Today’s Music Business

Stars are smaller than ever before. You might be number one on Spotify, you might generate a lot of ink in traditional media, but tons of people still might not know your name and those who do often only know your single, your album is for hard core fans.

There is no unity. You are on your own. Fight for recognition in your scene. That may be all you ever get.

If you’re not in the Spotify Top 50, if you’re not hip-hop or pop, you make your career on the road. Start practicing. Play wherever you can. All the criteria irrelevant in the pop world are incredibly relevant in the rest of the world. You MUST have a good voice. If you write great lyrics but your voice is a croak, hire somebody else to sing them. Roger Daltrey sang Pete Townshend’s words and Neil Peart, the drummer for Rush, wrote the lyrics. Auto-Tune, all the studio tricks, are irrelevant on the road. As for hard drives…the more real, the more honest your sound, the more people will relate to it. On the Top Forty, sheen is the goal. On the road, it’s edge, mistakes are cool, you want to show your humanity.

Every genre plays today. It’s not so much a long tail as a small head of hip-hop/pop and then everything else.

Only your hard core fans are interested in the album. Sure, if you’re in the Spotify Top 50, new fans might clamor for more and check out the rest of the album, but the truth is the acts on that chart are the most innovative, the ones who will release singles and three albums a year.

Are you satiating your fanbase or looking for something more? You can do good business giving people what they want. But oftentimes your business doesn’t grow. Sure, your fans are your greatest ambassadors, but if your music is niche, it will probably stay that way unless you switch it up.

We live in a mash-up culture. I.e. you can mix anything with anything. You can rap in country and you can sample rock in hip-hop. Broaden your horizons.

You need a manager. But if you’re starting out and are employing an amateur, DON’T SIGN ANY PAPER!

Agents only want you if they think they can find you gigs. But, despite all the hoopla about arena-level acts, most gigs are not booked for stars, but journeymen and up-and-comers. Agents need acts. Agents will leverage their power, especially with their other clients/roster, to build you.

You can be outrageous on stage, but you’d better not be that way in business. The music business is mature. When it comes to business, people expect you to be organized, with a team that can deliver. Don’t show up, break a contract and you’re out.

Credibility is the key to a long career. In other words, be wary of taking the short money at the cost of the long. Selling out may not matter if you’re in the Spotify Top 50, but it damn does if you’re not. Your fans are not momentary, but for life. They believe in you. If suddenly you prefer the corporation, if people get wind they’re paying more or losing access because the man comes first, you’re toast.

Ticket fees are here to stay. StubHub went all-in and sales went down.

Someone always bitches, isn’t that what the internet has proven? Your tickets will always be too expensive, the fees will be too high for a certain class of people and they’ll complain online. But if you don’t amplify their anger, it will dissipate. Anger wants an audience, without it it dies.

Production is irrelevant unless you’re selling arenas, where the belief is the audience expects it. But in smaller shows, the lack of production puts the focus on music, makes you more authentic.

More people can play, fewer can climb up the food chain.

Your first job is cutting through the noise. That’s a very slow process. If you’re not in it for the long haul, give up now. The Spotify Top 50 phenoms may make it their teens, you probably won’t make it until your thirties, if at all.

You need a hit. Every band should focus on creating that one indelible track that not only excites the base, but anybody who hears it. Who knew Portugal. The Man before “Feel It Still.” I don’t care how well you play, how cohesive your album, without a hit, forget it. Don’t confuse this with Tom Petty’s the A&R man didn’t hear a single. You’re not playing for the radio, you’re not adjusting your sound for anybody else, forget the radio, you’re speaking to the online audience, i.e. everybody, your music is available to all, you want to create something that people can talk about and share.

Artists know when they do something great. If you don’t think it’s great, it’s not. You’ve got to write crap before you can write well. You’ll look back at what you wrote in the past and wince. The key is to exercise the muscle, to the point where if you get inspired, you can lay it down.

Plenty of people will charge for advice, say they can help you, but the truth is you’ve got to help yourself.

Crossing over is nearly impossible. You’re in your genre, accept it.

Forget the traditional markers. Chart position, awards. Only you know how well your business is doing. You want to grow active fans, who sustain you. They don’t care about chart numbers, etc., they only care about you.

Touring numbers, not streams. It all comes down to the gross, and you can gauge how fervent your audience is by merch sales, how many bucks per head.

Don’t worry if you don’t get it, it’s not for you. The Spotify Top 50 is a sideshow, bigger than other shows, but there is no Big Top in the music business anymore.

Gain strength and then negotiate, the hotter you are, the better the terms.

You want to own as much as you can. The songs, the recordings…

Money breaks up bands. Figure it out early or people will get angry.

Money makes Top Forty records. That is the labels pay beaucoup bucks recording these tracks and ensuring they’re played on the radio. It’s a closed system, and unless you sign with a major you’re out.

The young audience is digital-savvy. It follows trends. If you’re young, or kids are your audience, you want to be where they are, this week TikTok, as opposed to terrestrial radio.

Successful acts communicate with their fans on a constant basis. Mystery is history. If you’re not willing to post on social media, don’t complain that you didn’t make it.

In the miasma of music, with so much stuff available, the old middle level acts have been dragged down in most cases. They were supported by label money and scarcity. Their revenue is not going down because streaming is the devil, but because with everything available their music is less desirable.

If you’re not breaking ground, don’t start. It’s too hard to get ahead today. You want to be great and you want to be innovative, otherwise you’ll have no longevity.

Maria Konnikova-This Week’s Podcast

Maria Konnikova is the author of the new bestseller “The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win.” A Ph.D. psychologist/staff writer at “The New Yorker,” Konnikova decides to tackle poker, a game she doesn’t even know how to play, because it’s a metaphor for life and she wants to investigate luck. Listen to gain insight into poker as well as game theory and the ins and outs of the poker circuit. I’ve never played poker and I loved “The Biggest Bluff.” I believe you’ll love what Maria Konnikova has to say in this podcast.

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Kamala Harris

I don’t get it.

She excoriates Biden in the debates and suddenly he picks her as his running mate? This is why people hate the Democrats. They’re squishy, without a backbone, so busy doing what’s expedient, triangulating, that you can’t believe in them so they lose.

It’s about passion more than dogma. One thing about Trump, you cross him and you’re toast. People are excited by Trump. Is anybody excited by Kamala Harris? If so, why did she have trouble raising money during her presidential run, why were her numbers so bad?

I know, I know, I’m raining on your parade. You’re thrilled that Biden picked a woman, a black one at that. And I’ve got no problem with that, it’s just unlike the talking heads, Rachel Maddow, and the newspaper writers, I cannot get excited about it.

I live in California. Before she became a senator, Kamala was attorney general, someone you voted for on a party basis, it’s not like she had a profile. And since she’s been in the senate…

This is not AOC. Someone like Trump, not beholden to the past, doing what she believes in her heart as opposed to her head. You see politics is a game. Of professionals. And they want you to play it their way. These same pros totally blew it in 2016. I’m not talking about the pollsters (who no matter what Nate Silver says got it wrong, I didn’t hear Silver emphasize the odds of Trump winning before election night, it was about the margin, not the possibilities), I’m talking about the whole damn Republican party. That’s right, the usual suspects, the kingmakers and their pawns, the candidates, were steamrolled by Trump. They didn’t see it coming. The truth is Republicans are anti-immigrant. And despite some good apples on that side of the fence, that’s where the white nationalists reside, and Trump plays right to them. You see Trump has a new style, you don’t play to everybody, just those on your team. He’s never been president of everybody, but he won, and he could still win again, not that I believe he will. But I do not believe he’ll go down without a fight. Come on, he’s already laying the groundwork to delegitimize the election. He’s cutting the Post Office in plain sight, decrying mail-in ballots, if you think it’s a fair fight, you’re ignorant.

And Biden… Come on, he’s done nothing to counter the image of senility. Of course anybody who has followed his career knows he’s the king of misspeaking, which is why he’d better not debate Trump whatsoever, the Donald will kill him. Come on, he killed Hillary, and at least she had her wits about her.

And we saw this movie four years ago. The coronation of the woman who didn’t stay home and bake cookies, who paid her dues, was the first female candidate for president and promptly lost.

Oh, don’t email me about the popular vote. That’s not the ultimate game. And never forget the Supreme Court gave 2000 to Bush. It’s never a fair fight, which is why you must fight. And Biden is not up to the task.

I’ve got no problem with what the man stands for, his experience, then again he’s completely out of date. I’d say he’s a BlackBerry in an iPhone world, but the truth is he’s still dialup. And let’s be clear, he was getting killed in the debates. Didn’t win a single one. And was losing in the primaries until the DNC got freaked out about Bernie and convinced Biden’s competitors in the middle to drop out. And the press always hated Bernie. They don’t want to hang with him. You can’t make any money writing for the newspaper, but you get access. Who wants access in a world without private jets and fabulous parties and… The writers are afraid they’ll end up eating sprouts on paper plates. With smoothies instead of martinis.

Yes, the Democrats are playing by the old rules. Afraid to move into the future they’ve literally jetted back to the past, with the aged Biden, and are crossing their fingers that people hate Trump just enough to push Joe over the top.

And if the election is close… Biden couldn’t even respond to the Ukraine attack FOR DAYS! It was like he was punch drunk. You hit back on falsehood, otherwise it looks like it’s true.

And Trump knows you make news 24/7, you’re top of mind, whereas Biden is in a bunker hiding, trying to run out the clock.

Did you watch the PGA? It wasn’t won by Tiger or Phil, or even Koepka or Johnson. No, a twenty three year old out of nowhere, Collin Morikawa came out on top, BY TWO STROKES! There were six people tied at ten under. If it was Biden and the DNC, they would have played it safe, hoping that someone else screwed up. But Morikawa? He played to win. He landed on the sixteenth green in one to set himself up for an eagle. And if you know golf, which everybody in D.C. is aware of, the longer the shot, the more of a chance it’ll go off course. And with trees by the green and a sand trap… Ooh, SCARY! Better lay up! But if you do… There are only so many opportunities to get ahead. An eagle was impossible on the following holes. Once the challengers were behind, they couldn’t make up the strokes. Kinda like Biden… When the going gets tough, in September/October, he’s gonna reach deep and..? There’s nothing there, other than a bunch of malarkey. Once again, Morikawa is young and fearless, he played to win. The DNC is old and scared, and it’s playing to lose.

Yes, lose.

So, Kamala Harris is the VP candidate. Has ANY VP candidate ever made a difference? Well, Biden attached his experience to Obama’s campaign, but even though I’d rather have Kamala Harris be president than Donald Trump, she’s done nothing in her career that demonstrates she’s up to the task. I’m not saying she could not grow into the job, but her experience in foreign affairs and economics and… She’s schooled in the law, in a lawless society.

As for motivating the African-American base… Biden had it right, he spoke truth, and then everybody beat him up and he had to apologize. THE BLACKS ARE NOT GONNA VOTE FOR TRUMP! NO WAY! It’s only an issue of getting out the vote, and Kamala doesn’t help that much, it really comes down to whether not only blacks, but everybody not on the right comes out and votes, whether it be in-person or by mail. Yes, it’s that simple, it’s all about motivating people to vote. And if you think the Biden/Harris team is exciting, you probably get off on watching “Murder, She Wrote.”

It’s very simple folks. And the Kamala Harris hoopla is just a sideshow. Our democracy is up for grabs. Even if Trump loses and agrees to leave, he can wreak untold havoc before he goes. Either you’re scared or you’re not.

But the public is depressed. I certainly am. It’s five months later and we STILL don’t have a comprehensive Covid-19 plan? Of course Trump is worthless on this, but in an era where he’s laying it all at the feet of the states, they can’t organize and institute a plan that keeps me and most everybody else safe?

And Biden comes from Delaware… Good luck with corporate downsizing.

There is absolutely nothing exciting on the Democratic ticket, and no matter how many articles are written, no matter how many headlines appear about Harris, that’s not gonna change. It’s not like she’s a noted left-winger. She’s all about law and order in a country where Black Lives Matter pushed Biden to pick a black running mate. Yes, protests make a difference, without them would Harris be on the ticket? Doubtful. But the underlying problems in this country, starting with income inequality, where’s Harris on that? Opportunity? Bernie got all his campaign funds from the rank and file, he was beholden to nobody and what was Hillary’s complaint? No one likes him and he won’t play the game. Well, Trump won’t play the game and he WON! Hillary’s just pissed that she sold herself out and lost. And the DNC and the media couldn’t take the temperature of the country and realize that the Republicans had tarred Hillary’s reputation to the point where not only those on the right, but many on the left, despised her. If you actually spoke with Americans, you weren’t surprised when Trump won. But the DNC and the media are in a bubble. Give Trump credit, at least he spoke to the downtrodden, he even said he liked the uneducated. May have turned your stomach, but if you dropped out of high school and were working a minimum wage job, Hillary was not speaking directly to you! Oh, forget that Trump hasn’t delivered for these people. Once again, the DNC is playing defense, making it about the other candidate as opposed to their own. And you cannot win if you don’t score points. And remind me what points Biden has scored in these past five months…hell, he can’t even make any news!

So it comes down to this. The Democrats versus Trump. But have people given up on government and won’t vote even if they hate what’s going on? I almost have. Come on, look at the salaries of these CEOs. Look at the stock market when workers are hurting. It’s like there are two different Americas and only a few live in the bright and sunny one, the rest of us are scrounging for food in the alley, amongst the rats and the dumpsters. We’re so busy trying to survive that we’ve tuned out the D.C. follies…they haven’t delivered for us before and they probably won’t this time either. We hear the pace of change must be slow… But if you’re feeling sick and can’t get a Covid-19 test, and if you do you have to wait a week for the results, speed is of the essence.

And the truth is we live in a selfish country anyway. Despite lip service and a bit of philanthropy the truth is everybody is out for themselves. That’s part of the appeal of Trump. Because his base has the same ethos.

Thank god the news cycle is so fast that this “excitement” about Harris will fade nearly instantly. As it is, the long reveal reminds me of nothing so much as Geraldo Rivera and Al Capone’s vault. They hyped it for eons, and after waiting all those weeks we ultimately found out…there was nothing there.

Oh, Harris is a bit more than nothing, but not as much as they’d like you to believe.

If the DNC were smart, and it is not, it would unleash Kamala, have her make news every day. But they won’t, because they believe that’ll steal the thunder from Joe, who can’t even produce a drizzle. As for the Trumps’ previous donations to Harris…there are no more gotchas. Trump has won again and again and again. We can analyze the subtext, but the truth is he’s gotten his way almost universally. Which appeals to Republicans. After all, he installed all those judges.

The Republicans know it’s about the team. You’ve got to rally the troops so they’re on the same page.

The Democrats? I’m gonna vote for Joe and even I can’t sell him to you. Same deal with Kamala. You can’t win without someone at the top. You need superstars and a coach. Ultimately Obama won because he was a superstar. The press didn’t even get it. He rolled Hillary in the primaries and then won in November because he appealed to the people, despite being black and inexperienced.

It’s like the Spotify Top 50. The oldsters, the usual suspects, they put out product and if it scores at all, it falls right off the chart. As for the weekly “Billboard” album chart…talk about being rigged. Think about it, albums are Top 10 that are truly anything but, because of bundles. So, if Trump wins will it be any different? The music industry wants no light on the “Billboard” chart, they love its flaws, the ability to manipulate it. And despite seeing the “Billboard” numbers every week in the news, we never see the streaming numbers, the Spotify numbers, because the industry doesn’t want the focus on them BECAUSE THEY CAN’T BE MANIPULATED!

I could delineate all the flaws of Trump and his team but I’m not gonna bother, nothing makes any difference, nothing moves the needle. I’m just waiting for November and hoping and praying Joe emerges victorious.

Yes, that’s what it’s come down to, a wing and a prayer. Has all the bloviation on MSNBC and CNN made any difference? Have all the opinion pieces in the NYT and WaPo inhibited Trump’s behavior? NO! So it’s useless for me to pile on.

So, once again, the Democrats want us to elect a tired old man to be king. They’ve got nothing in their arsenal other than hatred for Trump, who keeps on winning, yes, he’s winning on his terms. So, our only hope is to get out the vote. But that’s just the first step. We now live in an Eastern European country. Our election infrastructure is sketchy. In a world without facts, do you suddenly expect there to be some in the election process? NO WAY!

It’s scary out there folks. And I cannot sleep any better at night now that Kamala Harris is on the ticket. Who we really need is Batman, some other superhero. Someone we can all believe in who can get us to pay fifteen bucks to see their movies in the theatre. We live in a Comic Con world and the DNC’s offering is black and white. Literally, in this case. Trump is a cartoon. And despite being a buffoon, Homer Simpson’s show has run for three decades, not a single live action series has come even close. Because Homer is not radically different from the Trump base. And Grandpa Simpson is a Fox-watcher. But Lisa is smarter than everybody in the house, she can fix your computer. And Bart knows that rules are for losers. Yes, Lisa and Bart are the next generation, members of Generation Z and the aging millennials. And who is on the ticket for them? NOBODY!

Club Songs-Songs With “Club” In The Title

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Tune in today, August 11th, to Volume 106, 7 PM East, 4 PM West.

Hear the episode live on SiriusXM VOLUME: HearLefsetzLive

If you miss the episode, you can hear it on demand on the SiriusXM app: LefsetzLive