Deciphering Bob Lefsetz
I read Bob Lefsetz regularly, pretty much every post he writes. And I generally agree with him.
Jackson, Tony, and Chrispy don’t like Bob ever since he posted that thing on Flea. They didn’t like his attitude or his message. I think the message was right, but the attitude was certainly in your face and disrespectful of Flea. And you really shouldn’t be dissing Flea no matter who you are.
That’s the thing with Bob, his "in your face" approach to everything can be oft putting. But I think you’ve got to get past that and listen to what he’s saying.
Bob’s been on a roll lately. Something like five posts on Thursday and Friday, covering the key issues in digital music:
iTunes,iPod, Satellite Radio, Internet Radio, FM Radio, CD sales, Singles, Albums, Hits
Check out some of these quotes (linked to the posts they come from):
For the first time ever, the record industry is not forcing a new
format down customers’ throats. They’re not making the CD obsolete,
people are WALLOWING IN IT! Maybe because they don’t know much better.
Because people want to own all this new stuff,
A LOT OT IT! Not for a buck a track, maybe just the equivalent of a
nickel or a dime. But imagine if the whole world were music crazy,
think of the revenue POSSIBILITIES! But rather than harness new
technology, the old farts with no knowledge of computers want to keep
the music locked up, want to SUE to keep it locked up.
We all now know that the Telecommunications Act of 1996 killed
radio. Put a stake right through its heart. We ended up with
consolidation and ever more limited playlists. Terrestrial radio is
THROUGH! But who knew that the record labels/RIAA would go on
to kill not only file-trading, but Internet radio. So concerned about
getting paid, the record labels killed exposure. And aren’t they happy
now, in a world where you can’t REACH enough people to get a diamond
Turns out they can’t even GIVE Napster/Rhapsody, et al, away on
college campuses. Yup, NOBODY WANTS IT! They don’t want services that
are incompatible with iPods where when you graduate you end up with
NOTHING! Now do you expect these college students to change
course after graduation? To then embrace rental? Do you think their
high school brethren will be quick on the uptake? No, rental, if not
quite dead, is a marginal business.
So there you have it; the record labels are screwed, the CD is going to be history, FM radio is "through", subscription music services are marginal, and Internet, satellite, iTunes, and p2p are the future.
I basically agree with where Bob says we are headed but disagree with some of his statements. I often wonder if he actually means everything he writes because Bob contradicts himself all the time.
Take the subject of "rented music". Bob acknolweldges that people want to have access to a ton of music and might pay 5 cents per song for that. I pay $9.99/month for Rhapsody and probably listen to 200 different songs per month on it. That’s 5 cents per song.
Napster and Rhapsody are better solutions than satellite because you can get the music played to you or you can search find and play what you want when you want it. But as Bob points out in one of these posts, until a subscription music service is paired with a mobile player (a subscription service from iTunes please!), we won’t have mass uptake of "rented music".
Rented music is a great solution and so is Internet radio. I think we’ll get most of our music over IP connections soon. Maybe the only place we won’t get it is in cars where its hard to deliver a consistent high quality IP connection. Maybe HD Radio’s extra bandwith is the answer there.
Bottom line is Bob is right about where this stuff is headed but I think you have to decipher his message between the excitement and hyperbole that makes him so much fun to read.
I was listening to this Keira Knightley alt-rock playlist on Rhapsody as I wrote this post. It’s a great example of what "rented" music can do if people would just take the time to check it out.