Something big happened to the music business last week. Mumford & Sons’ new album sold 600K+ units during its debut week, making it the “highest selling debut week for a rock album since 2008″ according to Billboard — and they became the first band since the Beatles to have six singles on the Billboard top 100 chart at the same time.
Why is this such a big deal? Well, a whole lotta reasons. First of all they have an accordion and a banjo, once thought the kiss of death in pop music. Secondly, according to this article, “it also notched New York-based indie label Glassnote Records its first Billboard 200 chart-topper.” Most importantly, even though he misses the big point, music curmudgeon Bob Lefsetz proclaims victory for music over hype in his recent post (see it here excerpts below)
… it comes down to the music. And that’s where Mumford shines.
They don’t dance. They don’t wear designer clothing. They don’t do beer commercials. They underplay and undercharge. They do everything the complainers say you cannot.
And then they blow up the chart. … It wasn’t their tweeting or social networking, it was the honesty of their music and message, in a phony world, their fans couldn’t stop spreading the word. …
He goes on to prognosticate about the future of the music business with this bit that I find tremendously optimistic:
This is only the beginning. Careers are now in the hands of the audience. That’s who spread the word on Mumford. It wasn’t a top-down media campaign, but a grass roots thing. People bought the album because they needed to belong, it was a badge of honor.
In case you’re wondering what he’s talking about, watch this video, shot by a fan:
But later in his post, Lefsetz can’t help commenting on the state and future of music distribution (something he touches upon in nearly every post):
The big story has been that the album was available on Spotify yet still sold a ton. That’s missing the point. If you think digital sales are the future, you’re still watching TV on a cathode ray tube. It’s not only music that’s in the cloud, everything’s on demand all the time.
If he’s right, my prediction (made last month in this post) may come to pass even sooner than I had thought.
Then his post continues with clever barbs for choice selections from the Bilboard 100, as Lefsetz lapses back into his perpetual, pessimistic, put-down rant and completely fails even to mention the real future of music: LIVE SHOWS! That’s where the music business is really going.
Bob, you can lament all you want about the labels’ decline or the sorry state of top 40 — and you’re absolutely right. But what IS the future? Where’s the light?
I’ll tell you, right here. It’s in live shows. That’s where most musicians make their money today. You can’t steal a show. You can’t download it. You can’t email it to somebody. There’s only one way you can get the live show experience. You just have to be there.
The Mumford video is one example. Here’s another one — Chelsea Berry at North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly, MA on June 28, 2012. You can hear the crowd in this one too (even though the camera was behind the last row).
Chelsea’s got it. She excites her audience just like you say musicians have to these days. It’s only a matter of time before you’re writing about her, Bob.
Want to see more of her? Check out these videos. And while you’re at it, check out some of the other extraordinary artists who really connect with their audience up here in Gloucester MA and see where they’re playing live shows here.
One more time: Live Shows are the bright spot in the future of the music business.