Michael Jackson’s Thriller Turns 30
Billboard has an interesting history about the November 30, 1982 release of Thriller. In it, we learn of technology disruption (FM was replacing AM radio) and the audience fragmentation that occurred because of it.
We also learn about CBS Records’ concern over the album’s potential success:
Since the start of the [80s], black music had been increasingly banished from most white-targeted radio stations. This was partially due the virulent, reactionary anti-disco backlash that resulted in the implosion of that genre at the end of 1979. As the 80’s dawned, programmers increasingly stayed clear of rhythm-driven black music out of fear of being branded “disco,” even when the black music in question bore little resemblance to disco. This backlash was greatly magnified by the demise of AM mass appeal Top 40 radio at the hands of FM, which led to black artists being ghettoized on urban contemporary radio, while disappearing from pop radio, which focused on a more narrow white audience.
How dramatic was the decline of black music on the pop charts in that period? In 1979, nearly half of the songs on the weekly Billboard Hot 100 pop chart could also be found on the urban contemporary chart. By 1982, the amount of black music on the Hot 100 was down by almost 80%.
Also, and notably, MTV had just launched. But the music videos the station played were very white as it followed the playlists occurring on the FM charts. They too were very hesitant to give Jackson airtime.
[MTV executives at the time] concede that the channel initially assumed it would not play the video, as its thumping beat and urban production did not fit the channel’s “rock” image. They contend however that in mid-February, after seeing the clip—which was possibly the best that had ever come across their desks—they began to re-think things.
Good thing they did.
How a legendary album got its footing.
We don’t know about all of you fleshy readers but, if robots had an “inner child”, ours would undoubtedly have short-circuited trying to process all of this awesome. College football fan or not, anyone that loves classic video games should take a few minutes to watch this performance.
We’re writing today to ask you to please boycott all Streetlight related items by not purchasing any of our records or merchandise from Victory [Record]’s website, any traditional CD stores, online third party retailers or any digital distribution service (iTunes, Amazon etc)…In regards to getting the music we make, you can buy directly from us, or, alternately, we’re sure you can find a way to get the tunes onto your computer that may not be, ahem, traditional.The band Streetlight Manifesto, encouraging piracy of its own music. Years ago, the band signed with Victory Records, but—as with several other artists on Victory—it has since taken issue with the way the label does business (“an artist-hostile, morally corrupt and generally dishonest company,” in the band’s words). So, the band’s members are encouraging fans to either purchase directly from the band, or pirate their music. “Speaking a Bit metaphorically,” the band writes,” there is a Torrent of methods to accomplish this, and Google is your always loyal friend.” (Personal anecdote: At a SM show I once attended, singer Tomas Kalnoky told the crowd something to the effect of, “If you want to steal our music, that’s fine, because that just means that some asshole who lives in a mansion can’t live in a bigger mansion”).
The year was 2002. A famously nerdy, well-loved 1990s alt-pop band, looking for the perfect foil for their music-video rep, pulls out a dormant pop-culture phenomenon and breathes new life into it. That band was Weezer. That phenomenon was The Muppets. It took another try or two to fully pull it off, but The Muppets managed to earn their place back in the A list thanks to the template set by that video. Can lightning strike twice? Fortunately, there’s another famously nerdy, well-loved 1990s alt-pop band looking for the perfect foil for their music-video rep. Aren’t comebacks splendid, Ben Folds Five and Fraggle Rock? source
Fans had been trading magnetic tapes of already-released albums for years by this point, but Wonder was different: It was the first time that unheard recordings of a superstar’s new compositions had leaked to the public, and were being sold. It’s easy to take such a thing for granted today, when leaks circulate freely online, but Wonder represented the earliest moment when advancing technologies combined with popular demand and illicit entrepreneurship to create cracks in the record industry’s otherwise firm facade.Articles: Bob Dylan’s Great White Wonder: The Story of the World’s First Album Leak | Features | Pitchfork (via thisistheverge)