Military marketing manoevres briefly putmdnaat the top
IT’S RECORD STORE Day tomorrow, an event that with each passing year takes on a more poignant appeal. Where else but in a record store would you observe the young music fan flicking through the “B” rack of albums and loudly shouting over the aisle to his friend: “Hey, Jeff, did you know Paul Mccartney was in a band before Wings?”.
There’s plenty going on tomorrow in independent Irish record shops, but for the critical mass it’s all about Soundcloud, Youtube, Bandcamp and Spotify. And the manner in which overthe-counter album sales have deteriorated beyond belief is exemplified this week by Madonna setting a new world record for the biggest ever album sales drop in a second week of sales.
Madge’s MDNA sold 359,000 copies in its first week of release in the US. In week two, though, sales fell by 88 per cent to just 46,000. That kind of massive drop has never happened before.
MDNA’S first week sales were front-loaded by pre-orders, a military-style mobilisation of Madonna’s online fan base and some clever marketing chicanery. The album isn’t very good, but a three-line whip was imposed on all the marketers and distributors. MDNA had to go in at No 1 – or else.
With Madonna refusing to do the media shill, a deal was put in place that would ensure grossly inflated first-week sales: punters could pick up a live Madonna concert ticket and the new album at a specially bundled price. Given that she has more pull on the live stage than on vinyl, this added some 185,000 fresh sales to the overall tally. But take out those “bundled” sales and Madonna wouldn’t have made it to No 1. We know about albums being loss-leaders for a tour, but this is taking it to extremes.
The deal was a “performanceenhancing” move and, from a marketing standpoint, a clever one, because now they can plaster “the No 1 selling album” over all future copies.
Things have now got so desperate for MDNA that you can download the full album off amazon.com for all of $5. And even in the $5-dollar-an-album charts on Amazon it’s being outsold by Carole King’s Tapestry – from 1971!
If the Madonna marketing “black ops” story doesn’t convince you to take part tomorrow in Record Store Day, then nothing will. And do take note of what Nicolas Jaar (a fine purveyor of passive-ambient tones and active post-techno m’lud) is doing with his Prism concept.
True, Record Store Day simply can’t compete with the Soundcloud/ Youtube/bandcamp/spotify assault. But Jarr has just released a specially designed small cube called The Prism that contains 12 of his tracks. You can’t play it on a computer or phone or anything else – you can only listen through The Prism. The idea is to force the listener to experience music away from other distractions: an attempt to retain physicality in music. It’s also designed to promote connectivity as The Prism comes with two headphone jacks. (See csa.fm/theprism. )
“We’re losing respect for the listening experience of music” says Jaar. Something Madonna and her marketing wonks might want to reflect upon.
it’s Madonna’s way or the box’s way