A BRAVE NEW WORLD
By John Capek, Two-Time Grammy Award Nominee, Composer and Record Producer
In the 1860’s Stephen Foster became the first commercially successful purveyor of American popular songs such as “Oh Susanna” and “My Old Kentucky Home”.
George Gershwin typified the manner in which popular songs were sold. He was a piano player who would sit in a music store window and play. If people liked a tune, they would buy the sheet music. Millions of copies of sheet music were sold with this form of promotion supported by word of mouth and the salon lifestyle.
With the advent of radio, popular songs were broadcast across the world and the audience would purchase the recordings of songs that they liked. Film and TV followed as the vehicle for promotion.
This may all seem obvious, however the filtering system that allowed certain songs to be exposed and others not, may be unclear.
Sheet music had to be printed and promoted. The filters or decision makers were the music publishers who made the decisions about what and how many copies to print and promote.
What was the basis for their decisions? After a particular songwriter or singer became successful and famous, the publisher’s decisions were fairly obvious. However in the launching of a new song, artist or songwriter, the publishers took a leap of faith based on their understanding of the market, based on precedent, but mainly based on their unique individual instinct.
More recently during the peak of the record industry, A&R executives were the gatekeepers. Frank Sinatra didn’t just come across a song by accident. A&R is the acronym for Artist and Repertoire. These executives would be the ones who would not only find and recommend songs for established artists, but they were also talent scouts who would find new talent that the record companies would develop with songs, arrangements, production, styling and live shows and simple payola.
In our current era, the filtering system no longer exists. Although we have FaceBook, Twitter, MySpace and all kinds of social networking, the mechanism for mass promotion and marketing of popular music is more random, more of an aberration and less reliant on experience, instinct and financial commitment. It may be the current culture to promote the democratization of the marketplace. The numbers show that this concept is a myth. The financial returns do not reflect the hype.
There are one or two aberrations however related to particular unique situations. Susan Boyle is one. Her viral video certainly contributed to a phenomenon. However what this illustrates is not that YouTube is the ultimate money making vehicle. What it illustrates is that there is an insatiable hunger for adult, melodic well arranged, well produced song oriented recorded entertainment. Michael Bublé has not had a viral YouTube video yet sells way out of proportion to the rest of the market in terms of hard product. Rod Stewart is similar as is Josh Groban and Andreas Bocelli.
The market for great iconic songs is under served. There are almost no new artists filling the vacuum.
Ultimately in all the arts throughout history, the consistent financial reality is one of patronage. A person with the resources likes and appreciates an artists’ work and decides to support that work, firstly to fulfill the individuals taste but also in the vision that others will agree and that a market will be created.
Someone decided to allow Michelangelo to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and someone decided to allow Handel to compose the Messiah. Someone bet on Bruce Springsteen before the world was singing “Born in the USA” and someone heard Mariah Carey sing and said “yes”.
In the case of Jamie Clark, he is in a perfect position to fill the great vacuum in the market place for new artists in the adult audience. He has a huge voice, an A&R executive with multimillion dollar credits, a producer with multimillion dollar credits, songs that are proven by the world’s greatest songwriters, and the belief and support of a marketing expert with ties to the most successful retail stores on the planet.
What more could one ask for?
The creation of the product is the routine application of Malcolm Gladwells 10,000 hour’s theory. We just insist on greatness. The marketing is old world. Simply hard product sold retail with promotion on all possible levels conducted by experienced promoters. Radio promotion is purchased and all possible connections in all media exploited including Film TV, live and internet.
The potential of the internet while exciting is still not the primary place for Jamie. He is an adult oriented artist appealing to women and adults on their level. They shop at Target and Walmart, buy Christmas gifts, watch daytime TV and go to the movies.
This market may disappear at some point, but for the moment is still very much alive. Visit your local shopping mall.