Counting Sales (& Bundles!)

Ben Sisario:

A Billboard No. 1 Is at Stake, So Here’s an Album With Your Taylor Swift Hoodie

Counting CD and track sales is like toting up the number of feature phone purchases. We live in an era of streaming and smartphones, why does the music industry insist on holding on to the past?

This is how hip-hop ended up victorious, by moving online, by embracing Soundcloud, by using the new tools and giving away product in the process.

But no, the music industry still sells CDs and files, even though most people no longer have a CD player, they don’t even come in cars, and Apple killed the iPod.

Actually, Apple was famous for killing old formats. Killing ADB for USB. Leaving out the floppy drive. Steve Jobs did not worry about the complainers in the background, he just soldiered on.

And now Apple is the most valuable company on the planet, or close to it, depending on the daily stock market.

Ironically, the present Apple killed the 20 pin port for Lightning, even though every hotel room had that connector built into the room radio, and even switched to USB-C on the new iPad Pro, but…for some reason, their Music app still works with both files and streams, which makes it confusing, which Jobs abhorred. It was supposed to just work, be easy, require no manual, but I still can’t figure out how to make sure my search is of streams not files, and it makes me reluctant to use the app.

Steve Jobs. Everyone says he was anti-streaming, all about sales.

Believe me, Jobs would be behind streaming today, making it even more convenient, because Jobs was willing to admit he was wrong, and change and leave the past behind. But many musicians still refuse to believe streaming has won, it’s been demonized, it can’t be sold after the show…it’s like bitching you can’t sell standard transmissions when even Formula One cars have no clutch.

And the internet/tech works on a different ethos than the traditional music business. The facts are real, and the war is even more intense. Record companies can always depend on their catalogs for revenue, in tech it’s purely what have you done for me lately, and if you haven’t done anything, soon you’re no longer a player. Can you say Blackberry and Gateway and…

Streams can be quantified. They’re harder to fake. Of course people are always trying to scam, but there are algorithms to check that too. Ah, the glory of the machine.

In other words, it’s easy to add up how many streams a track has. They’re even visible on Spotify and YouTube. And streams are raw consumption, a true judge of popularity, whereas if something is sold, you don’t know how many times a purchaser listened to it. Furthermore, with streams you get paid forever, while with sales, it’s one and done. Do you want to invest in yourself or sell out now and forget your future?

The “Billboard” charts have been manipulated from day one. Sure, SoundScan added some truthiness, but still, shenanigans were prevalent.

And “Billboard” could change its chart overnight.

Then again, what makes the “Billboard” chart worth anything anyway, their special sauce? Why do you need Nielsen to tote up what is easily seen online?

So what you’ve got is a trade magazine, servicing the trade.

So, there should be no attention paid to “Billboard”‘s numbers.

But they’re distributed by media outlets as if they mean something, when the truth is they don’t mean anything.

Sure, it’s all about the add-ons, but who was the wanker who approved this to begin with? What are we counting here, marketing efforts or music consumption, this needed to be nipped in the bud.

And “Billboard” could have done it, but NO, it was afraid to piss off the labels and the acts, who do very little advertising anyway, “Billboard” is now a consumer-facing product, why does it keep one foot in the past? Hell, why don’t you pay fealty to retailers, Best Buy doesn’t even sell CDs anymore, not that I’ve been to an outlet in years, why, when there’s Amazon.

We need to wave a wand and immediately go to streaming totals to determine popularity. Leave all sales behind. That’s how Steve Jobs would have done it!

But the truth is the labels like it this way, they kick and scream as they add tchotchkes and manipulate the chart themselves.

Hell, the government nearly eradicated the Mafia, but the music business is still run like organized crime. These are public companies, why so much subterfuge?

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