The story of the Bon Jovi “Greatest Hits” album goes back to 2007. At that time, Jon was very interested in developing the country rock sound that he experimented with on the unexpected hit single, “Who Says You Can’t Go Home,” which was featured on the 2005 album, “Have A Nice Day”. The label, Universal Music wasn’t interested in allowing Jon to follow his muse, and instead wanted a “Greatest Hits” package from the band.
Jon Bon Jovi rang Lucian Grainge, the CEO of Universal Music, asking for approval to go ahead with the recording of the country rock album that would go on to become “Lost Highway”. In the end, Grainge couldn’t stop Jon from going ahead with the album; however he believed that it would lose Universal a lot of money. He made Jon promise that once the album bombs, Jon will deliver a “Greatest Hits” album. Jon agreed to the terms. The album’s success surprised both Bon Jovi and Grainge, and the “Lost Highway” world tour ran from October 25, 2007 to July 15, 2008. It grossed in total $189,106,454.
After the “Lost Highway” tour, Jon and Richie got together and started writing five songs for the promised “Greatest Hits” package that was to come next. Then the global financial crisis happened, and according to Richie Sambora, he and Jon just continued writing more than the required amount of songs needed for the “Greatest Hits” package. Another argument was put forward to the label to release a new album, which in turn would postpone the “Greatest Hits” release again. From the songs written, most of them would end up on “The Circle” album, with five songs left over for the “Greatest Hits” package.
The “Greatest Hits” release in October 2010, occurred while the band was still touring on “The Circle” album cycle. The “Circle Tour” started on the February 11, 2010 and finished on December 19, 2010. It grossed $201,100,000 and each show was sold out. With the release of the “Greatest Hits” package, it gave the band further momentum to hit the road again in 2011.
“WHAT DO YOU GOT”
Everybody needs just one, someone… to tell them the truth
“What Do You Got,” written by Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora and Brett James, became the first single from the Greatest Hits package. Jon always liked to work with other songwriters. Brett James is a new addition to the Bon Jovi team, and “What Do You Got” is the end result. Brett’s specialty is country, as well as crossing over into the pop world,; similar to what Mutt Lange and Shania Twain achieved.
Jon told Billboard magazine that he actually favoured “No Apologies” to be the lead-off single and that “What Do You Got” was his least favourite.
The message is simple: “what do you have if you don’t have love, because if you don’t have love whatever you do have, just isn’t enough.” A lot of people go searching for something that was always right next to them and in the end they burn the ones they love the most.
Seems like everybody’s selling you dreams ’round here
But no one’s buying and its closing time
This is a song written by Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora and the message is simple:. “Do not apologise for who you are, it’s your life, live it the way you want to live it and not by another person’s design. Don’t back down from your beliefs.”
If the lyrical theme sounds familiar, it’s because the smash hit “It’s My Life” has the same message.
This is a song that should have been on The Circle as well. It was a leader. Houses went up for sale, and when no one was interested in buying them, the banks came in and foreclosed. The ownership dream was foreclosed on.
“THIS IS LOVE, THIS IS LIFE”
We ain’t got much but what we got is all that matters
It’s written by Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora and producer John Shanks. Producers are the unsung heroes in the music industry.
John Shanks, at first is a guitarist. He toured with Melissa Etheridge before he then started writing songs for other artist and eventually fell into Producing. He is experienced and seasoned. Shanks has been Bon Jovi’s producer since 2004. Another notable credit to Shanks’s name is the production credits for Van Halen’s, “A Different Kind Of Truth”, their comeback album with David Lee Roth.
To prove a point about the unsung hero status of producers, ask anyone, who produced, Bon Jovi’s – “Slippery When Wet”, Aerosmith’s – “Permanent Vacation” and AC/DC’s – “The Razors Edge”?
Ninety- nine percent of those people would not be able to tell you. The answer is Bruce Fairbairn. He resurrected Aerosmith’s career in the eighties, as well as AC/DC’s career in the nineties after falling album sales since “Back In Black”. In Bon Jovi’s timeline, Bruce launched the band to the masses. However, the songs remain, the band remains and the producer is long forgotten.
“This Is Love, This Is Life”, is not all that original. You can say that it is derivative, a variation of “Livin’ On A Prayer”; however it is that exact duplication that works for this song. “Livin’ On A Prayer” talks about sticking together, loving each other and if we hold true to those ideals, we will make it in the end.
Coming out of the Global Financial Crisis, this is the song Bon Jovi should have had on “The Circle”. This is the song that mattered. A lot of people didn’t have much left. Many people where picking up the pieces again and trying to rebuild their lives. Everybody was affected by the crisis,. All they had left was the realisation that this is it.
This is life. We rise, we fall and we rise again.
Back in the sixties, people turned to music for answers with the artists leading the way. Somehow all of that got lost in the changes that occurred in the music business. Artists went from leaders to followers. The “middle-finger-to-the-establishment/you-can’t–tell-me-what-to-do” artist, put on a three-piece suit and made friends with Wall Street. Music was relegated to a second-class citizen.
The world needed an artist to lead the way again.
This is what people wanted to hear post GFC. This is what they wanted their heroes in music to tell them: “It’s going to be alright. We will tough it out. We will keep the fight alive and we will rebuild what we started.”
Music needed to be a leader again. The song has the talk box throughout, like “Livin’ On A Prayer” and “It’s My Life.” The chords in the chorus are the same as the two aforementioned songs, just in a different key.
Bon Jovi had the song to lead the way, but they didn’t have the vision. They left the vision in the hands of the record label. The song appeared on their “Greatest Hits” compilation; however, it was on the two discs “Ultimate Edition”, buried away as the second last track on disc two. Anyone that purchased the single disc edition missed out on this song, unless they purchased the song via iTunes, as a single track.
“THE MORE THINGS CHANGE”
‘Stead of records, now it’s MP3s
This song is “Someday, I’ll Be Saturday Night”, part two. The vocal melodies and the chord progression in the verses are identical. It is written by Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora.
Jon has a history of recycling formulas that work. For example, “Livin’ On A Prayer” was rewritten and it became “It’s My Life,” which was rewritten again as “This Is Love, This Is Life.” The rock star to cowboy themed “Wanted Dead or Alive” was rewritten and it became “Blaze of Glory.”
The message in “The More Things Change” is simply. It doesn’t matter how much the world changes around us, people are still the same. We still listen to music. Instead of records, the radio, CD’s or cassettes, its MP3’s. We still wear our same tattered jeans from the past, and then when they rip, we pay top dollar to buy replicas. We download digitally, instead of going to the record store to purchase.
“THIS IS MY HOUSE”
This is our house
These are my people, listen, this is my town
This Is My House was only included as an iTunes bonus edition. It is written by Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora and Desmond Child.
In Australia, the song was used as the theme song for the National Rugby League in the 2011 season. Jon Bon Jovi, even appeared in the advertisements for the game.
It has been said that the song was intended as a theme song for the Philadelphia Soul, an American Football team where Bon Jovi is a co-owner (and Richie Sambora is a minor owner). It could also be about the Bon Jovi fans, and that the house, is the concert hall or stadium where the band is playing.
Regardless, the song is written for the people to sing. It’s basic, it’s catchy, it’s the battle cry in the rally.
THE MUSICAL LANDSCAPE
In an interview with Larry King that aired on December 9, 2010, Jon Bon Jovi was very open about his feelings towards the changing landscape of the music business and social media.
“My business is not what we knew. I do believe that the record industry will rediscover itself in time – not now, but in 10 or 15 years from now the kids that own those social media networks, I think that they’ll take those catalogues of music and monetize them. But not now. I don’t believe that the old guard are ready to give up those catalogues to those guys. And they’re still holding to an old, antiquated model.”
Bon Jovi drummer Tico Torres mentioned the same in a December 9, 2010 interview with Paul Cashmere that ran on Undercover.fm.
“We are still on a major label but we can see the writing on the wall. Part of the problem, is that the old model doesn’t work in the current world. It was a conglomerate machine that was invented many years ago which in essence owned and manipulated bands but also gave bands a chance to get some upfront money that was again recoupable. The companies always made a lot of money of it. It got to a point where the price of records were so dear for the buying public that as soon as the internet came in there was there was another avenue for people to listen to music”.
THE GREATEST HITS TOUR
Taking a break for the Christmas period and January, the band was back on the road again beginning February 9, 2011.
“The Bon Jovi Live” tour took in the United States, Canada and Europe, with the final last show played on July 31, 2011.
Jon has stated numerous times that he doesn’t like to tour for long periods of time. The tour was used to promote the new songs. Songs like “We Weren’t Born To Follow,” “When We Were Beautiful,” “ Work For The Working Man,” “No Apologies” and “What Do You Got” were talked up during the shows, selectively placed between all the hits.
All shows on the tour sold out, with 1.5 million people attending. It grossed $142,977,988.
WHO KILLED THE MUSIC INDUSTRY
The Greatest Hits tour wasn’t without incident. Apart from doing big business again at the box office, certain band members found themselves at the centre of a controversy.
First up, Jon Bon Jovi, blamed Steve Jobs for the fact that people don’t buy records any more.
According to Jon, “Kids today have missed the whole experience of putting the headphones on, turning it up to 10, holding the jacket, closing their eyes and getting lost in an album; and the beauty of taking your allowance money and making a decision based on the jacket, not knowing what the record sounded like, and looking at a couple of still pictures and imagining it…. God, it was a magical, magical time… I hate to sound like an old man now, but I am, and you mark my words, in a generation from now people are going to say: ‘What happened?’ Steve Jobs is personally responsible for killing the music business.”
It looks like Jon was taking a page out of the Lady Gaga book of marketing, by using the press and the internet, to bring attention to himself. This cuts out the marketing team and the dollars that go into marketing.
If the comments were meant to bring attention to the band and it’s tour, it sure did, as the tech heavy internet users, quickly took to forums and blogs to blast Jon’s comments on this issue.
A lot of people put forward the question, “What about people who bought the album based on the jacket and it turned out to be crap?”. From a fan perspective, this rings true. The album format was always designed for the money. It doesn’t fit the modern world, however it remains because the artists and labels believed it is the only way they can make money.
To stay in the public eye is the new challenge. An artist can be flavour of the day and then be gone the next day in the current paradigm.
Jon’s comments about the old album system, is his way to stay in the public eye. He doesn’t want to be forgotten. He wanted a reaction and a reaction is what he got. Of course by the next day, it was all done and dusted, however for one day, he was the flavour of the month.
While Jon might be better off releasing a song a week, trying out different ways to connect with his audience, the truth is that he longs for the old way. The labels don’t want the old way to change, as that is why they released an album for $20, forcing people to pay top dollar for one good song. When people had the option to purchase what they wanted, album sales began to fall and digital singles soared. The fans have spoken: they don’t have time to hear bad music, only great music.
HELLO REHAB, SO NICE TO SEE YOU MY FRIEND
Another incident, and an unexpected one, was Richie Sambora leaving the tour in April, to check into rehab. Richie had already spent a month in rehab back in 2007, following the break-up of his marriage, the end of his high profile fling with Denise Richards and the death of his father from lung cancer; all within the same month. The reason for the trip to rehab was Richie’s love of alcohol.
The interesting part in all of this, is that Jon Bon Jovi decided to continue with the tour and play the shows with another guitarist, Phil X. Phil’s real name is Theofilos Xenidis. He is from Canada and his relationship with Jon Bon Jovi goes back to 1991 and Aldo Nova’s, “Blood on the Bricks” album that Jon Bon Jovi produced and co-wrote for Jambco.
Actually Phil X, didn’t even play a note on the album, however he did tour behind it, and the tour involved guest appearances by Jon Bon Jovi.
In that same year, Phil played with Jon and Tico on an Elton John tribute album.
Moving on from that, Phil became the go-to guitarist for producer Scott Humphrey. Phil had a job, painting the garage of Scott’s, and when Tommy Lee needed a guitar player for the Methods of Mayhem project, Scott recommended Phil. Phil took the shot and never looked back. Instead of playing on one song, he played on the whole album.
His ability on the guitar far outstrip Richie’s, though one can make the case that – as a songwriter – Richie is irreplaceable. In the end, that is what matters.
Jon said that cancelling the shows was never an option; and that a lot of people that work on putting the show together would be out of work, and that fans who booked tickets, air fares and hotels to the shows, would also be disadvantaged.
This led to speculation about the morale as fans questioned how brotherly it all is in the Bon Jovi camp. Jon is renowned for using the “brother” tag a lot when it comes to describing the relationship between the members, though this is seemingly contradicted by calling himself the CEO of Bon Jovi. The last comment made by Jon on the departure of Richie’s departure is that the show will always go on, as he is not beholden to no one.
The shows went well without Richie. Some fans complained, however it was clear, Phil X did a fantastic job. Even an MCL strain suffered by Jon on his left knee in June couldn’t stop the juggernaut of the Bon Jovi show. After surgery, Jon finished the remainder of the tour with a knee brace.
Richie even re-joined the tour in June and by July, 31, 2011, the tour had ended. That same month, Spotify launched in the U.S.
The rise of music stream technologies was a game changer in 2011. Spotify launched in July 2011 in the U.S. Prior to the U.S. launch, Spotify was dominant in the European market, especially in Sweden where it was first launched.
For Spotify to do business in the U.S, it needed to get approvals from the Big 4 labels (Universal Music Group, Sony, Warner Music and EMI). The labels are not known for their innovation, and when it came to technologies, they did their best to kill off any technology that threatened their bottom lines. However, Daniel Ek, the Spotify mastermind, surrendered half of the company to the labels and by doing so; Spotify was approved by the Big 4 to do business in the U.S.
The arrival of Spotify in the U.S. market changed the recorded music business model again. It challenged the ownership of music ideals and by doing so it put forward the rental (streaming) of music argument.
The main point is this; if a fan buys a song from the iTunes store or a CD from the Amazon store, that is where the transaction begins and concludes for the band. It is the exchange model of handing money over to receive a good. The fan owns the product. They can listen to the songs over a thousand times and the band has only transacted once with the fan which was back at the money exchange.
However, if a fan, streams a song from a band, they can stream the same song again. Each time a song is streamed, the band gets paid. The transactions between fan and band never cease in a streaming model. The relationship between fan and music never ends.
The argument from labels and artists is that Spotify streams don’t amount to a lot. The main issue with that line of thinking is that the labels and artists are looking at the now. Everyone wants to be paid now, and they want to be paid a lot. Streaming is about longevity. Streaming is digging the hole for piracy. People will always pirate; that is a given.
However, if fans of music are faced with a better legal alternative, then they will take it. Spotify free has ad’s but it is free. If you don’t want the ad’s, you buy a premium package.
Bon Jovi (the band), needed to rethink their strategy. The band has always favoured the old model, of spending three to six months recording a new album, releasing that album, using sledgehammer mainstream marketing and touring for a year and a half on it. The point of the tour was to also push the new album, hoping that it would drive sales of it. They still measured their success on how many full albums were sold.
Towards the end of 2011 the band released their Bon Jovi app on iTunes and Android. It was a pretty basic application; however, it was their first step into new territory: Technology.