Saturday, October 31, 2009

Commentary #2: The Music Industry

In the year since the last time I posted one of these, we've all observed the industry try out different ideas to combat lowering music sales that I obviously attribute to the recently developed digital sales market. It's also pretty obvious that the overall economic market has done a bit of changing in the last year... but that's not to say 1) the problems within the music industry weren't already in existance & 2) I'm expecting album sales comparable to those a decade ago. Due to the (unfortunate) singles market we are currently in, it pretty much goes without saying that single choice is one of the most important decisions when it comes to marketing an artist's new music. However labels have been making these choices though is lost on me, as they seem to be either ignorning concepts that should be obvious or not willing to put their egos aside in favor of the correct decision. For example, let's put to test the 'old, but gold' saying "if it's not broken, don't fix it":

Exhibit A: Janet Jackson's Discipline
Actual Second Single Choice: "Rock With U"
What It Should've Been: "Luv"
Reasoning: Coming off the success of the uptempo first single "Feedback," which was Jackson's highest-charting single in seven years, Discipline was her first #1 album since 'the incident,' so the label naturally went with the hit-worthy uptempo "Luv" next, right? Of course not. Instead, they opted for the midtempo "Rock With U," which went absolutely nowhere.

Exhibit B: LeToya's Lady Love
Actual First Single Choice: "Not Anymore"
What It Should've Been: "Regret"
Reasoning: A few short years after topping the Billboard 200 album chart with her debut, LeToya was ready to unleash her unique urban flair once again with the radio-friendly, lyrically personal "Regret," right? Of course not. Instead, the label went with the weak "Not Anymore" solely based on its big-name producer (Ne-Yo).

Exhibit C: Ciara's Fantasy Ride
Actual First Single Choice: "Go Girl"
What It Should've Been: "I'm On"
Reasoning: After successfully continuing to dominate the charts with the thumping crossover hits on her sophomore album, it was only natural to choose the strong "I'm On" to kick off Ciara's third album, right? Of course not. Instead, the label abandoned Ciara's 'evolution' by releasing the recycled-sounding, T-Pain-featuring "Go Girl."

Now, that's not to say some labels don't rely too much on that old saying. Sometimes, you have to get creative (musically... imagine!) & who knows where the answer may lie:

Exhibit D: Mariah Carey's Memoirs Of An Imperfect Angel
Actual Second Single Choice: "I Want To Know What Love Is"
What It Should've Been: "H.A.T.E.U."
Reasoning: When Mariah Carey released the follow-up to her mega-hit album The Emancipation Of Mimi, her label decided to try & mirror the success of having released a big ballad second the last time around, but "Bye Bye" ended up spelling the beginning of the end for that project. Naturally with Carey's next album, the label would take history into consideration when choosing the second single, right? Of course not. Instead, the label opted to go with the big ballad "I Want To Know What Love Is" rather than take a chance on something that might actually have a chance at success. Enter: "H.A.T.E.U." This slow jam has a fresh sound that would give listeners something they haven't heard before from the diva--in the same vein of Mimi, which took a fresher, more R&B turn as compared to some of Mariah's previous work at the time.

Exhibit E: Brandy's Human
Actual First Single Choice: "Right Here (Departed)"
What It Should've Been: "Locket (Locked In Love)"
Reasoning: Despite having been mega-successful a decade ago with ballads like "Have You Ever?," Brandy's new label realized that times had changed & decided to ease her back onto the radio with a song that would please both new & old fans, right? Of course not. Instead, they released the meaningful midtempo "Right Here (Departed)," which had no chance of radio airplay &, therefore, gaining Brandy any new fans. Enter: "Locket (Locked In Love)." The beat-driven jam would've fit right into radio & allowed a little talent to slip back atop the charts.

Probably the most interesting aspect of this analysis is one that I have yet to even mention. Almost every one of the single suggestions I've discussed was actually the choice of the artist who sings it as well! Labels are surrounded by unfamiliar waters when it comes to the marketing of an artist's new music these days & they tend to make the wrong decision when faced with a situation they aren't used to. Who might they go to to help them make these decisions? How about someone who has spent an immeasurably larger amount of time with the music in question? ... What is that I hear? You want an example of this working? At your service:

Exhibit F: Mario's Go Vs. D.N.A.
First Single Off Go: "How Do I Breathe" (Label's Choice)
Hot 100 Peak: #46
Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs Peak: #18

First Single Off D.N.A.: "Break Up" (Mario's Choice)
Hot 100 Peak: #14
Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs Peak: #2

And don't even make me get into how lethal it is to the buzz of an album if you wait to release it past the peak of its first single in favor of a second single release...

What this all comes down to is that in order to make an effective decision creatively in a changing market, consulting with and considering the choices of the creative party is of vital importance. In the end, the general public doesn't care how many big names you have working behind-the-scenes on the track & they certainly aren't interested in listening to stale regurgitations of the songs they heard a few years ago. They keep the radio on if they like what they hear & turn it off if they don't.


The_M_C_Fan said...

I've been a reader of your blog for the last 2 years and i have to say that this commentary and the last one were ON POINT! labels do control a lot of the single choices that the artists themselves should be making.. Which ALWAYS leads to the failure of the project.. i mean.. look at Mariah's memoirs.. it was promoted very well in the states.. but the second single IWKWLI (though a good song) it wasn't something fresh and new and that people would wanna buy *listens to H.A.T.E.U* and it led to less-than-expected first week sales.. and so are the other examples u've mentioned.. labels need to let their artists make their own decisions with their music.. or other wise they wouldn't be artist they would just be label-puppets..

Chris said...

BRILLIANCE! They should blow that post up and hang it in the offices of these label heads bc they have no clue what they're doing! Absolutely no clue! And if its the artist who could be getting dropped bc of low sales, they should have the right to pick what is released seeing that its essentially on their shoulders. LA Reid needs to have this tattooed on his head or something, he's such an idiot when it comes to choosing singles. You need to do more posts like this! Its so different from the other blogs.