The Album Doesn’t Count

It’s about the event.

For how long have we heard it’s about the new record, the hit, that they are the engine of all that follows.

Maybe with Top Forty, but in the rest of the music sphere…

Lady Gaga had one of the stiffest follow-up albums of all time, even rivaling Peter Frampton’s “I’m In You,” but now she’s gonna sell out stadiums, how can this be?

She can’t seem to write a hit to save her life. But she was on the Super Bowl and the Grammys, never mind two years with Tony Bennett, and she’s seen as a star and is doing business accordingly.

Now if you’re playing the hit game, if you occupy the Spotify Top 50, it’s a different world. So many of the popsters live and die by the hit. Without it, they’re nothing. Especially if their tracks are part of the combine, made by the producers du jour. But if you’re more self-contained, if you’re doing something a bit different, the music is still important, it’s what seals the deal, gives you your audience, but to sustain it’s less about having hits and satiating those who haven’t cared previously as opposed to staying in the public eye. The old days of disappearing between album cycles, of being mysterious, those are done. Today you humanize yourself and stay in the game. As for recordings, they should be dripped and dribbled out, to keep fans satiated, but to get them coming to your show…

You’ve got to be on TV and online and…

Kinda like John Mayer. He’s on Snapchat, masquerading as Hank Knutley on Kimmel, you see him around, you think of him as a friend, like someone on a sitcom, as opposed to the distant musical titans of yore.

So you go where the eyeballs are. Unless your credibility is at stake. You take chances, mistakes are forgotten overnight, you play with whomever asks, you make YouTube videos, you weigh in on popular culture and more, and when it comes time to monetize…

You’re top of mind.

For far too long the industry has been playing a radio game. Wherein the charts are all that matter. Getting on the airwaves, reaching mass. But the dirty little secret is music is now all niche. Think about satiating your niche, not those distantly interested. Every act today is a big niche, from Taylor Swift to Beyonce to Metallica. All that press about Ed Sheeran? Most people have not listened to his new album and will not, they don’t care, in today’s overloaded society you have a hard time keeping up on what you do care about.

Forget the radio, forget the charts, forget sitting at home afraid you’re not gonna get it right. Get into the swim. Sure, hire a PR agent to spread the story if it’s worth telling, but really you’re looking for your fans to talk about what you do, and it all happens online, and online becomes so two-dimensional that people yearn to interact live.

We’re wiping the classic acts off the map. As well as their handlers and the record company people who sustained them and were inured to the old ways. Younger people are infiltrating the business who are willing to take chances, to start with a blank slate.

Your act can get started on NPR, like Alabama Shakes, a press story if there ever was one.

Or “CBS Sunday Morning”…

The former gets other scribes paying attention and the latter is a victory lap for those who care.

But both are event-like.

Think about what you can do that’s new and different that will generate a story, that will live on YouTube, that will endear yourself to your fans. It’s much more important than working with indie promo and slaving over adds and chart position, neither of which resonate with the public. Come on, if you’re listening to terrestrial radio you’re the most out of it person extant, you probably can’t afford a concert ticket. Better for an act to appear on Howard Stern or a hit podcast or some place online with traction.

Once again, the old metrics do not apply.

Sales are good, but they tell only part of the story.

Streams are important, especially if they continue to grow.

But even more important is your identity, propped up by the music. You’re a musician, act like one, do your act, that’s what you do, not make hit records.

The Last DJ?

He already left the building. Tom Petty can sell tickets without him.

And so can you.

Comments are closed