Yesterday, I stood in line for Record Store Day. It was the first time I waited in line to buy a new music release in almost a decade. But I was excited to be there. I wanted to buy the exclusive releases by Great Lake Swimmers, Tegan & Sara, and Weezer. But they were gone by the time I got to the front. They sold out! When was the last time that happened. I ended up getting David Bazan, Cage The Elephant, and Subpop 20…which were not at the top of my list but all turned out to be quality releases. I made 3 impulse buys just because I was there. I got caught up in the moment.
This week, the new Rolling Stone did an article on the 40 most exciting things about rock music today. Record Store Day was not on the list. And honestly…it should have been the number one. The music industry is looking for ways to increase sales…and this is annually been a huge hit, selling out all the releases.
The music industry isn’t dead…you can still save it. Here are some ideas how…
1. Less is more part 1 – Too many artists. There are way too many artists out there today to keep track of everyone. Instead of the cream rising to the top, you get a bunch of middling vanilla aritsts who all sound the same. It waters down the radio. When you have too many bland artists out there, people stop listening.
2. Less is more part 2 – Too many cooks. Too many studio heads get their hands wet in band’s production of music, spoiling the final product. Let the artist decide what sounds good. It’s their work…and people notice when it sounds fake.
3. Less is more part 3 – Production. The over-production on music has to stop. It’s emotionless and stale. When Marvin Gaye sang, it meant something. When Beyonce sings…I have no idea what she’s singing about or do I care. That’s not that she’s a bad singer at all…I actually think she’s quite good and entertaining. But her songs aren’t personal. They’re for show. And there’s nothing wrong with that…but when every artist is doing it. Then the audience gets bored.
4. Teen Agnst has paid off well – Teens love music their parents hate. Dark, moody, angry. That sells. My parents hated Guns N Roses, Metallica, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, The Cure, Eminem, Nine Inch Nails. Those are artists that changed music. They connected with the youth. They had/have long standing careers. People want to see barriers broken down. They want lines to be crossed. Think Sex Pistols, NWA, Black Sabbath…or even Prince. These were not the least offensive artists out there…they challenged the norm. Adam Lambert being too gay for the Early Show is not daring…it’s old news. David Bowie was all over that 30 years ago. Music today is unoffensive…My parents like the Black Eyed Peas. What does that say about the state of today’s music? And they wonder why sales are down.
5. Personalize the music – 90% of the songs on the radio are emotionless. They are songs written by other people for the artist to perform. There’s no connection. Why did Eminem’s music sell? Because he told stories about his life. Michael Jackson told stories about his life. GNR, Tupac, NWA, The Cure, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan told personal tales about life. People enjoy that. It makes them feel connected to an artist…it makes them follow them to the end of the earth. Not just until their albums start to falter.
6. More exclusives – People love getting things that no one else has. It makes them feel special. We need more exclusive editions. Albums featuring demos, studio sessions, b-sides, unreleased tracks. Then do something unthinkable. Make it a limited edition. Make them hard to get. Make the fans fight to get them. Think of albums like baseball cards. A baseball card is a piece of cardboard with a baseball players picture and stats. You can get all that information for free on the internet…but people still pay hundreds of dollars for these cards. To stir excitement over music…create a frenzy. Give fans a chance to get something that no one else has and they will flock for the chance to get it.
7. Bring back MTV – As a teen/college kid, MTV was on 24-7. We weren’t watching it for the shows…we had it on because it was a visual jukebox. It set the mood. It gave us a chance to hear new bands we would have never heard of. And we heard them over…and over…and over…and over until we liked the music that we never thought we would like. During MTV’s heyday…albums sales were at their peak. Since MTV has turned into the Hills/Real World network…albums sales have slipped. Could it be that kids are no longer exposed to new bands as much as they used to be?
8. Cut American Idol loose – Kris Allen’s new album is the lowest selling American Idol winner’s album…ever. Adam Lambert barely clocked in at 500K records. The hype is over. People are tired of karoake singers. Time to move on.
9. Be Different – Stop releasing so many bands who sound like another band just because the other band is popular. How Pearl Jam knock-offs are still around? How many Green Day knock-offs? People want things that are new and original. Not the same old stuff. They may buy the same old stuff on impulse…but it never lasts. Remember Candlebox? They sold 3 million copies of their album…where are they now?
10. Stop blaming the internet – Even industry experts estimate the internet has affected only about 20% of overall record sales. But the industry is down 50%. The internet isn’t the only one to blame. So what else is it? Maybe the music you’re putting out just sucks. You ever think of that? Stop blaming others…blame yourselves first. Then see how that goes.
11. Record Store Day should be once a month…not once a year. People were lined up outside records stores for hours before they opened. People still love music. Record Store Day has excited music lovers…why not ride that wave?
Long live the album!