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Friday, December 12, 2003
Some dude named Bob Lefsetz says some stupid shit about Missy:

30. Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott "This Is Not A Test!"

Sales this week: 63,346
Percentage change: -54%

And here we have what's wrong with the record business. It's become a HIT business.

Make no mistake, it didn't used to be.

Yes, everything Clive and Donnie and all those Chairmen are telling you is WRONG!

If you're hit dependent, you're fucked.

Look at this record. The hit isn't working, people don't want the album, it's OVER!

Believe me, in July you won't see this CD suddenly climbing the chart.

Whereas a rock album, like 3 Doors Down's, can hang around and BUILD!

Not that it has to be rock. It's just that a record must be sold on substance. Not on shock/glam/hype.

People want to have a RELATIONSHIP with an album. They want to take it into their family, give it a HOME!

Think about that. How can you get someone to kick the tires, and take the CD home.

Think of it like buying a car. You might want to take a spin in a Z4, but do you want to OWN it? For YEARS???

No, maybe you want a 530. Or maybe you even want a Camry. Because a Camry is DEPENDABLE! Hell, they sell more Camrys than Z4s, more Camrys than ANY OTHER CAR, because people see them as both functional and reliable. I used to buy records of bands that were functional and reliable. The public did too, even stuff as mediocre as Grand Funk Railroad. Yeah, Grand Funk didn't have hits until the TAIL END of their career.

And, the re-up rate on Camrys is ASTRONOMICAL! People buy one after another.

Same deal with Ford F150s.

These are basic machines. But, people are LOYAL!

The music business IS NOT the movie business. A movie is singular, one entity. Occasionally, there's a sequel. Whereas in the music business, you want EVERY album to have a sequel. You're not really making dough until you have a CAREER! And, if an act has a career, you can sell ALL their wares AD INFINITUM! People don't only want Led Zeppelin IV, they want II and III too!

Don't bang people over the head. Use a softer sell.

That's what all the indies do. They're FORCED to, they don't have the funds for these bludgeon campaigns. So the acts build more slowly, and the fans are loyal. And, even if they download the music, they buy the CD.

What kind of fucked up formula is this? Trying to get people to buy a whole album on one hit track. That would be like trying to sell that aforementioned BMW by only showing the steering wheel. That's an integral part of the car, but not the ONLY key part. Used to be the album tracks were also key parts. They will become so again. Maybe not as part of a single disc, but people don't only want the hits, they want FULFILLMENT! The people want steak, and potatoes, and fish, and salad, but the record business only wants to sell hot fudge sundaes, over and over and over again. And people have gotten so sick, they've tuned out, they've given up. They'll pick the cherry on KaZaA, but they don't want any more.

And, from an earlier entry on Jay-Z:

And, rappers release a record a year, because unlike with rock catalog, once
the public is done with a hip-hop record, they're TRULY DONE!

Hell, you don't even hear that Lauryn Hill solo Grammy Award winning album anymore.

Now, don't get me wrong: there are artists to whom you could accurately apply this argument. But Missy? Jay-Z? No no no. I don't really have any urge to hit SoundScan right now, but I'm pretty sure they've got a reasonable amount of catalog sales--any music fan worth their salt knows that 2/3 of the Jay-Z albums, and all the Missy albums, are required listening if you want to understand how they got where they are today. And that's not even getting into the kind of catalog sales that Tupac, Biggie, etc. must enjoy. Look, what you said about a hip-hop record: it's just not true. It's like writing a column in 1965 saying that because the radio's not playing Chuck Berry that the only lasting records with the public are crooner and big band albums. Hip-hop is still pretty segregated on the radio in most areas of the country, but let's be honest here, right now it's in the same situation that rock was in the late 60's/70's: it is the mainstream. So yeah, in twenty years you'll probably get "classic hip-hop" stations--I mean, fuck, the last Missy album was a classic hip-hop album! Sure, there are artists like, I dunno, Chingy and Digital Underground and Naughty By Nature that have big flavor-of-the-week hits (and I mean that purely from an economic perspective) and then drop off the radar, regardless of the worth of their songs. But people are still buying "The Chronic." People are still buying "Doggystyle." People are still buying "Ready to Die." And this is just the white audience--it seems reasonable to assume that the back catalogs of Mary J Blige and a whole host of others are doing just fine as well.

Look, one of the reasons Missy and Jay are so appealing and likable is that they manage to make hits that are also examples of great art. And if, fuck, Steve Miller Band is lasting art (and I'm not saying it's not) then "Miss E...So Addictive" and "The Blueprint" sure as hell are, too. On a certain level, I guess it sucks that the biz is so hit-driven, but the reason Jay and Missy have lasted is that they make hits that are also, regardless of that, great music. The two are hardly incompatible.

I recognize that, in many ways, he's making a purely practical argument here, that rock catalogs sell while hip-hop catalogs don't. But I think you're comparing apples to oranges: flavor-of-the-week hits in rock--the Beatles, Elvis, the Rolling Stones, Queen, etc.--have endured and prospered. Give it all a while before pronouncing hip-hop a shallow hit factory like some hyperventilating schoolmarm.

(additional: Lefsetz-EMI snipefest here)