×

Nate Silver: The Model for Tomorrow’s Musical Acts

It pays to be ahead of the curve in an age when content travels easily

Nate Silver is a superstar. He’s the model for tomorrow’s musical acts, but you just don’t know it yet.

Unlike today’s adolescents dominating the YouTube, SoundScan story, Silver wasn’t born yesterday, as in he’s got a history. Not only is he educated, he did stuff before the “Times,” which signed him and where he ended up so successful he pissed everybody off.

Now if the New York Times had a television network, then it might have had a chance to keep Silver. But the paper couldn’t compete with the ABC/ESPN duality. As for print? Who needs it, when you’ve got the Web? Yes, Silver walked with his FiveThirtyEight.com domain, he’s the star, not the paper.

And this goes against everything we’ve learned in mass media for eons. This is the oldster’s worst nightmare. Because suddenly, talent is doing it for itself.

This is the story of Arcade Fire. Personally, I don’t love their music, but enough people do. Same deal with Nate Silver. Not everybody knows his name, but enough do. That’s the goal. To amass your audience and triumph.

That’s what you could never do before. Build and own your audience. You were dependent upon middlemen. This is what is wrong with the major label model of today, they take all your money and give you very little in return, telling you that without radio and their relationships at retail, you just can’t succeed. If Silver can succeed without the Times, can’t you without a label?

Let’s start at the beginning. Not everybody is as talented as Nate Silver. Yes, I know you hate that, you were taught by your parents that you were great and if you just believed in yourself you would succeed, but this is categorically untrue.

And as stated earlier, success is dependent upon education and hard work, something that’s abhorred in Snookiville. Today’s wannabe musicians can make great YouTube videos, and social network and spam you to death, but they rarely make great music.

You always start off far from the radar screen. That’s what today’s wannabe musicians don’t get. Recognition comes LAST! Be happy to play the gig most people don’t go to, that’s where you hone your chops.

And ask for more. This is what people hate about the Eagles, their confidence and their demands, their desire to do it their way. People would rather drag you down into the hole they’re in, they want you to apologize and make like you’re just like them. But I’m certainly not a statistics whiz like Nate Silver and I doubt you are either.

Nate didn’t want to be pigeonholed, he did not want to be limited to the niche the Times gave him. This is no different from an act telling the label they don’t want to co-write, they don’t want advice; they just want to do it their way. But unlike today’s musicians, Nate Silver was willing to walk.

Now granted, Silver did not go totally independent, unlike the delusional Andrew Sullivan, who believed that by tapping his audience for cash, he’d grow instead of being marginalized. In other words, there’s no harm in selling your wares to the highest bidder … as long as it is done on your terms, not theirs.

So where does this leave us?

On the cusp of new superstars. Soon we’ll have more Arcade Fires, and some of them will have mass appeal.

Talent is finally king, because distribution is free.

But in order to truly be king you have to believe in yourself and play by your own rules.

And if you’re a label, and you wanna ensnare a superstar?

Offer him exposure in all venues.

Cut him a great deal.

And know that he’s boss.

If you’re not kissing the ass of talent, if you’re not giving it all it wants and deserves, you’re destined for the scrapheap.

Read more Bob Lefsetz columns at Lefsetz.com.

Popular on Variety

More Biz

  • Homecoming

    Peak Storytelling Here as Podcasts, Short Form Ride New Wave

    The concept of peak TV is nothing new. But scratch the surface of original content these days, and it’s no longer about television — from podcasts and short-form video, storytelling itself is at a peak. Thanks to audio, video and other new platform companies including Gimlet, Quibi, Wondery, iHeartMedia and Serial Box, listeners and viewers [...]

  • Patti Smith Cambridge Folk Festival

    Patti Smith Muses Over the Many Ways to Tell a Story

    It’s Sept. 11, and Patti Smith has been thinking a lot about people who died. This is understandable. It is, of course, the 18th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, and an annual time of mourning for New York City, the city that Smith adopted as her hometown 50-plus years [...]

  • Hopper Reserve

    Dennis Hopper's Dying Wish: His Own Strain of Marijuana

    Even as celebrity brands are starting to flood the emerging Cannabis market, Hopper Reserve stands out. The brand was launched by Marin Hopper, Dennis Hopper’s daughter from his marriage to Brooke Hayward. Hopper Reserve is a gram of California indoor-grown flower, two packs of rolling papers, a pair of matches and a trading card either [...]

  • Snoop Dogg Weed

    In the Cannabis Business, Not All Star Strains Are Created Equal

    With the cannabis green rush in full swing, many celebrities are jumping into the fray with their own brands, including such well-known stoners as Willie Nelson, Snoop Dogg and Tommy Chong. But as it turns out, not all star strains are created equal, so we assembled a trio of crack experts to put the product [...]

  • Richard Branson Jason Felts

    Kaaboo Festival Acquired by Virgin Fest Owner Jason Felts

    Kaaboo, which says it has “shifted the music festival paradigm by offering a highly amenitized festival experience for adults,” is now under new ownership. Virgin Fest founder and CEO Jason Felts (pictured above with Virgin founder Richard Branson) has fully acquired all of the festival brand assets through an affiliate of Virgin Fest, the music [...]

  • Live Nation Chief Michael Rapino Talks

    Live Nation-Ticketmaster Chief Michael Rapino Talks Dept. of Justice Inquiries

    Back in August, Senators Richard Blumenthal of New Jersey and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota made the most recent of several requests for an Department of Justice antitrust investigation into competition in the ticketing industry, and it soon became clear that the target of the probe was Live Nation and its 2010 merger with Ticketmaster, which [...]

  • Lowell Smokes Cafe Marijuana

    With Cannabis Lounges, On-Site Consumption, Marijuana-Infused Meals Go Legit

    Can this century’s Roaring ’20s repeat history but with pre-rolled joints instead of whiskey flasks and soccer moms as the new flappers? This month, West Hollywood will see the opening of the nation’s first at least quasi-legal cannabis consumption lounge, officially dubbed Lowell Farms: A Cannabis Café, located at 1211 N. La Brea between Fountain [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content