Thursday, June 19, 2014


Bob Lefsetz has been publishing the “The Lefsetz Letter” for more than 25 years. I began subscribing a few months ago, and find his commentary interesting, even when he goes on a rant, which is often.

Even when he's on a tear, the letter is informative and entertaining.

Lefsetz’s insights are fueled by his experience as an entertainment business attorney and as the former chief executive of Sanctuary Music’s American division.

You can check out Lefsetz's site here and subscribe to his newsletter here

Arlee Bird at Tossing It Out should like it-it's a Wordpress blog!

Many of Lefsetz's recent posts have discussed the diminishing importance of the album format (and I am sugar coating his posts with that sentence), and the rising importance of online streaming services.

Lefsetz appears to be a fan of streaming music, most notably the Spotify service.

According to Lefsetz, the CD format is responsible for the demise of the album concept due to the sheer volume of music it contained, much of which was not good.

While I am not sure I agree with that universally, there were plenty of CD's released with an awful lot of filler. 

Some of them even came out on the Sanctuary label.

Lefsetz also speaks to people who are fighting the technology, and while I would not lump myself into that category, I certainly am holding on to the "old school" delivery methods.

I still buy CD's, but although the physical format sales diminished dramatically over the last 14 years, there was a spike among teenagers last year (see my post HERE).

Vinyl sales have steadily grown over the past decade, although still clearly a niche market (although a bigger niche than the numbers show, as I would still imagine that used vinyl transactions outnumber new unit sales by a substantial margin).

So while I acknowledge Mr. Lefsetz' industry experience, based on my read of the trade publication, I don't know what to think about how long a future the CD (or vinyl, for that matter) has.

That said, I did decide to check out the Spotify service based on his commentary.

My first visit left me unimpressed. I'd done a search on Todd Rundgren (who else?) and it came back with three songs.

At that point, I was ready to condemn the service. 

Later that week, I decided to look again, thinking that there was no way a man with Lefsetz's background would champion a service that had so little content.

I am happy to confirm that he would not. 

I must have done something wrong, or simply been impatient. When I re-performed the search, Spotify even had an archival Todd release that I had preordered but not yet received.

I spent a fair amount of time on the site, doing searches for established artists and looking for the out-of-print titles, as well as some obscure acts.

While I was able to stump the site, there is no question that for most people, this site has almost everything they would want to listen to (although AC/DC, Bob Seger and The Beatles were not available).

Even a couple of recent blues discoveries (Bob Corritore and Damon Fowler) were represented, as was Popa Chubby.

Am I ready to scrap my collection and go all digital?


But if I were starting out today, I would probably use a service like Spotify in lieu of digital downloads.

I like owning the CD or the album. Many people prefer to go to iTunes.

At that point, unless you have a connectivity issue, what's the difference between having a digital download from iTunes or access to it on Spotify?

Lefsetz has a point. 

And his other point is also correct-technology is the future. While I always have thought they did not have to be mutually exclusive, there is no question that digital music has increased the portability of music.

I grew up in the 60's and 70's. Music was something you listened to in your house.

Then came the Walkman. Good.

Then came the CD. Even better.

Then came the MP3 player. Better still.

And the record labels fought the MP3 tooth and nail, while Apple came up with the best device for playing digital files, and took over the industry.

The labels lost.

Of course, iPods gave way to iPhones, and android phones have entered the fray, and all of this makes music more portable and accessible, which is a good thing.

Is Spotify to streaming music what the iPod was to digital?

I don't know. But it's free. Hard to argue with free.

While I did not investigate what the upgrade costs or gets you, I would imagine it's something like ten bucks a month, which may be less than you spend on downloads. I would imagine there are ads with the free version that the upgarde frees you from.

I still have a home stereo, and have not heard a computer set up that rivals even my lower end system (although I'll bet Bose is working on it, if they have not marketed it already).

The downside to iPods was always the cheap headphones and compressed music (it loses something that I can hear).

Once those quality issues are solved, audiophiles will start to embrace streaming.

And the better quality will come (again, if it is not already here).

There are already audiophile download sites. Audiophile streaming sites are just a matter of time.

You can't fight the future.

I just hope my CD players last as long as I do. Because I have too much past upstairs in my spare bedroom to discard it anytime in this life!


  1. I used to listen to Pandora...but someone urged me to try out Spotify. I created a playlist and now when I think of a song I like, I add it. Whenever I'm in my car or cleaning house, I open the playlist and hit "Shuffle" and it randomly plays the songs I've added. The only problem is, I have to remove songs fairly often because, even with 50+ songs on there, it tends to play from the same group of 5-10 songs. I get sick of hearing those songs and remove them and, voila, a new song pops up!

    1. There are already young people for whom the concept of owning a piece of recorded music is alien.

      I am not that old (52)-how quickly things have changed from the 45 being king when I was real young to the music stream today.

      Do you use the paid version of Spotify? I am curious what the difference is.