Bob Baker's Indie Music Promotion Blog

News, notes and ideas on music marketing, self-promotion, artist empowerment and more

February 20, 2007

Why You Should Focus on Singles

Are you stuck in a traditional CD/album release mindset? If so, you might be missing out on some great opportunities in the changing music marketplace.

There's a great post today over at the always spirited Lefsetz Letter blog called "Album Last Rites." In it, Mr. Lefsetz gives an overview of music history as it relates to singles-driven vs. album-driven time periods.

He points out how -- after the Beatles inspired the creation of a new format, AOR (album-oriented rock) -- major labels steered away from the single in favor of the more profitable full-length album.

That was the business model for a more than three decades ... until consumers became empowered to digitally choose only the tracks they truly enjoyed.

Here's an excerpt from the Lefsetz blog post:

People no longer listen to albums.

Society is overwhelming. We've got 300 TV channels, if not MORE! We've got a bunch of new movies EVERY weekend. We've got video games. We haven't got time to sit down and listen to an hour of crap over and over again in order to get hooked. We want something ear-pleasing, NOW! We ONLY want GOOD STUFF!

His advice to artists who insist on creating concept albums:

You're creating hour-long masterpieces that the public must eat like a day locked inside a McDonald's, but the public only wants some McNuggets and then a taco from Taco Bell, an ice cream from Cold Stone, a donut… THAT’S what iPods are like. They’re MIX AND MATCH!

The goal is to get into the iTunes library. And you don't do this by releasing ten cuts, but by making ONE GREAT ONE!

How, according to Lefsetz, this is changing the industry:

This is the labels' worst nightmare. This is not their paradigm. They pay a big chunk of money to an artist to get an album which they can sell for ten bucks to make their bottom line. They're not in the SINGLES BUSINESS!

And every act thinks it's the Beatles, that it's important, that it's got a STATEMENT to make. But the audience doesn't give a shit about ALL of this. The public just wants quality. Well, something it LIKES!

Yes, the iPod has killed the album. Technology has changed the format once again.

And, since an iPod can contain MORE MUSIC THAN ALMOST EVERYBODY EVER OWNED, there isn't time for crap. You now have access to too much good stuff, WHY listen to the crap?

The album is OVER! Start hyping one cut. And if that catches fire, deliver ANOTHER!

I agree with this perspective, especially when it comes to online marketing and sales. However, I also think that artists still need a physical product with 10 to 15 songs on it to sell at live shows, and to make available to fans who still want a CD to hold in their hands (and there are lots of them left -- don't kid yourself).

I've been meaning to write a blog post called "Think Outside the Jewel Case." Look for that soon. In the meantime, think about ways you can tap into the new singles-driven music marketplace.


posted by Bob Baker @ 10:24 AM   4 comments


At Feb 21, 2007 11:59:00 AM, Blogger Patrick said...

I have been waiting for people to realize that the album is only for real music LOVERS, not the general public. Hopefully great bands will still make great albums for those of who still want them.

At Feb 23, 2007 12:52:00 PM, Anonymous Jerry Schickling said...

Bob nails it again!
As I sit here in Nashville after a full day of songwriter/publisher/producer meetings, it's obvious that the days of one or two good songs on a full-length CD (or album) seem to be on the demise. I believe you've got to really work hard to put 10 to 12 GOOD songs on a CD if you want to please the music buying public. If you're not able to come up with a collection of quality songs for your fans, focus on Bob's advice about singles while you build your song library.
Thanks Bob!

At Mar 1, 2007 10:02:00 PM, Blogger Eartaste said...

>"Start hyping one cut."

I borrowed that line from above to make a small point. I get lots of CDs to review here, and many do hype one cut. What's weird to me is they seldom hype their strongest musical cut. Artists tend to hype the cut that means something to them personally. But it's the audience they're trying to reach. Here at eartaste we feature the single cuts - but seldom the ones the artist has self-selected.

So, while there's truth in "start hyping one cut," I'd say it with the caution of getting opinions from far and wide, not just your immediate surroundings. Not everyone has the time and luxury that we do here to listen to every cut.


At Jul 16, 2007 9:38:00 PM, Blogger said...

Several months ago we started burning singles and taking them to the restaurant where we play every Friday. We usually play there for tips. We told the audience that whenever they left a tip to pick up a cd to take home with them. This has been a boost to our tip bucket. We put the cd singles next to the tip bucket.


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