Category Archives: Sales

THE RIGHT WAY

I love it when something exciting happens on the charts and a new(ish) artist makes an unexpected debut. Without much promotion beyond social media and next to no radio airplay, Ariana Grande’s “The Way” shot to #1 on the iTunes charts within hours this week. It’s also placed within the top 20 on many iTunes charts worldwide. Granted, she has over 5 million Twitter followers, but artists with double that have released singles that have failed to do even half of what “The Way” has already accomplished. But before we get to that, let’s rewind a little bit.

At the end of 2011, Grande released “Put Your Hearts Up.” The juvenile single butchered a sample of 4 Non Blondes’ “What’s Up” (I don’t know in what world that made any sense) and came complete with incredibly cheesy artwork and an equally terrible video. Everything about this single release has been a stark contrast from that. Even though the video for “The Way” is a low budget affair, it’s not something that looks like it would better suit a 12-year-old. It’s age appropriate and she makes out with Mac Miller at the end, which, at the very least, provides a memorable scene that will get people talking (and speculating). A juicy rumor is always helpful when jumpstarting a career and it’s the kind of thing that will send her young fans into a frenzy.

The song itself is sexy, but subtle enough in a way that it’s not desperate. Teen acts, especially coming from Disney or Nickelodeon, seem to never strike an appropriate balance as recording artists. It’s either too cheesy (see: Selena Gomez “Who Says”) or too overt (see: Miley Cyrus circa “Can’t Be Tamed”). Looking at the most recent crop of Disney stars that have released extremely juvenile material and maintained similarly vanilla images, it’s hard to imagine that Britney Spears released “…Baby One More Time” at sixteen-years-old. In 1998, she seductively cooed and showed her midriff and everyone survived. In fact, that’s why she became one of the biggest pop stars on the planet and why Hilary Duff, Selena Gomez, et al. will never be.

“…Baby One More Time” didn’t sound like a sixteen-year-old was singing it, and “The Way” doesn’t exactly sound like a nineteen-year-old’s record (at least in the post-2001 era, where everything has been significantly toned down for teen acts). Grande’s voice and delivery (the breathy vocals, mixed with some powerhouse moments, and those whistle notes!) is reminiscent of Mariah Carey and that makes people pay attention. If the song came on the radio, I’m sure people would listen a little closer and wonder, “Who is this?” While sounding like another singer can be both a blessing and a curse, I think it’s a good thing for Ariana. Besides, if you have to be compared to another female vocalist, Mariah Carey isn’t too shabby. It’s the kind of comparison her PR people can really milk for some extra attention.

Beyond the lyrics and delivery, “The Way” is also a welcome throwback to the late 90s (or mid-2000s) pop/R&B and doesn’t follow the Dr. Luke-produced electropop trend (it’s on the way out, believe me). It’s a light, refreshing jam that sounds perfect for spring and summer, complete with a Big Pun sample (yes, the same one that Thalia used on her one and only crossover single). Miller also adds a bit of a “cool” factor that will further legitimize Grande as more than a Victorious cast member trying to launch a singing career. Like “…Baby One More Time,” it’s just sexy enough that it will reach an audience beyond 12-year-old girls and hopefully establish Grande as an actual recording artist, and not just a Nickelodeon star.

With Z100 and KIIS already on board, it doesn’t look like her quick ascent to the top of the iTunes chart will be a flash in the pan (a la Tamar Braxton’s “Love and War.”) She needs to continue visiting radio stations across the country and secure some high profile performance spots. She certainly has the chops to pull off a solid performance and hopefully her stage presence is equally impressive. A slutty Rolling Stone cover might also help, but I digress. If not, she will go the way of Leona Lewis, who is doing something, somewhere right now. On a similar note, Jordin Sparks co-wrote this song, so I hope she enjoys the royalty checks.

I also hope Grande has a killer ballad to include on her album. She definitely has the voice to do it. Mariah Carey built her early career on ballads and released “Vision of Love” at 20-years-old. I understand that we’ve been conditioned over the past decade to accept 20-year-olds singing about sleepovers and Barbie dolls, but with ballads also making a comeback on pop radio, Grande could really seal the deal with a modern slow jam.

Ariana’s got people talking, listening, and buying. Here’s to hoping they don’t drop the ball and keep the forward momentum going. I think she’s got what it takes…

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BRITNEY: MAKE THEM WORK FOR IT

Word on the street is that come January 10th, Britney fans will be encouraged to share a message on Facebook. While this in itself isn’t anything special, the catch is. Once 2 million fans share the message, Spears’ new single will be unlocked for radio play and immediate sale on iTunes. Genius.

I’ve been waiting for an artist to do something like this for awhile and there have been many signs leading up to it. As I’ve referenced in the past, Katy Perry’s team got it right immediately releasing both “California Gurls” and “Teenage Dream” to iTunes and radio hours after they leaked. Before the release of Cheryl Cole’s sophomore album, fans posted messages on Facebook to unlock their favorite tracks. With an artist like Britney Spears, this tactic should work even better. Her fans are crazy and super dedicated. Spears’ team knows this and is using them for promo via Facebook. There’s no better way to literally reach millions of people than through posting a status on Facebook. Especially 2+ million of them. This will also undoubtedly increase Spears’ fans on Facebook (and followers on Twitter) roping in even more people to disseminate messages about the new era.

This campaign also allows Spears’ team to pitch a unique story to the media. Instead of simply sending out a press release announcing Spears’ new single, there’s a twist–2 million of her fans worked to get it. Knowing Britney fans, I’d also like to bet that this will happen in an unprecedented amount of time, giving this story even more news value and incentive for radio to play it. If they pull this off, I’m expecting lots of radio airplay and sales the first day (and week).

However, this will only work if “Hold It Against Me” doesn’t leak before Monday. Fingers crossed.

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iTUNES WATCH

Taylor Swift’s new single, “Mine”, is already up to #3 on iTunes and it was only released a few hours ago. While this will most likely be the fastest rise to #1 for any song ever on iTunes, I’m even more impressed by her label’s quick response to the leak. Within hours of “Mine” hitting the forums and blogs, Big Machine had it up on iTunes for sale–with an ad on the main page! I think more and more labels will stay on top of leaks and start to do this, given the success both Katy Perry, and now Taylor, have had with this method. I’m now waiting for the first label to release an album on iTunes immediately following its leak on the internet…

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iTUNES WATCH

I definitely was not expecting Sugarland’s new single, “Stuck Like Glue”, to latch a spot in the top 10 on iTunes so quickly or actually show some staying power. While “All I Want to Do” also fared well on iTunes, true country acts rarely score a digital hit, especially ones that have never crossed over to pop. Although “Stuck Like Glue” is more pop-leaning than any of their previous singles, Sugarland has had little to no exposure outside of country radio. I think this shows they have built up a pretty extensive fan base through years of touring and may appeal to a younger, more internet-savvy country music fan, as opposed to some of their contemporaries. While Jennifer’s voice has an undeniably distinct tone, I think this song is actually catchy and quirky enough to make a go for it on top 40. I guess we’ll see if Sugarland follows in the crossover footsteps of Carrie, Taylor, and Lady Antebellum…

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SWIFT SALES?

For the past few months, I’ve been suffering from Taylor Swift fatigue. She was on every radio station. She was on every award show. She was in every magazine. I couldn’t even fast-forward through the commercials on my DVR without seeing her face hawking some product. While I don’t quite miss her yet, I am interested in hearing her first single and looking forward to seeing how her third album, “Speak Now,” fares. The big question is can Taylor Swift scan a million copies in her first week? This may seem like a crazy notion in the post-digital climate, but if anyone can, it will be Taylor Swift.

Taylor has quite a few things going for her. First and foremost, she’s coming off of a huge album era with “Fearless,” which sold over half a million copies its first week in back in November 2008. Since then, it has been certified 6x Platinum, spawned two huge crossover hits, and won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year. In addition, as I referenced earlier, Taylor has been literally everywhere these past two years. While I was doing my best to shield my eyes from everything Taylor Swift these past few months, millions of other people attended her sold out Fearless Tour. While radio hits and album sales are nice, I believe touring shows the true testament of an artist’s fan base. Requesting a song on the radio is free and buying an album may set you back $12.99, but if you’re willing shell out $100 concert ticket, that’s dedication. And with 63 sold out cities in four different countries, Taylor Swift has a lot of people hooked.

However, it’s the kind of people that are hooked that will really make the difference when “Speak Now” is released on October 25th. Taylor appeals to two hugely important demographics: tweens and country music fans. Believe it or not, both of these publics still buy albums. She also has undeniable crossover appeal, which will also help when the album hits shelves.

Do I honestly think Taylor will cross the magic million mark when her album is released? No. But it will be pretty damn close and you may even have to get back to me after I hear her first single and see what kind of promotion Borchetta has lined up for her over at Big Machine.

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