In Australia, an unsigned band, charted very high, purely on digital sales and streams.
There was no marketing budget and they trumped artists on major deals.
And yes, they did move physical product, however the game is rigged by the big legacy players who set rules in place a long time ago to control the game. In turn, those rules meant that the online store of the unsigned band (which is Polaris by the way) that was selling the CD with no bar code meant that the physical sales couldn’t be tracked and therefore didn’t count towards their chart position. Talk about a technicality.
So what does this tell us?
- There is so much more power in the hands of the fans than ever before.
- If fans listen to their favourite artist via a streaming service, it all adds up.
- If fans purchase their mp3’s via a digital service, it all adds up.
- The media can publish reports about artists slamming streaming services. Meanwhile the fans move on to what is convenient. Some will purchase, some will download illegally, some will stream for free and some will stream on a premium subscription. The bottom line is fragmentation.
- There is no difference between an EP and a full album anymore. As an artist you don’t want to be out of the market for too long, crafting this magnum opus, only to see it drop out of the conversation, weeks after its release. 10 songs every two years, doesn’t cut it anymore. Four songs every 3 months should be the new norm. All of the Classic Rock bands from Seventies, released an album each year and in some cases two albums.
- There is a connection with their fans. The band distributed the album out of their bedrooms and sent out each pre-order with hand written messages to the fans.
- If Polaris, keep this momentum going and if they keep on replenishing their fan base, the possibilities are endless.
- There is no sure thing in music. Just because you have a label deal, it doesn’t mean you will make it. Just because you are an independent artist and unsigned it doesn’t mean you will get a deal or even get noticed.
- Everyone involved in the recording industry are still clueless. The labels still have no idea what constitutes a hit or what they should sign and promote. No one saw Adele coming six years ago, or Five Finger Death Punch almost ten years ago. No one expected Mumford and Sons to move millions upon millions of product or Shinedown and Thirty Seconds To Mars to be consistent sellers.
See how the media is trumpeting Adele again and how she has sold 8 million albums in the U.S. Every news outlet is reporting.
Whitesnake sold 7 million plus on the U.S on their 1987 self-titled album. It doesn’t mean those same 7 million people are now listening to the album over and over and over again. Poison sold millions upon millions of albums between 1987 and 1994. It doesn’t mean they have millions upon millions of real fans. If they did, they would be playing arena’s and creating new music. Instead Poison is resigned to an opening act that plays the jukebox hits.
Some might say that the success of “Polaris” is a one-off. Back in August, another metalcore band from Australia called, “Northlane” actually topped the ARIA Album charts, beating out Lamb Of God among others. This band was signed to an independent label from Melbourne and Rise Records in the US.
But in saying that, how relevant are the charts these days.
In most cases, bands that chart in the Australia Top 10 have moved less than 10,000 in product. It’s because the old guard still focuses on sales as the main metric of success and bands still like to report their chart position like it means something. Once upon a time it did, but not in 2016.
So again, it comes back to the same old question.
Are people listening to the music?
That is the metric that matters. Listens, not sales. I listened to Polaris on Spotify and I don’t mind them. For a metalcore band there is a lot of competition for people’s attention. In the same way the early Nineties had way too many hard/melodic rock bands, the two thousands and ten period is littered with a lot of metalcore bands. Eventually only a handful will survive the cull when it happens. It’s the way of the business.
Bon Jovi’s “What About Now” charted at Number 1.
Black Sabbath’s “13” also charted at Number 1.
And if I ask fans of the band to name me all of the songs on each album without referring to the album in the exact chronological order, they would struggle.
Hell, none of the songs are even in the Top 5 Popular List on their streaming accounts. Which is very different to Five Finger Death Punch’s account, which has three songs from their most recent album in the Top 5 Popular List.
And that is why Five Finger Death Punch still move product. They are constant on Active Rock Radio, their music is being listened too and as a by-product they keep on selling.
Change is slow but evolving.