Taylor Swift scored the best debut week for any album this year, which is no big shock: She’s one of today’s most visible pop stars. But the artist who scored the second-highest debut of 2012 was a real surprise: Mumford & Sons. The British folk-rockers beat Justin Bieber, Madonna and One Direction by selling 600,000 copies of Babel in one week. In fact, it was the fastest-selling rock album in four years. And this is a band with no celebrity members: Can you even name one of them? Btw, answering ‘Mumford’ doesn’t count.
Plus, think of how many times you’ve heard songs from Nicki Minaj and Rihanna on the radio this year. These Brits outsold them in a big way without hit singles or tabloid headlines. Expect a big push from other folk-tinged rockers in 2013, whether that means new bands or existing ones hoping to capitalize on the zeitgeist.
There's a reason Taylor Swift's Red far outpaced every other album of 2012 and scored the highest-selling debut week since Eminem's The Eminem Show back in 2002... Mafia connections. Well, not really, but Swift did make some weird business partners this year: Walgreens and Papa John's.
Better yet, why leave the house? For $22, you can get Swift’s new album delivered to your door along with a large one-topping pizza thanks to Papa John's. Which is so convenient, especially if you prefer your music to come with a side of garlic sauce.
The strategy worked: Swift dominated 2012 first-week sales with Red, which moved 1.2 million copies in the U.S. So don't be surprised if albums from artists other than Foreigner and Styx start popping up in gas stations, pharmacies and other chain stores next year.
More than a decade ago, the dot-com bubble burst and businesses learned the Internet isn’t just an ATM machine. Well, Columbia Records found out the same lesson this year when they gave viral video star Kreayshawn—whose “Gucci Gucci” clip boasted 2 million views when she was signed—a record deal estimated at $1 million.
Despite a major label push, the Oakland MC’s album had a staggeringly dismal opening week: It moved 3,900 copies. That’s a stark (but apparently necessary) reminder that Internet clicks do not translate into consumer dollars. Just because people will watch someone for free does not mean they’ll pony up $10-15 for a full album. Whoever tries to make Psy’s next album happen in the U.S. should be taking notes.
Does this mean fewer viral video stars will get signed by majors in 2013? Probably not. It’ll take at least 2-3 more total disasters before the suits get wise.
When R&B budding genius Frank Ocean revealed his first love was a man on the cusp of his career entering the stratosphere, countless artists, journalists and online commenters hailed his brave, pioneering announcement. Aside from Internet trolls and one insensitive alleged comment, almost no one went after Ocean.
In fact, there was more coverage about the potential backlash of someone in the R&B/hip hop community “coming out” than there was actual backlash.
In the future, don’t be surprised if more artists who are about to break (and a few who already have) start identifying as LGBTQ.
Amanda Palmer’s staggeringly successful fan-funded album may be the most significant thing to happen in the music world this year.
To recap, the idiosyncratic singer-songwriter—who has a devoted fanbase but is by no means a major star—created a Kickstarter in May to raise $100,000 to record her first album since parting ways with a major label. Seven hours later, Palmer had reached her goal. Twenty-four hours after her initial announcement, the punky cabaret singer tripled that. And by the end of Palmer's month-long Kickstarter campaign, fans had donated a million dollars knowing she'd reached her goal long ago.
As Palmer pointed out during her celebratory nude-balloon romp in a parking lot, this has huge implications for the future of the music industry. It shows that not only can artists make a living outside of the label system, but that fans are willing to pay for music that hasn’t even been recorded yet if they like the artist enough.
Don’t be surprised if other bands and singers—whether they’re tired of mismanagement, compromises or just want a bigger piece of the $$ pie—quit their labels in the upcoming year. Recently, both Metallica and Blink-182 took the plunge into the indie world. For many artists, it’s an undiscovered country that’s starting to look like the promised land.