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Kurt420

Billboard article on "veteran pop acts" struggling on radio

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As Veteran Pop Acts Like Justin Timberlake and Katy Perry Struggle on the Radio Charts, Some Thoughts

In recent weeks, there's been a lot of scrutiny of recent projects by established pop superstars.

Justin Timberlake's kick-off single from Man of the Woods, "Filthy," stalled at No. 16 on Billboard's top 40-based Pop Songs airplay chart and the follow-up, "Say Something" (featuring Chris Stapleton) is still waiting to reach the top 10. Taylor Swift's "Look What You Made Me Do" went to No. 1, but didn't linger there, and subsequent singles have stopped short of being consensus hits. Somewhat similarly, P!nk's "What About Us" hit No. 10 after a three-month climb.

Given the nature of pop radio, career trajectories are under constant scrutiny. Swift's Reputation is still a 2-million-selling album, according to Nielsen Music, and one of the few that is. But producing fewer hits than her previous 1989 is the subject of this week's Billboard Chart Beat Podcast with Gary Trust and Trevor Anderson. And Timberlake's stumble prompted an e-mail from a reader asking if there was a turnover in pop's core artists. There's a lot to consider.

There Are Few "Automatics," If Any: Top 40 radio is tighter than at any time in recent memory. In part, that's because the mother/daughter coalition that powered the format for a decade is fracturing. There's not much consensus on anything. Has mainstream pop been upstaged by hip-hop and R&B? Most of those hits are struggling for top 40 airplay commensurate with their stories elsewhere. At this moment, there are few "automatics" -- acts guaranteed to go top five each time out. You can write a story about radio not bringing Timberlake's recent hits home, but you can also write it about the resistance to the last few Chainsmokers singles.

Longtime Hitmakers Are in a Trick Bag: Why the era of fun, uptempo pop beloved by both mothers and daughters is waning is a column unto itself, but there are clearly challenges for the artists who defined the "turbo-pop" era of 2005-12 (or thereabouts). Were listeners unwilling to accept social commentary from Katy Perry or P!nk? Would they have been any kinder to more "Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)"-type frivolity, when that's in short supply anywhere at top 40?

Timberlake's retro-disco experiments ("Suit & Tie," "Take Back the Night") yielded only one undeniable smash hit in "Can't Stop the Feeling!" Those songs all lived in the shadow of "SexyBack" and how that song widened the definition of pop music more than a decade ago. But the reaction to "Filthy" shows that not everybody was ready for Timberlake to bring edgy back, either.

Swift, in particular, is facing the difficulty of pleasing everybody. After Reputation, it was possible to hear from people both that she had too thoroughly repudiated "the old Taylor" and that the new album wasn't different enough from 1989 and previous projects. It's worth considering that the moody, downtempo EDM sound that Swift helped bring into the pop mainstream is still paying off for other artists; Halsey's "Bad at Love" is both a sonic and conceptual successor.

Multiple Tracks Send Mixed Signals: For years, it was a common strategy to release a second radio single just as an album reached street date. It sent the word that this was an album with depth, and one worth purchasing. Swift took that further by releasing multiple tracks in advance of her albums. In doing so, she was protected by radio's general lack of enterprise on anything not promoted to it. Radio in New Zealand played 1989's "Out of the Woods" as a pre-release track; American radio waited until it became a single 15 months later and then showed middling interest.

The difference this time was radio's lack of long-term love for "Look What You Made Me Do." That allowed quick follow-up "…Ready for It?" to live a chart life of its own, and emboldened some PDs to back off the first single. "Gorgeous" muddled things further. Then as the focus switched to "End Game" (featuring Ed Sheeran and Future), word spread among programmers that "…Ready for It?" was starting to show research stories. Even "Look What You Made Me Do" now has some research stories, possibly because listeners didn't get to hear it very long in the first place.

It was similar for Timberlake. As radio grappled with "Filthy," suddenly there was "Supplies" at rhythmic radio. Then "Say Something," which gave pop programmers the further confidence to cut bait on "Filthy." Katy Perry had gone through three Pop Songs entries by the time Witness was released. Last time around, the pre-release tracks had included "Dark Horse," which later took hold as the real hit from PRISM (other than "Roar"; both topped the Billboard Hot 100 and Pop Songs). This time, it created a sense that an act was scrambling.

In the early '00s, it occasionally happened that an artist, after a disappointing kickoff single, would put a project on hold for six months. (It happened more than once that "internet leaks" were blamed.) That gave Usher a chance to put the largely unsuccessful "Pop Ya Collar" behind him and start fresh with "U Remind Me." It's also worth noting that despite the middling reaction to Justin Bieber's fall 2017 team-up with BloodPop "Friends," his hitmaker status isn't part of this discussion, in part because there were no other singles on its heels.

Are First-Day Premieres Hurting?  They were radio's way of trying to hold on to the music discovery mantle as well as publicize its "artist initiatives" in conjunction with record labels. But does hearing a new single hourly on the first day of release diminish, rather than amp up its excitement? Does it allow listeners to decide they don't like a song before they've had a chance to live with it? It might sound odd to think of any song as high-concept as "Look What You Made Me Do" as a song that needed a chance to grow on listeners. But it did, in fact, develop at least a few research stories after running its course.

By comparison, consider Maroon 5's "Wait." It's been over six years since "Moves Like Jagger" (featuring Christina Aguilera) propelled the band back to pop image artist status. A new Maroon 5 song could be either a consensus hit like "Don't Wanna Know" or a near-miss like "Cold" (top 10 on Pop Songs, but not a true power). "Wait" is up to No. 12 so far on Pop Songs; however far it goes at this point, it seems like a perfect example of an unassuming song that needed to grow on listeners; it did not get a first-day premiere at radio, and it might be better off for it.

Radio Still Wants to Play These Acts: Of the acts under discussion, there's seemingly nobody that radio doesn't want to play. That's why they get first-day premieres. Top 40 resisted Lady Gaga's sonic stretches with "Perfect Illusion" and "Million Reasons." But major-market top 40 jumped eagerly at "The Cure," more clearly an attempt to give radio the type of song it favors now. And even though that didn't ultimately become a consensus hit either, some stations like WHTZ (Z100) New York held on to "The Cure" long enough for it to become a hit well after its chart peak.

For many artists, the moment of truth is the first single from the next project. The right song can regain momentum from a middling project quickly, as demonstrated by recent rebounds by Imagine Dragons and now, arguably, Meghan Trainor. Top 40 can certainly reach the point where it is unwilling to fairly consider even the best, freshest-sounding single from certain established acts. It seems unlikely that any of the acts in question is anywhere near that point yet. But the answer is different depending exactly where an act is on a chart trajectory -- are they following up one disappointing project? Or several? And a veteran with a mixed chart record might get consideration on the first single from a project, but not follow-ups.

Swift, in particular, has shown a talent for reinventing her sound. The moment when "Mine" sounded like a less exciting iteration of "Love Story" and "Today Was a Fairytale" bordered on self-parody was long forgotten after "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together." What she should do next is more of a question mark than her ability to do it.

(Almost) Nobody Retires Undefeated: Assuming they live a long and happy life, there is almost no hit-making artist that will be an automatic add at top 40 radio (or any other format) through the end of their career. It's an unfair burden on any contemporary act to expect them to do what Madonna, Elton John, Prince, Michael Jackson, the Rolling Stones and Elvis Presley did not. A few acts -- the Beatles, the Eagles -- have broken up at a time when they were still having hits each time out. In those cases, we got to see solo members -- Paul McCartney or Don Henley -- have a typical radio arc. That said, to speculate now on how long an act currently at the top of the charts has isn't fair either -- each new song is another chance to extend the hit streak.

https://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/chart-beat/8307587/veteran-pop-acts-struggle-airplay-radio-charts-column

 

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Just thought this was interesting as we not only discuss this in relation to Madonna but all acts.....especially in the Pop Princesses forum. Personally, I feel like part of the problem is due to everyone's non-existent attention span in this day and age, songs don't have time to naturally "build" as they used to. If they don't smash after a week, it's a "flop" and tossed aside. It's hard to come back from that with any subsequent singles because the whole era is tarnished by this perceived "flop". 

When I first saw part of the headline to this article, I anticipated it would be about acts like Madonna, Mariah etc........but no, Justin, Katy and Gaga are apparently now the "veteran artists". :rolleyes:

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i think the other problem is that there is no diversity/everything kinda sounds the same now. plus now days in order to make money off music, an artist or label has to partner up and can't truly be themselves 100% i think to avoid rattling the cage. back in the day the music mainly spoke for itself. so much has changed. the answers are in what has changed.

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@Kurt420, thanks for posting this article — it was a really interesting read. I agree with you on multiple points — attention spans today, and I definitely eye-rolled when I read Timberlake, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, et al. as “veterans.” Established, yes. Veteran should refer to the group they mention at the end (rightly included Madonna) — although some of those are deceased and therefore unable to continue to release music.

I don’t know. I feel slightly disconnected from all this ... I so rarely listen to radio anymore, anyway. I don’t even understand what “research stories” is supposed to mean in this article! But I still appreciated reading it — so thanks, Kurt! It certainly made me feel a little more at peace with Madonna’s situation. If other established acts are de-stabilized this “early” (relatively speaking) in their respective careers, how much more of an uphill battle must it be for our M? 

I still think she could have one more surprise smash up her sleeve someday (a Cher “Believe” moment) ... but I acknowledge it’s not likely, and she probably shouldn’t “chase” it in the sense of trying to craft something specifically for radio. Who even knows what that is anymore? Consumption of music is so niche-based and segmented... she is better off following her own muse and making videos for songs she feels visually inspired about. (E.g., make the video for “Gang Bang” and for “Falling Free” if that is what she is excited about ... like making “Bedtime Story” instead of a potentially “more commercial” single.)

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11 hours ago, peter said:

 ... I so rarely listen to radio anymore, anyway. 

Who does? It seems such an antiquated concept in some ways that I'm surprised radio is not THE place for "veteran" artists skewered to older listeners.

I spend more time reading articles about radio or hearing about radio charts than I ever do actually listening to it.

Either way, the whole system needs a massive overhaul. 

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Are those people veteran already? 

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59 minutes ago, karbatal said:

Are those people veteran already? 

For today's standards, I guess they are...

Back in 2016, Danish singer Medina - then aged 33 - received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Danish Music Awards, just 10 years after the release after her debut album and 8 years after her mainstream breakthrough :huh:

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Thanks for posting this!

I don't find it surprising, though.  Naturally these artists would find that radio would turn its back on them, the same fate as all those who came before.  I mean Justin is 15 years into his solo career, so he is "long in the tooth" by industry standards.  

This is why I've never had much sympathy for people who make ageist jokes and disparagingly call 35-40 plus "old." A few turns of the clock, and they will be the "old" ones.

 

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veterans!!!!!!!!????? veteran artists like katy perry????????:censored::censored:

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They missed to ask why exactly radio is still a factor in chart success, when no one really listens anymore. How does this work? I honestly don’t understand. How on earth can radio still be relevant? 

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44 minutes ago, promise to try said:

veterans!!!!!!!!????? veteran artists like katy perry????????:censored::censored:

And her evolution has been ZERO :lmao:

 

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9 minutes ago, Lolo said:

They missed to ask why exactly radio is still a factor in chart success, when no one really listens anymore. How does this work? I honestly don’t understand. How on earth can radio still be relevant? 

In Spain it’s the contrary. Most songs in mainstream radio are oldies 

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18 hours ago, Kurt420 said:

I feel like part of the problem is due to everyone's non-existent attention span in this day and age, songs don't have time to naturally "build" as they used to. If they don't smash after a week, it's a "flop" and tossed aside. It's hard to come back from that with any subsequent singles because the whole era is tarnished by this perceived "flop". 

Yes. I find this really weird. I don't understand releasing the 2nd single a week after the 1st single. Taylor Swift and Justin Timberlake both did that recently. I miss the days when there was one fucking single and it lasted 2-3 months until the next one. But like you said, non-existent attention span killed that.

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young teenagers around me only listen to the radio when the parents or the bus driver is in cintrol. They stream music from the internet.

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spotify is the new radio. radio has too much power now a days over music and plays the same shit.

just make a damn good song already! release it as first single. that's it.

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7 hours ago, frzndrwnwrld said:

Yes. I find this really weird. I don't understand releasing the 2nd single a week after the 1st single. Taylor Swift and Justin Timberlake both did that recently. I miss the days when there was one fucking single and it lasted 2-3 months until the next one. But like you said, non-existent attention span killed that.

I remember back in 2011 when Gaga was at her commercial peak, she released BTW and then a two month wait before the second single, with another month or so after that for the album release. So much has changed since then in terms of planning an era. There's no build up or anticipation anymore.

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I don't know how it's still important in terms of the Chart System. But radio is still a very vital medium here.

All three major TV networks have their own 'radio chains', with a new one recently added.
A lot of radio stations r also connected 2 major events, and sometimes youtube acts get picked up on radio
and from there on their ball really starts rolling.

In this shithole country morning radio and rush hour radio still has a big impact, there r too many
people stuck in traffic jams on their way 2 or back from work, it's like a national problem. But that's when they all
listen 2 their radio station.

From working in Radio, i do know that regional content is also VERY important 4 ad revenue. And this is a tiny
country, i can only imagine what it must b like in the US. But still, Radio still makes more money, then the digital content
offered by big Media outlets..

In terms of content formats US radio always seemed very rigid 2 me. All those genres and demo targets. We have some of that,
but it's still a lot more mixed. Madonna gets played on alternative radio, top 40 radio & oldie stations. the same goes 4 RnB and Hip hop.

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Radio is still massive in the UK but not so much with the under thirties. Friends kids have zero interest in music or clubs and young work colleagues just listen to spotify. 

Release schedules seem weird now with lyric videos then the main video following weeks after launch.

But with nothing to buy and people already streaming the album on release, I don't see how follow up singles can do well now. There's no remixes or cover art to get so what is the point?

But then you see the success of Ed S and Drake and wonder who the hell is listening to rubbish like Galway Girl on repeat.

I do think though some of those artists mentioned just haven't released great songs or are just boring now.

Many artists in the decades before we only good for two or three albums so why are recording ten years or of these mediocre artists?

The spice girls barely lasted four.

 

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12 hours ago, Lolo said:

They missed to ask why exactly radio is still a factor in chart success, when no one really listens anymore. How does this work? I honestly don’t understand. How on earth can radio still be relevant? 

this!!!! I guess the radio still has more power than I see around me, but I´m sure it will be people that are older, very very old people 33...years old! unlike me:boozehound:...and not the teens.They should think about this again and give the radio´s the importance that they really have!

shit, now that rihanna is 30 is she also suppose to be old?

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52 minutes ago, promise to try said:

this!!!! I guess the radio still has more power than I see around me, but I´m sure it will be people that are older, very very old people 33...years old! unlike me:boozehound:...and not the teens.They should think about this again and give the radio´s the importance that they really have!

shit, now that rihanna is 30 is she also suppose to be old?

I guess age 0 to 18 you're a kid :lol:

21-25 'oooh ur young.'

26-... 'oh ur almost 30'

That's basicllay people's attitude, I can't stand these children at work with their 'Oh no I'm turning 30' shit.

What, u plan on dying in the next 2 years?

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I don't see this as something new. Nobody was ever an "automatic add" year after year. Madonna did it because she kept evolving and she kept delivering great songs. Her era of automatic adds was probably over at the start of the 90s. Apart from Katy's CTTR, which was successful, no song released by the mentioned artists was so irresistible that radio had to play. The difference today in my opinion is not streaming but the great fall of sales. At the past established artists relied on sales. They had loyal fans who supported all their releases. Even casual fans, people who used to buy only a few albums a year, they would usually trust well known acts over new comers. All this is gone now because sales are practically non existent.

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I remember when I was a teenager and Tina Turner or even Joe cocker were considered "old", but in a postive way for them,"look how great they sound!!!!", even paul mcratney with his flowers on the dirt. Tina was 50 and joe 46! I´ve just checked it!"

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If Justin Timberlake and Katy Perry are considered "Veteran acts" where does that leave Madonna?!

:wacko:

 

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2 hours ago, sexycunt said:

If Justin Timberlake and Katy Perry are considered "Veteran acts" where does that leave Madonna?!

:wacko:

 

She's a Mesozoic pop star. :fag:

Mesozoica
Romance.

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