Chinese Democracy

I don’t expect it to be good.

You can lament the absence of Slash and Duff, but the real key was Izzy…  Izzy added the grit, the dirt, the rock and roll, once he left Guns N’ Roses, the band was like Wings.  Good, but no Beatles.

Actually, not that good.

Guns N’ Roses’ debut is a hard rock classic second only to "Back In Black" in the canon.  "Appetite For Destruction" was recorded by a band that just didn’t give a fuck.  About you, the industry, just about anything but their next fix.  These were true rock and rollers.  And when both the little girls and their mothers got a taste of "Sweet Child O’ Mine" and its shimmying singer, they wanted in.  That’s how America likes its boys, bad.  It’s why nerds make money, but homeless dudes have almost as good a chance of getting laid.

"Appetite For Destruction" didn’t hit immediately.  The sound was too raw for AOR.  But sales built and MTV went on "Sweet Child O’ Mine" and it was an endless victory lap, until the band splintered apart.

As for those other records?

The less said about the "Spaghetti Incident", the better.

The two "Illusion"s sold well upon release, but does anybody spin them today?  They’re laden with rock excess, which was drilled into our brains via endless MTV videos, but the underlying music just wasn’t as vivid and primal as the songs on the debut.  On the debut, they needed it, they were proving themselves.  On the "Illusion"s, they were trying to act bad when they were already rich.  They were no longer all living in one room, but they wanted us to believe that they were.  Or, in the alternative, that the average person should be interested in the viewpoint from the top, which he is not, the average person wants to hear from the bottom.

So now, umpteen years on, there’s going to be a new album.

And we can debate all day long how good it will be.  And it can even be good, but will it SELL?


What do we budget?  Two million copies?

Even the Jonas Brothers debuted to less than a million.  And in their third week out, they did a paltry 146,659  And even though young ‘uns like G N’ R, they’re not Zeppelin, Floyd or AC/DC.  The number one customer for the band is the oldster, who now worries about his kids’ soccer games and paying the bills.  Rushing out to the nonexistent indie store upon the day of release to fire up a bong and spend all night listening to the new opus over and over again?  Keep dreaming.

So, how should Axl and whatever boys he’s got next to him move forward?

With innovative marketing.

1. Name your own price

Dumb.  Already done by Radiohead.  Unsuccessful with Saul Williams.  If you’re going to stunt, you’ve got to do something original, you’ve got to do it FIRST!

2. Newspaper cover mount

This is a good idea.  De rigueur in the U.K., it hasn’t been tried in the U.S.  I’d say this is a natural for Tribune.  For the Sunday edition in all of their papers.  Got to be ten to twenty million in it for the band.

3. Wal-Mart

What are the odds of "Chinese Democracy" passing the Bentonville censors?  This is a natural fit.  Blue collar denizens, those who shop at Wal-Mart, are hard rock’s core.  But we live in a society where children must be protected and the truth must not be uttered.  So, "Chinese Democracy" would end up a ten minute EP.  Then again, would that be as laughable as Axl Rose’s appearance on the VMAs?

Wal-Mart will guarantee product one way.  Significant tonnage.  Because it gets people in the store where they buy other things.

As for screwing indie stores…  If indie stores want to cobble together a twenty five million guaranteed offer, I say they should get an exclusive on "Chinese Democracy".  But this is not a building band, it’s amazing this record is even coming out.  The indie stores won’t cough up the dough and their whining can be ignored.  This is business.  One time event business.  It’s not about keeping retailers happy, but making a ton of money for Axl Rose.

4. Other physical retailer

This is a good idea.  The only question is whether they can pony up enough bucks.  Target?  The promotional value is astounding.  The media will cover this like the second coming.  For a week anyway.  Before reporters move on to something new.  So, to get all that name recognition and then the additional revenue from people buying other product in your store is worth it.  At a price.  Twenty five million dollars?  That’s what it’s going to take.  Axl’s got to get his bread back, this product needs to be shipped one way.

As for Best Buy…  They’re never going to pony up.  They expect exclusives for BUPKES, if anything at all!

5. Online retailer

Steve Jobs will never pay.  It’s against his equitable/level playing field philosophy.  But how about Amazon?

Amazon is the number one online retailer.  If it finally wants to boost its music store, this is the opportunity.  It’s kind of a Michael Cohl deal…  How many copies does Amazon expect to sell, if it has a monopoly?  Two and a half million?  Then it’s worth twenty five million dollars.  Even if all the albums are not sold.  Because people will come to, interact with the site, and buy other stuff.  Furthermore, Amazon can sell both physical and digital product.  The company is a natural.

6. Advertiser giveaway

This is what G N’ R should do.

The biggest problem G N’ R has is releasing "Chinese Democracy" and finding out nobody cares.  And believe me, very few do.  Because years have passed and nobody gets that much attention today.  Mariah Carey is plastered all over the media and can’t even go double platinum.  Almost no one can.  So how do you deliver this album so IT SEEMS like the second coming and the public buys it?

By giving it away.

Yup, one single advertiser.  Either super-rich, like Coke, or looking to make its name, like Napster was when it bought those Super Bowl ads.  They pay their twenty five million AND THEY GIVE "CHINESE DEMOCRACY" AWAY ON THEIR WEBSITE!

The publicity will be amazing.  First, when the deal is announced.  Then, when it happens.  The return on investment will be better than any TV advertising.  Assuming the corporation can pay the freight.

But that’s what G N’ R’s handlers should be looking for, someone who can pay the freight.

Radiohead is a cult act.  Which had the biggest story in the music business last year.  Whatever they made by giving away "In Rainbows", they earned back in cred, in the burnishing of their image.  Before, only the band’s fans said Radiohead deserved respect, that they were at the pinnacle of the pyramid, on top of the heap.  Now EVERYBODY respects Radiohead, they’re seen as being above essentially every other act.  G N’ R was there, but now its future is in jeopardy.

G N’ R needs a stunt.  That generates incredible publicity, that puts its music in the hands of the most people, so the act’s image can be burnished and beaucoup bucks can be made on the road.

The silver lining is G N’ R CAN STILL sell CDs, can even sell on iTunes, if they give the album away.  Look at Radiohead.  Look at P2P.  Everything’s free, yet people still buy.  Free for a month only.  Maybe just a week.  With a live album of greatest hits thrown in two weeks later if you donate your e-mail address.

Universal just can’t deliver "Chinese Democracy" to the usual suspects and expect it to sell, not in any prodigious amount.  Don’t worry about the indie retailers, don’t worry about Best Buy, don’t worry about iTunes.  Go to the big kahunas, the ones who truly have the money/advertising budgets. They won’t bitch, they won’t say they’re cash poor, they’ve just got to decide whether to buy in.  Or not.  Look, Dr. Pepper is riding the "Chinese Democracy" bandwagon FOR FREE!  You’ve got to charge for this privilege.

And don’t tell me about cred.  Axl lost it years ago.

If you want to reunite the old band with Mike Clink and make real music, I’m interested.  But to give away this turkey for a fortune, it’s not going to hurt whoever’s in the band right now, and Axl has hurt himself worse already.

The Jonas Brothers’ new album has sold a grand total of 671,887.  It’s going to be a long way to two million.

Kid Rock has the song of the summer, "Rock N Roll Jesus" has been out for 46 weeks, and it’s STILL not double platinum, it’s sold 1,718,507.

Lil Wayne has sold 2,261,580, but Axl hasn’t been posting G N’ R remixes for years, and he’s not going to get significant airplay on Top Forty, never mind Urban stations.

"Camp Rock" hasn’t gone platinum.

And neither has Sugarland’s new album (699,587).

Taylor Swift is an anomaly, she’s sold 3,343,703 albums.  But in 96 WEEKS!  Sustained by radio airplay.  Much of that on Country, before Country CD sales tanked.  She’s been exposed on two radio formats that sell music, the aforementioned Country and Top Forty.  G N’ R is NEVER going to get this ubiquitous airplay.

Leona Lewis?  Who even played the Olympics?  1,018,668.

Duffy, the new hype/star?  431,464

Nas, the conquering rap hero?  350,251

Neil Diamond, in the midst of a comeback, with the first number one of his career?  A grand total of 362,870.

Mariah Carey? 1,151,313.  And she debuted with a gargantuan figure.  463,000 were sold IN THE FIRST WEEK!  After "Chinese Democracy"’s debut, then what?  Even the Jonas Brothers couldn’t break platinum their first week out.

No one can sell 5 million, never mind diamond.

Only six acts on the chart have broken three…  Taylor Swift, Alicia Keys (3,579,983), Daughtry (4,193,092 in 92 weeks), Nickelback (6,884,767 in 151 weeks), Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus (3,134,776), "High School Musical 2" (3,256,181) and the Eagles, who’ve moved 3,069,632 copies of "Long Road Out Of Eden".

Now maybe if Axl gets his own Disney television show, he can sell some product.  But since that’s unlikely, he’s got to look at the game plan of his management stablemate, the Eagles, very closely.  He needs to move a lot of product, where there’s a ton of traffic, very quickly.

What do you think he should do?

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