Precipitous Drops

It used to be only the classic acts’ albums tanked immediately.

Now it’s everybody. At least at first.

You debut at the top of the chart, after the execution of the launch plan. The story is everywhere, but the kids don’t care, they just know, the way you used to in the pre-internet days. The music is released, they devour it for two weeks at most, and then they’re on to something else.

At this moment, the highest charting Taylor Swift song is “Lover,” with a downward arrow, at #28. On the Spotify chart, of course. Forget “Billboard,” it’s just a way for the ancients to feel good about themselves. That’s right, “Billboard” is like D.C., seen as behind the times, irrelevant and powerless. The chartmakers check with the labels before they make any changes, meanwhile, life goes on all around without them.

The “Billboard” chart, and now the “Rolling Stone” chart, are manipulated. They take in sales and paid-for streams and non-paid for-streams and radio play and by time they’re done, it does not reflect reality. The truth is, radio today is where you go to resuscitate a track, to push it back up the chart, to get the non-fans interested. Then again, the fans of these acts don’t listen to radio, despite the format’s protestations, despite the majors’ focus on it. They stream and only stream, just like they do with TV. Ever seen a Gen-Z’er sit through commercials on a network program in real time? Impossible!

Used to be labels dripped out tracks, to try to convince you to buy an album. Before they completely eliminated singles and forced you to buy the album for the hit track. But the majors have lost control of distribution, it has become egalitarian, they can only hope that an act’s base is big enough to project it to the top and hope that some looky-loos will come along too.

This week it’s Post Malone. Next week it’ll be someone else. This is completely different from buying an LP and playing it ad infinitum because you can’t afford anything else. Listeners are fans of music more than any particular album, this is what streaming and availability has wrought. You try to make an album have legs, and even the tour doesn’t help much, because the tickets are so expensive the act is playing to fans only.

So it’s about awareness. And then trying to boost the initial weeks’ listening time. And then cleaning up with ticket sales while you work like hell to keep the music alive, which at the present time is mostly done via radio. And what lasts is often that which has never broken before, like Lizzo. She started without a fan base. She’s at the reaching new people/an audience stage now. But soon, with her next LP, she’ll be just like everybody else. There will be anticipation, her tracks will dominate the Top Ten, then they’ll fall off.

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