The album is dying in front of our very eyes.
In other words, what kind of screwed up world do we live in where Katy Perry’s new album “Prism” sells only 287,000 copies in its debut? One in which everybody’s interested in the single, and no one’s got time to sit and hear your hour-plus statement.
This is not emotion, this is statistics. The shelf life of news is shorter than ever. The shelf life of art. … You blink and it’s done.
I’m fine with you preaching to the choir, making an album for your fans. You gotta go where you wanna go, do what you wanna do. But if your plan is to increase your audience, spread the word and make money, suddenly the album just isn’t working anymore. The youngsters are streaming singles and the oldsters are staying home.
How do I know? Elton’s album isn’t even in the top 50, and McCartney’s album barely broke 20,000 this week, and there wasn’t a better oldster hype than for these two projects. People just don’t want ’em.
So what’s the industry to do? Have a rethink.
In other words, hype doesn’t work.
No one had more hype than Miley Cyrus, but “Bangerz” didn’t even sell 45,000 copies in its fourth week of release. She can go on “SNL,” tweet her life away, but it’s not moving the needle. Lorde is selling as much as Miley without the benefit of scorched earth, proving quality music is as good as hype. But Lorde isn’t burning up the chart either.
We’ve turned into a nation of grazers. And the artist’s job is to constantly be at the smorgasbord. Not to deliver one big meal that is picked at and thrown away, but to constantly provide tantalizing bites to the public.
Media cannot be limited to the album release date. It must be a 24/7, 365-day-a-year effort. Same with creativity. If your track gets traction, more power to you. If it doesn’t, go back in the studio and make more. In other words, if you’re sitting at home bitching that you’re not making any money because the Internet stole your business, you’re RIGHT! There are so many diversions that no one’s got time for mediocre anymore.
If you’ve got a concept album, go ahead and record it. If you’re only interested in selling a little, be my guest. But if you want to penetrate the consciousness of a large group of people and grow the pie, an album isn’t working. Hell, it’s not even working as a revenue model!
Labels are no longer in the record business, they’re in the star business. How to maximize the revenue of an individual or band in as many media as possible, in as many ways as possible. Yes, while you were bitching about piracy, your whole business model disappeared.
You put out these albums, and in almost every case, the public moves on in a matter of WEEKS. A few bought it, they heard it, and they’re satisfied — and left waiting for years until you grace them with a new release. The rest of the public is just waiting for a hit single to burble, and if it does, they’ll tap their toes and snap their fi ngers and ask, “WHAT ELSE HAVE YOU GOT?” And what you’ve got had better be just as good as the hit.
No one wants album tracks anymore unless they’re every bit as satisfying as the hit.
So it’s not only classic rock acts who have stopped putting out albums; eventually, no one will do it. Oh, it won’t be soon, because artists think making albums is part of their DNA, going into the studio and making a 10-track statement.
But that’s like saying typewriters have to be an office fixture. And you can’t post online unless you write in multiple paragraphs. And texting must be abandoned because it’s not in-depth enough.
The goal of a musician is to be AHEAD of the audience. Right now everybody’s behind.
Read more Bob Lefsetz columns at Lefsetz.com.