Sunday, October 11, 2009



P. Rhee asks:

Why is it that bands and artists are having trouble establishing themselves as respected musicians? You hardly see them having the same impact as some bands from the 80's and early 90's. It seems that more than ever, bands and singers are becoming quick fads and a strong reputation is a thing of the past. Bands like Pearl Jam, Social Distortion, and even deceased ones like Nirvana and Sublime last longer and have more airtime than current ones that will hit the top of the charts for a few weeks, than disappear. Is there an inside industry answer to this?

Hartmann responds:

Colonel Tom Parker told me that the object of personal management is to build duration into the act. Considering the enduring post mortem success of his client, Elvis Presley, The Colonel certainly accomplished that goal. Career longevity is the result of a combination of circumstances. Talent is the primary ingredient. The mysterious combination of great songs, singing and playing virtuosity, charisma and sex appeal combine with media image to create an enduring attraction.

In the early days of the modern record business native talent found expression through 45 RPM singles exposed on AM radio airplay. The raw energy and power of Rock & Roll drove the baby boomers to embrace a myriad of artists who best demonstrated this new music genre. The originators were Little Richard, Chuck Berry and Fats Domino. White artists emulating their style and often duplicating their performances with cover records established the new musical form.

In the postmodern era The Beatles married long playing 331/3 RPM albums to FM radio and brought a new standard of quality to the game. Playing and performance talents reached unprecedented heights of skill and the public grew more sophisticated in its musical taste. The standards for quality have remained very high making it more difficult for new artists to compete.

Neophyte artists pursuing careers in the music renaissance of the digital age have a low threshold to entry. Cheap digital record production and free Internet promotion have changed the playing field. Many more artists can enter the competition; but the governing principals have remained unchanged. Even though more artists compete, the number of bands achieving commercial success will still be restricted to about ten percent of the acts participating. High artistic standards will limit the endorsement of the universal fan base to those artists demonstrating superior talent.

New artists have difficulty establishing themselves even in a system that makes all music free for the taking. This is directly related to the lack of basic songwriting, singing and playing skills. All talent is not equal and a discerning public, familiar with the best of the best, only chooses music of the highest quality. Most artists posting songs and videos on the Internet do not have enough experience in the game to create universally appealing product. The fans are the only true judge.

One hit wonders regularly achieve temporary success online and on the charts, but a good recording of one quality song does not a career make. Only truly talented songwriters packaged in a commercially viable act can create long running careers. This requires a series of great records presented over years of live performing. The bonding experience that occurs in concert situations excites support from the fan base. A succession of hits, achieved over a long period of time, will extend the audience's identification with a specific artist and keep them coming back for more. Multiple hits reinforce the connection and ensure a long term personal appearance career.

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