Tuesday, January 26, 2016


Friends, we are gathered here to lay some forgotten acquaintances to their eternal sleep.

Rest in peace 'Macarena'. May you enjoy many years as the music on the elevator to hell.

Farewell 'Cotton Eye Joe'. We hardly knew ye. Thankfully.

And good riddance 'Blue'. Please take that bizarre, animated alien from the music video with you to oblivion.

"Oh, don't be so harsh" you say. "Those songs are part of the rich cultural tableau of the 90s."

So, if I asked for your perspective on 'Old Pop in the Oak', 'Move Your Body', and 'Baila Baila'?

I thought so.

These unknown songs were, after all, the follow up singles from the above one-hit-wonders. Rednex, Eiffel 65 and Los Del Rio, respectively. Sophmore records that never had a chance.

Relics of a different era, in fact.

You see, these songs were all released in the pre-connection epoch. Not just in the pre-Facebook era, which started in 2006, but the pre-mass internet era.

When 'Cotton Eye Joe' was released in 1994, internet users were still struggling with dial-up connections, and many even cancelled their accounts due to constant busy signals. Today, if you can't load a webpage on your phone within ten seconds, you're ready to throw this hand-held super computer in frustration. Try rage-throwing your computer in 1994. You'd give yourself a hernia.

It was a radically different time, which yielded to the mass internet age of the late 90's. When direct connection changed forever.

Today we are totally ensconced in the many spin-offs of the connection era. Social networking. Email. 24 hour news. E-Learning. Digital arts. E-commerce, etc etc etc. These were tectonic shifts in the framework through which we understand human connection and the dissemination of useful (and pointless) information.

And there were always going to be casualties to seismic change.

As it turns out, one of the more noteworthy is the 'one-hit wonder'. Yes, the staple of music culture for decades is now officially on the decline, and no-one is really protesting about it.

I strongly recommend that you read this article: http://priceonomics.com/the-death-of-the-one-hit-wonder/ It provides a short, and quite excellent analysis of the data around this trend against the one-offs.

What stunned me, is not that there are diminishing numbers of one-off successes, but that the successful songs are staying in the chart for longer than ever. So much for the myth that audience attention spans are dwindling.

Now, while I would never encourage you to dance on the graves of anyone, the extinction of the one-hit wonder is actually good tidings.

Not because your life would be richer without having known 'Who Let The Dogs Out', but because of what this trend against one-offs actually means.

First, there is an increase in risk aversion by the traditional media conglomerates who hold the keys to the asylum. This has a down-side, in that the wall to climb for career traction is now higher, because the gatekeepers are looking to heavily promote an established artist above encouraging a rough diamond. The flip-side, however, is that the artist who breaks through to a large audience, which is harder but still possible, can expect far more support from the machinery of the industry to try and keep them at the pinnacle. Like finding a snow mobile at the top of Everest.

Second, artists who would once have been one-hit wonders are remaining in the zeitgeist using the tools of the connection era. Not just surviving, mind you, but actually building audiences while they are between hits. As the article says, using Carly Rae Jepsen as its primary example:

'One may also attribute this decline (of one-hit wonders) to artists’ enhanced abilities to cultivate their brands and fan bases in the Internet era. It’s easy to see a world in which Carly Rae Jepsen disappeared into a Jennifer Paige-like obscurity following Call Me Maybe. Instead, she is back in the Top 40 three years later, and Tom Hanks is lip syncing her songs. It couldn’t have hurt that she’s been charming millions of followers over the last several years on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Whereas it would have been nearly impossible to maintain this kind of intimate relationship with fans ten years ago, it’s now par for the course, as well as good business.'

This is the incredible era you are now in. You have the ability to stay connected with fans, and build new audiences between the launches of your creative output, using the technological tools which are accessible and cheap. No longer shall you fade into the obscure darkness of traditional radio or TV silence.

And while the 'noise' of this era seems at times like a din that is impossible to penetrate, great content is reaching us, engaging us and transforming us.

We are becoming fans, pirates, binge-ers, and subscribers.

Enabling long careers.

Encouraging great storytellers to return to us, again and again, with their latest work.

Why shouldn't that be yours?

So RIP 'one-hit wonders'. We've moved on to a better place.

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