12/04/2009

The Susan Boyle Sales Phenomenon

Many of us are genuinely surprised that in an era of pop music where style has triumphantly body slammed substance, with music sales at an all time low and dropping, a matronly 47 year old has scored the highest first week sales figures for a debut album since Snoop Dogg did so in 1993.

Well, one thing we failed to take into account is that, contrary to Christopher Cross--actually, a sort of Susan Boyle look-a-like, who scored big with his 1979 self-titled debut [Warner Bros] only to have the hits dry up once MTV came to town--people already knew what Susan Boyle looked like before they bought her records, whereas the not-terribly photogenic Texan seemingly kept his mug away from the spotlight as much as possible. It stands to reason, however, that support for Ms. Boyle might be a one-off thing; those moved by her singing may have chosen this album to genuinely make a statement about the increasing plasticity of mainstream pop music.

But regardless, the music industry's 800 lb gorilla in the room is that "the kids" are no longer their financial lifeline: It's older music fans--35 yrs old and up--and those of genres such as jazz, classical, and world music, who don't steal music, um, "file share". Proportionately speaking, that's who generally buys music these days.

The key would be to try to educate this new generation--we're talking about those born in the '90s, who have been searching for "real" music and have shunned a lot of the fly by night nonsense from this decade--since it's clear the so-called Generation-Y aka Millennial Generation (born roughly between '76 and '89), for the most part, have proven to be quite useless when it comes to tastes and attitudes towards music, especially in terms of respecting intellectual property and the value of an artist's work.

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