Springsteen’s new album should be free.
If you’re signing a long term contract with a record label, you’re a fucking idiot. Expect the music business to turn into the movie business VERY quickly. If you’re involved with a company, it’s going to be a ONE-OFF! Kind of like Garth made a deal with Wal-Mart and now he’s left them behind, the retailing behemoth no longer serves him.
What’s Bruce’s strength? LIVE! That’s what got Jon Landau all excited in the first place, when he saw Springsteen live. Hell, I had both the first and second Bruce albums, and even though I loved "Spirit In The Night" and "Sandy", it wasn’t until I saw him at the Bottom Line in ’74 that I realized he was the real deal, not a Dylan-imitator, but a whole new thing.
Bruce ended up selling quite a few albums. But that was back when AOR was king and rock music ruled the airwaves. Today? WHAT AIRWAVES?
Is Bruce Springsteen gonna get any airplay? Maybe for a minute or two. Hell, let’s say his album has got a new "Born To Run". Do you think even THEN radio is gonna play it? If you do, you don’t listen to radio.
Stunningly, "Time" and "Newsweek" might both still put him on the cover, but their power has diminished so much that I don’t know another person who reads the latter except me. And they’ve both become lifestyle publications, they can’t compete with the 24 hour news cycle on both TV and the Web.
We’re all getting our information from somewhere different. There is no center. And what the major labels are playing to is the center.
So if you’re young and you’ve killed someone, or you’re good-looking and you’ve exposed your private parts to the world, maybe there’s enough train-wreck value to get your track on Top Forty radio. Still, the album probably won’t sell. And almost no one will want to see you live. This whole game is the sideshow. The main affair is in the arena. And how is releasing his new disc via Columbia driving patrons to see Bruce Springsteen?
Oh, just by going on the road, people will want to buy tickets. But he won’t sell out. That’s a dirty little secret, that a bunch of E-Street Band gigs were papered the last time out. You need to drive people into the seats. How are you going to do this?
Of course, Bruce got a big check from Columbia. The deal helped Andy Lack lose his job. But was the money WORTH IT TO BRUCE? Hell, if I were him, I’d negotiate to give the money BACK! Maybe let Columbia keep the catalog. But the new discs? Bruce should be able to make the appropriate deal at the time of release. And a superstar selling a ten plus dollar disc of new material is now the wrong paradigm at the wrong time. Because, NO ONE’S GONNA HEAR IT!
That’s the goal, to get people to hear it.
Prince is the leader here. He looks au courant, he looks happening, he makes people think he’s valid and not just an oldies act by giving away his new material. Hell, everybody at the gig gets it. They got it with the newspaper. It’s all over the place in a way that Springsteen’s music won’t be.
Even the Eagles. They’ll get a ton of promotion from Wal-Mart, but imagine if the record was FREE at http://eaglesband.com/. A track a week, every week for twelve weeks. Oh, there are TWENTY TRACKS? Then for TWENTY WEEKS! If you’re LUCKY, radio will play ONE track for that long. As for going on another… If you’re a heritage act, GOOD LUCK!
It’s time to be innovative. It’s time to question the old game.
Right now, music is free. And dedicated fans expect to be able to hear EVERYTHING before they buy it. Oh, oldsters have old fans, but so many boomer concertgoers aren’t even interested in the new music. They just want to hear the hits that made them fans to begin with. You’re gonna charge in excess of ten bucks. A boomer isn’t like a kid, he’ll kick the tires FOREVER before purchasing a CD. He wants VALUE! BOOMERS complain about movie prices, not kids. Kids see a shitty movie and want to go to another flick the next night. A boomer sees something bad and he swears off movies FOREVER!
What does it take to get a boomer to buy an album?
First, he’s got to be aware of it.
It’s not 2002, when "The Rising" was released. Bruce Springsteen playing on the VMAs, in the rain? The VMAs’ ratings are off fifty percent this decade. And even Aerosmith, the perennial, doesn’t get a slot anymore.
As for VH1? Gossip central.
Oh, you can get print. But you just can’t get big time traction.
EVERY record released today lands with a thud. It’s not only those of the boomer acts, but Fitty’s too. And Kanye’s. If you think the public at large cares about the release battle of 9/11, you’ve been reading too many magazines. PEOPLE DON’T GIVE A SHIT! If they did, radio ratings would be through the roof, AND THEY’RE NOT!
Bruce Springsteen. What does he need the label for? To get on "The Today Show"? Letterman? All he’s got to do is pick up the phone.
And why did he make an album anyway. Who can digest an hour-long opus anymore, especially busy boomers. Why not a four song EP, all killers, that people can digest in twenty minutes and play over and over again. That they’ll sit through in concert, instead of making cell phone calls and going to the toilet.
Why should an album be an hour long? Why should it have ten tracks? If you’re not questioning why, you’re about to be left behind. Sure, if there’s mania, like with "High School Musical", people want the disc as a souvenir. They want EVERYTHING, the t-shirt, the tour booklet, the lunchbox. But there’s not this kind of mania for Elton John and Billy Joel.
Elton? His last album, an ill-conceived follow-up to "Captain Fantastic", was dead on arrival. Imagine if Elton gave away a cover a week for the rest of the year. Yup, Elton’s played covers. Imagine the reception for those tracks in concert! People want to hear what they know, and they don’t KNOW the new albums of the classic rock superstars.
Not that one needs to do covers. But WHATEVER you do, it’s got to be GOOD! It’s no longer about quantity, but QUALITY! Music isn’t scarce, it’s overwhelmingly present in the marketplace. The key is to rise above, to get people’s attention, to gain their trust. Selling an overpriced disc of tracks that don’t change people’s lives is not an enticing proposition.
Get the music in people’s hands. Don’t stream it on your Website, don’t just have four tracks on MySpace. Make your shit available EVERYWHERE! You get it with the aforementioned "Time" or "Newsweek", they’d make that deal in a HEARTBEAT! You get it at Whole Foods. You can download it from the band’s site. Along with artwork. You can participate in a discussion of its quality on the act’s Website. You can enter a contest for two tickets to paradise, front row seats in New York or L.A. Create community. Ever seen MySpace or Facebook? It’s not only teens that are lonesome, who want to belong, who want to connect and hook-up. But Bruce Springsteen is gonna sell an inert piece of product shrink-wrapped in a record store. How eighties.
It’s the twenty first century. If you’re a classic rock act, your bread and butter is the road. Think of how you can get the most tushies in the seats. Think of how you can appear current. Think of how you can whet the appetite of your fans for the show. Think of how you can get people talking about not only you, but your music. Forget the major labels, forget radio, they don’t give a shit about you. GO STRAIGHT TO THE FANS!