Lefsetz Letter » Blog Archive » The Lumineers

Lefsetz Letter » Blog Archive » The Lumineers

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They’re playing STADIUMS?

I’ve seen this band. Earthy, roots-based, completely different from what’s in the Spotify Top 50.

And it’s not like there’s any buzz. They haven’t had a radio hit in YEARS!

Welcome to the 2022 music business, which now resembles the movie business William Goldman wrote about…NOBODY KNOWS ANYTHING!

For years we’re subjected to articles about the brilliance of Merck Mercuriadis and his Hipgnosis song empire. A masterstroke, perfect timing, and then the FT prints a takedown so severe that anybody paying attention is now aware the company has been unable to purchase new songs for a year! We keep reading that publishing is burgeoning, but…

It really all comes down to numbers. The investment versus the stock price. It’s all financial. That’s why everybody invested in it! Hipgnosis is not like the entertainment vanity investments of the past, rolling the dice in the hopes of making money but fully aware the odds are long…no, people expected a good, steady return from Hipgnosis.

When interest rates were low. And despite the ups and downs of the present stock market, having crashed just today, there are much better places to put your money than song publishing, unless you’re looking for a steady return for the long haul. Then again, no one can predict the lifespan of a song, however everybody on the inside does know that avenues of revenue keep increasing.

As for the charts?

Completely skewed by physical product. The biggest act of the year, of the past twenty months, is Morgan Wallen, but you see no “Vanity Fair” spread, he’s still toxic to the media intelligentsia, but the fans love him!

So back to the Lumineers…

They haven’t had a hit since 2012, their very first one, “Ho Hey,” nearly a novelty song that one would think would live and then die like the engine on a Blue Origin rocket.

Sure, there’s some success on Rock radio, but that’s like being big in Peoria… Who the hell knows? I mean who are the Luddites listening to rock radio? They’ve got no Sirius, they’ve got no Bluetooth, they really want to endure the formatted playlist and endless commercials?

Oh, that’s another thing I’ll tell you, everybody is number one somewhere. I know, because they e-mail me. Like I’m #1 in the banjo played in the bathroom category of advance orders on Amazon. Chart numbers have become ever more worthless.

Except for the Spotify Top 50, the true definition of what is listened to most in America. However, you don’t see the Lumineers featured therein, nothing like them, what is going on!

I mean the dinosaurs can sell tickets. And the WSJ told us that young acts can sell big venues, but they’re talking phenomena, like Bad Bunny and Billie Eilish, most people can’t even name the two key members of the Lumineers, they’ve got no idea there are two key members, they’ve got no idea how many people are in the band!

But the promoter is Louis Messina.

Who believes in…

Work.

Who knows what keeps this septuagenarian going, it can’t be money, then again, everybody can use more money. And it’s not like there’s a public chart where he shines. Almost none of America knows who he is. But Louie has vision. He works with a small number of acts, and builds them up to huge numbers.

Of course there was George Strait, never mind all those decades back in Texas at Pace, but really the eye-opener was Kenny Chesney. This country bumpkin is selling out stadiums in the north?

And Taylor Swift would not be as big as she is without Louie.

And then Louie picked up Ed Sheeran after he opened for Swift. Louie told me about talking to Ed in the bus, closing him, in that folksy way he has with an iron fist in a velvet glove. Louie doesn’t push, he just lays it out there and you feel the magnetism, you’ve got to join forces.

And then there was Eric Church and…

It’s a juggernaut I tell you. BUT THE LUMINEERS?

Every other act Louie has worked with in the past decade or so had a slew of hits, but not the Lumineers.

Who are managed by Bernie Cahill. A man with a law degree and a friendly yet upscale demeanor. But my point here is he’s not known as a force of nature who burns up the phone lines, who instills fear, who trades favors to help build his act. This is not David Geffen, this is not old school. The Lumineers are more akin to Dave Matthews than a usual suspect.

And Coran Capshaw build the DMB into a monolith. But let’s not forget there were those VH1 hits…

And it’s not like the two Lumineers are poster boy youngsters. One is 39 and the other is 36. When the major labels specialize in promoting those just crossing the line of puberty. There’s no flash…THERE’S NOT EVEN ANY PAN!

Not that I knew the Lumineers were selling out stadiums until I read the latest “Pollstar,” which is thicker than the magazine has been in years.

You see everybody who’s ever worked with the Lumineers had to buy an ad, to ensure that they’d work with them again in the future!

But who put this all together?

You see it’s not the information in “Pollstar” which is so interesting, it’s the COMMITMENT! That’s what the movers and shakers look for, they want to know the act and its team are committed to breaking the artist and keeping them on top, they want to believe that the light is on somewhere, and it’s not at a Motel 6.

Then again, paying your dues, starting out at the bottom.

There’s an article by Roy Trakin talking about a TikTok connection on “Ophelia,” which made it all the way up to #66 when it was released back in 2016. Although it did go to #5 Rock, and I do remember hearing it on SiriusXM’s Spectrum, but…

But, “Ophelia” now has 800 million streams on Spotify. Maybe TikTok did help, it does have a more active user base than any terrestrial radio station.

And it’s not only “Ophelia,” the Lumineers have seven triple digit million tracks on Spotify. Not that anybody ever talks about them.

Isn’t that today’s law, stay in the game? God, I did hear the Lumineers mentioned once in the past month, but before that…IT WAS EONS!

What is going on?

IT’S A SEVENTIES STORY!

The act’s career arc is disconnected from the usual suspect outlets, it’s not about radio or TV, it’s about the band and its bond with its fans, who keep increasing in number.

But it’s really about the music. A type of music that gets almost no ink, no kudos… The only rock we hear about is the Foo Fighters, other than the legends, and the Foos are paint-by-number not for the ages but maybe the best in a very shallow pool.

How can we live in a hip-hop nation if the Lumineers are selling out stadiums?

Well hold your horses here, it was only two stadiums. One in their hometown of Denver but the other was in Chicago, James Bay was on the bill in the Windy City, but he’s not going to bring all those fans to Wrigley Field.

It was the Lumineers.

All the rules have been broken, there are no rules.

Except for one…

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE MUSIC!

And if you want to last, almost definitely you’re going to start small and grow. And you’ve got to play so many gigs that you learn how to put on a show, that’s more than a rote recitation of the record. And you’ve got to have a well-oiled machine behind you, not only Louie and Bernie but the band’s agent, Joe Atamian.

This is the opposite of everything we read about. Where it’s got to happen fast. And if you have a brain and it doesn’t, you give up and go to graduate school. Hell, play music and you could miss your entire twenties, maybe thirties, and never be able to catch up with those who were once your peers. It’s a walk into the wilderness.

We read all about social media marketing plans. All this stuff they say is necessary, how you have to promote yourself, but the Lumineers don’t do this.

And it doesn’t matter if you don’t like the Lumineers’ music, this is about those who do! We no longer live in a monoculture. Those who you like and those who you don’t like can live side by side in today’s world and their audiences may never intersect, or maybe they will.

Then again, those who go to see the Lumineers expect the show to be live, not on hard drive. They’re not looking for choreography, they are looking for energy, they’re looking for the music to set them free, to take them away from this crazy world we live in. And that’s harder to do than it appears. Because to truly succeed you’ve got to go against the grain in a me-too society.

Something is happening here. I just wanted to hip you to it.

“Blackstone-backed song rights machine suffers growing pains – Rapid expansion of Hipgnosis Songs Fund stalls as higher interest rates start to bite”: https://on.ft.com/3qCxqrg

“Look Out Boomers: The Next Generation of Arena Stars Is Coming – While the Stones and Springsteen show few signs of slowing down, newer and younger artists are selling out massive venues.”: https://on.wsj.com/3eOlS1f

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