Recently, I’ve been reflecting on the solid decade of hard work I’ve put into my little corner of the music business. 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 didn’t talk over my set at our first gig together, 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 still allow myself to hope for someone to come across the work I’ve been a part of and bless it with the magic media wand and create a demand for it. I hope when I send a song to Robin or Bob at NPR’s All Songs Considered that they’ll take the time and listen, that my fans will send a song around and it will take on a life of its own and be listened to by friends of friends, and then again ripple out and strangers will decide they love it and they’ll all 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.
A few times a week, a fiery rant from Bob Lefsetz arrives in my news feed. In his “Lefsetz Letter,” Bob possesses a kind of meanness that has the feel of a curmudgeonly uncle who, despite himself, has something insightful to say.
Over the years, 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, people listen. Despite, or perhaps because of, his shtick, Bob has managed to become something of a tastemaker in the music business, one more channel you could hope to find an audience through.
So my stomach dropped when I read the insidious letter that Bob Lefsetz published asking people to “Stop sending unsolicited MP3s.”
This is akin to politicians at a public debate standing up 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 those 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 preapproved channels. Which would be business as usual in the old guard of the industry. But coming from him it reeks of hypocrisy. Not simply because of the overall tenor of his thoughts, but also for the simple reason that his website clearly lists his e-mail address in plain view and makes no attempt to state a submission policy.
That’s Bob closing the one little crack in the door that most folks thought they had. What seemed to be an open policy is not. 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 e-mail.
Instead, today we learned that Bob isn’t listening to those who 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’ll borrow this closing from my friend who called 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.
Erin “Syd” Sidney is a musician and music businessman living in Ventura. He’s originally from Thetford, Vt. Visit syd-music.com for more information.