Sunday, April 26, 2009

Gotta Serve Somebody

Bob Lefsetz, who publishes a widely read newsletter about music and music business, recently wrote that true artists "don’t give a shit what anybody thinks." "We Can Be Heroes, Just For One Day,"Lefsetz Letter, 4/21/09

But that's not the new music business model. If anything, that is now less true than ever before.

In the past, the rebels could fight the corporations, the record labels, the system. In many cases they were able to play the game from both sides. They would get the contract (which they could justify as a necessary evil to get their music out to the world) and then, if they chose, complain about it. Protest songs were written and sung by artists on major labels. The system insulated them, in a way, from the dirty work of making money. Rather than being part of the money-making machine, they could legitimately claim they were its victims.

But now there isn't a system to complain about. You are free to do whatever you want in pursuit of your music. If you hope to make any money at all, you have to talk to your fans.

Twitter, Facebook, and the other forms of social media are about staying in touch with your fans, communicating with them, making them part of your family. You give them a great concert experience. You build communities for them. If anything, it has never been more about what people think. If they don't like you, they move on to someone else.

As Lefsetz also wrote in that newsletter, the alternative to not caring what people think is this: "You need to appeal to everybody. You need to take everybody into consideration."

That, rather than the "don't give a shit" attitude, is what music is about. If you aren't relating to your audiences, you are playing for yourself. And if you are playing for yourself, then you might as well play in your basement.

Suzanne Lainson

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