Rebecca Black Lessons
By Bob Lefsetz
1. Selling recorded music is not the only way to make money in music. Ark Factory came up with a new way, ripping off the parents of little kids. Let this be a lesson to you, rather than complain that the old model is dead, innovate.
2. Old media loves to piggyback on new media. “Good Morning America” featured Rebecca Black as did “The Tonight Show”. Make noise and old media comes running.
3. Old media is last.
4. If you want to make an instant splash, you’re better off starting online instead of hiring a publicity agent and using old wave apparatus to dun old wave media.
5. Shelf life online is forever. Like a land mine waiting to be stepped on decades later, if you can Google it, it can always blow up. In other words, a spin on radio evaporates, a YouTube clip is waiting to explode.
6. Young kids want to play in the big time entertainment world. Having been sold prepubescent kids as talent, they ask themselves, why not me? This paradigm, like reality TV, will never die. But like reality TV, it’s only part of the landscape.
7. A tastemaker is anybody with an audience. In other words, Tosh.0′s got more impact than Lucian Grainge or Lyor Cohen. Tosh.0′s got an audience. If labels were smart, they’d figure out how to be a brand themselves and gain an audience independent of their roster, but they’re dumb.
8. YouTube hosts videos for free. Too much emphasis is being put on how much Rebecca Black is getting paid. More important is the mechanism that led to her fame. Used to be you had to pay independent promoters to get your track on radio, hoping to have it heard and discovered. Today airplay is free.
9. Music and video production are cheap. Rebecca Black’s mother paid Ark Factory two grand and got not only a song but a video. Not only does this beg why major label productions are so expensive, it reinforces the fact that anybody can play. In other words, if you’re bitching about needing money to make it in the music game, you’re playing by the old rules.
10. Train-wreck is more important than quality if you want instant attention. If “Friday” weren’t bad, only mediocre, or mildly good, no one would care.
11. In the modern world everybody feels he’s entitled to express his opinion. Fifteen years of the World Wide Web have taught people this. Track comments more than spins. Comments demonstrate that people care. But for how long?
12. Don’t equate fame with being rich or longevity. Fame is oftentimes brief and oftentimes the famous make almost no cash. I.e. reality TV. But there’s an endless parade of wannabes willing to prostitute themselves for a bit of fame. Is it the human condition or a reflection of America, where the poor can no longer be rich and fame is a substitute?
13. Those in the old world pooh-pooh. Yesterday’s story was how little money Rebecca Black was making off her success. If you think it’s about money, you’ve lost the plot, it’s about fame. Furthermore, in the connected world, real money comes AFTER fame. It’s old wave CD thinking to believe people will pay up front to experience something new. It’s usually free and you figure out how to extend the life and profit from it afterward. With the mainstream media clamoring to feature Rebecca Black, she can get an agent and sign on as a host for Nick or Disney. Don’t think small, but big. Don’t think music, but fame. In other words, if all of today’s Top 40 acts want to start clothing lines, which have nothing to do with music, why should Rebecca Black be limited to the music field?
14. Give the money away. Not only does it deflect criticism, it helps your bona fides. In other words, Rebecca Black is smarter than Beyonce. In the new world, you give back simultaneously with making it. Black is giving her profits to earthquake relief in Japan. How come she’s smarter than all those stars who played for a dictator?
15. In the modern world, you’re part of your audience. Don’t place yourself above, but within.
16. If you’re twentysomething and have been slugging it out for years trying to make it don’t complain about Rebecca Black. She lives in a different world. To make it and last in music takes longer than it has since the seventies. The MTV era made stars overnight, which faded almost instantly. Now you gain traction slowly, only your fans know you, they spread the word online and you pray that you never gain a Rebecca Black moment, because that means you’ll be ridiculed and be toast.
17. To get a lot of people to pay attention very quickly you’ve got to get lucky. I.e. Tosh.0 directing fans to the Rebecca Black video. You cannot plot success, your career map is not set in stone, you get in the game and try to get lucky. Better to keep playing and fail than polish one track and hype it to high heaven.
18. You do not need radio or record stores to make it. There is no physical product, airplay didn’t break “Friday”. Anyone telling you you need a label is sorely mistaken.
19. Either go for train-wreck value or be exceptionally good. Yes, if you’re an “artist”, mediocre doesn’t cut it. The landscape is evanescent lowest common denominator crap or incredible art. In other words, if you’re not going to be the next Bob Dylan or Radiohead, stay in school.
20. Rebecca Black is a bigger story than SXSW, certainly than any band that played there. Question the old game. Instead of wasting money to make yourself feel good, stay home and think. Come up with something that truly gets us to turn our heads.
21. Scale is important to instant success. Tens of millions of people can watch a YouTube clip in weeks. Nowhere near that many can see you live.
22. Broadcasting once not only fails in radio, it fails in TV. We live in an on demand world. Rebecca Black’s video was available on demand on YouTube.
23. There are more people who want to glom on to a success and ride it to their own personal nirvana than can create something new and different and make it. In other words, there’s a cottage industry of prognosticators and analysts jumping on the Rebecca Black train for personal advancement, like ME!