A lot of people I know do not trust Sony/RCA concerning their treatment of Adam and his career. I don’t actually blame them. All of them want the best for the guy – so do I. And when they see other artists seem to get more attention or they see Adam not getting, say, another single off his album in the US – especially when he’s on his fifth or more in other countries – they get upset. I wanted SW released to, so I get it so, so much. And because we love him, and want everyone else to love him, and we want him to be the biggest pop star ever, and that means infinite label support, we want that, too. I want that, too.
I’m not an expert in this, though, and I don’t know the business at all, so I can’t actually tell if there was more they could do. I don’t think a label can do the impossible, though. Like they can’t sell what no one’s buying – although people are buying Adam. And I’m pretty darn sure they want to earn money.
So, perhaps they made a mistake in not releasing SW, or maybe they thought it would cost more money than it would earn at this point in the cycle. Just like they may have thought that the costs of shipping physical copies of the acoustic EP to stores and online store warehouses (and renting shelf space so late in the game in the brick and mortar stores) would not equal the return. And since they’re actually selling the tour DVD/CD in stores (granted, at a less fraught time of year, and granted, too, it’s not really something that can be sold digitally, but they could have restricted sales to the official site), it seems likely that they were wrong about that – and know they were wrong about that.
For SW, they probably made that decision at a point when they figured Adam would end his tour in September, instead of going around the world, and they may have assumed he’d do some writing on tour. I’m sure Adam thought he’d do some writing on tour, too. And when it became clear that things would be pushed off until February – made even more complicated by the Grammy nomination and possibly the changes in his personal life – it was too late to release SW. I, personally, think that releasing a song while Adam was out of the country, unable to make a video or do in-person promo, would have been a bad idea, but I’m even more likely to be wrong.
And labels are far from infallible. They back the wrong horse or they really do neglect someone unfairly. Projected earnings is an inexact science at best and so is popularity, and right now the record industry is in crisis with its major income stream – album sales – failing spectacularly in the face of piracy and the ability to buy individual tracks. People and corporations in crisis tend to make poor decisions. This, in fact, a legitimate worry – and as it happens, Sony itself is in management flux, which makes things even more problematic.
So, yeah, not putting all my faith in the label because that doesn’t even make sense. I DO think they’re doing well by Adam, you understand. They’ve helped him parlay a single album into two top twenty hits (one top ten and platinum), FOUR videos, two dance remix EPs, an acoustic EP, a six month mostly sold out international tour and a concert cd/dvd – not to mention a Grammy nomination. That’s really a lot. They also supporting the Trevor project donation – not actually surprising since it won’t cost them a dime, will earn them some money and will make them look good.
But I do have a lot of faith for Adam’s career anyway. I’m putting that faith where I feel it belongs – on Adam himself. Not that Adam’s infallible – he’s made mistakes and mis-steps – but he’s smart and motivated and has no romantic illusions about the business. And he owns his mistakes, which means he also learns from them.
Now I know that artists rarely do get that much of a say in their production or their careers, especially new ones. This means it seems silly to put that much faith in a fairly new artist, BUT…
But Adam had unprecedented control over his first album – this is from from Rob Cavallo, who is currently the Chairman of Warner Bros. Records. Cavallo would therefore know of what he speaks. Adam himself has finally seemed to realize that other new artists, from Idol or otherwise, don’t get to make the same decisions he did – for a long time, he seemed to assume his experience was the universal one and so discounted the rumors that Idols were merely puppets of the label and the management.
Why is this so? Adam seems to think it’s because he’s pretty dominant, and I think that’s probably a part. That is, he has a strong personality and a way of getting things done his way just by asking for it. He is also very intelligent and learns quickly, at least if it’s something he’s interested in. And making his music career work is of vital interest to him. So, unlike me, he knew what he was talking about – and people can tell that. Of course, with his charisma, people would listen anyway, but his words would make sense. So he had strong input into what went on his album – Cavallo said Adam didn’t record anything he couldn’t connect to, so he had the choice. We know he chose his album cover, too.
And we know those decisions have turned out fairly well – look at that album cover. Yes, it’s ridiculous and campy and very, very brightly colored and many people prefer the alternative cover with the handpiece and his eyes as edgier and more attractive. BUT the first cover got attention from music press and bloggers all over the world, making everyone aware that there was about to be an album. So it was excellent publicity – and it was FREE. And it certainly stands out in a display, which is another plus. The alternative? Would have been ignored. And so a newscycle would have been lost.
The album itself got decent reviews – it seems to have been a solid B+, which is damn good for a first and rushed album filled with discards and leftovers and a fair degree of overproduction – not to mention one that disappointed fans and music columnists who wanted him to sing rock, not pop, or to be more on the edge. Still, a good grade that leaves room for improvement. And it sold. It sold third in the nation its first week, and that was the same week Susan Boyle was released, and Andrea Bocelli had a Christmas album. (I seriously have no idea what effect the AMA performance had on his sales, and I’m very prepared to call it a wash – that those who didn’t buy it because of the performance were balanced by those who did for that same reason.) Not only that, but unlike many other Idol albums, it continued to sell. It’s still selling today, at 2K a week or so after 18 months. And since these are Adam’s musical choices, and since the album pretty much fulfills his vision, it shows he can design an album.
We also know that his influence over his videos, at least the ones for his album, was fairly strong. By the time IIHY was made, he seems to have had a great deal of creative control,and that video did very well. It’s also a fair chance that he chose the remixes for his EPs, and I’m pretty darn sure he chose the entire acoustic EP, plus we know he had input into the tour DVD/CD.
Sony/RCA is letting him do this because he’s already proven himself – that he’s taken the responsibility he’s been given and used it well, just as he took the budget for his tour and used it well. He’s made money for his company, and very well might have brought this era to the breakeven point. He’s not been perfect, but he’s been damn good. And there are things he doesn’t control, like which singles are released and when – but there he shows the ability to be enthusiastic about whatever they choose. There’s no hint he’d have a different choice.
They trust Adam. They trust him to sell himself, to get publicity for no money at all. They trust his musical knowledge and tastes and ability to predict where music is going next. And so I trust him, too. I trust that he’s “pulling back”, going for the leather side of glam because people are getting tired of performance art and he wants to give his fans what they didn’t know they wanted. I