1. Dave Matthews Band “Away From The World”
Sales this week: 265,961
It sounds like what once was. Before Dave took a detour, trying to become a hitmaker, when hits still mattered. And I do like “Everyday,” but I prefer Dave’s darker material, made from the left of center as opposed to the heart of the mainstream.
I really like “Mercy.” We can debate whether it’s a hit, but that would be missing the point, that would be believing in radio and the hit parade, both of which are fading in the rearview mirror, especially for Dave’s fans.
Credit Steve Lillywhite. Back from banishment and into the fold. He created this sound, he was the one who captured it on wax, and stunningly, he’s brought Dave back to the place he once was.
Listen to “Mercy“
Especially the instrumental ending. Great to see a band not worrying about the constraints, rather stretching out with all their ability.
And not only is “Away From The World” on Spotify, there’s a special collection of Spotify live albums, recreating all of Dave’s studio albums with pre-released live tracks. Some people realize the future is coming down the rails, others live in the past. If you’re not on Spotify, you’re just being ripped off on YouTube, where fans are placing your music and listening to it without you getting paid for these bootleg postings. And the audience has been trained to go to YouTube by a recalcitrant music business, so busy holding on to the past, afraid of the future, that it took too long to authorize Spotify and let YouTube take hold.
As for the decline from “Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King”‘s debut of 424,000, don’t blame it on the music. Blame it on the aging audience. But blame it more on the death of the paradigm. Albums are a relic of a past generation. The audience has given up on them, it’s the performers who are holding on to them, not the listeners.
But having put out new music, give Dave credit for playing it! I got an e-mail from the Hollywood Bowl show saying he played the entire new album, this reader was pissed.
But this is the way it used to be. When concert tickets were cheap. When acts weren’t afraid of their audience. You’d buy the album to be prepared to go to the show. Granted, Dave only released this a day before the Bowl appearance, but the point remains… Don’t put out new music unless you’re willing to play it.
2. Little Big Town “Tornado”
Sales this week: 112,758
The power of a hit single.
I love this band. “The Road To Here” is one of my favorite albums of this century. Unfortunately, after a series of misfires, they’re no longer working with Wayne Kirkpatrick, whose influence hooked me. I applaud their success, but prefer the earlier sound.
3. Bob Dylan “Tempest”
Sales this week: 109,545
Mission accomplished. Tons of press reaches old line customers, rendering a sales total that seems high today, but has little impact in the world at large.
I’d rather see the number of plays on Spotify than sales for a record like this. How many people bought it and listened to it again and again?
Usually, with press hypes…not many.
4. Avett Brothers “Carpenter”
Sales this week: 97,847
The little engine that maybe could. This is quite a good number for a band most people have still never heard of. They’re earning their rep on the road. If they keep doing it, they’ll get bigger. How big?
6. ZZ Top “La Futura”
Sales this week: 30,795
The problem with an album like this is reaching the target audience. Not an erudite self-conscious bunch reading the newspaper, but those wrapped up in their blue collar lives, drinking their beer.
Used to be you turned on the radio and found out what was new. Now the target audience is listening to talk radio.
So this album will or will not have legs based on the road.
7. Imagine Dragons “Night Visions”
Sales this week: 29,464
Percentage change: -65
Weeks on: 2
Another Interscope special. A good record with a good track, but what’s the staying power? These bands come and go, no one expects them to be credible, no one expects them to develop. This is what the modern major record business has wrought. Music with sheen but little longevity.
8. Matchbox Twenty “North”
Sales this week: 27,800
Percentage change: -71
Weeks on: 2
A surprisingly good album.
The only problem is that Matchbox Twenty broke via Top Forty hits, which tend to undercut credibility. Therefore, there are few fans of the band. Mostly, they like the hits. But if you ever liked this sound, you’ll be satisfied. Rob Thomas still has his talent, Matt Serletic is back from his failed attempt to be a record executive and the only thing wrong with this album is the times… Kinda like that old Brian Wilson song, “North” wasn’t made for these times, rather the pre-Internet era where brand names were everything and everything else was irrelevant.
10. Amanda Palmer & the Grand Theft Orchestra “Theatre Is Evil”
Sales this week: 23,754
The naysayers won. Amanda’s paying her horn and string section. Mission accomplished. Huh?
You could read Matt Taibbi’s expose on Bain (http://bit.ly/Rm9dea), but that would take too much time, you’d rather bitch about an artist who is never going to go mainstream who understands the niches and the modern world better than you ever will. Amanda Palmer is running a cult. The only nexus with the mainstream is this chart and the attendant publicity/kerfuffle. It doesn’t matter what the music sounds like, because you’re never gonna listen to it. It’s for fans only.
What Amanda Palmer did was motivate her fans.
And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with paying her pickup string/horn section, but I’d have felt better if she hadn’t changed her mind. Because when you’re going against the grain, you’ve got to be strong. You see things differently from everybody else. You don’t want to be cowed, you want to give the middle finger. Once you’ve started capitulating, they’ve won.
That’s one thing you’ve got to love about Led Zeppelin. They played by their own rules.
Amanda Palmer’s only crime was being successful. Being the Kickstarter queen.
Let this be a lesson to the rest of you. Being the progenitor, breaking the mold, having success opens you up to boatloads of criticism, especially in the Internet era.
Amanda Palmer was looking for an amateur string/horn section. With imperfections and mistakes. She wanted rough edges and charm in an era where everybody’s afraid to go off script, where they play to hard drive. She didn’t want classically trained players, but those who were in the high school band, who were fans.
She had it right.
11. Maroon 5 “Overexposed”
Sales this week: 22,024
Percentage change: -25
Weeks on: 12
What a fitting title. They live and die by the hit. Didn’t used to be this way. But now even Bono is desperate, working with RedOne and…
If you’re not willing to take a different path, you’re not gonna last. Our culture doesn’t celebrate conformity, just the opposite. But everyone is too afraid to be outside the mainstream public eye so they play by the rules. Once upon a time, musicians threw the rule book out. Ha!
12. Adele “21″
Sales this week: 21,100
Percentage change: -1
Weeks on: 82
The twenty first century has been a period of deconstruction. The model has broken down. There’s a mainstream smaller than ever before and a million niches. You want to know how you stand out? Via great music. Adele herself was not at the center of the hype. She led with her music. Let this be a lesson to you.
17. The Lumineers
Sales this week: 17,660
Percentage change: -3
Weeks on: 24
They’re on Dualtone!
This is a giant sea change. It’s now not only Mumford & Sons, the giant crack in the music business is being filled by traditionalists, who can play and sing. In other words, the Lumineers will be around longer than Bieber, maybe even longer than Gaga. Because it’s not about the hype, the penumbra, just the music.
25. Frank Ocean “Channel Orange”
Sales this week: 14,105
Percentage change: +1
Weeks on: 10
I refuse to be manipulated. If only he spoke of his love of a man a few months before or after his album was released.
The press loves to champion something. This year it’s been Frank Ocean. And I’m not saying he’s not deserving, I’m just saying there’s a backlash. The Lumineers snuck up on us, leading with their music. We were pounded over the head with Frank Ocean.
32. Cat Power “Sun”
Sales this week: 10,578
Percentage change: -54
Weeks on: 2
There was a story in every publication known to man. A scorched earth publicity campaign that knew no bounds. And the target audience still reads traditional media, ergo these sales.
I’m sure the people at the label are high-fiving each other as I write this. Deservedly so.
But today you win on the road, where Chan Marshall has an iffy track record.
I’ve got no investment in her winning or losing. But based on the hype, you’d believe she’s a superstar, with writers, mostly male, fawning over her like she’s Brigitte Bardot reincarnated as the Beatles.
57. Ed Sheeran “+”
Sales this week: 6,319
Percentage change: -13
Weeks on: 14
The most downloaded act in the U.K. (http://bit.ly/RWIsTp), a hopeless also-ran in the U.S.
You know there’s something wrong with our system when an act as charismatic as Sheeran stalls.
There’s no place for him in mainstream America. He doesn’t fit the radio format.
But he kills live.
He needs to go on the road and do a hundred dates in the U.S. His label has to know that this is a long term project, but Ed will break through, if he and they persevere.
58. John Mayer “Born And Raised”
Sales this week: 6,124
Percentage change: -51
Weeks on: 17
Pretty good for a guy who couldn’t go on the road.
His challenge is to maintain his career without hits. Mayer knows this. We’ll see how it all works out.
60. Alanis Morissette “Havoc And Bright Lights”
Sales this week: 6,033
Percentage change: -45
Weeks on: 3
This is not Bonnie Raitt going independent after a slew of successes, this is someone barely lovable continuing to slog on after only one glorified success, well, and a great single, “Uninvited.”
61. Melissa Etheridge “4th Street Feeling”
Sales this week: 6,001
Percentage change: -61
Weeks on: 2
Are you a celebrity or a musician?
Used to be Melissa was the latter. A lesbian with an edge who could truly rock. Now she’s all warm and fuzzy and it’s icky.
Forget sales. Go for mindshare. Don’t worry about placating radio programmers, try infecting fans.
Nobody knows anything anymore, even though everybody will tell you they do, whether they be old-schoolers or wet behind the ears techno-nerds. You’re truly on your own. You can try to be like everybody else, or just be yourself. The latter is the road less travelled, and much harder. Not everyone is Amanda Palmer, not everyone can social promote themselves 24/7. But that does not mean you can’t have an audience.
That’s the goal today. An audience. That hopefully is growing.
I’ll leave the size desired to you.
But know if you’re shooting for world domination, you’re doing it wrong. No one can achieve that anymore. Despite the profiles of Bieber and Gaga, there are huge swaths of the public who are clueless and ignoring them. And you can’t say they’re really missing out.
The press keeps telling us we’re missing out. The same press that says the iPhone 5 is boring and a disappointment, despite monolithic sales.
You make your own decisions, your own path now.