Is this paradigm dead?
The blogosphere is rife with stories that Whitney Houston is back drinkin’ and druggin’. One writer connected it with the stress of her new album. Whitney had a new album? Oh, that’s right… I never heard a single song and other than this negative news blip, I haven’t read a word about her in weeks, possibly months, even though the album came out on August 31st.
Talk to someone in New York, and they’ll start bloviating about the success of "Empire State Of Mind". You don’t hear it in L.A. Even if it is number two on the chart. Sure, if you dial up the right radio station I’m sure you’ll enjoy a spin, but it’s so easy to avoid not only that station, but ALL stations.
Which brings us to the sad case of the Black Eyed Peas. This supposedly dominant act’s tour is a stiff, ask anybody in the business. Didn’t it used to be you couldn’t get a ticket to a star’s show?
But what’s a star anymore?
Kim Kardashian is a star. She couldn’t sell out a club, she could barely fill a toilet.
But she and her sisters are newsworthy. For their plastic surgeries, their sexual shenanigans, for their on again off again romances. What does this have to do with music? Nothing. And that’s the point. Used to be musicians got the ink, we loved their music and wanted to know their stories. Then they started playing to the press, by dressing up and living large. Which also have nothing to do with music. So, it seems, you’re either a star or a musician, but very rarely both. Hell, the more ink you get, the less seriously the public takes you. Suddenly, you’re living in the world of Paris Hilton, where we’re more interested in gotcha journalism, your stupid exploits than your music.
Jon Bon Jovi sells a hell of a lot of concert tickets. But not a hell of a lot of albums. Because even on tour, he’s only going to be seen by a fraction of the public. Most people just don’t care.
That’s the way it used to be. Music was cottage industry.
This is what the fat cats rail about, the loss of the diamond seller. It’s not so much theft as the inability for someone to rise like a phoenix. No one can get that mindshare anymore. And, if you’re trying to achieve it, by whoring yourself out here and there, you’re sacrificing your credibility in the process. And it’s your credibility that keeps people bonded to you.
Set your sights low. Not because you suck, but how many people love ANYTHING? With so many alternatives, people delve into the niche they desire. On cable TV, on the Internet…and now it’s no different in the music sphere.
Be thrilled you have any audience at all! And try to satiate your fans!
Look at it like building a fire. You need kindling. You need to add a log at a time, never too soon, because it might put the whole thing out. And no matter how big you build your blaze, someone in the next state can’t see it, its impact is limited, just like your musical career.
In the late twentieth century it was all about reaching everybody. Selling every last album to every available customer, touring the world to convert those who don’t even speak the language. Albums had three year cycles. Now they don’t even have three month cycles. The public moves on. We’ll check out the train-wreck for an instant. Yes, I saw Jay-Z and Alicia Keys perform "Empire State Of Mind" at the VMAs, but I’ve had no desire to hear it since, and I DON’T HAVE TO!
Really, think about this. In a world of unlimited options, that’s just what you are, another option. You’re a speck in the firmament. You’re making less money not because people are stealing, but because you just can’t get enough people to pay attention. That’s what you’re fighting for, ongoing attention. With the emphasis on "ongoing". If it’s momentary, it’s meaningless. Stunting is worthless. You’ve got to campaign endlessly, slog ad infinitum. Continually release music, continually engage your audience.
There’s a reason Tommy Mottola lost his job. And why agents and managers are more important than label people. It’s no longer about razzle-dazzle, but building a career.