SAM ADAMS: IS IT A FUTUREHIT?

This week, there is a controversy brewing over new Boston rapper Sam Adams. He released a new EP called Boston’s Boy that quickly shot up to #1 on the iTunes Hip Hop album charts and even debuted in the Top 75 of the overall Billboard album chart. Immediately, people have been questioning if the artist/management bought the tracks themselves which Adams not only denies, but provided a 3500 page document showing all the individual sales the song has gotten. It’s been a hot topic of discussions amongst labels and one conversation I had on it has since been immortalized by Bob Lefsetz.

So the question remains…is it real? Let’s look at the evidence:

SALES
It’s not just that he sold several thousand EPs and over 20,000 copies of his single in one week. It’s also that he sold a fair amount of individual tracks from his other songs on the EP. On the one hand, why fake that as buying the album tracks doesn’t help your chart position. On the other hand, the purchasing pattern of those other album tracks are typically at a much lower ratio to the single sales.
Also, while iTunes shows strong numbers and typically has the strongest sales for any artist, Amazon’s sales registered nowhere near as high. In fact it just barely made it into the Hip-Hop Top 100. There’s gonna be a disparity amongst the two charts, but if it was really hot, the Amazon chart would be a much closer reflection.

SIMILAR ARTISTS
If you listen to the song (which we’ll dissect in a moment), you’ll quickly hear that the song is more a pop/rap song than an actual traditional rap song. If that’s the case, why is it that people who bought the EP also bought more “street” rappers such as DJ Khaled, Wiz Khalifa and Ace Hood? And then, again on Amazon, why is the similar artists showing up as Vampire Weekend, Michael Buble, Colbie Caillat and Ke$ha? The disparity is rarely that great unless something funny is going on. And to my ear, the Amazon similar artists are more what I’d expect the audience to be.

SEARCH
A quick look at Google searches shows that the term “Sam Adams” did indeed grow by a noticeable amount when the EP came out. But it also cooled off considerably after the first week. If the song was truly becoming a hit, the searches would either be more sustained or they’d be growing. This is doing neither.
Then there is the searches itself. If you actually search “Sam Adams” on Google, you get what you’d probably expect: the beer, the Founding Father, and the Portland mayor. If the song was truly hot, Google should be recognizing that in search. The only thing that does show up is some news articles on the fix. In fact, the Lefsetz post has a higher search result than the iTunes link. A sign it’s a fix if there ever was one.
But the signs don’t stop there. With a typical hit, you see a lot of results for “artist + song title”. When you type Sam Adams in the search box, the song recommendation doesn’t come up. Even on YouTube, the full recommendation doesn’t come up. This means significant people aren’t searching for the track.
I talk about searchability a lot in regards to the Futurehit. The reality is that you need an artist name and song title that’s easily searchable so you can be found. People have very short attention spans. Don’t give them a reason to miss out on who you are. Sam Adams does neither. His artist name is terrible for search results.
Even the song title is terrible for search results. If you search “Driving Me Crazy”, you’ll find that Sam Adams is competing against songs with the same title by new hitmaker Taio Cruz, Knightowl, Phil Collins, and an artist named Northern Cree. Not to mention a 1991 Dom Deluise movie and a 1988 Nick Broomfield documentary. All of whom have higher search traction. If you have a less relevant search result than an obscure 1991 Dom Deluise movie…

FILE TRADING
One of the things Bob left out of the conversation we had, which included Eric Garland of Big Champagne, was how many people were stealing Sam Adams. The answer is barely any. The reality is that any song that truly is a hit has theft to go along with it. This song didn’t.

THE SONG ITSELF
So, now let’s put “Driving Me Crazy” thru the Futurehit.DNA filter. Being a very commercial pop song, this should easily work within the filter itself. Aside from a short intro (2 seconds before Sam Adams starts shouting out the names of the producer, etc.) that I detail as a key success metric in Chapter 1 of Futurehit.DNA, the song is a surprisingly flat basic track. The song is basically two 64 beat 16 bar loops repeated over and over, a structure that is on its way to being relegated to the structure of the last generation. The lack of dynamic range, the lack of truly stand-out lyrics (in my opinion), and then an overly long fade-out with no lyrics (at a time when you need short endings). These are all elements that, to me, suggest that this song has a very unlikely chance of being a true commercial breakthrough. Now, as with any formula, it can always be proven wrong in rare circumstances, but I don’t think “Driving Me Crazy” is that circumstance.

If there was some widespread purchasing of Sam Adams’ song, it is having the desired effect of said purchase: people have noticed, they are listening to a track with no radio play, and there are indisputable legit sales occuring (see: Amazon). The music business history is rife with many songs having purchased chart positions thru various methods. Why should the digital age be different? I’d love for purity to still exist, but this is the music business. iTunes has successfully blocked out many attempts at rigging their chart, so it’s interesting that somehow this may have slipped thru. However, in my opinion, if you’re gonna spend money on juicing a hit song, it should be spent on one with a higher likelihood of legit traction.

Now, this story hasn’t gotten huge mainstream press attention, and if it did, it would probably become a hit just because of the story. But it’s funny that the blog attention to date has been limited to:
-Song debuts high on chart, blog world cries foul
-Artist produces proof of legit sales, blog world says OK
I guess people don’t want to take the time to research and report. And it’s not like I did heavy duty digging. This came from just looking thru a few top-level Google searches (and one conversation with Eric Garland). I didn’t really intend to go all CSI on this track, and I have nothing against the guy. And I also can’t definitively prove that this is 100% not-legit. It could be a random fluke of college kids in New England (his obvious base) who truly love and want to support the guy.

But, then again, as I told Lefsetz…if it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, and looks like a duck…

8 Responses to “SAM ADAMS: IS IT A FUTUREHIT?”

  1. Arggh Matey March 15, 2010 at 2:04 am # Reply

    Just logged into a top file sharing (err Pirate) site. The EP had 55 downloads and 1 comment in 8 days. NOT a hit.

  2. Veyron March 16, 2010 at 12:15 pm # Reply

    Jay,

    I hate to break it to you, but Billboard backs this kid, so does Soundscan. Those are two reputable sources. You are citing “Google searches”, which if you know anything about search porn is the most likely keyword and Google is pretty much a mess, even their free analytics is sub-standard as they do not provide real-time statistics or real-time analytics. I am curious if you inherently know the difference? I’m guessing you are going to have to “google” a lot of this and wind up reading a wikipedia article that is as wrong as much of what you say and predict.

    I found the article you wrote advising artists on Tunecore, but have no understanding of the process, never have even uploaded a song on Tunecore and do not have an understanding of what it takes to go from a Tunecore artist to the “major leagues” – case in pt. Sam Adams, Drake, Solja Boy, Nevershoutnever, etc. They are ALL anomalies, that is the point.

    When you advised the Tunecore artists that MySpace is the avenue to go and that they “power full song streaming on Google, an increasingly important song discovery tool,” this is TOTALLY not true. The deal with MySpace does not put full streaming on Google, case in point look up Sam Adams. Also, the buy buttons that MySpace gives to labels does not appear for individuals on Tunecore who are selling singles, they break up singles into albums and singles and in fact hurt sales figures and do not proliferate songs as intended.

    You also say that radio proliferation is essential and again that depends on the music and the genre. Sam Adams didn’t need radio, Drake who broke with 2 songs reaching number 1 right away and continues to churn out hits didn’t need radio to sell his first 300k.

    Honestly, do you know anything about social media? Which social media sites can spur on a song and sales? Do you have any idea how that is different from social networks and how this all relates to new media and analytics? You say you use Google to search, do you understand how outdated that is and that there is so much more out there than you use or reference?

    It is scary and saddening to think that the SVP of CMT is trying to sell a book on digital media and how it is effecting music when you have almost no clue on how it effects music from a ROI. Also the biggest factor is CRM and not trying to stream music online. I hate to tell you this FACT, but VEVO has a higher ROI and better metrics than CMT, especially CMT Pure and GAC. Do you know why? Do you understand where emotional reactions that you use as part of your decision making process matters in terms of buying? You do get that money is the point of digital sales, but physical albums are not dead and still despite my desire and even yours it seems is the benchmark according to Nielsen.

    “But so far, the evidence doesn’t support the accusations made against him. For starters, SoundScan data shows that 22% of his sales came from the Boston area, not surprising considering he’s from the area and that’s where his largest fanbase would be. Another 18% of his sales came from New York. The rest came from more than 100 markets nationwide-including Philadelphia, L.A., Washington D.C., and Chicago-and no one market totaled more than 5% each.

    Additionally, it’s not possible to simply buy up a bunch of songs from one account and have them all count towards iTunes charts. Sources at both Apple and Nielsen confirm that Apple only counts one sale per account to any chart. In essence: one account = one “vote.”‘

    To quote a line from Good Will Hunting “How you like dem apples?”

    Where is your data? Or are you using your “gut” again as you have been quote in other articles? Jay what I find funny is how you talk about people rigging it and try to be this awesome new media expert yet CMT.com is down 15% for the year.

    To compare CMT to Billboard shows how far CMT.com has fallen:

    billboard.com unique visits per:
    1,328,703
    39% – growth over the last 12 months (Compete.com)

    cmt.com unique visits per month
    1,231,916
    -14.57% over the last 12 months
    (Compete.com)

    To put this loss in perspective, you talk as if you are an expert, but you know nothing about web aggregation, SEM, Econometric Modeling, macro v. micro analytics, SEO and so much more and how it interacts is a major reason that your own CMT website CMT.com is in shambles, literally dropping at a rate worse than 9 of the 10 the biggest losses of the Dow Jones in US History (TIME Magazine 02.27.07).

    That for starters is a sign that you know VERY little about the internet and any type of “duck generating” methodology for creating a winning model for CMT (your employer), let alone what you have written elsewhere advising young artists on how to succeed in the digital world. How would you know? You put videos on and disregard what is going on in iTunes yet we know that <70% of sales come from there. Do you have no respect for the people who buy music and videos? Clearly they have no respect for CMT as they are buying what they want, not what you try to force feed them and as a result your site it taking a hit. Also the advertising buys and sells you make on your site and more importantly on other sites is horrible, I looked that up as well and I must say you clearly have not figured out that google paid search ads are not worth the invest. Heh your loss as you probably think the moon is out right now.

    Admit you are wrong, instead of using duck analogies. See the Billboard article here: http://bit.ly/95d58h

    I compare you right now to the Horse analogy. It goes like this: If 1 person tells you that you are a horse

    As for your shortly completing an analysis of top selling Tunecore artists, what are you basing that on? Do you have any analytic experience? From what I've seen you have been wrong at every turn and you use free analytics or no analytics to make "gut decisions". Stick to what you do, playing videos, this is definitely not your field.

    * Sam Adams over 8k digital albums or 64k tracks not counting singles sold in his first week.
    * Josh Kelly over 2,000,000 million tracks
    * William Fitzsimmons over 150,000 tracks
    * Soulja Boy over 200,000 tracks
    * Boyce Avenue over 1,200,000 tracks
    * Ron Pope over 250,000 tracks
    * Colt Ford over 300,000 tracks
    * Secondhand Serenade over 250,000 tracks
    * Tapes N Tapes over 200,000 tracks
    * Nevershoutnever over 1,000,000 tracks
    * Drake sold over 300,000 tracks in 2 weeks!

    Honestly, I find you to be a bit of poser. You remind me of the kid with the brand new skateboard holding it and trying to look cool, but it is obvious you don't know how to skate b/c there are no scuff marks on the board or you.

    I am sure you are a decent guy to watch a basketball game with, but when it comes to the digital/interactive world, your thought process is way off. You clearly are talking about things that you have no ability to elaborate on and I am not going to unless you pay me. You have my email, if you want to learn, either way it makes no difference to me b/c I don't worry about guessing or gut work, I am the forefront of all of the metrics. It is a shame you are not more savvy and do not beta test more stuff and have no ability to code or design or even create a power point to articulate data.

    Good luck selling this book, heh again if you paid me I know how to increase sales and also how to decrease them as GAC if they were smart would be doing in a competitor analysis and response strategies and implementations.

    Good luck – you're still wrong on Sam Adams…I'll save your other wrongs – there are plenty for other posts.

    Veyron

    • admin March 18, 2010 at 9:42 am # Reply

      I appreciate anyone who puts a lot of time into a response to my thoughts, even when it’s negative. In my opinion, the only way my work improves is thru debate on what is and is not valid. None of us are 100% perfect, and we can be wrong occasionally.

      Veyron’s reply, unfortunately, is wrong most of the time. For one thing, he remarks that I use “free analytics” for my stats. And then, for him to prove that CMT is failing, he utilizes “Compete.com”, which is a free analytics service. For those unaware, the internet industry uses Comscore MediaMetrix for nearly all validated traffic metrics. By that token, CMT.com is doing just fine. More importantly, in this world of niches, it’s not how huge you are, but how big your niche finds you. To that end, CMT.com has consistently outperformed. In fact, the CMA (the most respected Country Music trade organization) recently did an independent research study by Right Brain that found CMT.com to be alone in terms of leading the online audience for Country Music in reach and frequency. Comparing VEVO to CMT is like comparing Walmart to a boutique clothing store. It’s also hard to say that I’m not knowledgable in SEO when CMT.com is a clear leader in this field amongst our target, which is all relevant country music search terms.

      The author also points out several tracks that have huge track sales, some of which I’ve been fortunate enough to be involved in. All of those either did not have sudden first week sales (they built their strength over a prolonged period) or their first week sales could be backed up by a real story (Souljaboy, for example, sold the same first week as Sam Adams, yet he had over 2 months of an extremely popular viral video that led up to those first week sales). If Sam Adams had a truly popular song with no help, his previous single (released only 4 months earlier) would have had noticeable sales. Reality is that it sold 300 tracks first week and built up to just over 4k in sales by the time the new material was released. We’re to believe that upon a sudden new release that his new track could achieve 5x the sales of a previous single in 4 days with no other digital evidence to suggest the popularity exists? When the majority of iTunes comments are people who never commented on a SINGLE other song in their lives?

      Finally, if Veyron was a true digital expert, it’d be easy to find out who he (or she) is. But searching for his last name thru the provided email address showed nothing. So it’s hard to respect comments from someone hiding behind a pseudonym. It’s all a moot point, really. Since I posted my blog entry, I’ve received more information from numerous sources that does indeed prove that the sales were mostly (but not completely) purchased by an organization affiliated with Sam Adams’ record label. Rather than taking my word for it, I’ve given this information to a trusted media source to verify and it will likely be coming out in a few days. However, it should be noted, that setting up a system to purchase tracks is not illegal. Unless stolen credit cards were used, Sam Adams’ label has done nothing wrong. It’s only up to the listener to decide if this marketing tactic is ethical or not. As anticipated, my analysis is actually holding up and both this and my book’s analysis has been widely praised by numerous industry leaders. In fact my years at CMT and Yahoo! Music (did Veyron even read my bio? to say I have no digital experience?) have given me the insight to know the true data on the behavior of the modern music consumer and to be very capable of discussing many of the topics Veyron claims I know nothing about.

      However, I do not know much about Econometric Modeling. Veyron, you are correct there. My bad.

  3. Constantine Roussos (.music) March 26, 2010 at 6:07 am # Reply

    Sorry Veyron, AKA Anonymous Coward, I have to agree with Jay on this one. The song is mediocre. Sales could be legit but who cares? It still remains an average song in my opinion.

    If you are going to throw comments about CMT and talk crap then be man enough to disclose who you are and who you represent. This is Jay’s blog post and he can say absolutely anything he wants to say. It is a mere opinion. CMT is not even mentioned.

    Anyhow, I have to say Jay’s song analysis is right on the money. This is a zero sum game in my opinion. Cheating or no cheating the result is the same: this song is nothing special and will be forgotten.

    We are all entitled to our opinions. Veyron, if you want anyone to take you seriously at least reveal your self and who you represent. “Can the real Veyron please stand up, please stand up”. Sam Adams might be an anomaly, but not for the right reasons it seems. In the end, who cares? Chart positions are not what they used to be.

    Constantine Roussos
    .music
    http://www.music.us

  4. Jon Love April 26, 2010 at 12:55 am # Reply

    Would we all be arguing about this is Sammy Adams was black? 1990 – Vanilla Ice comes out, an African American reporter calls him out on not being from Miami and single handedly tries to end his career. 10 years later, Ray Benzino try to dismantle Eminem’s career. 10 years later, same shit goes for Sammy Adams. Even if Adams bought his own shit, who cares? That’s unfair? What about all your favorite rappers who have 15 platinum selling guests on their albums? I can record myself taking a shit 15 times, have Jay Z, Drake, Lil Wayne, Kanye, this one and that one on it and it would sell a million in the first week. Jealous. That is what motherfuckers are. Get over yourself.

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