If you’re waiting for acknowledgement, acceptance by the powers-that-be… I hate to tell you, but the powers-that-be no longer exist. Last week the "New York Times" let Jeff Leeds go. Not because he was doing a bad job, but because they needed to reduce their headcount. What, there’s no longer going to be any music industry news? No, it’s just that the paper of record can no longer afford to cover it, the paper of record is trying to avoid a hostile takeover, going out of business itself. - Bob Lefsetz, Your One Big Break...Lefsetz is always the same. He states everything like its absolutely clear and simple, and its not - especially these days.
This one he's about 50-60% right, but oversimplifies everything, and totally ignores some important factors. Its true the market is fragmented now and there will be less "superstars" in the forseeable future, and they will make far less money than the superstars of the past. But the chances of having a "big break" were always microspic anyway. And there are still artists that break through in a big way - Hannah Montana anyone? Leona Lewis is on the verge of major success, millions of hits on the net, the Jonas Brothers are huge, One Republic had a huge hit song.
These break through artists aren't the ones Lefsetz wants to talk about though -- or me either really. But some of them are selling huge arenas, and they're on major labels. But most of us are too old to know much about them (unless we have kids).
They did, however, succeed using new methods of promotion, ways that Lefsetz neglects to mention, like "get your own tv show" or "get someone famous to re-mix your single" or "get your song into an ipod commercial." I love Feist but her sales were stalled until that ipod commercial hit.
Bob doesn't include these on his list because they don't fit his pre-conceived notion that talent and real fans are all you need. I wish that were true. But as we all know, crap does tend to rise to the top - from the Monkees to Hannah Montana ....actually I think she's just harmless music for kids - but should she be selling millions, while people like Ron Sexsmith struggle to get by?
No not everyone hates the major labels, most kids couldn't tell you if a band is on a major or an indie, nor do they give a shit. And radio still breaks bands. But he's right that this is all changing...but where he's wrong is the idea that the internet will usher in an age where good music (by whose definition? Lefsetz loves the Backstreet Boys and Bryan Adams!) triumphs. And where all fans are dedicated and loyal...which has never been the case. Most people just aren't that much into music, its not their whole life, as it is Bob.
People over a certain age are always moaning about current music and asking "when will good music make a comeback??" without really giving new music more than a cursory listening. Sure its not all as good as the 60's but that was a golden age, and there's still lots of good stuff out there. Its like saying "no one wrote any good music since the Beatles" - bullshit. (I actually think a lot of beatles music sounds dated and over-rated now, and I'm a huge Beatles fan - but that's another topic!).
People have been saying the internet will allow good music to surface and thrive for years, and has music really improved? Check back in three years and see if Lefsetz's dream comes true, or if Hannah Montana (or her younger sister) is still selling out arenas....while the new version of The Band or Little Feat are playing in some corner bar for 10 people.