Editor Boy's Rants: The Platinum Album, 1976-2014

November 21, 2014
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I couldn’t believe it. Wouldn’t believe it. But the facts were staring right at me, and no journalist worth his or her research skills should swim away from the truth. Ack!
 
CNN reported in late October that no music artist had released an album that sold a million copies.
 
And here we are now in December, and the media is reporting that Taylor Swift — who finally scored platinum sales with her new 1989 release this month — just might have produced the last platinum album. It's a party of one, kids.
Well, Taylor can at least hang out with the animated characters of Disney’s Frozen soundtrack, as it sold more than three-million units.
 
Animated Characters in Children’s Films = 1.
Flesh and Blood Musical Artists = 1.
 
Of the beleaguered human musicians, the closest artists to that million-sales mark in October of this year were Beyoncé (776,000 for Beyoncé), Lorde (754,000 for Pure Heroine), Eric Church (722,000 for The Outsiders), and Coldplay (approximately 700,000 for Ghost Stories).
 
It should be painfully obvious that these albums are not real rockers (unless you consider Coldplay edgy), and, furthermore, not a one showcases tons of awesome guitar playing.
 
Of course, guitarists have been dealing with being more or less off the pop-culture radar for some time now. The business-savvy players have devised ways to pay the bills by not depending on revenue from record sales. Others are perhaps awaiting a cultural shift that will bring guitar back to the pop charts. Everything is cyclical, right?
 
Personally, I’m not betting on some “Hendrix-Type 2015” appearing out of nowhere and seducing everyday people into loving guitars—much like the fashion world has seen the mysterious resurgence of Civil War beards on today’s hipster males.
 
The dearth of platinum records is a tragedy because it speaks to the further erosion of an industry. This means that label peeps, publicists, merchandise makers, guitar techs, and others who have symbiotic relationships with the core business also have to adjust their revenue expectations and resources to the downturn. Even gear manufacturers can be affected, because as the “inspiration pool” of music stars diminishes, so may the number of aspiring musicians who need instruments, amps, pedals, and so on.
 
But, sometimes, being the underdog isn’t a bad place to be. As the smart money for a long, sustaining career is not on playing guitar, the guitarists who play purely for love, entertainment, experimentation, and life itself will keep on keeping on. And when pure joy informs one’s music over revenue options and career opportunities, amazing things can happen. Some whacko with no care about ever making a buck playing his or her guitar could craft the song that changes the world again. But, then again, I believe that transcendent creativity comes from adoration, not commerce.
 
What’s your view? Ping me at mmolenda@musicplayer.com.

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