And who raised these guys? Maybe I’m just an outsider. Maybe I learned from my father, who was also an outsider. Maybe it’s the fact that I grew up in a female-dominated household. I never ran with the pack and was egged on by my compatriots. Oh, we’ve all been exposed to this behavior, at the frat, the trash-talking bullies, but it always made me feel uncomfortable, I wanted to extricate myself from the scene, where you want to act like a bro to be part of the group. And groupthink takes over and you do heretofore unthinkable things. Believing you’re invulnerable and the group has your back.

But if you’re rich, that too is a club, with its own markers. Do you fly first class, NetJet or have your own plane? Can you snap your fingers and get what you want? Let’s be clear, we no longer live in the sixties and seventies. Reagan legitimized greed and now there are tons of rich dudes who emulate rock stars without the portfolio other than the cash. And let’s be clear, women are attracted to money, not all, but a certain number. And when women come in contact with this cash and power oftentimes bad things happen. Not always, but in the case of Ratner and Simmons, they do.

And now I can’t say any more. This is kind of like Rodney King, we heard about police oppression for years and didn’t believe it. We’ve been hearing about rape culture for years, and here it is, the evidence. And now most men are afraid to weigh in on the topic, they don’t want to get caught in the maelstrom, and I don’t want to either. But I’m wondering where this all ends up.

We’ve got to stop venerating the rich. We’ve got to stop saying they’re the job-creators and so much better than the rest of us. That’s just patently untrue. Too many are complicit in this myth.

We’ve got to eradicate bro behavior. This is a tough one, since it goes back millennia. But men are no longer hunter-gatherers, they’re no longer killing dinner every day.

And we’ve got to hold people accountable. Wall Street blows up the country and gets off scot-free. So you’re supposed to play by the rules? Once again, culpability is turned upon the opposite party. You took the mortgage, you were in the house, you’re responsible, not them. But Wall Street skated because one of their own was in charge, Timothy Geithner not only resisted calls for criminal culpability, he paid the perps, gave their outfits money to stay in business. It’s like the deal with Meek Mill. Jay Z was right. Meek Mill might have been a bad actor, but he was in perpetual probation, in a way white people are not. You see a black rapper and believe he’s guilty. You see a rich white guy and believe he’s not.

So what happens now?

The ball is being moved downfield. Thinking men will alter their behavior. But they will still want to be rich and successful for the perks. And the number one perk is sex. It even trumps money. That’s what men want. I hate to admit it, but guys judge you based on who’s on your arm.

Do the accused ever work again? Does the punishment fit the crime?

It’s like the rest of life. Their timing was bad. You could get away with it then, but not now. Mel Gibson came back, maybe they can too. But I’m not going out of my way to see Mel’s movies, Hollywood may have forgotten, but I have not. But that’s just evidence of the cracks in the system. The rich and powerful believe they’re in control, but in many ways they are not. We are, and new communication tools have delivered this to us. Then again, the internet has allowed untruths to prosper.

But this story has been broken by the press. The supposed dying outlet of fake news. But in an era of duplicity, where no reporter can make the cash of a techie, it’s important to stick to your guns, do what you do. That’s what’s wrong with music today, it used to be an exponent of truth, now it’s just a vehicle for wealth, with the makers complicit in the system. We want to hear from people outside the system, not those inured to it.

As for Trump, he was elected because too many felt abused by the system we’ve got. Which is why Bernie got traction. They were both appealing to the disaffected. But Bernie got shafted by the DNC and Trump employed the old playbook, deny, deny, deny, to escape culpability.

But homey don’t play that game anymore.

I Drank A Coke

I know, I know, it’s illegal, but I did it! As a matter of fact I’m having a Caffeine Free Diet Coke right now! But it’s not the same thing, it’s not the real thing, not like Coke, made with sugar, in a bottle.

Soda was a staple growing up. My father owned a liquor store. He’d bring home flats of soda on a regular basis, we’d never run out, even Yoo-hoo, that’s how I found out about Gil McDougald, before that I had no idea who he was. I once brought my entire Little League team to my garage so they could have free soda. It tended to be Cott, cherry and orange, not that Coke and Pepsi were illegal, I remember the old Pepsi logo, with the swirl, but I preferred Coke, until I went to college, when the machines were Pepsi-only.

Of course I can tell the difference. Pepsi is not only sweeter, but you can drink the whole can in one fell swoop. You cannot do this with Coke, because of its effervescence. I’d drink three cans a day, for 15¢ apiece, that’s what they cost, until Vermont became the first state with a bottle law, when they went up by 5¢, but finding a place to take them back was a near impossibility. They’d always require you to have bought them there, and they knew we were college students, assuming we even had a car to get us there in the first place.

But during my senior year of college I had a car, a ’63 Chevy convertible my dad had bought for $350, overpaying because of low mileage, which my sister drove at BU and then got handed down to me. That’s when I switched to Coke, in twelve ounce bottles, I was burned out on Pepsi, I could now go to the grocery store and buy Coke, it was a relief.

And I stayed with Coke until they came out with the new one, literally New Coke, which was in ’88, right? Of course I could look it up, but sometimes you just want to rely on your memory. I remember where I bought it, when it was rare, at Jay’s, the convenience store up the street.

I got it home, chilled the bottle, broke it open and then…

Severe disappointment. A flat sensation in between Coke and Pepsi that satisfied none of my taste buds. Meanwhile, real Coke was unavailable, I switched to Pepsi and then…

I found Caffeine Free Diet Coke in the fridge in Vermont.

No, I did not partake of Diet Coke. Because of its bitter aftertaste. It wasn’t quite as bad as the dreaded Tab, but it was not for regular consumption. And now I’m confronted with a can that not only does not have sugar, but is sans caffeine to boot, it’s got NOTHING! I expected it to taste like water. But surprisingly, it tasted better than regular Diet Coke, less bitter, less aftertaste, a facsimile of real Coke, but at the time you could not buy real Coke, and the Coke that came back to market had fructose instead of sugar, so I switched allegiance.

And then everybody went to water.

I feel like an adolescent. The holier-than-thou tribe excoriate me every time they hear I consume Caffeine Free Diet Coke, like I’m putting poison in my body, like if I drink enough cans I’ll die. But I don’t drink alcohol and I don’t smoke cigarettes and I try not to eat rice or bread and am I entitled to live? NO!

As for water, it’s just not satisfying, especially that wimpy stuff with a couple of calories that’s “flavored.” It’s got color, but to the degree it’s got taste, it’s icky. As for truly flavored water, it’s got as many calories as Coke, so I might as well drink that.

But I don’t. You see getting older certain foods become illegal. See a baby boomer eating french fries and you’re convinced they’re going to drop dead in the next couple of weeks. And as my nutritionist says, nobody gets to eat everything they want. So we’re all limited, we’re all restricted, and my problem is when I go off the rails, I go big. I eat all the chocolate chip cookies, I have a shake with my burger, so I try to keep the reins tight, but this week I’m losing my resolve.

Last night I ate chocolate pudding. Not a whole hell of a lot, but enough to satisfy. The worst thing is eating crap and finding out it doesn’t live up to your expectations. But this did! And today when I went for a drink at the bar…

Coke must be a sponsor. I was carrying around a glass of water all day, even put a lemon in it, but it was like drinking medicine, I just could not consume it. And when I went back for one more glass, I saw the bottles, Coke, Diet Coke and Sprite.

Now on a plane, I go for Diet Sierra Mist, or Diet Sprite. Hell…I’ll occasionally buy Diet 7-Up or Diet Ginger Ale at the grocery store. I’ve become so sensitive to caffeine. I don’t drink coffee, but I used to drink full-strength Coke and Pepsi, but now I don’t. As for Diet Coke, it too has caffeine, so I never partake, I don’t want to be up all night. And I must mention that zero calorie Vitamin Water is quite tasty, but it’s hard to find, so…

I’m striding across the landscape, I’m bellying up to the bar, I’m getting ready to pour some water and then I see the little Coke bottle and I say to myself…

Hell, a sip’ll be ok.

It always tastes better in the bottle. But the bottles are rare, but they’re right here. And they’ve got ice! I keep my fridge really cold, my cans of Caffeine Free Diet Coke need no ice. But now, on a hot fall day in Ojai, the thought of a real Coke over ice is irresistible.

I’ll just take a few swallows.

So I fill a glass with ice. I wondered how much to use, but the bottle was not cold.

Then I used a can opener to pop the top, reminding me of the days of yore, in my dad’s garage, using the metal Rheingold or Ballantine can openers to pop the top of soda bottles before there were screw tops.

And then I poured the caramel-colored liquid over the ice and effervescence ensued and I was getting into the mood.

I’d only planned for a little, but I filled up the glass, it looked so good with the ice.

And then I hoisted the glass to my lips and took a sip…

VOILA! My face broke out in a smile, the world went from black and white to color, I thought back to college, I reconnected with who I once was, felt good I was the same guy, and then could not stop.

I was in a good mood. I was in a commercial. My life was better with Coca-Cola.

I walked the grass with a bounce in my step, I poured the rest of the bottle in the glass. I calculated whether it was too late in the day to consume caffeine, decided it wasn’t, noted that there were only eight ounces in the bottle and downed my drink and…

It made my day, I can’t stop thinking about it. I’m not going back on a sugar water regimen, but it was like taking LSD, I saw the world in a new way.

Sometimes you’ve just go to color outside the lines.

My name is Bob Lefsetz and I’m addicted to Coke.



I’m not supposed to talk about it.

Actually, I asked Martin Sorrell’s permission, actually SIR Martin Sorrell, and he said to run it by him first.

Ain’t gonna do that.

Actually, I deleted the e-mail the first time through. I’m invited to scores of conferences. I won’t go unless you pay me. Hell, you’re reading this for free, I’ve got to make a living! And usually conferences are worthless. Sponsored by the government to promote industry they’re clusterfucks with no point. You see the usual suspects spouting the usual statements and if you’re lucky, you make some new friends and hang with old ones. And then there are the bands, oh I hate this. The organizer signs up a hundred wannabes, charges them to play in the hope they get a deal, whatever that means these days. Actually, for about a decade there, music conferences were fascinating, because the business was in turmoil, but it’s in turmoil no more. You’re now either a winner or you’re a loser, and you know which one you are by whether you’re bitching or not. If you’re complaining about streaming and how you just can’t make any money you’ve been left behind, the past is never coming back. All that hogwash about musicians being fairly compensated for their work… Yeah, that’ll happen when you can force people to listen to your trash, and that’s never gonna be, you’re competing against the best music of all time, you’ve got to be just that good, and the dirty little secret which is actually hiding in plain sight is if you are that good, if you are at the top of the chart, you’re making more money in adjusted dollars than you ever made in music previously. But try to tell that to the losers. You’re not entitled to make music for a living, do you think you’re entitled to play in the NBA?

So Stream is free. I learned that when they tracked me down again. Sponsored by WPP, the world’s largest advertising agency, whose majordomo is the heretofore mentioned Mr. Sorrell, and a bunch of other household name companies, it brings together agency people, media people and those like me, who wonder how we got on their list.

And believe me, these are different people, I never come across them in real life. Hell, I probably hear from as many people as anybody in Hollywood, but I don’t know advertising agencies and packaged goods consultants and it’s just stunning how many people really live in the world, and many of them are foreign, with a different perspective. The more you learn, the less you know. I’m sitting around in discussion groups today wondering to what degree I’ve got my finger on the pulse, because everybody’s got a family, everybody’s buying stuff, WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE?

Well, the people at Stream are the ones who are selling it to them.

Now the difference between Stream and the music business is these people are smart. Whereas music is peopled by hustlers. With no barrier to entry and great rewards for success, it’s hard to separate the wheat from the chaff in music, which is why you can’t get access, why you’re better off making a noise and being found than knocking on doors. People are DELUSIONAL! They’ll e-mail you files that suck which they believe are chart-toppers, it’s just that no one will tell them this, and if you do, you crush their dream and are labeled an asshole, harassed forever more, which is why it’s a club you cannot get into, no one has the time to waste with the great unwashed.

But in traditional business you’ve got to prove yourself to move up the food chain. But advertising is challenged. It’s just a decade plus behind the music industry. You see they’re being squeezed out, even though in many cases they’re necessary, but no one wants to pay, can you say NAPSTER??

Everybody hates disruption. They think their job is forever, or should be. But the world marches on and new companies emerge and many no longer have a seat at the table. But rather than deal with this, many deny it, try to prevent it, and howl when it comes to be, just like you hate the rappers who built culture online, gave their wares away for free and now dominate Spotify. You denigrate their music, the system, instead of getting on board and trying to play the game. There’s no culture in rock, which is why it’s eclipsed by even country on Spotify, one thing the social web has taught us is you need a community. But there’s no new music in rock that engenders said community. You’re bitching about streaming while Fleetwood Mac has over a hundred million streams of their hits on Spotify, because they’re GREAT, you don’t need a manual to understand them.

And today it rained. You know what it’s like to be outside in the rain in Ojai, under a teepee? It’s like being at summer camp. There’s a feeling in the air, like your life could change, like you’re living in the moment, like nothing else matters. You’re pissed when your phone rings, when you get e-mail, you want to disconnect as opposed to being plugged in.

And the truth is everybody’s friendly and most have no idea who I am and there are five discussion slots a day, you go to whichever groups you want, they’re organized by attendees, kinda like electives at the aforementioned summer camp. And you encounter certain people a number of times and create bonds. And your consciousness is heightened and your social network is increased with flesh and blood friends and the busier you are, and I haven’t had a free moment all day, the more you engage, you realize technology is just a tool, that it’s really just about us.

Stream the WPP conference

Stream USA 2017

United Masters

Can there be more than one Chance the Rapper?

Major labels are good for radio and TV, but what if they’re not part of the equation? Chance made it online, without the help of the usual suspects, is this formula repeatable?

That’s what Steve Stoute is gonna find out.

Now let’s be clear, he’s not the first in this space. Remember Topspin? And Bandcamp? But maybe, like Rhapsody, never mind Napster, they were just too early. The techies did devour music distribution, they call that Spotify, it rules.

Now the major labels have one thing that cannot be underestimated, their catalogs, which are generating beaucoup bucks on streaming services, with all expenses paid, the money is gravy, featuring a low royalty rate in most cases. That’s right, if you signed your deal more than five years ago, you were screwed. Now there are no expenses, no manufacturing, shipping or returns, but your deal might still have a packaging deduction, even though there is none, it’s hard to get rid of legacy deal points, but not if you start all over with a clean slate.

And the important thing about catalog is the financial cushion, it keeps you afloat while you’re looking for hits.

But what if you’ve already got a financial cushion?

In this case United Masters is financed by Alphabet, i.e. Google, and Andreessen Horowitz, the clean slate people, from Silicon Valley, who’ve revolutionized our world. They don’t improve upon old ideas, they start with new ones, or refine new ones.

Kobalt is revolutionizing publishing. It’s all about their dashboard, you can see how your song is performing, what revenue is coming in, the company is pulling the rest of the publishing industry forward, they have to change, otherwise they’re going to be left behind. Furthermore, Kobalt writers testify that they make more per song than their cowriters with traditional publishers.

Kobalt was financed by Google.

But Kobalt is notoriously bad when it comes to synch, the people problem.

That’s what United Masters is trying to tackle. Google took people out of advertising, can the same thing be done in music?

Google created an algorithm, you bid for your ad space, the ad world has been revolutionized. Can the same thing be done with music production?

It’s all about the data. Like those ads that follow you around the web. How do they know? Imagine if you could target all your listeners, know who they are. That’s what United Masters is trying to achieve. With this direct relationship you can monetize your career in heretofore unforeseen ways. And maximize those ways that do exist.

And it’s all based on fairness and transparency, concepts which are anathema to the major labels.

But the major labels are banks. With usurious interest rates. But if you could monetize yourself, and keep almost all of the money, you could float your operation until you hit the big time.

Will United Masters triumph?

The devil is in the details.

But it’s truly the beginning of the beginning.

P.S. The majors use their catalogs as leverage. Just ask anybody who tried to create a company based on their wares. Spotify was successful because it gave the majors an interest in the enterprise. Hits also give you leverage, but in the past you could not get paid without a continuous flow of product. But now you can.

P.P.S. It’s a business of winners and losers, now more than ever. But the hope of United Masters is it can generate a living wage for the losers, and prop up those on their way to stardom.

P.P.P.S. Music is the canary in the coal mine, it’s always first. In the movie business they keep railing against the unfairness of Rotten Tomatoes, we’re past that stage in music, we believe in the facts, we’re entering the future. If you’re complaining about streaming you’ve already been left behind. Use the new tools to your advantage.

P.P.P.P.S. The internet is about cutting out the middleman, going direct to consumer. That’s what United Masters is doing.

P.P.P.P.P.S. Never underestimate fresh eyes. The labels are peopled by a very thin layer of overpaid, usually ancient execs and underpaid worker bees, but the newbies are not burdened by concepts that make no sense, like the aforementioned packaging deduction.

P.P.P.P.P.P.S. The labels tell you what to do, own your product, and pay you bupkes. This is a business? Once upon a time there were no options. But now there are. Do you want to be told what to do or do it yourself? Everybody’s an entrepreneur, everybody watches “Shark Tank,” if you’re not in control of your own destiny, you’re about to hit a wall of frustration.

United Masters

Medium – United Masters

techcrunch – United Masters