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Columns > Mike Gruenberg - In My Life

Published: 2013/03/28
by Mike Gruenberg

We Like What We Like and We Like What Is Comfortable

In My Life

We all are creatures of habit. Changes in our daily lives both professionally and personally come with great skepticism and considerable angst. The only person who likes change is a wet baby. Some people go to a job they detest every day, not because they don’t have the qualifications to find a better job elsewhere, but because they are afraid to try something new. We go to the same restaurants continually because we are comfortable at those eating establishments we like because they serve the food we know. Meatloaf again? It’s that old saying about the devil you know as opposed to the devil you don’t know.

The music business, on the other hand is all about change. I receive a magazine from England called “Uncut” and with every issue a CD is included of 16 – 20 new tracks of music from up and coming bands. Here, in the Washington DC area, there are so many venues to hear new music that it is a veritable cornucopia of new musical acts to feast on for your ears. And of course, reading Jambands and/or Relix gives us updates on all the latest bands.

Billboard magazine, the music industry newspaper posts the top hits by musical acts throughout the world. What’s # 1 in England, France, Japan, etc. are all listed. Top 100, Hot Digital, Top Streaming, Ringtones, Latin, On-Demand, Youtube, Mainstream Top 40, Adult Top 40 and the lists of the hits keep going on and on. I have been following these charts for quite some time. Reading those charts gives me a perspective on what is and what are becoming the most popular songs on a global basis and even more important, what are the new artists that are gaining momentum in various parts of the world. I learned to watch those trends a long time ago when a group of four lads from Liverpool had their first hit records in England in 1962 and approximately a year later came to the U.S. and went on to change the face of music forever.

The March 2 issue of Billboard tells me that the # 1 song in the U.S. is “Harlem shake” by Bauuer. Number 2 is “Thrift Shop” by Mackelmore & Ryan Lewis Feat. Wanz. A quick look at the myriad amount of charts listed by Billboard shows that “Harlem Shake” is # 1 as Streaming Song, Youtube song, and Dance/Electronic,. It doesn’t show up on any other country’s’ Top Ten. That means it has either peaked already in those countries or is destined to hit their charts at a later date.

“Thrift Shop” the # 2 record in the U.S. on the other hand is the # 1 Digital song, #2 Streaming song, # 1 Demand song, # 3 Youtube song, # 4 Mainstream Top 40 song, # 1 Rap/ Hip-Hop song, # 1 Rap song, # 1 song on the Euro chart, # 1 in France and # 1 in Ireland, That indicates that this song is a world-wide hit and will probably hit the # 1 spot in more than one country in the coming weeks.

With all this new music, one would imagine that there is no room for the older acts from the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s etc. Looking at the statistics from 2012 for the top revenue producing acts as an indicator that the new guys are in and the old guys are out, I was not entirely surprised to find that an “old” act had the highest revenue producing year in 2012. None other than Madonna through her MDNA tour grossed $34.5 M. Right behind her on the rankings list was another act that is closer to Social Security age than not and that was Bruce Springsteen who grossed $33.4 M.

As a matter of fact, # 3 was Roger Waters, # 4 was Van Halen and rounding out the top 5 was country music star, Kenny Chesny.

New acts, like Jason Aldean (#8), Justin Bieber (#10), Adele (#11) and Lady Antebellum (#12) will certainly challenge the standard bearers in the future, but 2012 showed that there is no act like an old act. We like what we all know and thus, we are comfortable to spend our money to hear and see them. And by the way, Madonna and Springsteen far outdistanced the rest of the pack in terms of revenue.

And the point of familiarity and comfort came back to me just the other day in an article that appeared in the New York Times on March 21st with the headline of “Like 80’s on Album Chart”. The article points out that Bon Jovi has the # 1 album in the country and # 2 is David Bowie’s new album. This is Bowie’s first album in ten years.

Yup, we like what we like and we like to be comfortable with familiar friends and old acquaintances.

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