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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

What If They Held a Chinese Democracy and No One Cared?

And speaking of hype, the much hyped, in the works even longer than the Beatles on iTunes, Chinese Democracy finally released and...bombed. After all the leaks, the jokes, the money thrown at this, first week sales were only in the area of 250,000-260,000. Ouch.

To anyone who has really been paying attention, I don't think this is much of a surprise, but I'll bet there are some executives at Best Buy who green lighted the huge bonus for making the album a Best Buy exclusive who are trying to figure out what happened. Seems like they already threw in the towel on this one, as Axl Rose was no where to been seen in their most recent circular, after dominating the release week one (and was it really only two weeks ago?)

The record company people are already starting the blame game, pointing the finger at Rose's lack of publicity appearances or talking to the press as what killed it. Seriously, UMG? Who didn't know about this album? For that matter, who really wanted to hear it, but hadn't prior to release? To say Axl's avoidance of the promotional circuit killed the album is just absurd (and if they were shocked by it, they haven't been paying any attention.)

This album cover still looks like a crappy mock up to me,
even after seeing it in the store.

Here's what I think happened: The suits in the entertainment world are still trying to come to terms with this Internet thing. For too many years, they ignored anything from the web, which was very unwise. Now, I think they are going too far in the opposite direction and taking every bit of Internet hype too seriously.

As I'm sure you know, there's a lot of sarcasm on the web. There are also tons of here today, meh tomorrow memes out there. And most of those memes make little sense to the outside world. For instance, how many people had to explain Rickrolling to relatives after watching the Macy's Parade this year?

Chinese Democracy was talked about a lot on the web, but context is king, and the context here was much more gawking at a freak show than genuine interest in this album. Unfortunately for UMG, Best Buy and everyone else, I don't think they got that. I think they saw everyone talking about that album and interpreted it as "it's going to be a smash" rather than realizing the majority of the people saw it as a joke.

Of course, we can also factor in that no one is buying music these days and even when they do, expecting the same level of sales as the Use Your Illusion days is completely unrealistic. It's not a giant leap to imagine the suits seeing the Guns N Roses name and becoming nostalgic for the sales figures of those heady days. Given the kind of logic that seems to prevail in this industry, I'm sure more than a few people thought the GnR name alone would have that magic to sell at that level again.

Well, it didn't and yes, you can blame the economy, blame downloading, etc., etc. That's part of the big picture, to be sure. By comparison, Kanye West fell just under half a million this same chart, which is pretty pathetic for him too. (Of course 808s and Heartbreak isn't exactly his normal thing, so that's a factor there.) But, what I think this comes down to is the suits misinterpreted the Internet hype surrounding Chinese Democracy for real world people actually wanting to buy this album. Other than the theory that they were throwing good money after bad (how many millions did this album cost UMG anyway?) that's the only possible explanation I can think of.

Chinese Democracy is the first Snakes on a Plane album. If you'll recall, Snakes on a Plane had this huge mocking Internet hype surrounding it, which it seems led many of the money people to believe it would be a box office smash. It wasn't and Chinese Democracy won't be either. But, at least some people got a free Dr. Pepper out of the deal and now the Internet can move on to laughing about possible release dates for Dr. Dre's Detox and the next My Bloody Valentine album.

(Sidenote: along this same theme, I'm amazed no one has offered Rick Astley a truckload of cash for a comeback album yet. After the Macy's appearance, I'm going to be even more shocked if this doesn't happen. And yes, it too will bomb.)

1 comment:

Tony Reitz said...

Downloading is killing the record industry!