(Written late last night, April 5, 2012)
I had what counts as a great day in the music business today. Records I’ve worked on are coming out better than I dreamed, my band’s summer tour is coming together and I have been re-energized by my recent vacation.
Today our little record label found another ally in our quest to build a great home on the web for our artists. It was a chance meeting through a friend that brought this person into my life and I’m so glad he took the time to hear our pitch. He listened, but he didn’t have to.
I had the chance to music supervise for a TV show at one point. We were completely overwhelmed with submissions but I always made a point of listening. Some of those bands are nowhere now, some of them went on to become household names. A lot of the music we got was not a good fit for the show. Some of it wasn’t good at all. But I took the time to listen.
Recently I’ve been reflecting on the solid decade of hard work I’ve put into my little corner of the music business and how grateful I am for the friends and colleagues who have become my support network. How lucky I am that they have stuck with me all of these years and at our first meeting didn’t talk over my set, delete my myspace message asking for a show trade or walk out when I sang a bad note. They listened.
While my dream for stardom has long since been put to rest, I of course still allow myself to hope for someone to come across the work I’ve been a part of and bless it with their magic media wand and create a demand for it. I hope when I send a song to Robin or Bob at All Songs Considered that they’ll take the time and listen. That my fans will send a song around and it will be listened to by their friends and their friends will come to a show.
That’s all we’re asking for, is to be heard. We want people at our shows, we want people to put on our records and fall in love, to share in our heartache, to get inspired, to live alongside us for a moment and to for us all to feel like part of a whole.
Bob Lefsetz is an asshole. That’s part of his shtick. Just like Perez H***** is an epic asshole, or the nerds at Gizmodo have this sort of asshole-naiveté that makes them so endearing. Asshole-ness is what makes the Internet go.
It just so happens, Mr. Lefsetz’ asshole-ery more often has felt like that of a curmudgeonly uncle who, despite himself, has something insightful to say. The uncle that drinks too much and yells at the kids but you know what, you’ll sit down and play a game of dominoes with ol’ Uncle Bob cuz he’s got great stories from The War and some real insight about these Modern Times we live in.
Mr. Lefsetz has championed the democracy of the modern music business, he’s written thoughtfully about the challenges we face and how difficult and exciting it is to be a part of this transformed industry. And when Bob Lefsetz chooses to talk about a specific band, guess what, people listen. Despite, or because of, his asshole shtick Bob has managed to become something of a tastemaker in the music business.
So tonight I was sitting with my brother in law at a forum on Latino Issues for the representatives running for the House in my district (really). It was interesting to watch local politics playing out at that level, in person. I was mostly engaged, but I did lose interest for a bit and check my news feed.
My stomach dropped when I read the insidious Letter that Bob published tonight asking people to STOP SENDING UNSOLICITED MP3S.
That’s akin to the politicians onstage standing up at this public debate and saying “You know what, no more questions or suggestions from these lowly constituents. I only want to hear from people with money behind them or who know me already. Everyone else, take a hike.”
That’s Bob saying he only wants to hear from lobbyists in the music industry. He only wants bands to come to him through his pre-approved channels.
That’s Bob closing the one little crack in the door most folks thought they had. There’s no chance that maybe if we send our music to Bob, even though we don’t know him, that he’ll take the time to listen. Or that he’ll feel any regret when he deletes our email.
Instead, today we learned that Bob isn’t listening to those that don’t have the (dis)pleasure of knowing someone close enough to him to lobby for inclusion in the next policy speech he makes.
He’s saying he doesn’t give a shit and I think that is totally irresponsible. He’s created a megaphone so loud that most of us in the business at least have to try listening to it for a while. And now he’s saying he doesn’t want ordinary people to ask for his ear?
I’m seething about this. It’s late. I wish I could have a beer with many of the people I imagine will read this, but I’m gluten free right now and everyone’s asleep. So I’ll post it in the morning after a quick proof read, and I’ll email it to old uncle Bob.
I’ll borrow this closing from my friend who called me tonight so we could slap our foreheads at this nonsense: Send me your unsolicited MP3s. I will listen when I can, and I’ll delete them with a little twinge of regret when I can’t. My megaphone isn’t nearly as big as Bob’s, but I’ll do what I can. syd at syd-music dot com.
Bob — your whole argument seems to hinge on the fact that your technology isn’t set up to handle mp3s in email, which strikes me as odd given your profession, but not surprising given your generation. So, I’ll come over any time and set up an email filter for you so you don’t have to dirty your hands with the hard work of so many others who dared to hope for a second that somebody was listening. It’ll be easy — any email with an attachment from a name outside your address book will go straight to the trash.
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