Bob Lefsetz And Apps As The New Beatles
I less read and more skim Bob Lefsetz, the music community newsletter and blogger with the best connects and really excellent ideas about many aspects of the entertainment and tech business but not so keen on the actual music of the music business unless you are in the market for how wonderful the Eagles were.
Lefsetz is a one man how to succeed in the entertainment world while really really trying but as for as the actual music of music he is clueless and never more so then on his bizarre comparisons of apps and rocks and sounds. Currently he is raving about an App called “Uber” that lets you book taxis. No, really. I guess it is an LA thing but whatever. I’ll bite. I’m sure it is great.
But then he compares it to the new West and Jay-Z albums and finds the two rappers albums to be great big much ados about nothing and the App to be exciting and where the real rock stars are.
His point is the excitement once generated by the the world of rock and roll is now generated by other things, high tech, ITunes, stuff like that. So let’s break it in two: when it comes to Itunes, it is like comparing Michael Jackson to MTV. And when it comes to Apps it is like comparing Nike Sneakers to a Big Mac. They don’t really stand up at all.
But let’s ignore the comparisons and just check out his major points. Musicians are whining bores who don’t want to do the hard work and will never succeed the way the Beatles (or the IPhone I guess) once did.
What’s the kick against modern music? I think it is in pretty good shape, really I do. In the 1980s I read a book about how Lebanon improved after the 1975 civil war because it got rid of all the Eurotrash and left the city to those who loved it. Risible perhaps, but it is certainly true of music. Most musicians realize they aren’t gonna get rich out of popular music any more, and most musicians would be happy with a health insurance and a pension plan but sdoes that mean they suck? Is success synonymous with value? Why would it be? Since when? Some of my favorite musicians never broke through –too much luck involved, too much timing. It didn’t happen for them. Did their music suck because they weren’t listened to?
That being the case, how do you equate the creator of “Uber” Travis Kalanick with, say, Laura Marling? Where is the intersection? If Marling’s last album didn’t dent the top ten albums, does it stop being a great album and be worthy of Lefsetz’s contempt?
And that’s just one woman, one album. What about entire movements which insulate themselves from the business, but work well within their own world. A Kevin Greenspon who, along with no more than 100,000 musicians and fans, exist in a world that wants nothing to do with music streaming or bars, that lives to play real music too each other. Kevin will release a 100 copies of an album and that’s it. I interviewed Joan Jett just after I Love Rock And Roll hit, and she said she was thrilled by the success but it didn’t change anything. She would be doing the same thing without it. I interviewed Spider Bags whose masterful Hang My Head didn’t do much business last year and he said the same thing. Are they whiners begging to get heard? Is that all that is in the music business?
When a West, certainly a creative force, turns his back on sales, does that make him a loser? It is sophistication for Lefsetz to claim his lack of sales makes him a loser. But even if West is a loser, where does equate back to APPS. Music is its own medium, it isn’t by any stretch of the language an Apple technology wonder. I’ll admit to not being much of an app guy while also having 40 or something like that on my phone. I’m a music guy, but Lefsetz is all over the place. He doesn’t hear creativity in West the way he sees it in APPs because he doesn’t jnderstand music. He mistakes distribution for creation and then dismisses musicians because they didn’t invent ITunes.
There is nothing easier on earth than ignoring the weak but Lefsetz’s “impress me now or you won’t get another chance” makes no sense. Who loved Shostakovich the first time they heard him? It is true, music needs to be listened to, sometimes over and over again. Lefsetz answer might be “sorry, I just don’t have the time”. I mean, it’s sad but it happens. That’s one thing. But Lefsetz’s point is don’t expect people to give you the time to deliver. Don’t make music that takes time because nobody will give you the time. Maybe they will and maybe they won’t be what’s that got to do with anything? Music isn’t the start of something it is an end in itself.
Win or lose, it doesn’t really make that much difference and as musicians have come to realize they won’t make money but like the those who didn’t leave Beirut, at least those who stick around are really good.
Lefsetz is like the dwarves at the end of CS Lewis’s “The Last Battle”. The dwarves are looking around and saying, there is nothing here we will sit in the dark, while the true believers look around and see that they are in heaven. This is a strange,wild, thrilling, messy, bizarre time for music, so go hail a taxi