Dedicated to classics and hits.
Friday, August 27, 2010
Grinderman - Super Heathen Child (with Robert Fripp) by MuteRecords
25k plays/15 days...dammmnnnnn.
Posted by catdirt at 9:15 AM
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
I've been spending alot of time looking at the Billboard Chart- it's a 50 page weekly document, smuggled to me on occasion my sympathetic parties. Billboard keeps those statistics a secret, to the point where I don't think you can even write about them without permission- if at all- ever- but I think it's fair to talk about general trends or "laws" if you will.
Probably the primary law of music sales is that they diminish over time. This is a law that is not exclusive to the music business, and wasn't even established by the music business, but rather it is an import from the film industry. That would make the prototype for the Billboard Chart the "Box Office Receipts" chart.
One of the consequences of digital music is that it has increased the number of available products, but the actual number of weekly sales it takes to "Chart" is around 500 +/-. I think it is fair to say that the movements by this group of 500 selling artists is similar to artists who are selling 200 or 300 albums a week. Nor are those artists at the bottom of a digital sales chart old timers getting off after a long run. The last 10 entries are all first week artists. There are major label artists at the bottom of the digital chart, there are indie labels- they are all selling something like 500 albums in the first week out. Now keep in mind, that's just for albums- the threshold for singles is more like 7500.
But whatever that first week number is, it's going to go DOWN after that. If it actually goes UP over time, that is a hit. Everything else is just going down from whatever the sales were in the first week of release. The only question is "by what percentage does it decline?" I don't know the answer- I would guess the average is something like 30%- maybe higher.
Monday, August 23, 2010
by Gerhard Herm
St. Martin's Press
I'm a big fan of cultural trends like "vampires" and "harry potter" because it helps me identify idiots whose opinions I wish to avoid. Don't get me wrong, I like True Blood as much as the next guy, but people who get obsessed with projects like 'Twilight" and "harry potter" are demonstrating a real lack of intelligence and cultural imagination. The internet has made the world of knowledge so available and accessible, and yet... Twilight. I don't begrudge pigs their slop, but that slop is not for me.
This is not to say that I'm not interested by the world of myth and fantasy. Quite the opposite. For a little over a year I've been mildly obsessed by the pre-historic world of the indo europeans- that group of people who spawned the Greeks, the Romans, the Germans, the Celts, the Spanish, the English, the Slavs and the Hindus. I've read books, had discussions, attended museums, etc. etc, etc. I imagine I'm motivated by the same emotions that drive the Twilight fans: a desire for a lil magic in the day to day world.
It's hard to find good source materials when it comes to these indo europeans cultures- the field is filled with crack pots, kooks and psuedo-academic bs.... That's why I was kind of into The Celte, by Gerhard Herm. Herm also wrote a cool book about the Phoenicians. He is a German author, who wrote in the 70s. These books were hugely popular and sold millions of copies. Today the "celts" are largely equated with Ireland, but they were actually a prolific indo european culture that dominated Spain, France, the low countries and of course... the British Isles.
The Celts were conquered by the Romans and absorbed into the Empire- unlike the Germans, the continental Celts did not maintain a separate identity outside of the Roman Empire. The Celts in the British Isles maintained their separate identity well into the Christian period. In Ireland, they lasted long enough to create their own alphabet.
Who were the Celts? Well, they were fearsome warriors- not quite as fearsome as the Germans, but they liked to cut off their enemies heads and put them up on the walls of their huts. They liked to fight in the nude. They had their own religion and their own religious leaders (the Druids) whose practices are shrouded in mystery. Herm makes analogies to the Brahmin class in India to explain the function of Druids in Celtic culture. It's an analogy founded in base supposition, but you know what: it works for me.
The most interesting parts of the Celts are the chapters were Herm delves into Celtic mythology. These stories were written down by Christian monks in the 11th century, but the similarities between their stories and other indo eurpoean mythos (like the Rig Veda) are pretty amazing. The Celts sound like indo europeans through and through, and what's more, they are "our" Indo Europeans, to the point where we have sports teams named after them. Pretty cool stuff, and the book costs like thirty cents on Amazon. More interesting then vampires, I hope you'd agree.
As a ticket buyer, I can go to a $5 local bands night at a bar one night and see Lady GaGa the next. On the other hand, the musicians playing on the local bands night might as well give up on the chance of ever performing on the same stage as Lady GaGa.
Very few people are going to spend time talking about the national music industry in a vocabulary other then the language written and approved by paid publicists. Local music, on the other hand, operates in a publicist free vacuum (or almost.) Transitioning from one world to the other is historically difficult for artists, since partisans of local music adopt an attitude of hostility towards the national music industry, and the national music industry sees local music as a resource to be exploited.
Artists and audiences alike in local music scenes should be clear about where their choices put them in this pair of intersecting ovals. Both artists and audiences make conscious choices involving spending and time usage that place you in one or the other circles at various points in their lives.
One thing should be clear under this analysis: the local music space is characterized by the absence of the music industry. Although local audiences and artists may themselves be wholly unaware of it, their very existence is to support one another's existence. The music industry, by it's very nature interposes itself between artists and audiences for the purpose of profit. If there is no profit, it's not the music industry.
I would suggest that local artists would be best to try to consciously disassociate themselves from benchmarks embraced by the music industry itself. For example, ticket sales, album sales. The exponential increase of those indices is simply caused by the application of capital to artistic creativity.
On the other hand, it's important for local artists to have a deeper understanding of their audience then is required by those who participate in the music industry. A thorough understanding of audiences by music industry professionals is rendered irrelevant by the vigorous application of capital. This remains true even as the audience itself disappears.
An artist who focuses on their relationship with the audience in a local setting can create interest in the music industry, but it's not the only route available. Nor is it a certain route to success. The needs of money intensive music industry institutions like public relations require a great discipline in terms of production and touring ability. If you are a big sloppy jam band with 12 members that can sell out a 500 person venue that's great, but you still need to record and you still need to tour- if you don't do those things, the music industry will never be interested. If, on the other hand you make a great record in your bedroom and tour the country twice as a solo act in a sub compact, the music industry might care even though you can't draw more then 30 person a night. The music industry wants people who are professionals. In a local music environment, such professionalism is at best, unnecessary, and at worst, can actually inhibit success in a local music environment.
I thought about all those things as I watched Woven Bones perform. They were amazing- a water tight three some playing garage rock hits with poise and attitude. They were a real force last night- real legends in the making. But what impressed me most was their ability to interest the crowd and generate the feeling of communitas that I think needs to remain central to the discussion of any local music event. If people aren't going to have a good time and feel good about it, there is literally no point. Woven Bones generated that feeling in a crowd that was curious, but unconvinced at the outset. For me, the show was a needle mover, from in the black to in the red.
Heavy Hawaii and Crocodiles also performed. I have recently reviewed both bands multiple times in this space, and they are both great live bands, well worth your time and money to see in a live environment. I can personally attest to seeing both bands creating a feeling of communitas among audience members, and that is proof of success.
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