How the Hell Does Bob Lefsetz Make Money?

Bob Lefsetz, Canadian Music Week, 2009

It’s one of the biggest mysteries of the music industry: how does Bob Lefsetz earn a living?

If you’ve been in the music industry for a while, you’ve probably come across the Lefsetz Letter.  The razor-sharp email missive, penned by longtime industry critic Bob Lefsetz, tackles everything from superstars to technology to broader societal and technological trends.  Wry, sharply insightful, nakedly honest, and overbearingly condescending in the same blast, Lefsetz is a master at drawing a crowd and eliciting an emotional response.

Nobody knows how many people read Lefsetz’ stripped down, text-only emails.  There’s no way to track comments, pageviews, or engagement.   Until recently, the email blast came from an address; these days, Lefsetz sends his text-only messages from [email protected]  It’s low-tech and impossible to measure (except if you’re Bob Lefsetz).

That same mystery extends to the financial side.  Lefsetz prides himself for being ‘beholden to no one,’ and you’ll never see an ad on his emails, site, or Twitter account.  But that begs a longtime industry question: how does this man make money?  First, we asked Bob Lefsetz that question (he didn’t respond), then we asked 10 different executives for their theories and did some research.

Here’s what we came up with:

(1) Speaking engagements.

Actually, this one isn’t a theory.  Lefsetz is a celebrity speaker at events like Canadian Music Week and Music Matters, and is pretty much guaranteed to pack a ballroom.  Indeed, when asked by Billboard in 2015 about his personal revenue sources, Lefsetz said speaking engagements first.  “I get my income from speaking fees,” Lefsetz said.

But can you earn a living off of that? Industry word is that Lefsetz demands first class transportation and top-shelf lodging, and gets it.  And Lefsetz seems to get a healthy amount of invites, worldwide.  How much does he ultimately gets paid for delivering a keynote, and how often?  We have no idea.

(2) Writing gigs.

In that same Billboard interview, Lefsetz also cited writing articles for Variety as a revenue source.  Interestingly, the last Lefsetz article for Variety that we could find on his author page was in December, 2015, suggesting a terminated contract.  The deal was first announced in 2013; we’re not aware of any other writing engagements beyond Lefsetz Letter.

(Incidentally, we asked Lefsetz to write paid articles or DMN, and got turned down, fwiw.)

(3) Consulting.

It’s not hard to figure out why a company would want some perspectives from Bob Lefsetz.  But without access to his tax returns, there’s no way to tell how many high-priced hourly gigs Lefsetz is pulling down.  In a profile piece written in 2012 by Wired, author Brian Raftery pointed to ‘occasional consulting’ in passing, and left it at that.

(4) Inheritance.

This is only a theory, though we kept hearing it come up as a possible answer.  Exactly which Lefsetz rich aunt bestowed the fortune is anyone’s guess, if there’s even an inherited fortune to talk about.

(5) Sugar mama girlfriend.

This was the biggest theory, by far: Bob’s longtime girlfriend Felice, the secret piggybank who bankrolls the low overhead needed to make the Lefsetz Letter work.  We have no idea if it’s true, but have been hearing this one for years.

(6) Sugar daddy executives.

One well-placed source pointed to some benevolent handouts from highly-paid music industry executives, just to support the cause.  But who are these benefactors?  We’re sworn to secrecy.  Which brings us to…

(7) Free dinners.

Lefsetz’ time is valuable.  If he even takes your lunch and allows you to pick his brain, you’re paying.

(8) Paid music reviews.

Once upon a time, Rhino paid Lefsetz to review their treasure trove of classics.  It was an email series called ‘Rhinofy’; we think they’re over.  Lefsetz also mentioned Spotify in this keynote interview.

(9) Uber

This was the best conspiracy theory to emerge, though it’s a little half-cocked.  But have you noticed that Lefsetz has been writing a string of incredibly glowing write-ups about how life-changing and fantastic Uber is?  How all of the drivers are all so wonderfully human, on time, and thankful to Uber for supplementing their income and helping them make ends meet?  And how Lyft doesn’t even exist?




22 Responses

  1. Faza (TCM)

    “It’s not hard to figure out why a company would want some perspectives from Bob Lefsetz.”

    Actually, do tell.

  2. Anonymous

    Why is that a mystery…

    You can always find a way to make money if you’re a writer. You should know that.

  3. Tonald Drump

    Must be a slow news day. How he makes his living is his business, nobody else’s. Just because you’re curious doesn’t entitle you to know. He isn’t beholden to you. Find some news to write about.

  4. Vezzini

    Who cares how a Sicilian makes money, when DEATH is on the line!?!

  5. Mike

    Lefsetz was dated 5 years ago and this is what has led me away from interest in DMN.

  6. rp

    the amount of piece of crap articles published on here is extremely careless.

  7. Adam

    Paul – how do you make money? Can’t be just the crappy ads on this site.

  8. Blob Lefshitz

    Bob Lefsetz earns his money from licking Hillary Clinton’s filthy corrupt asshole. He is a pathetic sellout douchebag.

  9. Kinda Weird Al

    He gets money from Spotify? Canadian Music Week doesn’t pay enough to live on. He doesn’t get many speaking gigs these days. Attendance is way down when he dies. And “the industry” hates him.

  10. writers, musicians

    easy enough to find his booking fees: call up and say you are putting together an event, looking at prospective speakers, what’s his fee? have some possible attendance numbers, some other possible guests… ask for price.

    also writing fees are very cheap. you can look those up to on the net (Variety pays $150 flat, or 50 cents a word, so no money there.)

    my guess is he has some money in the background, inheritance, spouse, so what.

    more irritating is that Lady Gaga, Lana Del Rey, Taylor Swift, Adam Levine, Daft Punk, Beastie Boys, DJ Steve Aoki, Miley Cyrus, Ariana Grande, Grimes, Robin Thicke etc etc. all came from wealthy families.

  11. Nicky Knight

    I like Bob Lefsetz and I enjoy reading most of his works … but I don’t always agree with him.. but that’s fair enough.. you don’t have to always agree with someone to still like them..

    My main gripe is Bob putting the boot into Apple at every chance.. A while back he was full of praise.. but since he got that damn watch he’s been mad as hell with Apple .. not to mention the launch of Apple music, that really got his back up too… especially after previously complaining that Apple weren’t in the streaming game ..

    Then there’s Politics .. urgh … I just don’t wanna go there… 🙂

    But I still like and read Bob’s emails and I like how he writes about what he thinks, observes and life in Southern California.

    I think he should press the pause button on future skiing in Aspen..

    • Excel Rose

      There’s your answer: Spotify. This shit has been going on a long time. In Oracle vs Google the judge made each side name their “shills.” Some unexpected and very embarrassed bloggers ended up on that list. Expect Apple to demand the same if FTC complaint instigated by Spotify against Apple goes forward.

  12. Spotify Shill?

    While the Lefsetz letter is still occasionally insightful and he does call balls and strikes on both sides of each debate (music, tech, politics, etc.) I have found he stands firmly in the Spotify camp every time there is controversy or scandal involving them. Besides having his head up Daniel Ek’s asshole I’d say he makes a living from speaking fees, but also very possible he gets paid by Spotify to pump out propaganda.

  13. Source

    There was a debate internally with Airbnb over whether they do this. But smart move in the end. Lefsetz gets $ to help clean up their situation with drivers and maybe even keep down gov’t rules against them —- worth the money.

  14. Jonah

    It’s possible he also makes look-alike appearances as Vizzini from Princess Bride. But I guess that’s INCONCEIVABLE!

  15. Me

    I can tell you he asks for 1st class transportation + full hotel accomodation in prestige hotel + 20,000$ for a 30 minute talk


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