Friday, January 18, 2019

823 | Lefsetz Letter

That’s the number of albums A Boogie Wit da Hoodie sold last week to enter the chart at number one. And those were downloads, there wasn’t even a physical version.

So this ends the debate, everybody bitching about streaming, the war is over. Actually, complaining about music distribution/consumption is so old school. And a consumption game it is, would “Baby Shark” have hit the chart in a sales era? No. Because you buy it and every time you play it not only do the rightsholders not get paid, no one knows you did, it doesn’t get counted. So, hit streaming tracks are the gift that keeps on giving. They have an eternal life span, even though many hits don’t generate repeated play down the line, but some do!

So, we don’t have CDs. As for vinyl, a sideshow. And ignore the financial figures. They always trumpet gross numbers when net is what’s important. They add up list price instead of wholesale, never mind the end result in rightsholders’ pockets. But that’s the twenty first century, where facts are fungible and everybody believes every statistic they read. Not a month goes by without the virality of some oldster complaining that they had millions of streams and made no money. First and foremost, Pandora pays differently from on demand, and terrestrial radio doesn’t even pay on the recording. And someone only has a piece of a song and doesn’t own the publishing so you keep on hearing anti-streaming sentiment when the truth is the train has left the station and if you’re into physical, you’re left behind, at most you’re selling souvenirs, and no one’s got a CD player and if you saw the “stereo” systems people play their vinyl on…

You’d be better off with a boom box.

But it’s not only physical that’s dead, but the album too.

This is complicated. Because actually, every track on A Boogie Wit da Hoodie’s album “Hoodie SZN” has at least seven figures of streams, but it’s driven by the hits. And it’s the hits that pushed the album to number one.

That’s right, an album with ten tracks where one has eight figures of plays and the rest are barely listened to can still go to number one, because of the failings in “Billboard”‘s system. The truth is, with sales de minimis, it’s usually one track driving the entire album to number one, so really, in many cases, the album chart is a SINGLES CHART!

And if they get rid of the album chart, what will happen to albums?

All those alta kachers, wanting to go to number one, bundling tickets… Suddenly, that paradigm doesn’t work anymore, there are no bragging rights, you’re better off just putting out a single, since no one is listening to the rest of the LP anyway.

But with newer acts, especially rappers, there is a desire for more. But not just as an album, but as a regular flow of product.

As for Hoodie, he’s employing the usual paradigm of featuring other stars, like 6ix9ine and Offset and Tag and Juice WRLD, to get recognition. In other words, other stars are lifting up Hoodie and making him a star.

And what are the rockers doing?

Well, they did duets, a la Sinatra, then they did covers, and then they found out no one was listening.

Now I’m not saying other genres should have featured artists on tracks, but I am saying that hip-hop has a culture that is lacking in other musical fields. And it’s a self-perpetuating culture, with one act building upon another.

Then again, Hoodie’s playing clubs and other genres sell out arenas.

And of course it’s more complicated than that, but there’s a disconnect between breaking music and chart appearances. If only the public read about touring numbers as opposed to “albums” in the press.

Now country has a culture.

But in other fields, it’s every person to themselves, to their detriment.

The “Billboard” chart serves the major labels, but it does not serve music.

That’s gotta change.


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