It’s hard to believe it, but Michael Jackson’s history-making album Thriller is now 30 years old. Billboard magazine had a very interesting write-up about the happenings in the music industry before and around the album’s release. I believe it includes timely lessons for those of us in the music biz today. Here are a few key facts and my applications for today.
- Record sales were poor in 1982. Bad slumps and doomsdayers are nothing new. Somehow, the industry survives every new technology that threatens it.
- The experts thought the downturn was due to video games. Hastily drawn conclusions have a way of being incorrect.
- Radio fragmented the listening demographic until the consumer demanded more variety. Music consumers are more sophisticated and appreciate all kinds of music. How many iTunes library consist of only one genre?
- MTV initially rejected Michael Jackson’s videos, because they wanted to keep a rock (read: white) image and didn’t think its viewers would be interested in an R&B (read: black) act. Of course, his videos became some of the most iconic of our generation. Don’t assume the people in charge know what they’re doing.
To quote the writer William Goldman, “Nobody knows anything.” Take neither criticism nor praise too seriously. The full article is on Billboard’s website.