Sometimes when an artist releases singles from their album, they release them in a different order depending on country. Usually what gets released in the UK is what Australia gets at the same time, but that’s not always the case. Like when Nelly Furtado launched Loose, the first single in the US and Oz was “Promiscuous”, whilst the UK got “Maneater”. Not sure why we didn’t get “Maneater” first, too, because it’s clearly the best song on the album. (The UK tends to get the better song, while the US gets the more commercial.) Since the US is big on urban and songs with more than one artist, what they got makes sense.
Anyway, why I’m thinking of all this is because Coldplay released Vida la Viva, or Death and All His Friends this weekend. Here in Oz and the UK we got the fab single “Violet Hill”. It’s rock, it’s dramatic, and it’s got singalong falsetto. X & Y was too overcommercialised for me, and that’s saying a lot because I listen to Nova (hey, at least it’s not Fox).
So when I heard “Viva la Vida” (the first single in the US) on the radio the other day, I was confused. I like strings, and lyricists writing characters rather than themselves all the time, but… “Violet Hill” grabbed me immediately. “Viva” didn’t. I like it well enough, but it’s nowhere near as great as “Violet Hill”.
Maybe the problem is I’m not thinking more like an American. As far as I can tell from the US’s weekly top 20 singles chart that I read every Thursday, you don’t usually get into the top 20 unless:
*You’re from TV. (American Idol, Disney stars, etc.)
*Your song’s a ballad. (Power [Leona Lewis] or rock [Hinder].)
*Your music is urban. (Straight urban [Rihanna & Jay-Z's "Umbrella"] seems to do better than crossover urban [Rihanna's dance/urban "Don't Stop the Music"].)
*Your song features multiple artists. (Doesn’t have to be a ballad, but it helps.)
There are exceptions, of course, but this is the basic gist of it. But basically the American top 20 is very commercial, whilst the UK chart has more variety. The Australian charts tend to be a mishmash of both those charts, but with Australasian artists, too.
And of course the charts aren’t necessarily representative of what music citizens really enjoy. After all, I read somewhere that the US charts include radio airplay. And of course what gets the most airplay will be commercial. It sells ad space, doesn’t it?
I guess what I’m trying to say is that you can’t expect people to change unless you treat them differently. This is not to say that I don’t like commercial music – I do like my fair share of it (note why I listen to Nova and not Triple J). But what is commercial may not necessarily be the best of what an artist has to offer. An interesting example is Sara Bareilles’s “Love Song” – which is not about a personal relationship, but rather her record company wanting her to write a love song, but she didn’t want to. So the song about not writing a love song has become her commercial hit. Is there a message in that? You decide.
But I don’t know much about marketing in the music industry. Should you have your “best” (whatever you interpret that as) song released first, or second? Do you want to sell more singles or albums? What should you release to reel in new listeners, whilst not alienating the ones who think you’re becoming same-old? How do you keep your loyal fanbase whilst still be accessible enough to newcomers?
Can you relate music marketing to book marketing? See what lessons you’ve learned from here, because my brain’s getting too fuzzy to spell it out for you. Use your loaf.
I was thinking about buying the new Coldplay album, but since I had an unexpected expenditure today, I’m keeping my money for Sam Sparro’s eponymous debut, which will be released this coming weekend. If vision is the only validation, then most of my life isn’t real…