May 14, 2010

The End of the One-Hit Wonder

You remember them right? The 80’s created them and the 90’s practically lived off of them. They lived for 2-4 weeks at a time and blew up the phone request lines. Every T-top Firebird blasted them from the comfort of their cassette player and non-one could resist their memorizing melodies. They were “One Hit Wonders.”

Of course, we can all recall our own personal favorites: “Whip It,” “Whoomp…There It Is,” or my personal favorite; Deee-Lite, “Grove is in the Heart.” Just saying. This is what defined musical generations, going out and buying an entire album for one hit song. And this is why one-hit-wonders became so definitive and emotionally reflective-that and mostly because the rest of the album was at best, tolerable. No one remembers the artists with 10 great songs to the same tune (no pun intended) of when they recall their fondest one-hitter. These are the songs we cringe when played at weddings, which ultimately gave the DJ the often recited, “quite possibly the worst DJ in the World” rep. But these are also the songs we look forward to when attending an 80’s throw back party or when cueing up the VHS to watch a Jean Claude Van Dam movie. I mean, who doesn’t love the VH1 remember when 80’s and 90’s shows?

However, have we seen the end of the one-hit wonder? With today’s technological innovations in music, it appears all artists are becoming one-hit wonders, one hit at a time. No longer are consumers forced to purchase an entire record for their one favorite song. They can easily long onto iTunes or Amazon and get that one song and then integrate it throughout their lives on every listening device they have. In fact, the music culture has shifted so greatly that artists are now being forced to create that one hit. Music companies and strategists pine over which song to release first, its order on the album and how to market it. Because they know, that one song, will make or break the artist and their entire album. You see, the music industry is becoming a lot like the movie industry. You have to have a strong opening weekend, or in our case, strong first single in order to have success. Because the path to millions lies in a strong opening in sales and high media buzz.

And with digital players and song purchasing networks, consumers are in control. They can build a custom library of one-hit after one-hit by an entourage of musical artists. And that’s perfectly ok. Consumers are no longer bound to record companies telling them which songs they can or cannot listen to. And in some cases, even artist don’t need record companies to tell them what to write and hwo to perform. Look at Justin Bieber, a Youtube star who built a following on his own terms and then had the record company coming to him to sign, like a star college quarterback with every pro team vying for his unique talent.

The music age, as we knew it in the 80’s 90’s, would be proud. Where at one time, one-hitters we considered cliché, they are now seen as a coveted and desired. And what’s funny is, the one-hit-wonder as we knew them will never has the same nostalgia they once held. Because one internet hit could turn into millions of downloads and sales on iTunes. It’s no longer a cliché way to listen to and like music but the normal way. So, as we say goodbye to the classic and fond “one-hit-wonders,” we welcome a new age to music as powered by the consumer. I wonder where we’ll take it next?

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