The Trickle Down Theory In Action

I was listening to the radio as I was driving home last night (I had finally caught up with all my pod casts on my iPhone) and the local classic rock radio station was playing a syndicated run of the Sixx Sense (Nikki Sixx of Motley Crue’s) radio show.  On the show, Nikki mentioned a statement Joey Kramer of Aerosmith made in an interview that Aerosmith wouldn’t likely be releasing any more full length recordings.

“It would be great to make another record, but it’s almost (like) ‘Why bother?’ Records don’t sell and they don’t do anything….There’s really no money per se to be made on records. We used to make a lot of money on records. Now all of our money is made on touring. Artistically, it would be fun to make another record and it would be a beautiful thing if we can put it together. But to what avail, I don’t know. There’s almost no reason to do it, you know, judging from the last one and how it went over.”

(This quote was taken from this article).  – http://music.msn.com/music/article.aspx?news=864585

Aerosmith’s 15th release, Music From Another Dimension sold “only” 63,100 copies during its first week U.S. release – a substantial downturn from previous efforts.

Sixx went on to talk about how no one buys albums anymore and about the business model for releasing singles going forward for both Aerosmith and for his band.

A completely unnecessary plug for Seth Godin

For those of you who have any interest in music as Business – I can’t recommend the completely free Seth Godin’s Start Up School podcast enough. (You may want to take a moment right now and go ahead and download the episodes.  Don’t worry this post is staying right here).  Mr. Godin talks about a number of great things that are applicable to making money in music in the podcasts, but one area in particular can be direct relation to this post.  In one episode, Mr. Godin said that people at the top are always the last to be affected by an economic downturn.  So, for example, Van Morrison will still have people go out and buy Moondance because it’s Van Morrison.  He might not be making the money he was making before file sharing, but he’s making more money than a new, unknown act would be making from music.

So, the fact that a large band is now coming to the same conclusion as every other working band on the planet this late in the game isn’t surprising.

But I think that their strategy is all wrong.

I think it’s all wrong because I’m guessing that they only learned half the lesson presented here and will execute the strategy in the wrong way.

The Dinosaur And Creating False Scarcity

The bands that get momentum from the “singles” models (and I put singles in quotes because I honestly think that only people over the age of 30 even remember what I single release it) get momentum from an aggressive release and touring schedule.  They might release 2-5 eps a year.  They have new tracks out constantly because it’s the new tracks that drive traffic and attention to them.

It’s an aggressive promotion strategy and one that requires a lot of flexibility.

Aerosmith is a large corporate dinosaur – even if they’re not signed to a label anymore.  They need to self-fund releases (and it will give them pause to output money before bringing more in) and, quite frankly, given that every past effort has involved spending years recording, mixing and promoting a new full length release – they’re not going to be able to strip it down and knock new releases out one after another in quick fashion.

But I also think they got it wrong.

Know Your Audience.

Yes, a number of people who are willing to buy music will buy a single rather than an album.

You know who buys albums, by and large?

I’ll give you a few groups off the top of my head.

Metalheads

Prog Rock fans

Jazzers

Those are some specific sub-genres that have fans who get behind bands rather than singles.  People who dig Animals as Leaders will buy whatever new release they have.  Ditto for King Crimson or Allan Holdsworth fans.  They’re not in it for the single.  They’re in it for the experience.

Aerosmith may look back at the ‘80s when 40,000 units sold might not even get you a top 40 release in a given week, but they don’t seem to realize that 60,000+ units is a LOT of units sold in the contemporary music market.

I’m guessing their fans will wait for a new album.

Will they wait for the same length of time for a new single?

There are a few related lessons I’m gathering from this extrapolation on a statement.

Know your audience

know what they expect from you

know your ability to meet those expectations.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens down the road for Aerosmith.  They might have enough backlog to be able to get things out quickly and prove me wrong, but it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out for them in the future.

That’s it for now.  As always – I hope this helps in some way and thanks for reading!

-SC

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