It wasn’t that long ago that record labels where fighting over artists who had their 15 minutes (more like seconds) of fame on TikTok. Large deals were handed out in hopes that the next wave of talent had arrived. The problem was that almost none of those deals ever worked out, as the viral music star of the time couldn’t sustain success beyond one song.
As every artist, band, label and manager knows, one song does not make a career, and in the case of the viral stars, most couldn’t even make an acceptable album. “The period we just went through created a bit of an emptiness that allowed fewer true artists to be seen because labels were following the viral hits,” says Scott Cutler, a songwriter and CEO of Pulse Music Group in Billboard. “Kids burn through those viral songs really fast.”
And speaking of album, the format seems to have become the beneficiary of this new outlook on viral artists, as it seems to be picking up in importance once again. According to Billboard, labels and publishers are once again looking towards the album as indicator of an artist’s sustainability.
Not only that, the album has proven to be a reliable revenue source as the CD sales decline have recently leveled off a bit, and vinyl sales has continued to increase. Some examples of how album sales affects an artist’s bottom line include Travis Scott’s Utopia with more than 340,000 album sales, yet without what would be labeled a hit single. Lana Del Rey is another example with over 500,000 vinyl LPs and more than 145,000 CDs sold this year, yet her music never cracked the Top 40.
What’s amazing is that music research company Luminate discovered that 50% of LP buyers don’t even have a turntable, yet they see value in owning an album they can’t even play.
The real problem with the viral music star era is that not many sustainable careers were built. Labels and publishers now understand that any artist who takes the time to record an album is trying to go beyond the quick-fix social media stardom based on 15 second snippets. It sounds so old fashioned, but what’s new isn’t always best in the long term.