If at first you don’t succeed...
The most disappointing album of recent months, in terms of sales, may have been Pink’s “Try This,” which has sold just 615,000 copies in the U.S. since its November release. Music business observers blame this on Pink’s move in a blues-rock and punk-influenced direction and away from the frothier party-starters of her 2001 blockbuster “M!ssundaztood.”
But the folks at Arista Records say those observers will be singing a different tune before long.
“Try This” is getting a new push, one that company representatives say reflects a long-term commitment to both album and artist.
“I think everyone will be surprised by how things look by the end of the year,” says Laura Swanson, Arista senior vice president of marketing and publicity. “And Pink goes way beyond this album for us. We have a long-term investment in Pink.”
Swanson’s not alone in the music business. Similar talk is coming from Elektra Records about Missy Elliott’s “This Is Not a Test,” which has sold just 538,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan’s tally. And Atlantic Records is working to give a new boost to P.O.D.'s “Payable on Death” (419,000 sold), while Maverick Records has seen steady success to bring Michelle Branch’s “Hotel Paper” to a respectable 962,000 after a slow start last summer. All these acts had reached multiplatinum heights with previous albums.
Though hardly unprecedented, the revivals are seen by many as an unexpected turn in the music business, where an emphasis on quick hits in recent years has caused foundering projects to be abandoned.
“Promotion staffs feel a bit vulnerable in light of all the consolidation at record companies,” says Matt Smith, the just-appointed music director at KROQ-FM (106.7). “They’re trying to do a fantastic job and show that it’s worth keeping them. They may be working harder than ever. You are starting to see three, four singles from albums instead of just ‘Swing and a miss, goodbye!’ ”
Smith has seen this at work with the P.O.D. album, as Atlantic is pushing a new single as the band gears up for a tour. He also notes Geffen Records’ continuing work with Blink-182’s “Blink-182,” which saw the band taking a “mature” turn and building relatively slowly but which has now sold more than 1.3 million nationally.
Dave Alder, senior vice president of product and marketing for the Virgin Entertainment Group’s retail stores, has seen a similar shift.
“When we’re approached with a major artist, we’re getting a sense that labels are going in planning for a longer time period,” Alder says. “Right now, holiday plans are in initial release plans for new albums, which is encouraging. This shows renewed confidence on their part.”
So which disappointments have a shot at turning into successes?
Billboard charts editor Geoff Mayfield sees Elliott as having a strong chance, considering her coming tour with Beyonce and Alicia Keys as well as from a new single, “I’m Really Hot,” which has gotten strong initial response from radio programmers.
“The tour will give her a boost, but the shortest distance to a hit is radio,” Mayfield says. “The combination could do it.”
Pink? A tour and new single plans are in the works for her as well.
“The first single, ‘Trouble,’ didn’t connect at all, but I wouldn’t bet against her in the long term,” Mayfield says. “There’s a team at Arista trying to show its stripes while the future of the company is determined.”
P.O.D. is a less certain prospect, it seems, with the rock world less prone to resurgences, Virgin’s Alder says. And Jane’s Addiction, which sold only 380,000 of its “Strays,” released in July, should not hold its breath. The band is not touring and there’s no new radio action.
Daltrey to host rock infomercial
You won’t see the Who on MTV or even VH1 much these days. But singer Roger Daltrey has found another way to get on music-oriented television.
He’ll host an infomercial for a new Time-Life compilation of classic rock hits. The half-hour program promoting “Legends,” an eight-CD set spanning the mid-'60s of the Troggs and Jefferson Airplane to the early ‘80s of Phil Collins and REO Speedwagon, will begin airing in early March.
It’s a new horizon for Time-Life too. Not to put down Davy Jones, Smokey Robinson, Frankie Avalon and, uh, Regis Philbin, all of whom have hosted infomercials for the firm, but Daltrey lends a little weightier rock legacy to the venture.
“What we’re doing is elevating the level in terms of celebrity hosts,” says Mitch Peyser, executive producer of “Legends.” “Roger Daltrey is definitely a step up. How many bands are there of the stature of the Who?”
Peyser notes that Daltrey had creative input in the script.
“Roger wanted to make sure what we were saying in the show was something he felt he could stand up for,” Peyser says. “We worked with him on scripting. He has a reputation and wanted to feel good about what he was saying. And his manager said when he first saw what was on the collection that Roger said it was something special, and that in this day, when it’s challenging to sell music, this was a great way.”
An early ‘Drug’ link to Conte
Amid the criminal charges alleging that the San Francisco-area supplements company BALCO provided steroids for athletes, it has frequently been mentioned that the company’s indicted founder, Victor Conte, once played bass for Tower of Power. He and his cousin, guitarist Bruce Conte, were in the band in the late-'70s, before Victor turned to his later profession.
But Bob Hart, proprietor of an independent record store in Coos Bay, Ore., points out that people seem to be overlooking a previous band Conte was in, an early-'70s funk band fronted by guitarist Harvey Mandel and violin player-singer Don “Sugarcane” Harris. The name of the group: Pure Food & Drug Act.