Over the past year, 2016, we have seen many older R&B artists take advantage of tech and direct to consumer incentives to keep their brands going and to garner revenue in what would otherwise be a dead career. Diddy’s reunion tour, as well as groups like New Edition and BBD are nothing less than genius in an industry that has largely eliminated airplay and current influence over their fanbase. On the other end of that spectrum, legendary groups like A Tribe Called Quest to continue to prove fans, both past and present, still have an appreciation for established artists on commercial radio in lieu of what research companies have been telling radio for years which is often the opposite. These artists are not only making new music and doing deals with (mostly) independent labels for distribution, they have also gained astute business acumen that gives them a much higher return on their self-investment. Now it’s being announced that Mariah Carey and Lionel Richie are about to combine forces and hit the road, neither of which gets substantial airplay in today’s commercial radio climate.
Whole Old/New Industry
Social media has played an integral role in today’s new never-say-die (unless you want to) industry. From a business standpoint, It’s also easy to understand where radio is coming from. By having a very tight playlist, the station creates a huge demand for a very small supply. That, in essence, is the nature of any great businesses bottom line but it also opens the door for opportunity for those artists who are ignored. You’re not going to survive if you have a huge supply as the demand will almost be nonexistent. While content is paramount, without question, supply and demand is the first lesson in creating “value.” So remember that the next time you complain about hearing the same songs over and over. It’s just business.
We can’t leave out that many stations that have adopted the “BOOM” format which is bringing new life into the careers of older hip hop artists. The format is not working in all markets yet doing exceptionally well in others. The question that the industry is constantly asking is, is there enough product (music) to keep this format going? Considering Hip Hop is 40 years old, the answer is yes and stations would be foolish not to take advantage of some of the smash R&B hits heavily influenced by the hip hop era. It would behoove older hip hop artists to take advantage of renewed interest in their brands, surround themselves with the right team (those who truly KNOW their legacy, culture, influence and understand business) hit the road and collect. Tech has given them a second chance at an extended career.
To understand today’s music industry, one also must understand business, the middleman, marketing and promotion, branding and over-all black entrepreneurialism. While that may seem like a lot, what it really boils down to is how much an artist has learned during his tenure in the industry, and how much he depended on others to handle his business. Obviously, the ones that learned the business and understand their leverage will benefit the most.
Watch the Youngins
A wise older artist has his or her eyes open to what today’s artist is doing, especially with social media. They’re seeing huge endorsement deals and the artist communicating directly with fans, something that was completely not available during their tenure. The difference between today’s artist and yesterday’s artist is legacy and relationship which is actually a greater benefit to the older artist. The post 40 consumer, is quite often ignored by the middlemen (as in marketing, promotion and ad agencies), but the question becomes do people over 40 really stop buying product or are they rarely measured or marketed to? I would venture to say it’s the latter, As older consumers are rarely viewed as”Sexy,” the look of money remains consistent.
While it is true that there are industry people over 40 that shun current technology models such as social networking, there are still many consumers over 40 who are elated at the second chance to learn, grow, run their own businesses and reach a worldwide audience with their brands that were previously unavailable to them unless they hired an outside company and paid enormous fees. Social media has changed ALL the rules and it’s hard to fathom people ESPECIALLY black creative people resisting it.
In today’s music industry, there is the direct-to-consumer approach, easily utilized, that obliterates the middleman. In business, the middleman is the one who controls the connection between an artist and his fans who have often been motivated by monetary gain only, no passion, no emotional connection, no motivation and no inspiration all of which an artist is much more capable of delivering.
Previous poor and biased research, based on samples of the population (if at all) instead of the population itself are being shattered right before our eyes. Many marketing companies over the years that served urban radio, for example, didn’t/don’t have any black employees who manage or measure the black audience? They have ALWAYS second-guessed. Marketing companies must have a disdain for social media as it continues to allow us to get closer to the population itself and biased research is getting harder to manipulate, present, discriminate with and explain.
In 2016 we have seen some brilliant moves by older artists, who could have faded into the
history books I mean history SITES, but for those older artists who have a tight grasp on their industry legacy and most important… THEIR VALUE, it’s not over until THEY say it’s over in today’s industry. The older artist has become the black entrepreneur and he is finally learning how to market himself as long as he still has the energy to work. Any black entrepreneur knows that running your own business model and creating and understanding your value is what allows you to generate and maintain well-deserved income. Social media and tech has changed the landscape making the end of a career the artist’s option instead of the industry’s.
There is value in getting radio airplay, because exposure has the potential to convert people who have never heard of you into fans. I’m not sure if radio is as important as it once was, though. Maybe some people listen to radio regularly, but I don’t ever listen to terrestrial radio. I use my phone to stream Spotify to whatever speakers I’m nearest to, and I listen to what I want on demand, or I listen to curated playlists. I think the new version of radio airplay is inclusion in influential playlists.
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