I love reading Glenn Peoples’ take on the business in Billboard. He’s quickly becoming a trusted source for industry analysis. This week, he distilled some sales information that was presented at NARM last month in an article entitled “Important Sales Trends You Need To Know”. And you do need to know them. Click over, read it, and come back.
You’re back…Good. Glenn is spot on in his take, and my thoughts on the analysis are more additional thoughts thru the Futurehit.DNA filter that I am inferring from the data presented.
THE MIDDLE OF THE BUSINESS HAS DROPPED OUT
I’ve been saying for years that the recorded business is in trouble because the mid-level act no longer exists. Billboard’s data proves that point. While there are less million+ sellers, the average units sold of a million+ seller has virtually remained the same. This is because of the loss of many records that sold between 1 and 1.4 million. In other words, the big hits still sell nearly as big, but mid-levels or one-hit wonders don’t sell albums anymore. In 2004, some of those albums in that bottom rung of platinum included Yellowcard, Lloyd Banks, Jet, Modest Mouse, Chingy, Lil’ Flip…you get the picture. Bottom line is quality albums still sell, but acts with a hit songs sell much fewer albums and sell more singles. As a consumer, do you think this is a bad thing?
AS FIRST WEEKS GROW IN IMPORTANCE, SO SHOULD THE VOLUME OF RELEASES
If you garner many more sales in your first week, how do you get more sales? Have more first weeks, obviously. This week, of the records debuting in Billboard’s Top 50, only 2 of the 8 acts released any new material in the previous 15 months (though Widespread Panic did release some live fan records). If you’re gonna stay visible, being in the new release section of any site is critical.
And it’s critical based on what else Glenn mentions. Fewer marketing dollars are spent at retail. Part of that is because Apple, the #1 retailer, has fewer programs. It also takes its editorial integrity seriously, and would prefer not to be bought so they can program what they feel is best. That often means a prime focus on new releases. Other records used to sell more because a label could pay to keep them “racked” at the front of a store for months at a time. Now, unless you maintain momentum at the top of a sales chart, it’s maybe 2 weeks at best. So the best way to combat that is to have more new releases so your act is featured more. And usually, when a new release sells, the catalog increases as well. Make more, get featured more, sell more. AND you will also stay in the consciousness of your fans so they don’t lose sight of you.
MAKE SONGS FOR YOUR SOCIAL NETWORK, NOT FOR RADIO
Interestingly, the article points out that “radio plays less of a role in album sales”. This is noteworthy because I can’t recall the industry bible actually pointing out radio’s diminished role in selling music. Many industry articles still tries to pump up radio’s ability to generate sales. And, to be fair, you can’t have one of those platinum records without radio. But it does underscore that more sales moving forward are sparked from the internet in its many forms. Futurehit.DNA readers know that this means to create music that plays into the internet rather than playing into radio. Creating a song or designating a single that’s “radio ready” is the wrong approach. Find and create the song that’s “social network ready” so people talk about it. And then repeat it more often.
HIT HARD, FAST, AND OFTEN
TubeMogel just reported that the average half-life of a YouTube video is just 6 days. It also appears that, due to positioning at retail, that the average half-life of a sales window is about a month (though that’s a guess, don’t quote me officially). As noted before, as sales on digital platforms crosses 50% in the coming months, the retail window will continue to shrink for all but the biggest hits.
I’d like to presume all of you reading this will be affiliated with a huge hit, but I have to be realistic. Your songs are going to be pushed hard for a month with exposure and sales and then it will diminish drastically. Want to make sure your artist is visible? Do that cycle a LOT! Don’t wait for collecting twelve songs for an album. Release more songs more often. Make them impactful quickly so they can be maximized quickly. This is not an option for anything but either the most creative or the biggest hits. Follow this and your chances of success increase exponentially.