A friend recently hipped me to the "Lefsetz Letter," a daily (sometimes more often) e-mail rant from music-industry maverick Bob Lefsetz. One of Lefsetz's favorite subjects is how technology — especially the iPod — is transforming the music business and the world at large.
Lefsetz contends that the iPod is an irresistible force that will inevitably kill music radio and the CD and will force record labels and their music acts to totally reconfigure the way they do business.
Nobody wants to buy a whole CD anymore, Lefsetz contends. They just want the songs they like, playable in an easy to transport format and instantly available. The days of schlepping plastic discs around in folders are gone. Those big towers for storing CDs? Gone. The Walkman? Gone. And most important, the days of mediocre albums with two good songs selling a million copies at $12.99? Gone, Daddy, gone.
And why, Lefsetz asks, would anyone want to listen to music selected by a radio station programmer (or worse, a computer) when they can program their own soundtrack on an iPod and never have to listen to commercials or "Free Bird" for the zillionth time?
Yeah, but what about satellite radio? Sorry. Lefsetz says now that new cars are being outfitted with iPod docks, it's sayonara for them as well. As he puts it: "With choice and a seamless car interface, satellite radio is a boy band with a minor hit, never to be heard from again."
I've just gotten back from an epic vacation to Peru. I'll spare you the long tales of high adventure I've forced on my co-workers, but an incident in a tiny village in the Andes — apropos Lefsetz's point — is stuck in my head.
We were sitting on the balcony of a small cafe overlooking the town square. Below us, a band was playing — a bass player, a harp player, a drummer, and a one-legged female singer, dressed in native finery. It was as bizarre a combo as you'll ever see. Some young back-packer types gathered around to watch. I say "watch," because they weren't listening. They were plugged into their iPods, nodding their heads to their own beat. Gone.
In the 14 years I've been the Flyer editor, I've gotten lots of hate mail. It mostly used to come in envelopes filled with pages of scrawled handwriting. I read them and put them in the wastebasket, chalking it up as a natural by-product of writing for a liberal paper in the conservative South. Lately, the angry folks have switched to email, and it comes in waves ...