Weird Al’s Album

Ben Sisario wrote the definitive statement in the “New York Times”:

No Joke! He’s Topping the Charts
Weird Al Yankovic Scores With ‘Mandatory Fun’

The most important element of the above article is the sponsorship story. Weird Al didn’t see sponsorship as a way to rip-off corporations to enhance his bottom line, he saw it as a way to broaden his audience.

Al literally piggy-backed on his sponsors, using them to broaden his audience. He got money for videos from partner sites, but most importantly, said videos were featured on these partner sites, bringing him to their people.

What a concept.

This is the future.

And it’s funny that someone seen as a sideshow figured this out.

It’s hard not to like Mr. Yankovic, and the tragic death of his parents always leaves a soft spot in my heart for him. But Al peaked decades ago, and who knows all the songs he’s parodying today anyway? Al was at his most powerful when we lived in a monoculture, when we were all glued to MTV and knew every clip.

And if you believe Al is now a household name amongst the younger generation, you truly believe selling 104,000 albums in a country of 300 million isn’t laughable.

Not that Weird Al is bound by the old paradigm. Unlike most acts his age Al realizes it’s about streaming. The clips for his new album have been viewed 46 million times.

Take that all you acts who still hew to the old model. Not only is Al making coin in the new realm, he’s reaching more people than the old paradigm players. If you want people to pay to discover you’re missing the point. The key is to expose as many people to your music as possible, charging them along the way.

And speaking of streaming, Al had 3,282,937 plays on Spotify last week.

So now that more people know who Al is, are familiar with his tracks, other opportunities grow and appear. Live business jumps and if Al chooses, he can sell himself as a pitchman. His phone is ringing.

Furthermore, notice that Al did this himself, the label didn’t cough up the money. Because labels are financially challenged, and they don’t believe.

But Weird Al did. He took matters into his own hands.

As for the hashtag… The peak was “Sharknado.” As for people hashtagging you into prominence, that’s a dying game, like ringtones. It’s an echo chamber. Beware of the online fad. Not that you shouldn’t use it, but don’t overestimate its power.

And the fact that Al had 575,000 Wikipedia views last week illustrates his fanbase is growing, it’s newbies who go there most.

As for the eight videos in eight days… Never forget that it is primarily video and not music. That Al’s famous for clips that play like television as opposed to being completely reliant on tunes. Al’s selling comedy, will this work for a traditional musical act? Doubtful.

But melding your music with today’s model will work.

Al didn’t bitch that the game had changed, he took matters into his own hands. And if there was a print component, it eluded me. Because Al’s audience lives online. And the key is to get people to click for cash, to watch videos and stream music. When people read an article about you in the newspaper or magazine the publication gets paid, you do not. In other words, you should go directly where the money is!

And the hype began when the music was available! Al didn’t frontload, when he was promoting, people were buying, or experiencing via streams.

And sure, getting to number one on the sales chart is generating publicity, but that’s a dying construct. Notice that Sisario included streaming numbers. And that they were impressive and the sales number was not. Soon no one will trumpet sales numbers, they’re too anemic, they’re nearly meaningless.

So Al has proven himself to be an artist, more insightful than the suits running the labels, as it should be. Creativity should come from the music makers. But over decades the switch has been flipped. It’s the label that puts you together with a cowriter and producer, it’s the label that says you don’t have a single. But no one ever believed in a label, music is all about the artist. And music soars when artists test limits, test preconceptions, when they twist the world to their vision.

Will we be talking about Weird Al’s album a month from now?

Highly doubtful. We may not be talking about it a week from now!

What has legs is original tunes. Too often we focus on the business story not realizing the music game is about longevity, that the most money is made when the press is no longer interested.

Al’s enhanced his cottage industry. He’s paved the way, shone the light on possibilities. In the future musical artists will stop playing the old game of frontloading publicity to generate first week sales and realize it’s all about streaming, bolstered by online publicity.

But don’t expect old acts to follow in Weird Al’s footsteps. They just can’t get over the fact that the game has changed.

If you’re still bitching that you can’t sell your $15 album you’re missing the point.

And the point is you’ve got more tools in your bag than ever before. And it’s cheaper than ever to reach people. And others will help you do this. And world domination is difficult, it’s best to enhance your territory, grow your base as opposed to trying to reach everybody. If you try new things you can get lucky. That does not mean everybody will care, but more people care about Weird Al than have since the turn of the century. And despite being old he looks young and hip. Weird Al won. Can you?

Digital Presence

1. DIGITAL HOME

A. Wikipedia

Your goal is to be big enough to have a Wikipedia page. It’s the first place newbies go to learn about you. It’s got the imprimatur of authority, people believe what they read, however inaccurate the details may be. We live in an information age and what we want most is information. Where the act was formed, how you got your name, who the band members are and your discography, including chart placements.

It’s best if there’s personal information, who you’re dating, who you’re married to. People want to know you.

However, beware of filling out your page by yourself. One can tell when pages are written by those whose pages they are. They go on just a bit too long, there’s too much detail, whereas fans have a different tone, somewhat reverential and completist in a different fashion. After you read someone’s Wikipedia page you should still want more.

B. Website/Facebook page/Bandcamp page, etc.

If you don’t have a Wikipedia page, because you haven’t got enough traction, buy your name and establish a page at that URL. It’s got so much more gravitas than a Facebook page. You want to let people know you’re for real, that you invested some money, that you’re in it for the long haul, anybody can have a Facebook page, it tends not to be taken seriously.

Of course, if you’re big enough to have a Wikipedia page, you need your own website and a Facebook page. Once again, on your website, you need to provide information. Like tour dates. And lyrics. And it’s best if there’s a constant flow of information, so people will come back. And don’t put up a paywall, if people believe they can’t get it all for free, they’re not going to become enamored of you.

2. YOUTUBE

America’s radio station and record store all rolled up into one.

All your cuts should be up there. Don’t have any fan clips taken down. Just monetize those that appear. The smaller the act, the more important it is to post videos on a regular basis. Of covers. Maybe even of you talking to your audience. But if you’re talking, make it brief, you’re a musician not an orator and if you go on too long chances are people will get bored, or wonder who these clips are made for.

3. SPOTIFY

Don’t bitch about payments, put your music up. All of it.

And you might as well put it up on the rest of the services, like Rdio, Deezer and Beats, but know that only one will triumph in the long run, it’s the way of the web, there’s only one Google, one Amazon and one Facebook. People gravitate to where everybody else is. Spotify does not have to win, but one streaming service will.

4. SOUNDCLOUD

Gets more ink/press/talk than it deserves, but it is true that the younger generation goes there. Put your stuff up. But know to cover the above bases first.

5. iTUNES AND AMAZON

Buying is so aughts. The teens are not about ownership but access. Sure, make your stuff available for purchase, but that’s not where the money is, certainly not in the future. Sure, being number one delivers some bragging rights, but it means less than ever before. Today it’s about fanbase and money. Don’t get caught up in charts. Don’t get caught up in smoke and mirrors. So much of what you see hyped gets no traction, never mind not making any money. That’s a fool’s errand, playing the popularity game.

If you make it, your fans will make you more popular, they will spread the word, continuously, which news sites never will. News sites are all about the new. They’re voracious predators that will squeeze you dry one day and forget about you the next. Use news to make a splash, but it’s meaningless unless fans become aware of you, embrace you and tell everybody else about you.

6. SOCIAL MEDIA

People want to interact with you, but don’t get caught up in believing the social media game is either necessary or important.

The bottom line is social media is mostly about making the hoi polloi, consumers, fans, feel important. They’re the ones that are posting and looking for attention. You want to give them enough info so they’ll post about you, but your personal Twitter account doesn’t mean much unless you’re a worldwide superstar, and so often that doesn’t mean much, because those people don’t have time to post themselves.

So you want a Facebook page. Don’t feel pressured to post on it yourself, let your minions do so.

And you want a Twitter account. It’s great if you post, but Twitter can be a huge time-sucker that pays few dividends. Better to practice your instrument than to live on Twitter.

7. GOSSIP

Paris Hilton established the paradigm, Kim Kardashian perfected it. Gossip is a career unto itself, which is why so many of its practitioners are famous for nothing else. So beware of the gossip columns unless that’s your primary game, they make musicians look small, which is why Kanye is faltering.

8. NEWS SITES

Press releases are irrelevant unless you’re truly a star and your tour is canceled or you kicked out a band member or you signed a movie deal. However, for the past couple of years, it’s better if you share this info yourself on one of your own sites. It makes the bond to your fans so much clearer.

9. PERIPHERAL SITES

Just because it’s available that does not mean anybody will see it. Sure, stream your album on NPR, if it’s available absolutely everywhere else, otherwise it looks like you’re playing in a walled garden, one where most people are unaware of you.

It comes down to Google. When I Google your name, what comes up?

Hopefully your personal website and then your Wikipedia page, or vice versa.

Right now there’s nowhere to go where all of your online presence is listed, which is why the major sites are so important. Sure, some fans might get past the first page of Google, but most don’t get past the first two HITS! Everything I want to know about you should come up there. If not, your team is not doing it right.

10. FADS

The longer we live in the Internet age, the more things stay the same.

It comes down to the art. The music and then the video.

And there’s so much information, that it helps to have money to make an initial impression, to get the ball rolling.

And then it’s about being available absolutely everywhere so if someone’s interested in you, they can experience you.

Don’t overthink it. Don’t release a single from your album every week. We’re on information overload, we can’t keep paying attention, the only ones who do are the hardest core of fans.

Beyonce had it right. Announce and release simultaneously, all of it. Because the truth is very little lasts. So you want the benefit of the splash. You want to sell while you’re promoting. And if you’re lucky, you’ll get traction.

Market manipulation is history.

You do it in an obvious way. And you make your fans happy. They are the ones who will grow you, it’s very hard to get someone who’s not concerned to be so. So much is hyped every day that people don’t have time to click through and check you out. The plethora of information might get them to your Wikipedia page, to YouTube, which is why you must have a presence there, but the truth is the power lays in the hands of those you’ve already converted, they will not stop talking about you, they will implore others to check you out.

Which is why it’s so important to focus. When someone spreads the word, make sure one track stands above. That’s one great thing about Spotify, they list the tracks in order of popularity. Always put yourself in the shoes of the know-nothings. If they get bitten, how can they enter your universe? Make it complicated, require multiple clicks, more Googling, and they won’t make the effort.

Meanwhile, keep feeding your fans. You’ve got two trains running, making those already converted happy and entrancing new people, and don’t confuse the two. Don’t wait so long to put out new material that the hard core fan is frustrated and moves on. And don’t think that the newbie is interested in anything more than the single.

But if someone is interested, they should be able to go online and go down the rabbit hole into your career. They should be able to spend hours researching, learning and listening. And you’ve got to make it easy for them to do this, by not only being everywhere, but pointing to what they should devour first. You don’t take someone to their first French restaurant and insist that they eat the snails. Start out with the killer onion soup, then maybe the duck. If they like that they’ll sample the foie gras and keep talking about you.

Then again, food’s got a whole network devoted to it, where the personalities shine but the food trumps and triumphs.

So many in music have lost the plot. Not only does MTV not focus on music, so many musicians are focused on their brand, their stardom and sponsorships. Put the music front and center. If you hew to this mantra the rest will follow.

Get Me Some Of That

You’re shakin’ that money maker, like a heartbreaker, like your college major was
Twistin’ and tearin’ up Friday nights
Love the way you’re wearin’ those jeans so tight
I bet your kiss is a soul saver, my favorite flavor, want it now and later
I never seen nothin’ that I want so bad
Girl, I gotta get me, gotta get me some of that
Yeah, gotta get me some of that

Pedestrian lyrics?

You grew up on “I’m Into Something Good” and “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,” tracks so infectious that your barely pubescent body shaked and shimmied as your mouth implored your parents to take you to the record store just so you could buy the disc and play it over and over and over again.

And I feel the same way about Thomas Rhett’s “Get Me Some Of That.” And so do many others, it went to number one. As well as scoring double digit millions on YouTube. You see music is not in trouble, because those who are winning know it’s all about hooks, about singles, about tracks so infectious that people buy tickets just to sing along.

Or to quote someone who keeps decrying the state of today’s music industry, SAME AS IT EVER WAS!

It’s not so difficult, then again it is. Derek Jeter makes it look effortless, alas, few can do so.

It’s that subtle, twinkly guitar intro that initially enraptures you.

And shortly thereafter, Thomas begins to sing…

“Yeah girl, been diggin’ on you
Sippin’ on drink number two
Tryin’ to come up with somethin’ smooth
And waitin’ on the right time to make my move”

There’s not a guy alive who hasn’t been in this situation, seeing someone he’d like to get up close and personal with in a bar and screwing up his gumption to do so.

So, the guys are hooked.

And so are the girls, because they’re always approachable, if you’re cute enough, if your line is good enough, which usually it isn’t. So, guys oftentimes don’t make the move.

And then there’s the reference to “college major,” it roots the song, cements the picture, and the truth is colleges are a hotbed of country music, just go to the show if you doubt me.

Little more what you doin’ out there
Swingin’ your hips, slingin’ your hair
Side to side with your drink in the air
Lord have mercy, now girl, I swear

And you think it’s about your nose, your boobs, no, it’s about your ATTITUDE, the way you hold yourself, you can drive us crazy with a swivel, by going deep into your own personal reverie.

But then comes the piece-de-resistance.

Gotta get your number in my phone

We’re living in the twenty first century, Maroon 5 might have sung about a pay phone, but the country artists are more modern than that. You don’t write someone’s number down anymore, you put it in your phone!

In my ride, by my side, down the highway
In the dark, in my arms, in your driveway
All because of that smile you threw my way

The signal. The wink, the smile. That’s what we’re looking for, the green light.

But this is fantasy. How do we know?

The way the song gets quiet at the very end and Rhett sings…

I bet your kiss is a soul saver, my favorite flavor
I want it now and later

It probably never happened, he was too paralyzed.

But the truth is with a song like “Get Me Some Of That” on an endless loop in your head you get up your courage to take action.

That’s the way it always happens, talk to the athletes, charging themselves up with music on their phones.

As for the lyric, it’s kind of like “Knocked Up,” where the bouncer tells Leslie Mann he’d tap that ass. That’s one of the few things I remember about that movie. The truth is guys look at each other as they bring longnecks to their lips and say…they want to get them some of that.

But the truth is they don’t look at each other, they can’t take their eyes off her. Fantasizing. If only their magic worked, she could be not only Ms. Tonight, but Ms. Right.

Set Me Some Of That – Spotify

Set Me Some Of That – YouTube

Tom Petty

What’s the single?

Where’s the single?

You mean it’s not out yet?

One thing about getting old is you get tired of the trick, tired of the publicity, tired of the media empire genuflecting for a star, promoting his latest work in order to achieve an auspicious debut that in today’s modern era is usually forgotten. Every week there’s a new number one. Do you know what it was last week? Furthermore, the paradigm of getting huge first week sales in order to stimulate reorders hearkens back to a day before digital, and I know no one with a dial phone.

What is going on here? How has one of our most thoughtful musicians missed the mark so badly?

I liked what Tom had to say in “Men’s Journal.” The article in the L.A. “Times” wasn’t as good. Jian Ghomeshi did a fabulous podcast. But talking about music is no substitute for the real thing. The reason Tom Petty blew up was because of what came out of the speakers, it was irresistible.

And what I’ve heard so far is not. But it’s only snippets.

And why can I not hear the music when the hype is so big? Today marketing without availability is useless. Ever notice that Steve Jobs almost always finished his product introductions by saying the new item was available TODAY!

Tom, Tom, Tom, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t live in the modern era and operate like we’re living in the past. And you obviously want people to hear the music, you’re not doing your best job here. All you’re doing is informing hard core fans you’ve got a new album, and most of them gave up purchasing your new tunes long ago.

So the hype says your new work is a return to the sound of your first two albums. Sounds great, in theory. Where’s the cut I can immediately click on to verify this? Otherwise, it’s just hot air.

Come on people, especially if you’re an oldster who had success once. We live in a singles world, and if you can’t deliver a single that wows us instantly and makes us want to hear it incessantly, you’re losing. Is it really that hard? You took three years to cut the damn thing. Talk to the major label guys, they won’t let a new act put out an album without a certified hit single.

We’re always ready for greatness. Nothing would thrill me more than to tell you Tom Petty is back. But I don’t know where to start!

The hype just tells me the album is incredible, like I haven’t heard THAT before.

And by writing this I’ll be inundated with the words of fans who believe they know Tom, his innermost thoughts, even though they’ve never been within yards of him, never mind spoken to him, telling me how dare I challenge one of our greatest pop/rock stars!

Give me a break. Are you the same people who say you can’t criticize the President?

But the truth is these people come from a bygone era, where musicians were our leaders, where we hung on every word. But we haven’t had that spirit since 1969, or a few years thereafter.

And why all the frontloading?

Oh, I know, you want to get the word out.

But we live in the Internet era! No one only reads their local paper, if they read that at all. They surf, they either get multiple impressions or you can’t reach them. And there are so many new products that unless yours instantly catches fire, it’s forgotten.

Come on, Sam Smith led with “Stay With Me.” What track are you leading with Tom?

Don’t talk to me about radio formats, in today’s era you need no radio. Release “Free Fallin’” with the same video and it blows up on YouTube. But something’s got to bring me there!

You’ve got to energize the fans, you’ve got to do that through the music! Multiple times a day people e-mail me about acts/tracks. The Petty hype is in full swing, but not a single person has e-mailed me a link, no one knows where to start!

And how about spreading the hype out, keeping yourself in the public eye, giving us multiple bites at your album.

And why is there an album at all? It certainly can’t be so you can play it live, you know better than anyone that people don’t want to hear new music, you can play three or four new cuts and that’s stretching it. And can you blame people, when they pay a hundred dollars a ticket!

It’s not 1977 anymore. And it’s not 1997.

Tom Petty’s got fame. He gets to leverage that.

In the old days, we’d be listening to the radio and hear the new cut and the hype would resonate. But I haven’t listened to FM since 2003, when I got the satellite. And most of Tom’s fans are not rabid about following the music scene, they just want to go to the show and hear their favorites and relive their lives.

Which is why most over the hill acts don’t even cut new material, why bother?

But you Tom, you deplore today’s 70′s style country, you believe you’re current, you believe you’re relevant…then PROVE IT!

P.S. If you’re an antique act I want you to stop bitching about the present, you’re making much more money on the road than your older brothers, ticket prices have far exceeded inflation. Sure, recorded revenue is down, but it’s more than made up for by ducats and sponsorship.

P.P.S. You grew up in the album era, the album is dead, unless it’s a concept. Write the new “Sgt. Pepper,” we’re ready, but even Paul McCartney can’t do that. So woodshed in the studio until you come up with a hit single. Sure, you can work with Max Martin/Dr. Luke, but you don’t have to sell your soul, you can do it alone, if you’ve still got the chops, but the truth is most of you don’t, you’re just not as hungry anymore.

P.P.P.S. We live in an immediate society where no one wants to wait. We read online and we want a link where we can hear the music and only the music just that fast. We don’t want a link to hear the whole damn album previewed on NPR or anywhere else.

P.P.P.P.S. Forget the frontload, that’s for movies, and they’re not doing that well. Your track will only sustain, as will your career, if the story is ongoing, if the track sticks and you follow it up with another one. Every day there’s another product hyped, and every day it’s forgotten. Your challenge is to find something that STICKS!

P.P.P.P.P.S. The Tom Petty hype is superfluous, we don’t need to know more about him, it’s all a front for the fact that he’s got new music. Which we can’t hear!

P.P.P.P.P.P.S. Spoon-feed people, make it easy. Amazon has one click, people should be able to find your music easily everywhere they look. Forget about money, if you can get people to listen and continue to listen, cash will rain down.

P.P.P.P.P.P.P.S. First you go to YouTube. Search on “Tom Petty.” You’d have no idea there’s a new album, nothing comes up! If the hype is done right it makes people want to check out the music, which is unhearable, never mind a focus on one specific track. Oldsters, they hate the future but refuse to get with the program.

FINALLY

If you search on Spotify (and in iTunes), you will find one track from the new album, “Fault Lines.” I dare you to listen to it. (Never mind buy it, how stupid a paradigm is that? You want me to pay to discover whether I like something, how quaint, how 1969. The future is charging me for checking it out, and continuing to charge if it’s so good I want to listen to it some more!)

So, the first album starts with “American Girl.” “Breakdown” broke the album wide open.

The second led with “Listen To Her Heart.” Which led with its hook and enraptured you.

Needless to say, “Refugee” exploded out of the speakers, making “Damn The Torpedoes” a gigantic hit.

And “Fault Lines” starts with an endless, pedestrian drum and then a reasonable guitar hook, but the point is for someone whose career was based on the compact single, the intro to “Fault Lines” is so damn long that you’d have to be a diehard fan to wait until Tom starts to sing. Needless to say, “Fault Lines” is not even close to the aforementioned tracks from the initial LPs. Wasn’t anybody home? Couldn’t anybody say no?

“Fault Lines” makes Katy Perry looks like a genius. Luke Bryan too. The game isn’t that hard to understand, grab us by the balls and PULL!

“Fault Lines” Spotify”