THE LEFSETZ LETTER: Word Of Mouth


First and foremost comes a good product.


Requiring no admission fee, no college degree, no qualifications whatsoever, the music business is peopled by hucksters, who employ myriad scams to get you to pay attention to their wares.


But it doesn’t work.


Used to. Back when there was limited distribution, when bribing a deejay to play your song got you a leg up. But who buys music because it’s got a high iTunes chart position? Sam Adams worked the system in order to get meetings with major labels. But then what? If they sign him, they might market and promote him, but that doesn’t mean his music will sell. Because only good music sells.


Sucks, I know. Makes it much more difficult for you. You can’t get any traction outside your family and friends. The system’s rigged against you. Bullshit. If you were actually good, you’d blow up. We’ve got people surfing the Web 24/7 looking for good shit, dying to tell their peeps about it.


Bob Lefsetz, Santa Monica-based industry legend, is the author of the e-mail newsletter, "The Lefsetz Letter". Famous for being beholden to no one, and speaking the truth, Lefsetz addresses the issues that are at the core of the music business: downloading, copy protection, pricing and the music itself.

His intense brilliance captivates readers from Steven Tyler to Rick Nielsen to Bryan Adams to Quincy Jones to music business honchos like Michael Rapino, Randy Phillips, Don Ienner, Cliff Burnstein, Irving Azoff and Tom Freston.

Never boring, always entertaining, Mr. Lefsetz's insights are fueled by his stint as an entertainment business attorney, majordomo of Sanctuary Music's American division and consultancies to major labels.

Bob has been a weekly contributor to CelebrityAccess and Encore since 2001, and we plan many more years of partnership with him. While we here at CelebrityAccess and Encore do not necessarily agree with all of Bob's opinions, we are proud to help share them with you.

In Wednesday’s "Wall Street Journal" there’s a story about Porter Airlines. I wouldn’t have bothered to read it except for the fact that in Toronto, my ear was bent constantly about the carrier.


People waxed rhapsodic. The terminal was downtown-adjacent! The planes had leather seats! The flight attendants were all decked out like the sixties! There was a brand new terminal! And you only had to check in minutes before!


If Porter does any advertising, I’m clueless. But having heard the rap so much, I started spreading the word too. When Seymour Stein told me he was having trouble flying back to New York I asked him, had he tried Porter?



Porter is triumphing with a good product. And it’s being sold by its users. Kind of like Google.


I remember the turning point. A phone call with a non-tech savvy friend about a decade ago. She was telling me about some Web-activity and referenced "Googling" something.


This was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. I’d been ignoring the search engine, I was a fan of HotBot, but now I had to try Google out, now that the hoi polloi were employing it. Hell, the hoi polloi could barely surf the Web. If Google gave them answers…


I switched to Google overnight.


But it gets better. Not only did I become a user, but a fan. I was thrilled when Apple installed the Google search window in the Safari toolbar. Yeah! It was like my favorite team scoring a touchdown. This is what people don’t realize about Steve Jobs’ company. We not only buy the products, we’re believers. We’re interested in everything Apple does. Kick the tires on new products? Shit, sometimes we buy them without even experiencing them first. Ergo, iPad pre-orders.


But it only works if you’ve got a killer product.


It starts with a track. And from that track, you can build a career. Just like the iPod got people to buy iPhones and Macs. Give someone a taste of an exquisite product, and they’re on board.


And it’s not about speed. Hell, the twenty first century is littered with products that were hits overnight and disappeared almost instantly. You’ve got to let the audience discover you. You’ve got to let people believe it’s their choice. Shit, Apple is one cold computer company. But their stores are warm, the customer service is great. And this pays dividends.


Let’s focus on service. Because the initial product is not the end of the relationship. Point is, you want a relationship. Dell’s lame overseas customer service ended up decimating the company. Apple’s made in America customer service gets people testifying. See the difference?
The music business has been about batting people over the head to sell them a product once. You bought it. It sucks? That’s your problem. Furthermore, we rip you off at every turn. Just try getting a good concert ticket…what’s up with that? Hell, the experience buying an airline ticket is better!


So focus on the music. There’s nothing wrong with updating your Facebook page, tweeting away. But those elements are never going to make you. It’s your music that’s your calling card. And if your music is good enough, it will be embraced by fans and the word will be spread. No one sits at home waiting for their favorite song to come on the radio anymore… Shit, if you like something you can e-mail a friend the MP3, point to a YouTube page, there are many entry points for exposure.



You don’t stand out because of the penumbra. Shit, even J. Lo lost her Sony gig. It’s no longer how good you look, who you know, who you hang with… It’s about the tunes.


Don’t point out the exceptions. Those acts tend to be here today and gone tomorrow. Furthermore, this is a twenty first century change. When so much is available, when marketing is abhorred and tuned out, the only people we listen to are our friends. We trust them.


Marketing is the final step these days. It’s about positioning. It’s about imaging. Like those iPod billboards. They don’t tell you much, they just remind you how hip the product is.


So don’t bother attending marketing seminars. Don’t listen to the major label tell you how it used to be. Just practice, practice, practice. Make something insanely great. And post it online. Hell, give it away for free. Because if it’s really good, people will ultimately clamor around you to give you their money…for concert tickets, t-shirts and signed CDs, even if they only listen to MP3s. Because believers need badges of honor. They want to evidence what’s close to their hearts. It’s the key to logos on clothing. Shit, no one wants to sport a JCPenney or Wal-Mart logo just like no one wants to help you sell your lame music. But Louis Vuitton?


And, in case you didn’t know… That LV luggage lasts FOREVER!


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