Remember the good old days, when you would buy an album or CD and listen to it all the way through? Now with MP3s, it is easy for you to just purchase the song or songs you want, and leave the album alone. While I like this idea, I wonder if we are losing something by doing so. Do we really know an artist from 1 or 2 hit songs? Or do you have to listen to an artist’s whole album before you really get a sense for them? And what about those artists who don’t have hit singles anymore? Many artists are feeling trapped, they are selling singles, but not albums.
Just before Flo Rida released his third album, almost two million fans purchased the first single “Club Can’t Handle Me,” helping the rapper snag yet another Top 10 hit.
But in its first week out, only 11,000 people bought the 8-song EP – “Only One Flo Part 1” – making its debut measly at No. 107 on the Billboard charts. And in nearly two years, the album has only sold 62,000 units, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Flo Rida’s experience in 2010 is being repeated again and again in today’s pop scene. He’s just one of many acts who suffer from an imbalance: They have a multitude of hits, but anemic album sales.
Years ago, a hit song was usually accompanied by a gold or platinum album, and multiple hits meant multiplatinum albums. But times have changed.
“If you used to have a big single, you would sell a million albums, and if you sell a million albums and you’re a band, you can probably not have to work for a couple years. We don’t have that luxury,” said Cobra Starship’s lead singer Gaby Saporta.
Cobra Starship had a top 10 hit with the double platinum dance jam “You Make Me Feel …,” but their latest album debuted at No. 50 and has sold a mere 33,000 units.
Ne-Yo, the Grammy-winning hitmaker who has written smashes for the likes of Beyonce and Rihanna, blames the phenomenon on a lack of personality and originality from the artists.
“I feel like a lot of people are saying that the industry is moving to just being singles driven, and that’s kind of a cop out to me. So it’s like, basically that means that we sign a bunch of disposal artists, you know, as long as we get one hit that’s good? That’s B.S.,” continued Ne-Yo. Ne-Yo added that today’s music executives should be “taking the time and spending the money that it takes to make sure that you’re building icons, not fly-by-night, add water-and-stir artists.”
Tom Corson, the COO and president of RCA Records — the label home of Pitbull and Mike Posner — says that just because an artist doesn’t sell a lot of albums doesn’t make the act a failure. He said record companies determine an album’s success by an artist’s TEA, which stands for track-equivalent-albums. “You have certain artists that sell 300,000 albums, but sell 10 million tracks. That’s the equivalent of 1.3 million albums,” he explained.
Recent albums by Bruno Mars and Justin Timberlake may be hits, but not because the album’s are good. There are good songs on both Mars’ “Unorthodox jukebox” (Locked Out of Heaven, When I Was Your Man, Treasure) and Timberlake’s ‘The 20/20 Experience” (Suit & Tie, Mirrors). Both of these artists could have done better in my opinion. Mars has shown with his live appearances that he is a force to be reckoned with. Same for Timberlake. But at the end of the day, is anyone going to care about the album tracks, when they just wanted the single anyway?
The biggest album of the last 2 years has been Adele’s “21.” With an impressive 4 hit singles off it, it was one of those albums that harkened back to the glory days when Michael Jackson had 6 Top Ten singles off of “Bad.” Both are career artists — not just someone who has a hit single or 2. Is anyone going to care about Kesha or One Direction twenty years from now? I doubt it.
I miss having the record stores around. There was an excitement when you went to those places. Wandering around, looking at the album covers. That is something today’s youth is missing out on.
KiltManinSoCal is a Los Angeles-based writer and designer. Be sure to check out the latest T-Shirts for sale here, including Marriage Equality and Rock the Kilt lines. They make great gifts for friends, family and loved ones.