Lefsetz Letter » Blog Archive » Everything is a Cult
Casual listeners are dead.
The best analogy is television. Baby boomers will remember that even changing channels is a big deal when you’re watching what’s on, and you have to get up from the couch before the remote.
Then there’s the remote control, and finally cable TV, which has a lot of channels. But recording is still done by VCR, which most people can’t figure out. VCR is mainly a playback device. So people will sit and watch TV at night and click on the available channels unless they rent a movie.
Then there are DVRs. And the internet. And be able to pick your content and watch it later. “TiVo” became a verb, remember those days? Ask Gen Z members what TiVo is, they don’t know. They have come of age in the age of on demand. What you want to consume is at your fingertips, you just have to make a choice.
And then today, we live in an on demand culture with so many options! In TV, music…and then the internet, which has endless pastimes, not to mention TikTok, which is the Netflix for young people.
But the point here is that there is no more passing listening, let alone watching. You choose what to consume, and if you don’t choose it, you’ll never hear it.
No one wants to admit it. Because it means they have lost control, the lunatics have taken over the shelter, they no longer control the market.
The record company is doing well. They control the radio and physical distribution. Most people don’t know about it unless they hear it on the radio. Of course, there are also active fans who consume print publications, but ironically, they are the most devoted radio listeners! Sure, you can learn about an act by the opening time of the show, but all the money is in the recording, and a live show is an advertisement for a recording.
Today, terrestrial music stations mean little. Because who wants to listen to the same damn station indefinitely, never mind consuming twenty minutes of commercials every hour. I mean, how many music-oriented stations are there even in your market? And none of them will play your type of music. Your car is equipped with Bluetooth and you can stream from your smartphone. The only people who passively listen to music are baby boomers who flip through the channels on their TV every night. At the same time, cable TV subscriptions continued to decline, people cut cords, some never connected, and they chose and chose their entire lives. You go to college with your laptop and you use your parents’ Netflix account. You borrow passwords from other streaming giants. Other than that, it’s the Internet.
So how are you going to expose people to new music? you can not!
Oh, and you can heavily arm the media like you used to with powerful weapons, and it’s probably still a powerful terrestrial broadcast. But the target audience didn’t see it. They make headlines on social media and they never get too deep into your story. They escape completely. If people can avoid hard news, politics, what are the odds they will see your propaganda and record censorship? almost zero!
And then there’s the playlist…never worry so much about something with such a small impact. Talk to Spotify, read their articles, most people pick their music, they don’t want to listen to endless playlists with so many tunings. Come on, have you tried it? If you’re a music fan, it’s a pain! So people make their own playlists. As far as being turned to something new, they rely on their friends, who are constantly close to the ground, feeling the humming temperature.
But the buzz mostly applies to the unknown. People’s time is so limited that if they’ve sampled and don’t like it, they won’t go back. Yes, make a first impression, then good luck!
That being said, there are fanatical cults. But they won’t cross over to the public. I would say a lot of people now know K-Pop, they’ve heard of BTS, but they don’t want to listen to the music of the act. That’s for a life-or-death hardcore who invested in BTS. Their fists are more than their weight. They’re too busy talking about BTS, going to shows that the media and industry people think is a common occurrence, but it’s not! It’s just a very big cult.
Fifteen years of boasting is like this. They don’t appeal to everyone. They have a hard core and that’s it. There is not even an ordinary fan, why bother, why spend time?
As for those listening to the playlist, they were the least active consumers, the last to stream a track unlimitedly and pay for a show ticket. These people use playlists as background music at home or at work, and they may not even be able to recall a track they’ve ever heard, let alone played.
There are other cults. public broadcasting. Avid fans follow the show’s host, and then stream select content. Like WFMU or KCRW. Listeners know this, but no one else knows. So when the hipster band came to town, there would be an older audience, but the show wouldn’t be on the first tour, and the cult wasn’t that big.
As for all these sold out…
Suppose you played 15 stadiums. Let’s say you sell out at 50,000 seats each, not to mention that many stadiums today have fewer seats than that. Sounds impressive, but…
In a country of 330 million people, there are 750,000 people. This is a drop in the bucket. Apple didn’t even wake up for that number. It’s a big belly.
I’m not saying it’s not good business, there’s a lot of money out there, but if you think there’s an endless demand to see this behavior, you’d be wrong. It’s okay to have extra behavior on the bill to turn it into an event so that people show up in the first place.
festival? 100,000 a day? The money is good, it doesn’t matter much.
It’s a far cry from what he did on “Hee-Haw” back then. Even MTV. TRL is a club that changes direction, there are no alternatives and there can be no alternatives because everyone is no longer on the same page.
Then you have a history of music competing with new things. A lot of this is still going on, albeit not for long.
Again, there is a lot of money to be made, but don’t confuse this with IMPACT!
So you have a record of #1. Big deal. Most people have never heard of it. Morgan Wallen’s album “Dangerous” has been in the top ten for over a year now, and I bet most people reading this have never heard a single and couldn’t pick Morgan out of a lineup. Sure, they may know about the n-word controversy, but it’s part of the realm of cancel culture, traps, politics…that’s entertainment right now, much more fun than anything anyone’s written in wax. Don’t get me started peddling vinyl records. Tempest in a teapot. Many never even listen to them, they are souvenirs. The numbers provided do not reflect reality. This is all based on suggested retail sales. Today, vinyl records retail for $40. How much does the record company give back? Maybe $20, assuming no discounts and people actually paying the suggested retail price. Then there are all the costs involved, manufacturing and shipping… the only good thing is that vinyl records are sold in one way, and if you don’t know what that means, it means you’re not held down by the record label economy of the past, which No longer applies today. When tabs are paid for by NET’s streaming companies! Aside from the minimum royalties usually paid to the act, if they’re even profitable, that’s profit. Because there is no cost. No manufacturing, no shipping, no returns. So comparing vinyl to streaming is like comparing apples to oranges. I’m not saying vinyl doesn’t have money, there are plenty. But that’s not as high as they say, immediately cutting the number in half, cashing in to retailers, and still a fraction of streaming revenue. People love vinyl. They want to feel like it’s a success. But vinyl records themselves are just a cult. How many people own a record player now? A lot of people see them as fads, you know fads are fleeting.
But the vinyl record story is everywhere. You’d think Tower Records is still open at sunset and there’s a queue to get in, but it’s not. In many cases, vinyl is an active cottage industry. Small acts of sourcing some records to sell at the show. Good for them, just don’t tell me it’s a big deal. It’s okay, it’s so hard to get your albums suppressed because of the lack of capacity. Almost no capacity because people stopped buying records!
The really common behaviors of yesteryear…they don’t exist. Whether they are from the British Invasion or the MTV era. Come on, every baby boomer and Gen X knows the man without the hat, and they only make it once. But it’s on MTV.
I’m not saying the entire music industry is suffering, that’s not my opinion at all. It’s just that the music industry is built on hype about who’s the biggest and brightest. No one is the biggest and brightest, no one is left!
So I don’t want to hear your chart numbers and get bumped by selling souvenirs. Should I applaud you for selling multiple albums to the same client? It’s deception, it’s consumer abuse, and only young people are so immature and short-sighted that they spend their pocket money like this, or make their parents put down cash so they don’t hear about it again. I mean would GM, Ford, Tesla or Toyota try to sell four cars to one person? No, it’s not a perfect analogy. Are these companies trying to sell cars to people who live in Manhattan? In places where there is no parking space, in fact you don’t even need a car. Yes, people are buying physical products they can’t even play with. Come on, look at your house, do you have a CD player? I bet most of you don’t. They’re no longer in the car…damn, most people don’t even have DVD players anymore, why?
So the music industry and the media keep telling us that there are these monolithic stars, that rule, that everyone knows and pays attention to. Incorrect! There are some big cults and that’s it. Worse yet, if people even know about the behavior, they tend to hate it! Just because a cult is obsessed doesn’t make it good, let alone not widely accepted.
When it comes to acceptance, it’s something Baby Boomers and Gen Xers can’t overcome. Well, I used to make a lot of money, but Spotify killed my revenue stream. No, that’s not what, Spotify is just a reflection of reality, a scapegoat in this case, you’re competing with all the people who have recorded music in history and not many people want to listen to you. sorry. Sure, you might have a million streams, but some acts have a billion and are still cults. Come on, sing an Ed Sheeran song, I doubt you can. Oh, there are millions of people who can, but many more who can’t! However, this guy set all these streaming records…
I wouldn’t even judge the quality of the music. Even if you are talented and at best great, you can become a cult if you are as successful as possible.
Time to reset our barometer. But no, the music industry is not built on truth, everything is a cloud. The industry wants you to believe that there are these superstars that dominate culture, bigger than Stranger Things…but Stranger Things is so much bigger, so much broader, that most people haven’t even seen it!
So take everything you see and hear with a giant grain of salt. When they start touting numbers, put them in perspective. The devil is in the details, never mind lying straight.
But no one wants their balloons to be punctured. Nobody wants the truth. Because with that comes how powerful the major labels themselves are, not to mention the people who run them. The average American has no idea who runs the major record labels, there are only three right now! Same deal with movie studios. More people have heard of Ted Sarandos than anyone working in music, let alone Reed Hastings. The head of the label is a giant! Remember when Christopher yelled at Tommy Mottola outside the club in The Sopranos? Do you think today’s Christophers would be calling out today’s head of Sony, Rob Stringer, let alone Lucian Grange?
This is where we are. admit it. Because it is difficult to move forward without knowing and accepting the truth. Again, everything is cult today, everything!