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Musicians Face Tough Competition From the ‘Me’ Show

'Because what’s happening in your world is more important than what’s happening onstage.'

I went to a show and it took all my willpower to refrain from dipping into my pocket and checking my iPhone.

An e-mail would be nice, or a text, but in my hand I hold a personal link to the entire world, and this has changed not only my behavior, but that of the entire globe.

We used to put stars on a pedestal. Now they’ve become the targets of put-downs. If you’re famous, you’ve been abused online; it goes with the territory.

And if you’re having a “digital free” day, enjoy the analog to camping, but there’s nothing wrong with the new paradigm, and it’s never going away. It’s only going to intensify.

When we were young, we were never at the heart of the action. In fact, we had to leave home to participate. Now we can not only watch TV in our lairs, we can surf for dates and dig deep down into our personal interests, chatting with those like-minded all the while. When I went to college with my hundreds of albums in the ’70s, I was an outcast. I came to Los Angeles and found people just like myself. Now no one is alone, everybody lives in a virtual village of their choosing. And the star is you.

It’s already happened. People won’t leave their house without their device. Everybody you ever knew is at your fingertips. Virtual connection is a panacea that brings whole nations together and fosters revolutions, and this is good.

In other words, expect people to continue to take photos at a gig. To dial their friends and have them listen in. To check their timeline or feed while the music plays. Because what’s happening in your world is more important than what’s happening onstage. As Sly Stone sang decades ago, everybody is a star.

And our heroes are the enablers. The techies who create this stuff. Disruption is in their blood the same way it was in that of the classic rock musicians. That was their appeal, the way they tested limits, it’s why we’re always interested in a new social network, and data has triumphed over emotion; everybody looks at the numbers first. If they’re in business.

But emotion is king in your own personal world. Music is not primary, but part of the ever-flowing background, no different than the wallpaper on your phone. He who realizes enabling the listener is the key to success triumphs tomorrow.

Putting the fan first does not mean paying lip service to those adhered to you. No, it means giving them artwork and free music and snippets of information that they revel in, believing they’re truly your best friend.

Yes, the world has been flattened. Everybody’s equal. And if you act differently, you’re going to get mowed down. That’s what’s wrong with Kanye, he’s living in the wrong decade. Jay Z too, wherein they believe proclaiming themselves rich and powerful makes them so.

But, if you’re in the public eye, humility is key. It’s the essence of Howard Stern’s success. He could go on about how wealthy he is, how he doesn’t fly commercial, but instead he focuses on his foibles, bringing his audience ever closer to him, cementing a bond that cannot be broken.

We’re immune to so much hype and me-tooism because we’ve all tried it ourselves and found it doesn’t work, that fame online is earned over time, based on the work, which explains why everything that pops up on YouTube seems to die quickly and is never followed up. We view it not as the start of a career, but as a wreck on the side of the highway to rubberneck at and then forget.

It all started with the Internet.

But the final link was the mobile phone.

Because suddenly we can take our world with us.

And it’s only going to become more so. We’re all connected, we’re all primary, and it all happens on the mobile.

The clock ain’t turnin’ back.

Read more Bob Lefsetz columns at

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