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singles only?

PostPosted: Fri May 09, 2008 11:30 am
by Outerglobe Debbie Golt
I signed up to Bob Lefsetz's list after Charlie's recommendation! It fills my inbox so i select out headlines that sound interesting or it would take all day - but he has some good comments to make i think.

Do you think focussing on singles would work in 'world music' now? on occasions people have brought out stunning singles including great congolese 7" of yore like that Abeti one and of course the Yeki Yeki 12" and the remixes of Amadou and Mariam worked really well as single and there have been some others recently, plus there's the download maarket of track by track

but I think it's still an album market

But say if interesting things came out of the Africa Express onstage collabs between the indie/rock bands who do use the singles market and African artists maybe that would be a good way forward to mix product?

And there was THAT single - 'Would You' that Charlie said still takes him out to the cinema!

It's a while since I've been sent a single for radio play - tho of course people do sling me welcome one or two track demos which are great to get a flavour of an artist and give them initial exposure

what do you think?

www.african-essence.com

Subject: Singles Only!
From: "Bob Lefsetz" <bob>


Don't make an album. And whatever you do, don't send it to me! I don't have time. And neither does anybody else. Except for your hard core fan base. Assuming you've got one. And they might not even be interested either.

The album was a moneymaker. Let's string together 10 or 12 tracks so we can charge more. That's why the labels' enabling of iTunes/Amazon/Wal-Mart to sell singles is a death wish. You get one-tenth the money! It would be like buying a car wheel by wheel. Worse. Being able to buy a car for $1000. Manufacturers want to load your automobile up with gadgets, so you'll pay a high price, so they can make a lot of money! Labels can't pay their bills at a buck a track.

And maybe you can't either. Which is why you need a career.

How do you garner new fans? By selling them sixty minutes of music? No, through the single! One track!

Sure, the Beatles turned the paradigm upside down and made the album an art form unto itself, releasing "Rubber Soul" in the U.S. with no singles whatsoever. But that was forty years ago. Today albums are endless productions, over sixty minutes long, that everyone gave up listening to prior to the Napsterization of the music business, back in the nineties, when they realized albums only had one good track. They had to purchase the album to get it, but no more. Furthermore, how many of those nineties acts have careers today? Turns out it was only about the single!

Heritage acts. Classic acts. Cut one great single! That you can do your best to work. Shit, give it away for free... As an inspiration to buy a concert ticket, where the true money is. Why spend all that money and time to cut an album that almost no one's going to hear?

Come on, when your favorite old classic act has a new album do you buy it? No, not unless you're the diehard of diehards. And even those people don't expect it to be good, since the act hasn't cut anything great in decades. But what if Styx put out only one track. You'd check out that track. Hell, if I got e-mail telling me Styx had one great track, I'd check it out, even though I'm not a big fan of the band.

Everybody's got time for one track... If they hear it's good. Sample fifteen seconds? Sure... If you say so. But as soon as you tell me about ten tracks and you want an hour of my time, I'm out of here. Most albums take days to devour, to fully understand, to get...and I've got much better things to do with my time, and so does the rest of your potential audience.

The album is a circle jerk, perpetuated by so called "artists". Do you really have that much to say? Does it really all tie together? Do I need to hear it all at once? No, you just believe you're the new Beatles and you're important and you're entitled. But you're not! You're competing for mind share with not only the greatest musical hits of history, all at one's fingertips online, on one's iPod, but 500 cable channels, video games... Make it easy for me. Just give me one steaming single. That I can't deny!

When we heard "I Want To Hold Your Hand", we didn't put our fingers to our chins and say...wonder what the album's gonna sound like! We did buy an album because we were infatuated with the sound, and were rewarded...but we were still jerked off by not only Dave Clark Five albums, but early Stones records too. And Animals albums. And Gary Lewis & the Playboy albums. Shit, the album really didn't gain traction until "Sgt. Pepper", and now everybody believes they've got a "Sgt. Pepper" in them. Wrong!

I'm not saying you've got to create a Clive Davis hit. Rote, by numbers, just like everything else. But it must grab the listener. Maybe because it's so damn different, but there must be instant magic. So maybe you can have instant karma, and become an instant success, so people will want more!

But you don't give them ten more tracks... You give them a dribbling of killers. So they end up becoming fans of the act, not the track.

Everything you know is wrong. The train has jumped the track. The slate has been wiped clean. The old era is over. The Internet and iPod have changed everything. Now you're only one of thousands of tracks. You've got to make it into a listener's pantheon, or be deleted. How good are you?

New bands... One track only. Maybe you'll get radio play, good luck. But even so, if it's that good, people will trade it. And, if you get no traction, you can go back to the drawing board at a much lower price. In the old wave system, you cut an unsuccessful album and you're over. Today, have a stiff single and you go back to the studio!

I know, I know, you don't like it! You want to be like the bands of yore. Maybe you are a band of yore. But no one's paying attention! They just don't care!

We're constantly trolling for great stuff. We say no, no, no and then yes! There's not an issue of scarcity, there's tons of music out there. And we haven't got time for all of it. Face that fact. Can you earn our time? It's precious. Start by asking only for a little. If we like what we hear, we'll give you more. Continue to spoon-feed us, let us become addicted, we want to become addicted. To something good!

Maybe if you can get the record company to give you a big advance, or Wal-Mart to cut you a guaranteed check, then you should make an album. But then it's about money, not success. You're just interested in pocketing the dough. If you're interested in having a career, don't spend six months or a year in the studio working up ten tracks, cut one and give it away on your Website!

Even the hippest haven't gotten this memo. I like a small slice of what Trent does. If he'd only put out one track, and the buzz was good, I'd have checked it out. A whole album? I pass. I'd rather spend my time listening to satellite radio, playing only singles, trying to find good new stuff.

The buzz is everything. It's why "Iron Man" is a hit and "Speed Racer" will be a dud. Create something great and let the Net minions spread the word. But they can't spread the word on something that takes an hour to digest. It's kind of like when someone tells me to check out a movie online, or sends me more than one track or a CD, I don't bother at all! I figure this person's got no respect for my time, no understanding of the marketplace, thinks their shit is so great that they're entitled to attention. You've got to earn attention. You've got to beg for a minute of our time. You've got to create something so good we want to give you our time!

PostPosted: Fri May 09, 2008 11:39 am
by Des
I'm single and it does annoy me that you often have to pay a supplement for holiday accomodation.

PostPosted: Fri May 09, 2008 12:46 pm
by Adam Blake
I've been reading Lefsetz for years and he is not as omniscient about the music business as he pretends to be.

PostPosted: Fri May 09, 2008 12:52 pm
by Outerglobe Debbie Golt
I meant to see what people thought about singles and their place in the world music/global vibes market - not particularly bob l's views! Just posted that as a stepping stone

PostPosted: Fri May 09, 2008 1:03 pm
by Adam Blake
Fair do's. I've always believed that singles were where it was at. I love the idea that a song (or recording of a song) is so important it has to have a whole record all to itself! But of course I'm thinking of old vinyl 7" 45's - the perfect medium for pop. World Music/ Global Vibes is such a broad church - it depends entirely on the artist. Someone like Manu Chao makes (made) great singles, but what are you going to do with music that takes 20 minutes to build up an accumulative groove? Or a contemplative reverie?

PostPosted: Fri May 09, 2008 4:47 pm
by Jill Turner
Yes, I was just thinking about singles the other day when I was lugging three cd bags of albums around for a short djay set or when I take a box of cd's into the studio for the radio show, just to play one cut from each album...........

I think the article you kick off with, is more about the lack of time we have to listen to everything we need to in fullness, in order to create a lively radio show that includes multiple genres, different moods and subjects. It would be a splendid short cut to just have pluggers send you a single and play one after the other but then you'd have short cut radio where the tunes might sound vaguely similar.

I like to know a bit more about the music, its place, the personel, the process and you don't get this from a single.

Singles can work for radio play and for club djays, if you are trying to get the one killer cut out to djays who specialise in the genre you are playing.
But generally, artists don't just produce the one killer cut, they produce a body of work , more so I would have thought in our kind of music than the world of pop.

Personally I like albums, I like to lounge on the sofa, reading the sleeve notes with a bottle of beer and listen to an album start to finish, a bit like watching a DVD.

PostPosted: Fri May 09, 2008 9:38 pm
by will vine
The "Now That's What I Call World Music" thread ("The Best of Everything......") had us recalling tracks from around the globe that became successful in Britain long before the concept of World Music. Several of these could be regarded as novelty records...Wimoweh...Maria Elena...Pata Pata....Tom Hark....Yeke Yeke....They were all undeniably catchy. They were tunes that would easily have passed the old grey whistle test. They had wide appeal.

I refuse to believe that, effectively pushed as singles on daytime radio, recent records like Manu Chao's Bongo Bong and 17 Hippies' Apache wouldn't have become huge radio hits, thereby promoting their careers and the cause of World Music.

Couldn't we on this website, acting as a pressure group, have made that happen?

PostPosted: Sat May 10, 2008 7:54 pm
by Charlie
will vine wrote:The "Now That's What I Call World Music" thread ("The Best of Everything......") had us recalling tracks from around the globe that became successful in Britain long before the concept of World Music. Several of these could be regarded as novelty records...Wimoweh...Maria Elena...Pata Pata....Tom Hark....Yeke Yeke....They were all undeniably catchy. They were tunes that would easily have passed the old grey whistle test. They had wide appeal.

I refuse to believe that, effectively pushed as singles on daytime radio, recent records like Manu Chao's Bongo Bong and 17 Hippies' Apache wouldn't have become huge radio hits, thereby promoting their careers and the cause of World Music.

Couldn't we on this website, acting as a pressure group, have made that happen?

You've picked out very good examples of world hits that were made to be heard and played as vinyl singles, Will

But will we see their like again? One of the downsides of world music these days is that most artists and presumably their record companies have given up on ever cracking pop radio and so let their tracks ramble on for days. Well, several minutes.

I've just finished compiling World 2008, and many of the tracks run for over five minutes. In the past, I've sometimes requested (and been given) permission to cut some tracks down, but only did that once this year, reducing a tune from 7.09 to 6.20 - very radical!

17 Hippies are an admirable exception, with most tracks being not more than three minutes each.

Does anybody on this forum go to the trouble of editing down tracks, before loading onto iPods or including on home-made compilations?

Sorry to stray from your point, Debbie. I'm a singles man, always have been, always will be. Trouble is, vinyl is an awkward medium for the radio DJ these days. Most new radio studios are designed without a vinyl record player, although a strong lobby at Radio London made sure there were two turntables in both studios when the Marylebone building was gutted and refurbished in 2003. The management got its revenge by either firing almost all those vociferous DJs one-by-one or marginalising them to the point where they left anyway (most recently, Norman Jay, despite his being one of the station's most listened-to shows). But those turntables are still there....

The brand new studio at Broadcasting House used by Radio 3 doesn't have a built-in turntable, but there is one in the building which was located and installed specially to enable Son-of-Dave to play nothing but 45s on his recent visit.

As for that pressure group, Will - who are you going to pressure? Where are the radio shows that could play a world music single over and over again?

PostPosted: Sat May 10, 2008 8:32 pm
by will vine
Charlie wrote:[As for that pressure group, Will - who are you going to pressure? Where are the radio shows that could play a world music single over and over again?


Well, in the example of 17 Hippies "Apache" I was thinking of Wogan, Ross, Elms, Radcliffe, and Wright. ....(you don't have to tell them it's World Music)

I find it interesting and amazing that well appointed (national) radio stations cannot find room for such a simple & desirable piece of equipment as a turntable. It reminds me of one of my trips to BBC Three Counties Radio to plug the jazz club. I'd set them up to interview me and agreed to bring along a couple of pieces of music to illustrate what we were offering. The gig we were promoting that week was none other than The National Youth Jazz Orchestra (NYJO) and the only stuff I had by them was on vinyl .....handed it to the djs assistant who set it up on the deck only to discover right at the last moment that it had no stylus. "Hasn't had one for months" the presenter told me casually before asking me some dumb question like "Why, in a jazz band do all the players play different tunes simultaneously ?" During what passed for an interview I handed a cd to his assistant to play us out. Unfortunately this was a compilation cd, and though I clearly indicated she needed to set up track 5, featuring the mellow tenor sounds of upcoming guest Scott Hamilton she put on the wrong track and we played out with an avant garde alto and guitar duo. What a monumental waste of my time and energy.
On another occasion I set up a simple question to give away two free tickets to that evenings gig (as you do). A listener rang in, duly won the tickets, but before I'd even left the studio he'd rung back to say he didn't really want them after all.
But I digress........

PostPosted: Sat May 10, 2008 8:49 pm
by Gordon Neill
Yup. I'm with Bob Lefsetz on singles only. Although it was a shame that he wrote at album's length to make his point! A few short, sharp paragraphs would have been enough.

There are a few albums that are consistently strong from start to finish, such as...... Well, actually, there aren't. Even 'Rubber Soul' has its 'What Goes On', 'Blonde On Blonde' has its 'Leopard Skin Pill Box Hat', and 'Astral Weeks' has every track.

Yes, there are a few albums that, while they have a few weaker tracks, also have a consistent mood and are worth playing from start to finish. Maurice El Medioni's 'Descarga Oriental' springs to mind, as does Orchestra Baobab's 'Pirates Choice'.

But they're the exceptions. I don't buy the line about pop stars as artists with a body of work. They're supposed to entertain me, not send me to sleep. And, after about three or four minutes, my attention will start to wander. Some songs are great, most are pretty so-so. Generally, albums are a con. Imagine Tesco using the same principle of 'Buy 12, get one that you actually want'. If I'm lucky, most CDs I buy nowadays have one killer track, another couple of decent efforts, and a bunch of crap filling out the remaining space. The age of ipods and mp3s simply helps me do what I've always done: strip out the crap and just listen to the juicy stuff.


Charlie asked:

Does anybody on this forum go to the trouble of editing down tracks, before loading onto iPods or including on home-made compilations?


I'm usually too lazy or technically incompetent to do this. It's so much easier to just hit the 'skip' button when my eyelids start feeling heavy. But I did once edit down Bobab Markovic's 'Biseri Srbije (part2)' which is on his Boban I Marco album. Unusually, I actually like all 10 minutes and three seconds of it. But I felt that there was a hit single trying to make itself heard about six minutes in. I still do.

PostPosted: Sun May 11, 2008 12:47 pm
by Dayna
Usually if I hear one track by an artsist, I like to know if there's others & I have liked more than one song on a few CDs I bought.


I'm about the only person in the world now that doesn't own an iPod & I'm really considering getting one. It will be interesting, listening to things on shuffle.



I guess most here aren't interested in Traveling Wilburys, but I've enjoyed all their tracks on both CDs. Each one sounds unique too me.

The two Fela Kuti tracks I downloaded;I like them enough I'm hoping to get the rest of the album now.

PostPosted: Sun May 11, 2008 3:32 pm
by c hristian
would be interesting to have singles promoted with amazing cover art! maybe digital art being the equivalent.


yes, Charlie, I am editing songs all the time, either to lengthen or shorten them, as I see suitable for the dance floor. usually means extending, I'm sorry, but it's not compactness for the head, that i'm going for. That would be for radio collages, or some such. no, it's i imagine a dance floor situation, and edit according to sounds and perceived levels of energy.

PostPosted: Mon May 12, 2008 2:26 pm
by Ketsbaia
Dayna wrote:The two Fela Kuti tracks I downloaded;I like them enough I'm hoping to get the rest of the album now.


That is the rest of the album, I expect.

*muses at 'value' of FK 'albums'*

TBH, they're just (very) extended singles, aren't they?