Rap Coalition

A HOW-TO RESOURCE FOR RAP ARTISTS, PRODUCERS, & DJs. Since knowledge is power, here is your best defense to succeed in the urban music industry...

Sunday, December 02, 2007

More Bob Lefsetz commentary:

You know I get a lot of e-mail, and a lot of regular mail too. And I got this missive from some dude who said he was in the merch business and could he send me some stuff. I wondered what the giant box that appeared on my doorstep was. Then I ripped it open and got a peek of cotton and vinyl and remembered...and left the contents for another day.

But today I went through all the packages. I liked getting the Springsteen CD, I'll give it a chance, I hope it's as good as everybody says it is, but I'm worried that too many of those people are surfing on their memories. But the jewel cases of bands that I hadn't heard of, I just tossed those in a crate by the door, probably never to be looked at again, never mind played. Especially the one from some unknown label. They think this is gonna help them get noticed? Carpet-bombing people who get too much shit with shit they don't have time to pay attention to?

Then, when I was finished with the music, I saw that giant merch box on the floor. And dug in.

There were t-shirts from every gig known to man. Retro-classics, like the one featuring the cover of "Disraeli Gears". I saw Cream TWICE on that tour and I don't remember t-shirts at all. Then, wondering if I'd ever wear this shit, I noticed a box within the box. In it I found a hat, embroidered "Eric Clapton World Tour 2006/7, Crew". I'm follicly challenged. I can use this. To me it might seem like something sold at the gig, but would anybody seeing me in it know this? Would I look bogus or cool?

Then, I reached into the bottom of this endless box for...this vinyl bomber jacket. You know, the kind with the orange lining. And on the breast was a badge, saying "Eric Clapton World Tour 2006/7". And, on the arm there was another patch, saying "EC - UK/Europe, Asia, Japan, Australia/NZ, USA". A shit-eating grin covered my face. And then my heart sunk, WHAT IF IT'S THE WRONG SIZE!

I whipped the jacket out of the box, I threw it over my t-shirt. Arms, great... I pulled up the zipper, A PERFECT FIT! I ran into the bathroom, checked myself out in the mirror and...

Now I didn't see this tour. I've probably got every album Eric Clapton ever recorded, I saw not only Cream, but Blind Faith, but I don't want to go anymore to hang with the people who want to hear "Lay Down Sally" and "Wonderful Tonight", never mind "The Core". I didn't see them at the shows in the sixties. I don't want to be one of them...purchasing the merch.

Wait a minute. They HAD to sell this jacket at the gigs. Isn't the business all about the money?

But maybe they didn't...

And even if they did, what did it cost, $200? How many of these jackets were out there, could I PASS?

And it's a perfect weight for L.A. Maybe, with a sweater, for the mountains. I don't have anything like it. It's...cool.

But take off the patches and I'm no longer smiling. Sure, I like getting shit for free, but first and foremost, I WANT TO BELONG!

We all want to belong, we all want to evidence our badges of honor. That's why Social@Ross failed. Not because of the price so much as the fact that it was ONLY the hedge fund pricks. No, the hedge fund pricks don't want to hang out alone, unless maybe it's on vacation, they want to go where WE are, just looking a little cooler.

If we don't want to belong to your club, you're fucked. It's not about hit records, it's about religion. Doesn't matter if you think Eddie Vedder should get over himself, people want to belong to the Pearl Jam club, they want everything the band makes.

And the more obscure the act, the fewer the fans? The more people want to buy the merch. We don't want to be like everybody else, just like members of OUR group.

We're not all in it together. MTV's not a club we want to belong to. Nor the vapid radio stations inhabiting the FM band. We want to belong to the ACTS!

We love Eric Clapton because first and foremost he can play. It's not about him shooting off his mouth, but picking his guitar. And he left bands at their peak. And he's struggled for his art, he's been addicted.

I wouldn't have smiled if the jacket said "Styx", but someone else would.

Now this shit costs WAY too much. Explain it however you want, but fans need this shit. It goes with the music and the concert ticket. The music is first. And by owning the merch they feel closer to the artist. It's an EMOTIONAL bond.

We're in the business of making people feel good about themselves. And, stunningly, we've still got a business after abusing our customers again and again. The biggest bands ARE IN BED with their fans. Like the DMB. It's an ongoing relationship. Tape the shows, trade 'em, you want 'em that much? TAKE THEM! You need a uniform, WE'VE GOT ONE! You want to come to the picnic? We'll let you in baby. We'll find a way to get you reasonable seats at a reasonable price, which the DMB does, maybe because they control 50% of the house.

We're sitting on a goldmine. We enable people's hopes and dreams. They live for the music. The artists are gods. Guard this golden goose preciously. It will pay dividends forever. If you don't whore it out, if new acts know it's about the bond.

Chris Rock On The Music Business

Chris Rock: Music kind of sucks. Nobody's into being a musician. Everybody's getting their mogul on. You've been so infiltrated by this corporate mentality that all the time you'd spend getting great songs together, you're busy doing nine other things that have nothing to do with art. You know how shitty Stevie Wonder's songs would have been if he had to run a fuckin' clothing company and a cologne line?

RollingStone: Plenty of rappers say, "I'm not a rapper, I'm a businessman."

Chris Rock: That's why rap sucks, for the most part. Not all rap, but as an art form it's just not at its best moment. Sammy the Bull would have made a shitty album. And I don't really have a desire to hear Warren Buffett's album - or the new CD by Paul Allen. That's what everybody's aspiring to be.

We live in a weird time. No one knows who's smart - we just know who makes money. "Hey, somebody invented Viagra! We don't know their name, but we know Pfizer, because they make the money." That guy made a pill that keeps your dick hard, and nobody knows who the fuck he is. The pharmaceutical companies are like fuckin' record companies. There's literally the Bo Diddley of medicine walking around, not getting his royalties. He signed all his fucking pill publishing away.

("Rolling Stone", Issue 1039, November 15, 2007, page 157)


One of my favorite quotes about the movie business comes from Lynda Obst's book, "Hello, He Lied":

"If the writer gives good meeting, he's a lousy writer."

If the musician is a good businessman, he's a shitty musician. Sure, there are exceptions. Supposedly Steve Miller. But this rule runs pretty true. Which is why something resembling a record company is going to be necessary in the future. Musicians make the music, someone needs to sell it.

Right now the major labels are so busy fighting for their lives that they're offering unreasonable deals to acts. Sure, take a piece of my touring and merch, but let's be in it together! Let's have a joint venture, sharing profits 50/50. But the majors don't want to do this. They want the old heinous royalty terms PLUS a share of your income. So, any act with a reasonable manager, or an already established career, is saying no. So, the major labels are declining in power and influence. But just like Microsoft took over from IBM, new entities will emerge. And they will be run by people of the younger generation, with wholly different values from the baby boomers and Generation X.

Despite what you read in the press, the under twenty five set is willing to work, and hard. They want profits, but they play fair. Digits don't lie. The key is to make sure the digits fall your way. This is the opposite of music business history, which is all about payoffs and screwing artists.

iTunes artist royalties must be higher. Much higher. Careers must be primary rather than short term revenue. The businessmen must be on the side of the acts. Which hasn't been the case for eons. Even attorneys side with the majors, after all, that's who ultimately pays them.

Will it be a manager, or an indie label or a concert promoter...

Probably all of these things! The new entity will be low on infrastructure, but will play on every front.

But it all comes down to the music. You have to create something that truly moves people, that gets inside their brains. They're interested in how rich you are, but not as much as how you hurt, how you feel. That's the essence of music, feeling. The feeling's been eviscerated.

Once again, if you want truth you've got to listen to an outsider, a comedian. We all know Chris Rock's truth delineated above. But if you're white and you say it, you're a racist. Not that white music is much better. Rap was the last rock and roll, new and dangerous. Whereas rock has been sold-out for decades. You've got to take chances to create something great. If you're not willing to risk, get out of the way.

And if you're impressed by the bucks, then I guess you'd marry for money. Oh, that's right, you believe in love. And so does everybody else. We want to love our bands, and their music. But they must be lovable! And what makes us lovable is our imperfections. Not laser-sculptured bodies, but rough edges. Which is why Jessica Simpson can barely sell a concert ticket and Neil Young can sell thousands of ducats forty years later. It's about the essence, not the sheen. It's about truth, not phoniness. It's about being unique, an individual. Artists are supposed to be separate from businessmen, wary of their methods. When the two merge, you get shitty art. Like we've got today.

Art must be beholden only to the creator's conscience. It must be made out of pure desire. It must possess the essence of human life...truth, justice and HONESTY!