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Producer Will Producer Will | 15:43 UK time, Friday, 3 June 2011

Adele

 

More Power to You

 

The Guardian published the Music Power 100 list, their own rundown of the 100 people exerting the greatest influence on the listening habits of the general public right now. It brought together the usual group of music moguls such as Simon Fuller, Simon Cowell and Lucian Grange but intriguingly places the promotional team behind Adele's sophomore album 21 in the coveted number one spot.

It's undeniable that the team behind a record-breaking sixteen weeks at number one in the UK album charts, as well as a combined total of seven weeks at number one on the USA's Billboard Charts, have put a phenomenal amount of effort in to get the campaign to where it is.

However, you have to recognise that if it wasn't for 21 being a great album then that level of success would’ve been impossible. The general public as a whole aren’t fools; no matter what PR folk may think, they won't buy any old piece of junk and no amount of campaigning will produce such a prodigious return if the actual product is second rate.

This got us thinking… surely The Guardian has excluded the most powerful person in the whole of the music industry - you.

Every single one of you reading this blog has an extraordinary level of influence on the music industry. You -- the consumer, the super fan, the record buyer -- you all change the dynamic of the music business every day. Without all of the obsessive music nuts there would simply be no music industry.

In this increasingly digital age one person can genuinely make a difference to album campaigns that have taken months to plan. The same could not have been said ten years ago. Nowadays all it takes is one person to leak an album on the web and best laid plans can go up in smoke. In recent years we have seen the likes of LCD Soundsystem, Jay-Z, Deftones and Crystal Castles all push forward the release of their albums to combat album leaks. Some of them sit by idly and accept what is now seen to be inevitable; others go all Future Of The Left.

The most notable change this has brought about is record companies' reticence for giving away something for nothing is finally disappearing. With more focus on building fan bases and, dare I say it, 'brands', we are now seeing more and more albums being made available to stream in full weeks before their release.

While the Lars Ulrichs of the world may still shed a tear at seeing their hard work go online for no monetary reward, smaller up-and-coming bands are undoubtedly finding a much wider audience as people Tweet and Facebook links to all their friends and followers. And it's not just burgeoning bands at it, the likes of Arctic Monkeys, My Morning Jacket and Death Cab For Cutie are also offering up their long players for a little pre-release streaming.

On top of this we have bloggers. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of bloggers all writing about what floats their musical boat and, for the large part, throwing up MP3s to download. With the prestige of a number one album or single long gone, should we now look at how high up the Hype Machine chart tracks are?

The power and importance of the blogger is something which is slowly being recognised. Whereas pirate radio stations and independent record store playlists used to be the place to go to see what was turning the ear of those that cared, now it's the turn of the blogger.

Radiohead’s In Rainbows' pay-what-you-like model was a shot in the arm to what is possible with album distribution -- and one largely fuelled as a comment on and combating of illegal downloads -- The King Of Limbs tried something different.

Radiohead calmly tapped the world on the shoulder and said "We've got a new album coming out this year. It's called the King Of Limbs. Oh and, by the way, you can own it this Friday." From nothing at all to a record you can own in five days, the news of The King Of Limbs went pandemic and the music-loving, blogging and Tweeting public created more buzz in a couple of days than any God-knows-how-expensive marketing campaign ever could.

In truth record companies follow the trends of your listening habits as much as they influence them. Poor record sales can mean that the most promising young bands are dropped before they can begin to spread their wings, whilst the success of a debut release can lead to multiple album deals. Poor ticket sales can cause tours to grind to a halt, recently even for 'legends' such as Roger Daltrey.

On the other hand we're seeing bands playing their first or second gig to sold-out rooms due to a few carefully placed MP3 and a whole bunch of blogger buzz.

In an industry that is based on the old fashioned principle of action/reaction, the public may just have the upper hand.

 

***

 

Many thanks indeed to Adam Gibby and Matthew Parri Thomas of Culture Deluxe. Check out them on the show this evening (June 3) as they recommend some of the music they are listening to.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Worthy blog Sir! I suppose there's an element of the old days, when a band built up a following (by gigging and touring back then) grass roots, as it used to be known, which would spur product sales.. We now have this digital medium to work with, which I use now (to little avail) but which friends of mine such as the MPE band use, ( http://www.mpeband.com ) and have used, to great effect. Though, as most artists would concur, if not publically, even though the prestige of it has long since been liquidated, the notion of being 'number 1' is still a dream, a desire.. Wonder if there is, could, or even should be a 'unification' 'chart' of online / downloads status? Or is this now too, an antiquated notion or ideal..

 

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