Lefsetz vs. Flom Toronto Event Delivers Insider Music Biz Stories, But Lacks Drama

Ken Hertz
Lefsetz vs. Flom

They had no script, not even an agenda or point-form notes scribbled on a napkin or the back of their hand. The second of six “Leftsetz vs. Flom: No Holds Barred” live appearances by prolific music biz critic Bob Lefsetz of SiriusXM and “Lefsetz Letter” fame and record executive/A&R legend Jason Flom, CEO of Lava Records, was less “versus” and more a friendly off-the-cuff exchange that the two engaging storytellers easily made entertaining and informative.

The Live Nation dates -- Boston and Toronto previously, with Brooklyn Tuesday, New York on Thursday, Los Angeles on Oct. 29 and San Francisco on Oct. 30 -- were booked by WME’s Marc Geiger.

Held in The Parlour room of Toronto’s Phoenix Concert Theatre on Sunday night for about 60 people -- including music managers Jake Gold, Eric Lawrence and partner Rob Lanni; SOCAN’s Michael McCarty; studio manager Tanya Coghlan; radio host Alan Cross; Live Nation’s Denise Ross and husband Jack Ross of APA; publicist Eric Alper; and producer Kevin Doyle -- the 90-minute talk began with Lefsetz asking Flom about his children’s book, Lulu Is A Rhinoceros, celebrating acceptance and individuality, before getting into what people had come there for: some inside scoops on the music industry and, hopefully, some battles of opinion.

Lefsetz, who is used to interviewing people for his podcast and is a frequent moderator and “In Conversation with…” host at Canadian Music Week, had a bit of trouble moving out of that journalist role and seizing equal talk time to tell his own stories and answer questions from Flom. But when it’s off-the-cuff, that’s what tends to happen -- you settle into the usual roles. Lefsetz is a naturally curious guy.  Anyone who’s met him knows this. He wants to know everything.

From the kids book, Lefsetz went right into asking Flom -- who previously served as chairman/CEO at Atlantic, Virgin and Capitol, about signing Kid Rock. “I want the details,” he demanded, something he often tries to extract from people, even when he’s not onstage, to get the full picture. There’s no glossing over anything; he needs to fully understand how something got from A to B.

The conversation often detoured and curved and swung back and fired shots from stories to generalizations to name-dropping and name-slamming -- “English people like music more than we do” to Tori Amos quotes; Bob Geldof’s six-year theory for bands; creative walls; problems with today’s music; Katy Perry’s work ethic; more Kid Rock hilarity, madness and ingenuity; A&R and marketing; how to get recognized; Greta Van Fleet projections and strategy; Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s unique start; praise for Republic’s Lipman brothers and attorney Nick Ferrara; contractual obligations; when to fold; and on and on. Mostly, it was Lefsetz asking -- usually with a drop of a name and comment from that person which spurs the question put to Flom.

But interestingly it wasn’t Lefsetz who asked Flom one of the most poignant questions of the night: “Looking back over all the years, who do you think was the most talented executive you’ve ever known and why? And who do you think was the most miscast in the most senior role?" That was Flom, adding, "And if they’re both me, then don’t answer the fuckin’ question.”

And of course Lefsetz obliged.

Lefsetz is known for naming names, even if it means making enemies. Flom sometimes leaped to people’s defense and also refused to slam anyone and occasionally wouldn’t “go there” when Lefsetz pushed. But he didn't need to; he had great stories about his signings, Kid Rock, probably the best, but also Greta Van Fleet, who he believes is “a movement” and “will be the biggest rock ‘n’ band in the world” in 18 to 24 months -- they’ve already booked arena tours and he’s hoping for Saturday Night Live.

The pair also made sure to squeeze in talk about their respective podcasts -- Flom did Lefsetz’ podcast which inspired the idea for this No Holds Barred tour -- but as the evening went, focused more on Flom’s Wrongful Conviction podcast and his astounding work with the Innocence Project, helping to exonerate people put away for decades.

If they have time now to jot down some points, maybe Flom can put on his journalist hat for the next four Lefsetz vs. Flom sessions. For instance, has Lefsetz ever been threatened? Sued? Hit? How does he make a living? If he seems to hate the business so much, what keeps him in it? If he knows so much, why not start his own label or manage a band? Turn the tables and ask him for details for a change; enquiring minds want to know.


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