The Lefsetz Letter


By Bob Lefsetz

So who's the bigger rock star? Bono or Steve Jobs?

Or let me put it this way. Who do the kids believe in more, U2 or Apple Computer?

Ever watch a Steve Jobs presentation? He exudes CONFIDENCE! He believes what he's selling is the GREATEST STUFF EVER INVENTED! He believes nothing he does is wrong and he anticipates NO problems. He believes whatever he says and does will change the course of technology. And, SO FAR, he's been RIGHT!

Really, what does ANYBODY need more? An iPod or the new U2 album?

The iTunes Music Store was introduced in the second quarter. How DUMB the music community says. EVERYBODY knows you save your superstar product for the fourth quarter.

And when it comes to touring, you've got to do it during the SUMMER, when kids are available full-time. Then why is it that Apple's biggest presentations, when they introduce all their new product, are in JANUARY, after the Christmas selling season, and in JUNE, just as kids get out of school? Because great product SUPERSEDES the selling calendar.

U2 doing the Apple ad shows how desperate these Irish has-beens have become.

Oh, don't get me wrong. I'm a U2 fan. There were no better concerts ever than those on their "Achtung Baby" trek. And that album itself was a GIANT step forward in creativity.

But then their next studio album didn't do so well. And neither did the lemon tour in support of it. So now, they've given up being artists, and are now sheer MARKETEERS!

Look at the evidence. The last album. Sure, it SOUNDS like classic early U2, but shit, is it any GOOD? Don't we count on our artists to explore and expand? Steve Jobs doesn't take the stage and say we're going back to the Mac Plus, the company's greatest hit. No, times have moved on, hell, he couldn't even sell the initial iMac at this point. He's constantly searching for the new. And, he HAS misstepped. With the Cube. Then again, like a superstar shortstop, he recovered. By using the technology from the Cube in the last two iterations of the iMac. Where's the development with U2??

And then they played the Super Bowl.

You might not be old enough, but a big war in high school in the sixties was BETWEEN the jocks and the music fans. The jocks DIDN'T LIKE the newfangled music. And they'd THREATEN the longhairs.

Now you might say times are different. I'd say the marketers want to deny reality. That you can sell out to the mainstream, but you lose credibility. That people believe in MUSIC more than sports. Music is LIFE-SAVING! Music speaks to the SOUL! If you're playing the Super Bowl, no matter HOW good you are, you're really just a prick looking to be in front of as many eyeballs as possible.

Now these ancient, by rock star standards, boys from Ireland are TRULY freaked. What if they put out an album and NO ONE BUYS IT! And then, they won't sell out their tour. And...god, they'll lose all that MONEY!

I don't admire someone's COMMERCIALITY, I admire their ART! And U2 is pushing itself over the line. I mean doing a TV COMMERCIAL!

I guarantee you, no matter how good this U2 album is, it won't be as good as the iPod.

The iPod was a product which ALL the pundits said was overpriced and unneeded.

It started off slowly. And was constantly revised/improved along the way. When Apple could have SAT on its investment and just collected revenue. But no, the company nurtured the player. And created the barely profitable iTunes Music Store. And, YEARS after its introduction, primarily with its THIRD iteration, the iPod BLEW UP! And now it's a CULTURAL ICON! Something as desirable as a BEATLE record.

U2 should be EMULATING the rock star behavior of Apple, not getting on the computer company's back to try to sell their safe new tunes.

If you want to see true creativity don't look at these overaged posers, look at the younger generation, who are using their Macs and computer software to create something DIFFERENT!

Oh, the ad is cool. And it will help raise awareness. But music should stand on its own. It doesn't need a corporate sponsor. It doesn't need to be pushed into your face. No, music is the ULTIMATE pull product. People want it SO badly they'll do ANYTHING to get it. They even want the OUTTAKES!

U2's got it all wrong. They're not artists anymore and they don't care about their fans. Fearful of having their album leaked to P2P services... What's the problem here? That people love you SO much that they'll go through hoops to get your product in advance??? It's going to screw up the fourth quarter sales strategy?

You've really disappointed me U2. This isn't how you started out. Art is about risk. You've stopped risking. You've gone into the insurance business. I can no longer believe in you. I'd rather watch Steve Jobs introduce products that are going to change my life than watch you shill to insure your status in a phony pop music landscape.


Bob Lefsetz, Santa Monica-based industry legend, is the author of the e-mail newsletter, "The Lefsetz Letter". Famous for being beholden to no one, and speaking the truth, Lefsetz addresses the issues that are at the core of the music business: downloading, copy protection, pricing and the music itself.

His intense brilliance captivates readers from Steven Tyler to Rick Nielsen to Bryan Adams to Quincy Jones to music business honchos like Michael Rapino, Randy Phillips, Don Ienner, Cliff Burnstein, Irving Azoff and Tom Freston.

Never boring, always entertaining, Mr. Lefsetz's insights are fueled by his stint as an entertainment business attorney, majordomo of Sanctuary Music's American division and consultancies to major labels.

Bob has been a weekly contributor to CelebrityAccess and Encore since 2001, and we plan many more years of partnership with him. While we here at CelebrityAccess and Encore do not necessarily agree with all of Bob's opinions, we are proud to help share them with you.


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