In the latest Lefsetz letter, the widely read music industry analyst Bob Lefsetz offers lessons from Adele’s success. Refreshingly, the numero uno lesson is that Adele’s record-smashing success with “25” relies on the core quality of the music itself, which generally bucks the kinds of trends explored in John Seabrook’s fascinating book The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory.
But No. 2 on the list of what Lefsetz says we can learn from Adele is that, as he puts it in all caps, SOCIAL MEDIA IS OVERRATED. It’s a tough case to make, especially on the back of a rare outlier like Adele who opts out of social media. But Lefsetz’s contention does give food for thought. The medium may not be the message after all, as far as social media is concerned. That is, social media is a delivery tool — yet another element of distribution logistics — but it’s not content. You have to feed content into any deliver mechanism — and it’s finally that content that matters. Lefsetz cites Amanda Palmer as an example of how social media really doesn’t lift a performer above her talents, despite what Forbes contends. Still most big time contemporary musical successes (Bieber, Rihanna, Shakira, Eminem, Gaga, Katy Perry, etc.) have big social media footprints. Adele is clearly the exception, but does her extraordinary success without it change the conventional wisdom? Lefsetz doesn’t say social media doesn’t matter, but could it possibly be overrated?