Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 07-06-2017, 09:46 PM
adaher adaher is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2003
Location: Florida
Posts: 27,062
How do albums become commercial flops?

Let me explain what I'm asking here. Everyone understands why a movie flops. The studio invests tons of money, hypes the film to the moon, gets it put in thousands of theaters, and then not many people watch it. But music doesn't seem to work that way. If an artist is pushed hard by the industry, that artist is successful. So what I want to know is, what is the point of failure that causes an artist to sell 5 million units for one album, and then three albums later the album doesn't even make gold?

Here's an example: Debbie Gibson. In 1987, she released Out of the Blue. Huge hit, tons of radio and MTV airplay, big tour. 1989, Electric Youth, same deal. Between Out of the Blue and Electric Youth, MTV was sure to keep us updated on what Debbie Gibson was doing to the point of annoyance. But then just 18 months later, in 1990, she puts out Anything is Possible. Now I was glued to top 40 radio and MTV in those days, so if there had been promotion of this album coming, I would have know about it. But nothing. It just came out, the songs weren't on the radio much, the videos got pretty much no MTV airplay, and just like that she was a nostalgia act at 20. The exact same thing happened to Billy Ocean three years later. Now granted, Ocean had taken some time off and the music scene changed a lot in just those three years, but this guy was a hits machine and his comeback should have been a pretty big deal. The record company certainly invested enough in his 1993 album. R. Kelly produced two songs on it.

So whereas the point of failure in movies is the viewing public, is the point of failure in music in a different place? At the time, did the radio stations and MTV pretty much control what we got to hear and if they decided you were done, you were done? That's the impression I get, but it doesn't seem possible that hundreds of radio stations would get the same idea. Is there something else at play that I don't know about?

Here's my followup question: has a single or album ever been widely hyped and then flopped commercially? As in, they got the airplay, MTV played the videos, but fans just rejected it, not buying the album or the singles and not requesting the songs on Total Request Live and such? Or is music one of those things where if they play it, by definition it's a hit because the public gets the impression that it's a hit?
Advertisements  
  #2  
Old 07-06-2017, 10:29 PM
Mahaloth Mahaloth is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: 地球
Posts: 27,058
How big was the hype around Christopher Cross' Another Page album?

His first album was huge.
  #3  
Old 07-06-2017, 10:34 PM
Hampshire Hampshire is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Minneapolis
Posts: 10,507
Garth Brooks at the height of his popularity put out the Chris Gaines album. It was marketed pretty heavily on VH1 and Saturday Night Live and it was suposed to be a pre-soundtrack of a Chris Gaines movie.
It flopped pretty bad and the movie was never made.
  #4  
Old 07-06-2017, 10:35 PM
adaher adaher is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2003
Location: Florida
Posts: 27,062
Another Page was pretty huge. Cross is a great example of MTV basically deciding you're not going to be big anymore. It seems to me that they had tremendous veto power over artists' careers back then, and there's at least one example of them using it malevolently: to kill the Monkees' comeback in 1987.
  #5  
Old 07-06-2017, 11:47 PM
journeyman_southpaw journeyman_southpaw is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2015
Location: Canada
Posts: 298
Here's a NYT article from 1991 about Debbie Gibson, suggesting that her commercial decline was a case of a teen pop star's fanbase moving on. It seems like even when the pop star anticipates this happening and tries to make a "mature" album, it's hard to make it work.

Radio has made use of focus groups since at least the late '70s, I'm guessing it might not be so much a case of "deciding you were done" as your latest single just not doing well with the focus groups. But the music industry is also notoriously shady, so there's no telling what kind of backroom deals might go into the pushing of one artist over another one.
  #6  
Old 07-06-2017, 11:53 PM
digs digs is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: West of Wauwatosa
Posts: 7,185
I think all your confusion is because you've got a flawed presupposition here:
Quote:
Originally Posted by adaher View Post
If an artist is pushed hard by the industry, that artist is successful.
The industry can hype an artist with all their might, and that won't make the public like them. They can sign Duffy to a Diet Coke advert, but her supposedly-free-spirited bike ride at night just made everyone cringe.
(Think I'm exaggerating? Cringe away...)

Quote:
Originally Posted by adaher View Post
So what I want to know is, what is the point of failure that causes an artist to sell 5 million units for one album, and then three albums later the album doesn't even make gold?
"Three albums later" is probably a 2-5 year span of time. In that time, you'd have lots of other factors: How about the public's changing tastes? How about the band doesn't have the same approach, or even personnel? Not to mention the "sophomore slump" where a band had decades to work on their first album, then has to crank out their next one(s) quickly. The Klaxons are often used as an example of a great first effort but after that, "well, they just had no more songs."

How about the case where the artist isn't as good anymore? I'm not saying that Debbie Gibson fell into that category... but only because I tried like hell not to listen to her.
  #7  
Old 07-07-2017, 12:24 AM
Magicicada Magicicada is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: East of East St Louis
Posts: 510
My husband worked for various record distributors back in the day, and he said it was a running joke that some albums would ship gold and be returned platinum.
  #8  
Old 07-07-2017, 12:31 AM
adaher adaher is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2003
Location: Florida
Posts: 27,062
Gibson's pretty much the same as she's always been. The two albums that came after her period of success were on par with what she'd been doing already.

How do they figure out the fanbase has moved on though? I would think that with an artist with a proven record of success, you'd hype it and if it fails then you know it's time for a change.

It's interesting that today's music industry seems far more willing to push teen stars into adulthood. Most of the teen stars since 2000 have decent careers today as adults. Perhaps the industry sensed a missed opportunity with the late 80s crop? I think they just assumed the fanbase would move on, but Gibson's Anything is Possible album went gold despite very little airplay. It does not actually look like her fanbase was done with her yet. Maybe they internalized that when the next crop came out(Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Jessica Simpson, Justin Timberlake) and showed more patience?
  #9  
Old 07-07-2017, 01:00 AM
buddha_david buddha_david is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2011
Location: Beyond The Fringe
Posts: 26,478
Happens all the time, even with established bands. Kiss had four consecutive platinum albums but their next effort, Music from the Elder, failed to even go gold.
  #10  
Old 07-07-2017, 01:26 AM
adaher adaher is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2003
Location: Florida
Posts: 27,062
That album didn't get promoted well though. The record company hated it.
  #11  
Old 07-07-2017, 06:53 AM
WordMan WordMan is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2001
Posts: 21,040
Isn't it a complex combo of things? The artist, the songs, the promotion machine behind them, the grass roots interest, and then all the environmental factors?

Sometimes a hype machine works, sometimes it gets lucky, and sometimes it doesn't matter and/or fails. Look at Carly Rae Jepson's Call Me Maybe - one YouTube video by Bieber lip syncing it, at the behest of their co-manager Scooter Braun, and it got meme'd and hyped and it became a song of the summer. She's put out stuff since that has done okay, but also clarified that she has decent talent, but it hasn't been a regular trip to the top of the charts.
  #12  
Old 07-07-2017, 07:33 AM
RealityChuck RealityChuck is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: Schenectady, NY, USA
Posts: 40,569
Hype only works if the product is good. Think about the Bosstown sound. Despite all the hype, the music was not all that good and the names of the bands are only remembered by people who were around that time period.

Then there's the Brinsley Schwartz hype, for a group that showed a lot of promise (it included Nick Lowe). The fiasco of the promotion killed any chance of success for the group.*


*Briefly, they were supposed to appear for the first time in the US for a big concert at Madison Square Garden. A plane was chartered so British journalists could attend. But Visa problems kept the band out of the US until the day before their concert, and they had to borrow equipment to play. Meanwhile, the charter plane started having mechanical problems over the Atlantic, and as a distraction, they passengers were allowed to drink all they wanted. They arrived in NYC drunk or hungover, and not in a very good mood. The reviews were brutal.
__________________
"East is East and West is West and if you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does."
Purveyor of fine science fiction since 1982.
  #13  
Old 07-07-2017, 07:49 AM
WordMan WordMan is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2001
Posts: 21,040
Oh yeah, look at Big Star: Alex Chilton (the Box Tops hit "The Letter") went home to Memphis and found the band. Very hard to break out back then if based outside the mainstream music biz. The only record label in town was Stax, but it was going through huge turmoil. Stax couldn't promote their first two records so they didn't get heard and the band withered, even while the music now is held up as excellent.

Sometimes the hype machine is necessary but doesn't come through.
  #14  
Old 07-07-2017, 08:03 AM
adaher adaher is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2003
Location: Florida
Posts: 27,062
But what I'm asking is, at what point in the process do most albums by established, successful artists fail? Obviously the record company believes in them, that's why they paid to produce an album. That's why they released a single. That's why they filmed a music video. That's why they paid to have them tour.

So does the album fail when the company tries to get the artist airplay? But if they don't get airplay, how can they really have failed? It would be like calling a movie a box office flop if it only opened in 10 theaters. It really does seem like a song is a hit simply because it's played, and it's not a hit if it's not. Heck, don't the singles charts even consider a song a hit in part based on airplay? That sounds rather insane to me. That would be like calling a movie a hit based on how many theaters it was playing in.
  #15  
Old 07-07-2017, 08:13 AM
WordMan WordMan is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2001
Posts: 21,040
A breakdown can happen at any part in the value chain. Katy Perry just released an album that has a full court press of hype, and is doing reasonably well in the sense of exposure, but is generally seen to be a package of meh songs and past-due marketing events where she tries to open up and be authentic.

Katy Perry is an excellent music professional by any measure, and is trading on a long successful run, but is generally portrayed as having really missed the mark on this. Her history got her songs played and her release events covered in the media but this album is seen as a failure.

It feels like her promotional machine worked just great, but her material and the current persona she's presenting didn't catch genuine interest. So it goes.

Last edited by WordMan; 07-07-2017 at 08:14 AM.
  #16  
Old 07-07-2017, 01:15 PM
Mr. Miskatonic Mr. Miskatonic is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: Under a pile of books
Posts: 6,327
I think there is a half-life on certain mucisians, and sometimes the industry does tend to push them to hard to produce an album when they don't really have the material for it yet.

This is becoming slightly less of a factor in an age when your spotify/youtube exposure may be as critical as your radio exposure (and much more than MTV). They can pace themsleves better than the labels can.

As for the OP wr to Debbie Gibson, its really not that hard to figure out why her last album didn't succeed as well. There's nothing wrong with it, but Debbie is no longer the cute teen in very 80's getup. Look at the title track video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VviuRKLkvyc

For one thing, the tone is very different. Not bad, but there's a lot of funk undertones I wouldn't have expected from the '80's Gibson. Then there's Debbie herself. She's definitely trying for a sexier, more mature look. Her previous songs her attire played up her youth but not her body (she's wearing sweaters!). It probably wouldn't click with her core audience.

1990 was also a troublesome era - fashion features lingering from the 80's that were trying very hard to hold on before grunge came in and flanneled everyone to death. This video screams that era.
  #17  
Old 07-07-2017, 02:25 PM
JohnT JohnT is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: San Antonio, TX
Posts: 18,583
I don't think that U2 album that was put in everybody's Itunes account was received well, despite the hype of giving it away for free.
  #18  
Old 07-07-2017, 02:39 PM
EinsteinsHund EinsteinsHund is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: NRW, Germany
Posts: 2,066
Quote:
Originally Posted by adaher View Post
Here's my followup question: has a single or album ever been widely hyped and then flopped commercially? As in, they got the airplay, MTV played the videos, but fans just rejected it, not buying the album or the singles and not requesting the songs on Total Request Live and such?
A classic example from before the MTV era is the debut album by Moby Grape. They were considered so hot in 1967 that a bidding war started between companies which Columbia won. Everything looked perfect for a success, a fine band with great songs from San Francisco in 1967, a big label that heavily promoted the band. The resulting album was astounding, one of the best of the year, but they made a big promotion blunder: they released almost all the songs of the album on five singles simultaneously, and this marketing gimmick totally backfired: the people got confused and felt ripped off, so the album stalled at #24, and none of the singles was a hit. Today it's considered one of the best albums of the time (rightly so, I can so much recommend it), but it totally failed commercially. The band carried on, but never recovered. A story of missed opportunities, similar to Big Star's, with the difference that Moby Grapes's fate was overexposure, whereas in Big Star's case it was non-promotion.
  #19  
Old 07-07-2017, 02:48 PM
Sam Stone Sam Stone is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jun 1999
Posts: 26,664
I agree with Wordman - an album can flop for any number of reasons, and it can succeed without the hype if it is really great.

Consider Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. The album was dumped by the record label because they felt it had no commercial potential. Wilco bought it back from the record company for an absurdly low price, and just put it up for download on their website for free. The hadcore fans downloaded it, discovered it was amazing, and word of mouth grew so strong that the record company bought the album back for much more than they sold it, and it went on to be a big hit.

On the flipside, there have been many artists who got by on the strength of massive promotion, but who then flopped despite continued massive promotion when the quality of their work dropped below some magic threshold.

Then there are people like Warren Zevon, who put out album after album of outstanding material but couldn't get industry traction because they are assholes, or because they pissed off the wrong people at the wrong time. Today with music being easier to produce and distribute you can go pretty far without major label and industry support, but in the 70's and 80's if you couldn't get on a major label, you were destined to be at best a niche act.
  #20  
Old 07-07-2017, 03:27 PM
jz78817 jz78817 is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: Under Oveur & over Unger
Posts: 9,979
Quote:
Originally Posted by digs View Post

"Three albums later" is probably a 2-5 year span of time. In that time, you'd have lots of other factors: How about the public's changing tastes?
Yep. I remember for a brief blip in the early '90s, thrash metal had a surge in popularity, and bands like Megadeth, Slayer, and Anthrax went on huge arena tours.

Few years later, grunge and the "Seattle Scene" hit and that was it for thrash.
  #21  
Old 07-07-2017, 03:29 PM
Mahaloth Mahaloth is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: 地球
Posts: 27,058
Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnT View Post
I don't think that U2 album that was put in everybody's Itunes account was received well, despite the hype of giving it away for free.
I think the problem was that people didn't like that it was automatically on their device. I didn't understand at the time. It was fully deleteable.
  #22  
Old 07-07-2017, 04:38 PM
NDP NDP is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2001
Location: PNW USA
Posts: 8,120
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sam Stone View Post
Then there are people like Warren Zevon, who put out album after album of outstanding material but couldn't get industry traction because they are assholes, or because they pissed off the wrong people at the wrong time. Today with music being easier to produce and distribute you can go pretty far without major label and industry support, but in the 70's and 80's if you couldn't get on a major label, you were destined to be at best a niche act.
Zevon did break through in 1978 with "Werewolves of London" off his Excitable Boy album. Unfortunately, its success was both the best and worst thing to happen since it inaccurately and unfairly tagged him as a novelty song performer.
__________________
Can also be seen at:

Last FM Library Thing
  #23  
Old 07-07-2017, 05:09 PM
Sam Stone Sam Stone is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jun 1999
Posts: 26,664
Yeah. And that would be a good example of a song making it without promotion, because at the time Zevon was virtually unknown and already had two albums (including one of the best albums of the 70's) sink like a stone. Werewolves of London came out of nowhere, and stayed in the Top 40 for six weeks. The album it was on went to #8 on the album charts due to the strength of that single.

The other bad thing about it was that its success made Warren Zevon enough money that it allowed him to indulge his vices, those being drugs, alcoholism and laziness. He only produced two albums in the next nine years ("Bad Luck Streak in Dancing School" and "The Envoy"), and neither was considered up to the standard of his 70's work, though some would disagree. In 1987 he got clean and sober, and turned out "Sentimental Hygiene", a great album that got significant promotion but still didn't go anywhere. He had a minor dance hit with "Leave my Monkey Alone", and that's about it.

It wasn't until the posthumous "The Wind" that Zevon got any chart traction again, and that was a case of heavy promotion by the Grammy awards, Dave Letterman, and his label along with the heartbreaking story of his death from cancer.
  #24  
Old 07-07-2017, 08:49 PM
adaher adaher is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2003
Location: Florida
Posts: 27,062
I don't know, I always saw Zevon as like Santana, a guy who could remain viable and relevant for a long time but never really break big, although Santana finally broke huge, and it was well deserved.
  #25  
Old 07-07-2017, 09:06 PM
Sam Stone Sam Stone is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jun 1999
Posts: 26,664
Sure. Zevon wrote complex, literate music. Most of it didn't necessarily have a good beat that you could dance to. That limited his audience. There are lots of artists like that. John Prine, Leonard Cohen, The Decemberists, etc. Some are reasonably big among college crowds if they're hip enough, like the Decemberists. Zevon wrote dark music with unsavory characters and/or unpleasant themes. You probably need to be a little offbeat yourself to really get into it.
  #26  
Old 07-07-2017, 10:40 PM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: NY but not NYC
Posts: 29,210
Quote:
Originally Posted by adaher View Post
I don't know, I always saw Zevon as like Santana, a guy who could remain viable and relevant for a long time but never really break big, although Santana finally broke huge, and it was well deserved.
Santana is one of the few examples of artists starting off huge from the very first album. Their first four went to #4, 1, 1, and 8.

Then the personnel changed and the band started having internal conflicts. Even so their next nine straight albums went top 30. What more could you possibly want except for The Beatles?

Like everybody else, I think your OP (original premise) is New Coke levels of wrong. Most bands have a very short lifespan on top of the charts, no matter how strong their core fanbase might be. It takes very little to not sell multimillions. A change in personnel, a rushed or delayed album, a change in sound, a shift in the zeitgeist, or just a bad album. The younger the fanbase, the quicker it evaporates. Teen idols collapse when they hit 20. The entire teen idol/boy band/girl group production line has been built on this truth since the 1950s.

What you need to do is try to make a list of the artists - groups or individuals - that didn't follow this exact pattern for more than a few years. They are extremely scarce. Once you realize how incredibly rare it is to have a series of top ten albums you'll see that hype is meaningless as a predictor of long-lasting success.
  #27  
Old 07-08-2017, 01:47 AM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Dec 1999
Location: Western New York
Posts: 74,355
Quote:
Originally Posted by adaher View Post
But what I'm asking is, at what point in the process do most albums by established, successful artists fail? Obviously the record company believes in them, that's why they paid to produce an album. That's why they released a single. That's why they filmed a music video. That's why they paid to have them tour.

So does the album fail when the company tries to get the artist airplay? But if they don't get airplay, how can they really have failed? It would be like calling a movie a box office flop if it only opened in 10 theaters. It really does seem like a song is a hit simply because it's played, and it's not a hit if it's not. Heck, don't the singles charts even consider a song a hit in part based on airplay? That sounds rather insane to me. That would be like calling a movie a hit based on how many theaters it was playing in.
What answer do you want us to give you? Do you want us to tell you there's a gypsy curse?

Record companies promote their products. But there's only a limited amount of airplay out there. Radio stations have to decide who to play and who to cut. And they have to keep their audience. So they're not going to play something just because the record company wants them to.

Music is no different than books or movies or TV series. If production companies could reliably predict what audiences would like, that's all they would produce. But audiences are a mystery. So production companies have to produce far more products that anyone can look at or listen to in hopes that some small portion of them will be something that will connect with an audience. And the rest gets thrown into the flop dumpster.
  #28  
Old 07-08-2017, 02:19 AM
Sam Stone Sam Stone is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jun 1999
Posts: 26,664
Those are both very good posts.
  #29  
Old 07-08-2017, 03:17 AM
adaher adaher is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2003
Location: Florida
Posts: 27,062
Quote:
Originally Posted by Exapno Mapcase View Post
Santana is one of the few examples of artists starting off huge from the very first album. Their first four went to #4, 1, 1, and 8.

Then the personnel changed and the band started having internal conflicts. Even so their next nine straight albums went top 30. What more could you possibly want except for The Beatles?

Like everybody else, I think your OP (original premise) is New Coke levels of wrong. Most bands have a very short lifespan on top of the charts, no matter how strong their core fanbase might be. It takes very little to not sell multimillions. A change in personnel, a rushed or delayed album, a change in sound, a shift in the zeitgeist, or just a bad album. The younger the fanbase, the quicker it evaporates. Teen idols collapse when they hit 20. The entire teen idol/boy band/girl group production line has been built on this truth since the 1950s.

What you need to do is try to make a list of the artists - groups or individuals - that didn't follow this exact pattern for more than a few years. They are extremely scarce. Once you realize how incredibly rare it is to have a series of top ten albums you'll see that hype is meaningless as a predictor of long-lasting success.
The industry seems to have figured out how to keep young artists strong into adulthood. Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera and Justin Timberlake are still big, and the latest crops(Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato, Selena Gomez) that came out of Disney are all doing well. I don't think this is because those artists are better than the teens that came before. I think it's that the industry didn't start out with the assumption that they were done at 20.
  #30  
Old 07-08-2017, 03:26 AM
adaher adaher is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2003
Location: Florida
Posts: 27,062
Quote:
Originally Posted by Little Nemo View Post
Music is no different than books or movies or TV series. If production companies could reliably predict what audiences would like, that's all they would produce. But audiences are a mystery. So production companies have to produce far more products that anyone can look at or listen to in hopes that some small portion of them will be something that will connect with an audience. And the rest gets thrown into the flop dumpster.
I think in the past, when airplay was really limited and there was only one major music video channel, that rather than try to figure out what the listening public wanted, they were going to decide what we wanted. The end result was essentially the commercial death of rock n' roll and the temporary death of true pop music. Music consumers fled from grunge and folk chicks and found that country and R&B and hip hop were more reliable at giving the public what they wanted to hear. Pop came roaring back with the boy bands and the blonde chicks, but rock never recovered from what was actually a very conscious decision by MTV to push alternative and declare everything else to be "irrelevant". MTV had become so enamored with being the trendsetter that they destroyed their own business model and had to rebuild.

At least that's my interpretation of the 90s. What I fail to understand is why radio followed MTV's lead. That led rock and pop radio stations right down the road to ruin. Down here in South Florida, we went from three popular pop stations and three popular rock stations to supporting only one pop and one rock station(classic rock, not modern), and the rest had switched formats to urban or country.
  #31  
Old 07-08-2017, 05:24 AM
WordMan WordMan is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2001
Posts: 21,040
Quote:
Originally Posted by adaher View Post
The industry seems to have figured out how to keep young artists strong into adulthood. Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera and Justin Timberlake are still big, and the latest crops(Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato, Selena Gomez) that came out of Disney are all doing well. I don't think this is because those artists are better than the teens that came before. I think it's that the industry didn't start out with the assumption that they were done at 20.
Good discussion. I see what you're saying, but wonder if it's a byproduct of being close to what's happening now. Looking back, boy bands had durable breakout stars like Michael Jackson and Donny Osmond. In a later generation, New Edition had several durable stars/groups.

I there are always durable stars that stand out. But I think Exapno's basic premise is framed well. As Chris Rock said: Here today...gone today.
  #32  
Old 07-08-2017, 11:33 AM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Dec 1999
Location: Western New York
Posts: 74,355
Quote:
Originally Posted by adaher View Post
The industry seems to have figured out how to keep young artists strong into adulthood. Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera and Justin Timberlake are still big, and the latest crops(Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato, Selena Gomez) that came out of Disney are all doing well. I don't think this is because those artists are better than the teens that came before. I think it's that the industry didn't start out with the assumption that they were done at 20.
Quote:
Originally Posted by adaher View Post
I think in the past, when airplay was really limited and there was only one major music video channel, that rather than try to figure out what the listening public wanted, they were going to decide what we wanted. The end result was essentially the commercial death of rock n' roll and the temporary death of true pop music. Music consumers fled from grunge and folk chicks and found that country and R&B and hip hop were more reliable at giving the public what they wanted to hear. Pop came roaring back with the boy bands and the blonde chicks, but rock never recovered from what was actually a very conscious decision by MTV to push alternative and declare everything else to be "irrelevant". MTV had become so enamored with being the trendsetter that they destroyed their own business model and had to rebuild.

At least that's my interpretation of the 90s. What I fail to understand is why radio followed MTV's lead. That led rock and pop radio stations right down the road to ruin. Down here in South Florida, we went from three popular pop stations and three popular rock stations to supporting only one pop and one rock station(classic rock, not modern), and the rest had switched formats to urban or country.
It's all due to a gypsy curse.
  #33  
Old 07-08-2017, 11:37 AM
Quimby Quimby is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 1999
Location: NJ
Posts: 7,006
Music audiences, especially teen music audiences are notoriously fickle and trends come and go almost at random. Pop stars know this so they cash in while they can. For every Taylor Swift that sticks around there's a dozen one or two hit wonders that fade away for no rhyme or reason.
  #34  
Old 07-09-2017, 02:34 AM
adaher adaher is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2003
Location: Florida
Posts: 27,062
Not really seeing that in the last 10 years or so. You can add Beyonce, Rihanna, Katy Perry, Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus, Demo Lovato, Selena Gomez, and Kesha(who is finally recording again) to that list. There's a lot more staying power now, and I think that goes directly to the breaking of the gatekeepers. Now there are unlimited music options that can easily be accessed, and when supposedly fickle teens have the chance to choose, they do seem to stay loyal to their favorites, while still being open to new music.

Go back exactly ten years and look at who was on top of the Hot 100:

http://www.billboard.com/charts/hot-100/2007-07-21

Rihanna, Maroon 5, T-Pain, Justin Timberlake, Linkin Park, Fall Out Boy, Carrie Underwood, Gwen Stefani, and Nickelback. Also in the top 25 are Avril Lavigne and Fergie, who are both set to release albums this year and whose last albums did quite well. I wouldn't bet against either of them flopping.

I don't think we've ever seen so much stability in the pop music market, actually. Rap seems to be an exception, although rappers always struggle to last more than two albums before being discarded by the fanbase.

So given how things have changed, my original question was, "How did they decide that an artist was done, despite no commercial evidence that the artist was done"? To cite the examples of Gibson and Ocean again, you can't really say that they failed to catch on with the music consumer, because the average music consumer wouldn't even have known they had new albums out, whereas today, if you once bought an Avril Lavigne album on Amazon, Amazon will be sure to alert you that she's got a new one out. If you ever subscribed to her Youtube channel, you'll get a notification that she's got a new video up. It's just so much easier now for artists to make sure that those who were interested in them once are at least aware that they are getting ready to put out new music, whereas in the 80s and 90s the only way people would know is if they heard it on the radio or saw it on MTV.

Last edited by adaher; 07-09-2017 at 02:37 AM.
  #35  
Old 07-09-2017, 05:52 AM
WordMan WordMan is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2001
Posts: 21,040
It's a fair point. The exponential expanding of media and access may be a partial explanation. It means all artists can be accessed, not a few channels that require vying for play space. It also means an artist can be available in ways they weren't before, becoming internet celebs and staying in the public eye that way between songs.

In some ways the core of your question is about how things have changed. There is still a value chain, and it is still hugely complex, but it has gone throught seismic structural change in the YouTube/online era.

Boy bands like NKOTB (New Kids) retained a HUGE fan base even as they disappeared off the charts, as did hair metal bands like Poison. When they tour, they pack them in consistently. My point is that enduring careers have been around, even if they aren't present on the charts. It feels like today's media access enables artists like Maroon 5, who already sound like a tribute band of themselves, to have durability more than ever was possible.

Last edited by WordMan; 07-09-2017 at 05:53 AM.
  #36  
Old 07-09-2017, 10:53 AM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: NY but not NYC
Posts: 29,210
I agree with WordMan that the structure of the music industry has changed with the advent of streaming. The Billboard charts no loner represent album sales; as of 2014 they changed to a mixture of streaming, sales, and digital tracking. That's the biggest change since they instituted SoundScan in 1991. The three eras are so different that it's next to meaningless to make comparisons.

Quote:
It turned out that people were buying a lot more metal, hip-hop, country, R&B and alternative rock albums than the old system claimed. The change on the charts was immediate. The change in the industry was almost as fast. Artists that had been relegated to their genre pools (from Nirvana to Ice Cube to Garth Brooks) were now free to swim in the mainstream.

SoundScan not only altered the music landscape of the early 90s, it completely changed how music, albums, artists and songs would forever be perceived, managed, promoted and heard.
Today's music industry reminds me of what the publishing industry currently looks like. Bestsellers and dependably bestselling authors obviously existed back in the Beatle era, but they didn't normally sell in the millions and they didn't push everybody else off the charts. That started to change in the 1980s when authors were pushed to deliberately write books that looked like and could be promoted as bestsellers. Mystery authors like Ed McBain, Donald Westlake, and Len Deighton once wrote taut, lean 180-page novels that made their names. Now they were asked to write 400-page books that "justified" the high prices being placed on them, in return for huge marketing campaigns. That worked, but in the opinion of the older readers, the books suffered because the authors spread a 180-page plot over 400 pages. They sold in the hundreds of thousands, though.

Today's bestsellers sell in the millions. James Patterson writes and/or puts his name on a book a month. Each hits number one on the charts. Same for Nora Roberts. A new book by Stephen King or J. K. Rowling is a megaevent. Almost every slot on the New York Times top 15 is from a reliable genre name, with the occasional newcomer. It's literally news when a literary novel sneaks in. You can watch the literati flutter and swoon. It's taken for granted that the top 100 bestsellers of the year outsell everything else combined. That means all the hundred thousand trade books put out by all the publishers. The flip side is that churn is enormous. In the 50s and 60s books would often sit at #1 for six months. Today the hot new release goes straight to the top and gets replaced the next week.

Music looks very much the same to me today. The days when Rumours and Thriller could sit on top for six months are gone. Sgt. Pepper's and the Monkee's Headquarters were one and two the entire Summer of Love. Adele's 25 was a huge outlier when it topped for eight weeks. The guy from Wired popularized "the long tail" at the beginning of the Internet and was right, kinda, sorta. He didn't see that a long tail also meant a short swollen head. Yeah, everybody can sell a hundred books or records. A very few sell or stream a million.

I went back to adaher's 2007 link. My list would include Plain White T's, Fergie, Shop Boyz, T-Pain, (he should have used T. I. instead), Timbaland, Daughtry, Lloyd, Huey, Sean Kingston, Elliott Yarmin, and Lil Mama, all from the top 25. You'd probably get that split whenever you searched for an artist he mentioned. IOW, ten who lasted but paired with a hundred or more who didn't. Which should be exactly what you would expect.
  #37  
Old 07-09-2017, 11:35 AM
adaher adaher is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2003
Location: Florida
Posts: 27,062
By my count it looks like the majority of the top 25 are still doing quite well. Further down it's hard to say, since having a #34 isn't exactly a sign of superstardom. So I'd expect that artists below the top 25 would be less likely to be around ten years later.

It really does appear that artists have longer shelf lives now. And in part that's because it's easier as a fan to follow artists you like. In the past you'd only know what the trendmakers wanted you to know. If MTV didn't want to play your video, you were done. If MTV decided your whole genre was no longer relevant, then your genre ceased to be relevant. I'd note that the record labels did not give up on the 80s hair bands until the late 90s. But with MTV going through an image makeover in the early 90s that did not include traditional pop or hair metal, and with radio either doing modern(alternative) or classic(70s rock), there was no longer any way for 80s metal bands to promote their newest work. There were truly gatekeepers back then. What I don't understand is why the labels didn't try to promote their MTV and radio disfavored artists by other means. Seems to me that even something as simple as a TV ad campaign for a band like Winger in 1993 could have moved some sales. According to Wikipedia, Winger's Pull album was produced with a pretty large budget, yet when MTV basically told Atlantic to get bent, the only place Winger will have on MTV is on Stewart's T-shirt, Atlantic basically said, "oh, okay, sorry to bother you, we'll just take a big loss on this album."
Reply

Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 05:27 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2017, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@chicagoreader.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to: sdsubscriptions@chicagoreader.com.

Copyright 2017 Sun-Times Media, LLC.

 
Copyright © 2017