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Clay Aiken – About Being Different

So…what was Clay Aiken doing on Thursday?  Was he baking cookies?  Selling Wedding dresses? Working on a brochure for an advertising Campaign?  Well, we don’t know.

It seems that Celebrity Apprentice has moved into a secure location and maybe we won’t get anymore great pictures or cryptic messages.  The next few weeks could end up seeming like forever.  I just hope Clay is having a wonderful time and that his team is working well to make lots of money for charity.

So…life goes on and there are others things we can discuss, even if it isn’t as much fun as news about Clay.

Everytime I read about the music industry, I relate what I read to Clay Aiken.  It is fun to agree, ponder, cheer and sometimes just shake my head.

Last Monday, Bob Lefsetz wrote an interesting blog titled I Want My MTV.  In this article, Bob reminds his readers about how MTV changed the music industry and goes on to suggest some of the influence the Internet will have on music.

Lefsetz says of MTV:

MTV changed music. I’m not talking about the music business, but the music itself. Suddenly how you looked was important. And you had to fit the genre the station was promoting… Suddenly, music was all about the heavily-promoted, the heavily-marketed, it was made by beautiful people for everyone, and the people who weren’t beautiful, who’d lived a life of rejection, who considered music their own private playground, tuned out….Either you were on MTV or you were history. Either you were monstrous or you were irrelevant.

In the MTV era the music came first. If it wasn’t an approved genre, you were SOL. Sure, you had to look good and have money behind you, but if you didn’t sound like what MTV was playing, you had no chance. Now just the opposite is true. The way you connect with your fans comes first. The bond is the initial attraction. The music comes last. The point is the music can sound like anything, there are no limits, no rules, no genres you must fall into. You’ve just got to have a relationship with your fans and consistently honor it, put them ahead of all other interests.

Bob goes on to say that to day, online music is about being different…people are tired of the clones and want someone who is unique.  Lefsetz wrote seven suggestions for todays musician.

1. Dream small.

This is the opposite of the MTV era aspiration, when it was about getting on television and reaching everybody. Today your goal is to reach somebody, a single person, and then have the word spread from there. You can build something completely new or tap into a niche, but if you’re playing for everybody online doesn’t want you. Online is about the site that only appeals to you. Mass is a lucky accident after the fact.

2. Success is bidirectional.

You must know your audience and listen to it. If you’re playing to everybody you’re gonna reach nobody. Try to excite one listener who will spread the word. And it doesn’t matter what age you are, oldsters are the fastest growing demo on Facebook, they’ve got iPhones too.

3. The music is important.

But it’s not the only thing. If you’re waiting for someone to write you a check so you can stay at home and create and they can sell, you’re missing the point. You rehearse in public. People weigh in on you along the way. You grow with your audience. And money comes at the end of the game. Instead of going for a big advance, be your audience’s friend, they’ll end up giving you all their money via Kickstarter and concert tickets and merch sales thereafter.

4. The music must be available.

Never say no to your music being exposed online. Unless it’s tied in with a product or pitch. Yes to YouTube, yes to Spotify, yes to iTunes. With so much information out there, it’s hard to get noticed, don’t be your own worst enemy.

5. Creativity is king!

It’s the sixties all over again. The era of Frank Zappa has returned. You want people to check out your music to see what you have to say, to marvel at the insight, the outrageousness. One striking concept is more important than tens of thousands of dollars in promotion.

6. Different is a badge of honor.

People embrace the outlier. Music has become foreground once again. Unlike the hits du jour which are used as dance club fodder and workout inspirers, people are now paying attention to what you have to say. You can’t do skin deep unless you’re purveying irony. You’ve got to go for the heart and mind.

7. Growth curves are different.

In the MTV era you were a hit overnight. If you’re a hit overnight today, you’re gone tomorrow. That’s what a YouTube phenomenon is about, that’s Rebecca Black. If you’ve got millions of views, you’re on your way to irrelevancy. You’re better off with fewer hits generated over a period of years. Your stuff is always available online, you never know when a new fan will encounter you and decide to check out your entire output. They don’t have to sit in front of the TV and wait for your video, it’s all sitting there online, like a land mine…

…Don’t forget that the music business was in the doldrums prior to MTV. It was rescued by something the established players did not understand.

The same thing is happening today. Not tomorrow, but right now.

If you want to have a career, play to the Web audience, don’t care what the mainstream says, don’t release music based on holidays and other arcane data. If you wrote it at midnight, have it out tomorrow. Even if it’s Sunday. Your audience is online. Ready.

Do it for them.

They’ll do it for you.

What do you think of what Bob wrote?  Do you agree with him or are you rolling your eyes?

You can read all of Bob Lefsetz at his interesting site.  Please click on his site and read the entire blog.


Now…do you think we will hear about Celebrity Apprentice today?  That would be lots of fun.


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