Remember when first week sales truly mattered in the music business?


Remember when accolades like going platinum, or even multi-platinum, were a big deal for artists and record labels?


Well, those times are waning away due to the new landscape of the music industry where streaming has now dominated and taken a stronghold on how record labels, and their artists, move.


In the past, when you had to physically go out and buy an artist’s album, the promotion and rollout of an album was meticulously paid attention to and carefully crafted.


One of the best examples of a good rollout during these times was Sean “Puffy” Combs’ rollout of his first two artists on his newly formed label Bad Boy Records.


Much like it still is today, an album is best promoted from a hit single or singles in some cases. Most times, a hit record will set the precedent and create momentum for not only that specific artist, but an artist that may come right after in their own respect.


(Reasonable Blueprint)

In 1994, Combs had signed Craig Mack and the Notorious B.I.G. to his new Bad Boy label and had promoted them through his “BIG Mack” campaign that combined both the rappers names and aligned it with McDonald’s’ famous sandwich the Big Mac.


This campaign then led to the release of the hit record “Flava in Ya Ear” by Mack and the subsequent remix of the same name that featured the Notorious B.I.G and other artists.


The success of the single, and the remix, led to pretty good album success for Mack, but it set up the Notorious B.I.G. for massive success for his debut album “Ready to Die”.


Due to the fact that many thought that Biggie was the standout on the remix, which became popular, the buzz and hype for his solo project was through the roof.


This led to his first single, “Juicy”, being released and essentially becoming a cult classic to those who could relate. The success of this single led to album sale success for his “Ready to Die” album, which only catapulted with the release of the single album single “Big Poppa” and a remix to another single “One More Chance”.


The success of this album put Biggie, and Bad Boy Records, over the top and into the mainstream eye.


This is how things were done before streaming, for the most part. Record companies, no matter what genre of music, took months to fully promote their artists and build anticipation for their projects that would then hope to sell well because of how important sales were at this point.


In the 90’s, and even into the new millennium, record labels and artists, depending on if the business was right, could all benefit from a hit record and popular album because fans would come out in flocks to record sales to actually buy the albums. So when you had big first week returns, this meant that you were truly able to touch the people and present them a product in a way that made them go out and buy it. There was a lot of satisfaction in this for everyone involved because it truly took an entire team to successfully sell this product to the masses.


In this present time, you don’t see rollouts like that anymore because everything is mostly being streamed to these platforms like Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal and other apps that allow you to pay a monthly fee and listen to all kinds of music for that one price.


Instead of people going out and buying the album, they can now simply push a button and have any album or song at their disposal at any time. While this is extremely convenient for the fan and customer, it has almost become a hassle for the artist and the record label who only receive a small percentage of that sale or stream.


According to label executives, since digital streams and revenues account for more than 50% of the music market, they have no choice but to continue to find ways to try to navigate this still relatively new way of getting and listening to music.


One of these ways is to use an old promotional tool and give it an updated look. Nowadays, when an artist has a hit single on their hands, instead of automatically preparing for an album release, they immediately take that song on its own promotional tour where the artist will perform it constantly until it dies down. Due to the little money that there is for especially new artists who don’t have a lot of catalogue in the streaming game, they can see more money directly from touring and performing the song directly in front of fans.


(Niks Basement)

This past year, we have seen that from a lot of artists ranging from The Chainsmokers and their hit single “Closer” to D.R.A.M. and Lil Yachty and their hit single “Broccoli”. Each song was one of the most streamed singles of 2016 and in order to capitalize on its success, they each performed and toured off of those songs well before releasing full-length projects.


This is logical due to the fact that artists only get tenths of a percentage point off of each stream that their songs get. With over 100 million paid subscribers, digital revenues increased by 17.7% in the U.S., grossing about $7.8 Billion last year while physical revenues naturally decreased by 7.6% in the U.S. last year. This presents an overall problem for the individual artist because you make more off of a physical release than a digital release. With digital streaming becoming more dominant, it decreases the amount of money each artist will receive because there are so many out there putting out music.


So, as a result, when it comes to a first week sale, unless you’re an established artist and extremely popular artists across multiple genres, first week sales have little effect on your success or reputation. For newer artists, or those who haven’t quite reached massive mainstream success consistently, a poor first week sale doesn’t have that big of an effect as it used to because they’re used to making most of the money they do make off of touring their songs rather than off of their albums as a whole.


The first week sale only really now matters when you have big artists like Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, Jay-Z, Brantley Gilbert, and those alike, who now have a reputation to uphold and who are expected to sell big numbers no matter what climate or time period they are in.


This is why big artists such as these are beginning to ink deals with corporations who will buy their albums in bulk to ensure first week and overall album success in exchange for maximum exposure for their company in conjunction with the album and its release.


With this new wave of music and streaming, depending on who you are, what mattered back then probably doesn’t matter nearly as much now.


Although streaming has taken a hold of the business and provided a unique way to listen to music, it has also taken a hold on the potential money that artists could and should be making.


Do you think that streaming has helped or hurt the music industry as a whole? Let’s talk about it here or find me on Twitter @Phenombc3.