OneRepublic’s TwoContradictoryAttitudes About the Internet

In an interesting recent profile of the band OneRepublic in 5280 magazine, lead singer Ryan Tedder explained how the internet just barely saved the band after getting cut from their first label:

Losing the record deal was a devastating blow. Tedder told his wife, Genevieve, whom he had married just months before, that OneRepublic was done; that at 27 years old he was going to have to give up the dream. Instead he would continue producing music for other people, something he’d been doing on the side anyway. That night, Tedder typed into a Web browser to change the band’s status from “signed” to “unsigned.” Then, because he was no longer beholden to the label’s rules not to post songs online, he uploaded “Apologize” and “Stop and Stare.”

For Tedder and Co., social media was a godsend. Within two months, OneRepublic was the number one unsigned act on Myspace, and the band quickly became one of the hottest independent acts in L.A. The guys scored a residency at the Key Club in West Hollywood, and, after three initial shows, the band sold out each subsequent concert. They were running out of T-shirts and CDs. They were signing autographs. They were being courted by promoters to play in Canada and Washington and Florida. But they still didn’t have a record deal.

That’s when Tedder received a call from an old friend. Timbaland, the prominent hip-hop and R&B producer, wanted to sign OneRepublic to Interscope Records, the home of artists like U2, Sting, the Black Eyed Peas, and No Doubt.

A little later in the article, however, Tedder complains about how the internet makes life more difficult for his band:

The age of digital music has, according to Tedder, had a dramatic impact on the music industry for one primary reason: “When you buy one song,” Tedder says, “you don’t invest in the artist.” Before MP3s, he says, if you liked a song you heard on the radio, you had to buy the album. And because you bought the album, you were compelled to listen to it as a whole and found other nonsingle songs you loved. You found you liked the artist. When that artist came to town, you bought tickets for the concert. Because you went to the concert and loved it, you were a fan for life. You bought the next album and the next album—maybe without even hearing a single on the radio to prompt you.

The ability to just buy one song from iTunes has, in Tedder’s mind, done two things. One, it has erased the days when teenagers and college kids obsessed over music, lying on their beds listening to an album from beginning to end, in favor of making music background noise they sort of listen to through earbuds while walking to class. And two, downloadability has shortened the lifespan of artists. “One successful single could sell three million copies and make a band culturally significant for nine months,” he says. “But because hardly anyone bought the album, that artist has zero long-term fans.”

So I guess the internet is a godsend to aspiring rock super-stars, except when it isn’t…


Return of the Road-Eyes

Since the announcement a couple of weeks ago that Disney bought the Star Wars franchise and will be making new Star Wars movies soon, speculation has been running rampant about who might write and direct. Shouldn’t it be obvious? Judging by these clips from Rust Never Sleeps:


(not to mention the movie poster)

it should almost certainly be one Bernard Shakey…

Is Romney politics’ “Jesse”?

People may argue with me on this, but I think that one of the main reasons that Mitt Romney is our country’s Republican nominee for president is that he had the deep pockets to promote himself for the years running up to his nomination. So I couldn’t help but think of Romney when I recently re-read Fredric Dannen’s classic book on the music industry, Hit Men, and came across the following passage about “The Network” (i.e. a group of so-called ‘indie promoters’ who bribed radio station managers to play their clients’ songs):

For all its power, the Network could not make a hit record. No one could do that except the marketplace. You could saturate the airwaves with an uncommercial song and have some moderate success, but in the end you could not force people to buy a record they did not like. It is easy to find examples of “turntable” hits: records that got load of airplay but did not sell. Consider Carly Simon’s hit single “Jesse”, on Warner Bros. Records. Said an executive at a competing label, “’Jesse’ is legendary as one of the most expensive singles of all time in the amount of indie promotion money spent on it. I don’t know the actual number, but if you told me $300,000, I wouldn’t blink. The amusing thing is, it was top ten, it got a lot of airplay, but they didn’t sell any albums. It was perceived as a hit record. But the album was a stiff. So was it a successful project? Not for anybody except for the independent promoters. You can’t blame them for taking the money.”

So on November 6 it seems we will learn if Romney is the political world’s equivalent of Carly Simon’s “Jesse“, or if the winner is the real deal, more like Michael Jackson’s Thriller, say, which became a hit not only because it received a ton of promo money (about $100,000 per single, according to an Epic exec quoted in Dannen’s book), but also because it really was one of the best records of all time…

The Terrible Toll of Hurricane Sandy: the Skynyrd Cruise

Just when we thought we’d arrived at the final tally of Sandy’s destruction, more dreadful developments come to light. Oh, the horror.