Posted: Jul 15, 2013
Category: The Lefsetz Letter
**Guest Post by Bob Lefsetz of The Lefsetz Letter.
"DON'T STRIVE FOR UBIQUITY
We no longer live in a monoculture, we no longer all watch MTV and listen to the same radio station, so don't plot your career like we're all still living in the pre-Internet era.
PUBLICITY IS OVERRATED
You may feel good that there's a story about you in the newspaper, but it will probably have little impact on your career. Kind of like the Jason Isbell buzz. He was in the "New York Times Magazine" and less than a month later everybody's talking about Kanye and Jay-Z. And the Kanye buzz is already declining. There's just too much information today, and the more you try to appeal to everybody, the less people actually care.
DON'T DEPEND ON THIRD PARTIES
Being an artist is doing it your way. Now you no longer need a label, gatekeepers are not as powerful as they once were, so why are you playing to them? Of course it's more difficult going your own way, but that's the paradigm of the future. He who plays by the rules gets left behind.
EVERYTHING THAT LASTS STARTS OUT SLOW
If you get hosannas immediately, your work is probably not challenging or different enough to sustain. If people don't look at you quizzically after being exposed to your work, you're not doing it right. You can either be a leader or a follower. Leading is much more difficult, which is why you see everybody following, whether it be making soundalike music or competing on a TV talent show.
YOU'RE SELLING YOURSELF, NOT A PHYSICAL PRODUCT
Focus on your identity. Not only your work, but your personality. In a world where everybody's tweeting, facebooking and vining, having no edge is anathema. Give Kanye credit for stating his positions. The media trumpets what he has to say because it's so radically different from everything else. Jay-Z makes a new business deal, Kanye focuses on the art...there's a difference.
Ever wonder why teen phenoms fade? Because their fame is all they've got, there are no underpinnings. Life is the basis of your art, your personal experiences, what you learn. Taking business classes in college might get you a gig at a bank, but if you want to be an artist, you've got to focus on the humanities.
THERE IS NO SAFETY NET
Unless you're willing to walk into the wilderness and never come back, you'll never make it.
SUCCESS HAPPENS AFTER YOU'RE READY TO GIVE UP
Every legend contemplated giving up, if not committing suicide. Artists are outsiders, loners, it hurts to be estranged from society when all you really want to be is understood.
That's what broke the original hip-hop hits.
Anybody who tells you to bland your work out to make it more relatable is clueless. It's the personal that's universal.
TRUST NO ONE OTHER THAN YOURSELF
You're the only one with your agenda.
IF YOU'RE UPSET ABOUT FAILING, YOU HAVEN'T FAILED ENOUGH
That's from Meredith Whitney, in this week's "Bloomberg Businessweek." She was the lone woman where she worked...forget the hogwash about mentors, about help, you help yourself. Furthermore, in 2008 Whitney was on the cover of "Fortune" and says "There really wasn't that much recognition about it at my firm, and that was disappointing to me. Not even a pizza party. I know that sounds silly, but it felt important." Whew! If you're looking for a pat on the back, if you're looking for recognition from your peers, you're not testing any limits.
HAVE OUTSIDE INTERESTS
You will not get your best insights, your best stimulation, from hanging with musicians and reading trade magazines.
THE BEST AND THE BRIGHTEST ARE NOT IN MUSIC
Read this "Fast Company" story about Toms shoes: http://bit.ly/11GtjVO
You'll learn more and gain more insight than devouring an issue of "Rolling Stone," because this story is not all hype and this guy is not purely about the sell. He failed before he succeeded and he's evaluating what he's done. Today's musicians are all winners, how boring.
PERSEVERANCE IS KEY
And isn't it interesting that the people who say they won't quit do, and those who continue keepin' on just do so silently. Perseverance is a skill, too often untaught in today's instant gratification world. Greatness comes from frustration. If you haven't lost sight of the destination, you're on the wrong road.
TALENT IS EVERYTHING
The name of the band, the album cover...they're irrelevant if the music is great. Same deal with live performance...you can't give away tickets to something no one wants to see, time is too precious, it's too much of an effort to go.
TECH IS NOT MUSIC
It's just that the best and the brightest go into tech as opposed to music. Sure, Steve Jobs dropped out of college, but so many of the winners in tech have graduate degrees, frequently from prestigious institutions. They're willing to pay their dues in a way musicians are not.
10,000 HOURS IS NOT A GUARANTEE OF SUCCESS
Read Gladwell's book. Timing is key. Furthermore, it's 10,000 hours of hard practice. Not playing the same classic rock covers over and over again in a bar.
HAVE YOUR OWN OPINIONS
Everybody's got an agenda. When someone tells you something evaluate where they're coming from as opposed to accepting it as truth.
LEARN HOW TO SAY NO
There could be a cost to taking that money.
IGNORE CONVENTIONAL WISDOM
Netflix was godhead, then toast and now godhead again. Huh? People can't see the future and they're not living in the building. Most of what people say is uninformed crap.
DON'T WORRY ABOUT WHAT PEOPLE SAY
It's a full time job dealing with the haters. Furthermore, their goal is to get you to engage and to drag you down into the hole they're in. Blaze your own path and forget about them.
EXPOSURE DOES NOT ALWAYS PAY DIVIDENDS
People ask you to work for free, put your music in their production for the "exposure." They're hustlers. The exposure frequently results in nothing. Oftentimes their audience is limited. Ask for money, if they're unwilling to pay, walk on. Yup, if you get your music in a TV show be thrilled with the check, not the exposure, most of it's just gonna float down the river into the great big sea, i.e. be forgotten.
DON'T BE HOLIER THAN THOU
Oh, people may accuse you of this, ignore them. The point is don't get defensive and don't stand on the mountaintop preaching that you know the answer. I'm gonna let you in on a little secret...we're all clueless!"
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