SARA BAREILLES, CEE-LO AND THE ART OF PLANNING

A few months ago, I wrote about being unable to purchase Sara Bareilles’ single “King Of Anything” and instead purchased a song of the same name by a group called Boywonderbread. I used this to point out the fact that releasing a song for promotion and not having the same song for sale would just lead to your competition gaining those sales. So now that time has past, did Sara lose out by not selling singles in those early days?

The answer appears to be no. Sara’s album debuted at #1 on the album chart last week and her single is a Top 200 selling single for the year so far. Pretty good statistics. In fact, there was a sound reason for keeping the single out of the market in those early weeks. iTunes had a big promotion of the single a few weeks after my blog entry. According to the label, they waited until that promotion date to maximize those first week sales on the retailer that drove much of their sales on the first album. It also appears that they correctly strategized a good release week with little singer/songwriter competition to secure the top of the chart.

So which strategy is right? Release right away with promotional push or wait for smart sales windows?

The answer is…it depends.

If you are an unsigned artist and a major organization takes interest in you, then you need to do all you can to coordinate all necessary tools to strike when the major organization does. When I discussed Christina Perri a few months back, they timed their iTunes release to occur the same week that the TV placement did. That way it was easily found both in search and in the new release section. Net result was a huge selling single. Meanwhile, Cee-lo’s viral song “Fuck You” was not placed when the song initially went viral and it was a week later before you could buy it, easily losing thousands in sales.

Or did it? I recently spoke at 2 conferences and asked the room how many of them knew the Cee-lo song. The answer was only around 10% of the room. And these are music biz folks. If you extrapolate that out, it would suggest that the sales losses were likely minimal. Because as “viral” as Cee-lo got, viral is not a mass placement. Christina Perri was different because her placement was mass. Had it not been up on iTunes, her economic loss would have been substantial.

But here’s something interesting that Sara’s sales brings out. Radio is no longer mass either. The label appears to have correctly surmised that the initial few weeks of radio and viral promotion would minimally impact sales. But retail promotional space and TV appearances are crucial drivers that must be coordinated. Unless radio is truly coordinated to have many stations playing it heavily, the sales loss may not be as greatly feared.

On the other hand…if you truly have a major hit, or a hit within the futurehit.DNA model, you want those sales to be felt early as you may get more sales per exposure. Many songs recently have had minimal chart impact or any mass media for that matter, yet they sell substantially well because they are reactive. Cee-lo, once again, is an example of this and that suggests he did lose a lot of sales by missing the first week of viral push.

If you are reaching the conclusion that there is no right answer, you are right. At least if you are on a major label with resources to coordinate mass exposure platforms. If you are new and unsigned, what this shows you is you should coordinate everything before releasing a single. Don’t just put it up on your Youtube channel to stream and then figure out retail. Take a minute to go thru the following checklist:
* Am I set up for release on all digital retail outlets and on what date?
* Am I set to place it up on all my streaming accounts on the same day?
* Am I set to send promotional links by myself or thru a publicist to blogs and music writers on the same day?
* Do I have a video (even if it’s only stills) to go up on Youtube on the same day?
* Do I have a newsletter to go to my databae that same day?
* Do I have a blog entry ready to go up?
* Is my schedule fully cleared so I can do nothing else that day but coordinate and promote my songs release?

The obvious element that has not changed is planning. Indie artists seldom do it. Majors do it most of the time. Epic Records did it with Sara Bareilles and had success. Elektra Records did not appear to with Cee-lo and had to catch up. Planning is free. Use it every time you release music.

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4 Responses to “SARA BAREILLES, CEE-LO AND THE ART OF PLANNING”

  1. Real J.O.B September 28, 2010 at 7:44 pm # Reply

    Good stuff. Thanks for the article. I just released a new album and have sent a couple songs to Jango (online radio), which is giving me some insight on the target market for my songs. It’s definitely worth a try for independent artists:

    http://www.jango.com/music/Real+J+O+B

    Best wishes,
    Real

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