SXSW... Let's Ask Bob!
A friend of mine passed this along to me. It is a commentary from well known music contrarian Bob Lefsetz. Being someone who just got back from SXSW , I found it not only interesting but very telling as to the future and state of the music business.
Read on and give some thoughts on Bob's comments!
Can an unsigned band get noticed? And, do we even bother to use that
term anymore, "unsigned". Do you want to get signed?
I mean what are the chances that the cognoscenti are going to care about
your band when R.E.M. and even Van Morrison are shilling for attention.
Oh, it makes you feel good, to rent a U-Haul, sleep four to a room and
perform a set no one cares about. The same way it makes you feel good
to send a CD to me! It's amazing what people will do to make themselves
feel good, make them believe they're making progress.
The new music business isn't at SXSW. Why should it be?
Think about it. If Yahoo and Google sprung up out of nowhere, what
makes you think the powers-that-be in the music industry are going to
rule in the future?
So you're gonna make a deal with a major, a 360 deal, because that's all
they want. You're gonna put yourself in the hands of the old
generation, lock yourself up completely, because it seems easier this
way, you can sleep at night, knowing you've got a signed contract locked
up somewhere. But when your record stiffs since the label is chasing
the product of the good-looker who recorded the songs they wanted them
to, the radio-friendly stuff, and you're tied up forever, who you gonna
The one person you might want to hook up with at SXSW is an agent. But
an agent is first and foremost impressed with your Pollstar numbers. An
agent wants to see your track record. Where you can draw people.
Actually, an agent doesn't give a shit WHAT you play as long as people
want to come hear it. The agent won't tell you what to record and what
to wear, they're just interested in selling tickets. They don't even
give a shit if you've got a record deal, just whether you've got an
And it's harder than ever to gain an audience if you're playing with the
usual suspects. All they know is radio. How come you're going to sign
with these guys when YOU have contempt for radio? All you bands playing
SXSW, you abhor Top Forty radio, but that's all the majors are
interested in. And chances are if you're a good-looking automaton,
ready to go the Jessica/Paris/Lindsay route, you've already got handlers
in New York or L.A. with a pipeline to the old guard, you don't have to
go to SXSW to get noticed.
Or you could go to the panels at SXSW. To learn that fewer people have
jobs at less money. I've debated Net monetization at these conventions
for NINE YEARS and nothing has happened. Everybody's just reacted to
what some college student, not in attendance, ultimately has done.
Everyone's looking for a shortcut. Everyone's looking for answers.
Everybody wants to get PAID!
Music isn't about money, but passion. If you've got the passion and are
willing to work 24/7, you might ultimately get money. Probably long
after your friends who went to law school do, if ever.
The whole scene is warped. With MTV's "Cribs" and rappers extolling
their high-rolling lifestyles. Don't you watch VH1? The lifestyles of
the one time rich and famous EVAPORATE! And then, if you're lucky, you
can be television fodder, for the public to laugh at.
All that MTV-era bullshit is done. It's not about your look. It's not
even about following trends. It's not about signing on the bottom line
for a zillion bucks. It's about making music. Constantly. Not on a
one album every three year cycle. The Net audience wants new tunes all
the time. A steady stream. Your hard core fans anyway. If you're
playing to the casual listener, you're abusing your hard core. Let the
casual user find you VIA the hard core. A single on the radio for nine
months may generate cash once, but it turns a hell of a lot of people
off. Like Taylor Swift. If I hear about her fucking teardrops on her
guitar one more time, I'm going to VOMIT! Just shut up and make another
record. I was a fan, now I just see a young girl being raped by the
system. A system that doesn't care about the fans, but only about the
short term money.
Don't worry about the short term money. If your music is good, if you
play well live, the money will come. But sending me a CD or schlepping
your equipment to SXSW isn't going to make your music any better. If
it's good, put it on the Web, energize your fans, they'll spread the
word. But you probably suck and are looking for the easy way out. And
crying that you just can't make any money. Boofuckinghoo.