Bob Lefsetz commentates on the music business in The Lefsetz Letter, a well read newsletter among people in the business of music. He wrote something last night which I thought I should share with our crew. I agree with every word and I reprint them here with Bob’s kind permission.
I’m sick and fucking tired of people telling me they’ve put in their 10,000 hours, so they should be rich and famous.
It’s 10,000 hours of HARD PRACTICE!
Let me put it to you this way… If you spend 10,000 hours on the bunny slope, you’re never going to win the World Cup. You’ve got to challenge yourself, ski the double blacks, go out when it’s blowin’ and snowin’ as well as when it’s sunny and smooth.
So you can play the riffs on the record, good for you. But can you play the riffs on the records you don’t like, that aren’t in your genre? Mutt Lange, the best record producer in the world, honed his chops, learned his craft by making soundalike records in South Africa. Speak to anybody who’s worked with him, Mutt can make the records himself, can you?
Can you play the drums as well as the guitar? Jeff Beck plays without a pick, have you mastered his technique? It’s only when you’ve got all the basics down that you can fly.
Have you written a thousand songs?
No, let me refocus this so you get it. Have you worked on your craft to the point of frustration? Instead of telling everybody how fucking great you are have you gone to bed thinking you’re dog shit, that you just can’t get it right?
If you haven’t had this feeling, you’re never going to make it.
Get off your self-satisfied soapbox and realize that all the masters slogged through shit to get to where they are. Don’t look at Justin Bieber and the TV wonders, they’re flashes in the pan, celebrities du jour barely different from the kids in the “Real World” house.
Do you want a doctor with no education to cut you open?
Better yet, if you’ve got cancer do you want to see the guy you play golf with or the world class surgeon who went to the best schools, had the best residency, killing himself to be number one in the class to get such opportunities?
You don’t want the second-class M.D., why do you think people want the second-class musician?
Anybody can write a book, anybody can record a record, that doesn’t mean the rest of the public should care.
But you keep telling them they should, like you’re entitled.
You’re entitled to work at McDonald’s, as an unskilled laborer.
If you want to make it in music, you’ve got to be incredibly skilled. Better than all the rest. Ever play sports? Do they allow the lame-o to pitch just because he showed up for all the practices, wears his uniform right?
Better yet, is the most productive President the one who campaigns best? Sure, campaigning is crucial to winning, but that has little impact on your ability to analyze problems and govern.
So you’re a whiz at Facebook, you’ve got a ton of followers on Twitter. Congratufuckinglations, you’ve done what any middle schooler can do. It’s like thinking the roadie can sing, can step in and play lead guitar because he’s slept on the bus and been close to the equipment.
Then again, the lead singer probably can’t rig the stage.
But that’s not the point. The point is you want to be a successful musician, you want everybody to pay attention. If that’s so, then you’ve got to believe you suck before you’ll ever be great. You have to be willing to work where no one pays attention. Sweating hours in your bedroom, practicing leads until your fingers bleed.
I’m not saying this younger generation with a trophy for everything can’t make quality music, I’m just saying that too many of these so-called winners think they can be successful, when what’s always been true is still true, just a thin layer of incredibly dedicated artists will ever make it, will ever be known, will ever be able to make a living.
And being able to play is not enough. To truly make it in music, you’ve got to write. And that’s a whole ‘nother skill. You don’t see the wannabes performing their own compositions on “American Idol”, ratings would sink to zero, it’d be godawful.
There are only a couple of hundred professional basketball players. Even the stars from the Final Four often don’t make it to the pros.
But you sat in your bedroom and decided the world needed your music. Your mom and your significant other agreed with you. And you spam the universe believing if you just get enough attention, people will realize how great you are.
But it don’t really happen that way at all. Especially in today’s world.
Today, grazers find you and then spread the word on you if you’re great. And with so much at their fingertips, listeners only have time for the great, mediocre, even really good, won’t do.
So stop complaining. Stop fighting to win a Grammy no one cares about. Forget about getting into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Play to the public. They know what’s good.
And if you haven’t made it, chances are you suck.
Or you’re just not good enough yet.
Instead of complaining, go back into your bedroom and PRACTICE!