It all comes down to radio. Either it plays your new single or you collapse. Live by the sword, die by the sword. Doesn't matter what you did in the past, if your new record ain't a hit on the radio, you're toast. Just look at Christina Aguilera. Her album stunk up the joint, she got no traction at radio, and she had to cancel her whole damn tour.
Didn't used to be this way. Used to be bands were developed slowly. The audience saw them as more than one hit wonders. These are the classic rock acts. Once we got to the video era, band shelf lifes shortened. Now it's nonexistent.
If you were made by the machine.
If you made it outside the system, if it was about touring and gaining fans slowly, you're laughing all the way to the bank. Recorded music revenue may be way down, but Phish is still cleaning up on the road, despite never having a mainstream radio hit, without having any radio airplay whatsoever, except for pockets of college and Triple-A exposure.
And then there are the electronica acts. Arguably, Tiesto is the biggest touring act in the business. Sure, there are a handful of acts who could draw more, but Tiesto can do it night after night, every show is different, people come for the experience. And most of America's got no idea who Tiesto is, they've never even heard the name.
Today's big Top Forty star, Rihanna, if she fails at radio next time, she's in the same boat as Christina Aguilera. Same deal with Katy Perry. See why the major labels are up in arms, why they're freaking out? You can't sell a record and nothing lasts, how's that for a paradigm?
From Bob Lefsetz' music industry newsletter, www.lefsetz.com