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Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Entertainment journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome.
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Solving The One Hit Wonder Problem
Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The problem of one hit wonder artists and what to do about them is one that’s plagued the music world for generations. Back in the day, however, one hit wonders were treated as what they were, groups or artists that had one song in them and nothing more. Over the past half decade it seems labels have lost the ability to see a one hit wonder for what they are. Either that or they’re simply refusing to believe there isn’t anyone they can’t market into superstardom. Since the number of one hit wonders has been growing rapidly in recent years we know there is an issue here, so what can be done to either prevent, or work with, these here today gone tomorrow artists? I have a few ideas.

With artists who clearly only have one or two songs in them it makes little sense to put out an album of their work. Nobody needs a full length LP with one or two hit singles and 14 filler tracks. These types of albums are why sales are so low. The problem is the artists in question are viable for one to two songs, so they can’t be ignored. D4L, Mims, Soulja Boy, Hurricane Chris, Shop Boyz, Lil’ Mama and Flo-Rida are all recent examples. The first idea I propose to deal with them is to create an incentive laden contract. The kind of contract an athlete coming off of an injury would get. Basically, the musician in question would get a singles deal where the major label they sign with would record and push a three song single that would be sold as a CD maxi-single along with each individual song also being available at online retailers such as iTunes (obviously the CD would be priced accordingly). If, and here’s where the incentive comes in, all three songs hit the artist would then be given a pre-arranged full album deal (sort of like a pitcher getting a one million dollar base salary but a three million dollar bonus if they reach 150 innings pitched). This would be a way to weed out the flashes in the pan from the artists who have a real future in the industry without having to let go of an artist after spending money on getting them huge with a single. Also, for those who only last for the one or two songs, which would be the majority, labels would save a ton of time and money that could then be used for artist development (you remember that, right?) on the acts they feel are much more than one hit wonders and letting some of their established acts take their time creating albums.

With the incentive laden contract labels wouldn’t have had to eat the costs of a number of the artists listed above. Yes, some of those costs can be written off, but they can also be spent much more wisely. Out of everyone I listed only Soulja Boy probably would have received a record deal (he’s on his third single right now). Would Interscope have missed out on his current sales numbers? Not really, because as his iTunes sales proved a lot more people are willing to shell out a dollar or two for “Crank Dat Soulja Boy” than $15 for a full length album due to his one hit wonder sound. With his singles deal Interscope would have had time to develop him and possibly create something much better with far less filler while selling a boatload more CD singles than they have full length albums. For the artist this also makes sense as if their one hit is in fact a hit, but they never end up getting to release an album, they’ll have built up a name without a major album failure being on their resumes, making them potentially much more desirable for another label.

My second, and probably much more viable, idea is to put one hit wonders on soundtracks. Back in the day we used to have classic movie soundtracks, many of which had one hit wonders on them, some fairly (The Braids and their remake of “Bohemian Rhapsody”) and some unfairly (The Lady of Rage deserved better!). Somewhere along the line labels stopped releasing really dope soundtracks (NOW compilations do not count), but imagine if they figured out how well they’d do if they threw some of those one hit wonders together. Judging by sales numbers not many people wanted to hear a full length album by Hurricane Chris or the Shop Boyz. If, on the other hand, (ignoring the fact that the artists I’m going to list aren’t currently on the same label) “A Bay Bay” had been featured on the same soundtrack as the Shop Boyz’ “Party Like A Rock Star” and Mims' “This Is Why I'm Hot,” some lucky label would have had a platinum album on their hands. A platinum album they’d have spent 1/3 of the money creating, marketing and promoting versus the three solo albums that probably wouldn’t have even equaled a million albums sold combined.

Again, these are just some ideas I’m throwing out there. Some folks may feel my incentive laden singles contract idea is crazy, but the industry is crazy right now and it’s begging for change. Something needs to be done to control the one hit wonder market so the full length album market can finally come back. I know a lot of artists read me here at Adam's World, so hit me with your thoughts. Would you go for an incentive laden record deal?


posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:53 AM  
  • At 10:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Whut's Good Adam?

    I really enjoyed reading this article about one hit wonders in the music industry and some solutions to the problem. Your articles are really vital and helpful for me as a recording artist, so I always enjoy picking up some tips and knowledge by coming to your blog.

    As an artist, particularly in the genre of hip-hop/rap, I completely understand what you mean and I have to agree that the industry is becoming flooded with these type of artists.

    I believe that the main source of this problem is the record label/companies in that they are money hungry. For most of them it's all about record sales which equals more money coming in. They probably know that most of these artists are going to be one hit wonders from just listening to their demo tapes. But they hear that one track that they know will sale and then they just offer them a deal so they can make some money of that artist.

    I would definitely be interested in a contract like that as an artist and I think it would be completely fair. It would be kind of like a test or trial and error for the record label in regards to a new artist. I think that's how a lot of record label should start doing their artist. Like you said, it would definitely put a control on the flow of one hit wonder artists coming into the industry.

    I'm also a CEO of my own independent record label and I just might put a contract like you stated into action (Hope you don't mind). It would really allow me to see what type of potential the artist might have and save a lot of money instead of just offering an album record deal and wasting money on the budget.

    Once again, this was a great article and keep up the great work you're doing!!!!

  • At 8:38 AM, Blogger Adam Bernard said…

    Thanks for the feedback and the compliments.

    If you do draft up a contract and sign artists to an incentive based deal let me know how it goes. I'd love to hear how well it worked and what your final analysis of it is.

  • At 6:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You're very welcome man. Okay, I will definitely let you know how the incentive based record deal works out if I decide to do it.

    P.S. I'm still trying to send you my label's mixtape for a possible review and/or artist of the month feature. I really enjoy this blog, it's great!

  • At 9:16 PM, Blogger Adam Bernard said…

    Give me a shout at adamsworldblog@gmail.com

  • At 3:01 AM, Blogger Mic Lowrey said…

    This is a perfect situation with someone like Jive because they can out an album out with titles like sounds of The Summer or Back to School with a HurricanE Chris and Lil Mama, throw Chris Brown and Ciara and a new Usher song and than add a new artist to the mix, and everyone will be happy and they could stop sharing the money with Now that What I Call music 28 or something like that and it could put the singles out for artist and allow them to be in the public consciousness along with the top artsit, Def Jam could do it with DREAM, NEYO, RIHANNA, and some new artist that they have it would be a great thing

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