Friday, August 30, 2002

THE HIT CHARADE - DYSWTDT?: An interesting piece in Slate by Mark Jenkins attempts to pull off a link between 1978 - when Home Taping didn't kill music, but was blamed for a downturn - and 2002 - when it's CD-Rs that will have the whole of the music industry on its knees.
Jenkins reckons that the problem in '78 was the proliferation of disco and its lack of faces and image; but he then tries to suggest that '02 has a similar problem with Britney and N'Sync, which seems to be a bit of a misdiagnosis - if pop at the end of the seventies was all beats and no bodies, at the start of the twenty-first century the situation is reversed: By the time you've bought the posters, her mother's novel, a couple of magazines, some make-up endorsed by her, movie tickets, the dial tones and voted to see the red cat suit jiggle on The Box, you've probably had all the Britney you can take for one day without buying the record as well - there's a surfeit of stuff to buy around the personality, and CDs aren't seen as being the essential purchase, just part of the package that you might buy, if you've money left after the dress 'em up doll. It's not that there's nothing for the kids to chow down on with Eminem; rather, that amongst the angst and anger and posing and products, the message that he records records as well gets lost.
Jenkins then goes on to discredit younger consumers as fecklessly fickle:
< font color=purple>Meanwhile, younger fans lose interest quickly and often don't develop strong loyalties. They're less likely to investigate a breakthrough act's previous albums or buy its next one. The genres that appeal to under-25 music fans continue to sell, but individual performers fade quickly.
That's a little unfair - the problem is that there isn't as much back catalogue as once there was. Before Blondie broke huge with Parallel Lines, they'd already got Plastic Letters and Blondie into the racks. Nowadays, if artists don't make it on the first album, they're dropped. The lack of lead time development of artists means they're not generating back catalogue until they've on their third or fourth title - in short, if the kids aren't buying the artist's earlier stuff, its because they don't have anything to buy. Likewise, they don't get to follow an artist through to maturity because the labels drop 'em before they reach maturity, or else the artist moves on to some other endeavour. Atomic Kitten were never going to be producing records for the next thirty years, were they?

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