Bob Lefsetz

Bob Lefsetz Thinks You Suck

When we last left Bob Lefsetz, he went on a 1,500-word rant listing 30 things he hated. In all honesty, I didn’t think I could top my response to that. Then came the Wired profile, which was considerably fairer to him than I am, and I felt my work was essentially done here. But it at least exposed much of his silliness to a bigger audience. Then, last Thursday, I saw his latest screed and was compelled back into action. 

Here’s the backstory: last week Bob wrote about Shannon Labrie. He’d heard her song, “I Remember A Boy,” and liked it enough to visit her website. And rather than focus on the song’s qualities, he complained about her website and how her marketing seemed to focus more on Labrie’s looks then the quality of her songs. This coming from a guy whose boner for Miranda Lambert can be used as a battering ram.

Still, since Bob doesn’t praise new acts often, he received a ton of mp3s from bands all looking for the same exposure he gave Labrie. “And all of it’s good. But none of it’s great,” he wrote the next day. But no opinion stays with Lefsetz for long, and now, in his latest opus, “STOP WITH THE UNSOLICTED MP3s,” there’s one thing he left out in his list of things he hates: you.

What if I came to your door and harangued you for twenty minutes trying to convince you to buy something you don’t want, that you’ve got no interest in, whose purchase will benefit me, not you.

You’d stay at my front door for 19 minutes and 45 seconds after I shut the door on you? If you were still there you can bet I’d have called the cops by then.

NOW YOU KNOW WHAT IT’S LIKE WHEN YOU E-MAIL ME UNSOLICITED MP3s!

While I agree that it’s not good form to send unsolicited e-mails, the analogy is off. For starters, the door-to-door salesman is trying to get you to buy something. This is free music. Then there’s the idea that no one is forcing you to listen to the music. And even if you do want to hear it, you can do it at your leisure, whereas the salesman needs an answer immediately.

It’s bad enough when you send me links. But people e-mail me 10 MB files without even thinking about it. Sometimes I’m on the road with an insanely slow connection and I’ve got to wait ten minutes for my e-mail to download…

…just so I can delete your terrible MP3.

And that’s what it is…terrible.

“And all of it’s good. But none of it’s great,”

Makes me hate America, where no one can be honest.

Indeed.

How many people get to play in the NBA? Most of the kids in the Final Four never even make the pros. Why do you think you deserve a music career, why do you think you’re any good?

Because in every sport, there are certain metrics that scouts more or less agree are the bare minimum requirements to even be considered for the pros. But music is an art form, and therefore its positive or negative qualities are far more open to personal interpretation.

How do you not understand that?

It’s just amazing the chutzpah people have.

Indeed.

But it’s worse, they’re delusional, they truly think they’ve got talent, as if with an endorsement by me they’ll be the new Gaga.

No, they’re just looking for some help in getting a break. They’re only delusional in thinking that you have any interest in what they have to say.

I can only listen to one song at one time. You want me to spend all this time listening to crap? What’s worse, despite reading for free, you want my advice for free too!

Well, unlike MP3s, my advice isn’t easily replicable at no cost.

Bullshit. “Work hard, pay your dues, be great, leave me alone.” There. I just replicated it for free.

And it’s not worth that much anyway. If you’re great, you’ll make it without me. And almost none of you are great.

This weekend, for a different site, I wrote about Alice Cooper speaking to schoolchildren about music education and the center he’s building that will offer free music lessons to teenagers as a way of steering them on the right path. Watch the video and note that he’s encouraging the kids to do their best. He’s not slamming them for doing whatever they can to get a break and make their dreams come true.

Or, in Lefsetzspeak, what sort of crazy, fucked-up world are we living in where Alice Cooper is a better role model for kids than a successful, middle-class, middle-aged guy with a law degree?

And I know, it’s only the ignorant wannabes that do this.

“Only idiots want my advice.” Yeah, that makes sense.

I feel guilty tarring all the reasonable people who wouldn’t think of wasting my time, but it’s always the nitpickers who ruin it for all of us. Isn’t that the problem we’ve got in music? Too many wannabes cocking up the works, making it harder to find those with talent?

But you’re not looking to find talent! You’re actively telling everybody to go away!

That’s what the Internet has wrought.

People sending me free music. Yeah, that’s the absolute worst.

But it gets worse. Facebook is a license to spam. You invite me to listen to your music as if I give a damn. Ever been invited to a party you don’t want to go to? Ever get phone solicitations from the inept selling products you don’t want? Then you know what it feels like.

Nobody’s forcing you to be on Facebook. And if you haven’t even figured out how to adjust your privacy settings to prevent this from happening, then you have less credibility as a tech blogger than you do as a music blogger.

Meanwhile, gives me sympathy for Simon Cowell. I’d really like to embarrass these people. Post their lousy MP3s online and have them experience the abuse that would have them crawling back into their holes and never reappearing.

Why don’t you? That would actually be much more productive than telling everybody that they suck. You don’t even have to listen to it. Post it all without any judgment and let your readers vote. Then, listen to the ones they’ve declared to be their favorites and then you can decide for yourself if it’s worthy of your endorsement. Try that and you might actually justify the power you’ve somehow managed to achieve.

I am not in control of your life. I am not a freight train to riches, not even for myself. If you need to make it, you might.

That’s all fair.

But you’re gonna have to sacrifice everything to get close, and your music will speak for itself and I’ll hear about it from someone else.

And even then he’ll ignore it for over a year.

Meanwhile, for the umpteenth time, read Seth Godin on Permission Marketing:

See, if he Bob had started with this – even for the umpteenth time – and continued at a moderate keel about why sending unsolicited e-mails are a bad idea for your career, that would have been acceptable. Instead, he focused on the effects on HIM, his poor wi-fi connection, and his precious ears. White People Problems, indeed.

It is not my job to give you hope.

Again, that’s fair.

From now on if you send me an unsolicited MP3 I’m gonna tell you the truth.

Hey, everybody! Bob is saying you can send him unsolicited mp3s and he’ll give his advice!

That you suck.

“And all of it’s good. But none of it’s great.”

That you’re just not good enough.

“And all of it’s good. But none of it’s great.”

That you might have a glimmer of talent, I might be able to discern some quality.

“And all of it’s good. But none of it’s” – Oh, right.

But that ain’t enough.

“And all of it’s good. But none of it’s great.”

Never was. Still ain’t.

That’s true. There are so many unpredictable intangibles that lead to success. And we all know acts that we feel deserve more exposure and acts that deserve less. So why are you pissing on those that are just looking for a break?

And you wonder why you can never reach anybody with any power in the music business…

Duh. That’s why they’re e-mailing you.




  • http://kittysneezes.com revme

    I have to say, I was kinda baffled by Wired’s semi-fawning profile of Lefsetz.  I was kinda “really?  really?”  Just… I don’t know, he just comes off as kind of a schmuck.  Needless to say, I much prefer these posts…8)

  • http://twitter.com/sydmusic Syd

    Love love love this response. 

    I was moved to write bob myself and passed along this response to him, inviting myself over to his house to teach him how to set up an email filter. 

    It boils down to one simple thing: When you got his website you’re presented with an archive of blog posts and a link to his email address. There are just a few steps he could take to letting people know he doesn’t want their hopes and dreams…err..bullshit crap sent to him. A contact form (so people can’t attach stuff), a stated submission policy, and an email filter.

    Anyway, here’s my response from the perspective of a middle class musician and (very) small label owner. I didn’t have the stomach to take him on point by point, which I both applaud you for and hand you a virtual Tums for. 

    http://sydmusic.tumblr.com/post/20591730741/ifbob

  • http://www.popdose.com DwDunphy

    National Assignment Time: Email Bob Lefsetz your MP3 and I don’t care what it is of. Could be you singing a’capella, or making armpit fart noises, or a “found sound” of Mick Jagger farting a’capella (Bob’ll love that). The point is this: until Bob just learns to delete messages that clearly have file attachments, he’ll never be a functional member of society.

    So be kind. Be humanitarian. Guide Bob into the light. Send him an MP3 today…Like RIGHT NOW.

    Thank you, and namaste.

  • http://www.wingsforwheels.net dslifton

    Thanks, Syd. That’s a great piece you wrote. After reading it I realized that Bob didn’t say “You suck” because the music he’s getting is bad, but because they’re taking up his time. All he had to do was say the following: 

    “Please don’t send me your unsolicited mp3s. I simply don’t have the time to listen to the amount of music I get sent on a daily basis. Besides, it’s a bad business practice. Read this thing by Seth Godin for more information about that. However, I wish you all the best in your career.”

    If he had done that, we probably wouldn’t have had the reactions we did. But Bob had to be a giant dick about it. 

  • http://www.wingsforwheels.net dslifton

    Thanks, revme. I wouldn’t say it was semi-fawning, but objective and detached. It shows why he’s popular (and, face it, if he wasn’t, there would be no need for my column. You don’t see anybody taking apart my columns, do you?) but also makes no bones about the fact that he’s a bitter guy who couldn’t make a living in the music industry. 

  • Toddshay

    I found this in a web search of Shannon Labrie.  He did actually like her song though!  http://www.youtube.com/shannonlabrie