I couldn’t have said this better.. so here is a repost from one of my favorite sites: The Kings of A&R
Nickelback (formed in Alberta, Canada, 1995) didn’t actually have chart topping success until 2001 with Silver Side Up and the track “How You Remind Me.” They then struck gold again with the same song, this time called “Someday.” They have sold about 14 million albums to date, just in the US. They currently have about 12 songs in heavy to medium rotation on US Rock, Alternative and Active Rock stations, and a number of crossover hits. Compare that to one of rock’s more overplayed bands, Nirvana, with only 10 songs in medium to light rotation and zero crossover hits.The band has won nine Juno Awards, an American Music Award, an MTV Video Music Award for Best Video from a Film (Hero), and a World Music Award for World’s Best-Selling Rock Artist. The band was also nominated for seven Grammy Awards, four American Music Awards and ten Juno Awards. On December 4, 2006, Nickelback won three Billboard Music Awards out of five nominations. [wiki]
Formula? You bet! They even discussed it on NPR’s All Things Considered. Just because they have an obvious formula does that mean they aren’t any good? Well, according to their sales numbers, no one really cares. If you like one song, you like them all, but unfortunately if you don’t like one song, you probably won’t like any of them. Many people have been speaking out against Nickelback recently, implying that they don’t deserve their success because they lack originality in their music. Others believe that the sales numbers indicate just how great the music is. In the end, sales numbers indicate little aside from how well it is selling. It doesn’t speak to the quality of the music outside of the fact that people are clearly connecting with it on some level.
This band is polarizing because they are one of the only rock bands that’s been successful when it seems no one else can do it. Why is this happening? Is it that they’re the greatest rock band of all time? Or do they just have a great business plan, a formula that works, and good timing? I don’t doubt a valid argument could be made either way, since we have been seeing those arguments on KOAR for a while now. The truth of the matter is, for the right band, the ‘old industry’ is just as effective now as it was before, if not more so since there is less real competition in the mainstream. The revolving door of hype and fad bands mean nothing when compared to a band that consistently delivers with no surprises. Although many are singing the praises of satellite radio, iPods are selling like hotcakes and hardcore music fans are scouring the internet for free music, don’t underestimate the stronghold the mainstream has on the South and the Midwest. The South and the Midwest ARE the mainstream. In these parts of the country, commercial radio is still king and established artists like Nickelback aren’t even screened before being thrown into heavy rotation, while new artists have to jump through all kinds of hoops before being considered. Labels aren’t the only ones interested in hit songs. Radio needs them too and they are less willing to gamble on something without a proven impact.
However, in these parts of the country, there are pockets of listeners who rebel against the mainstream . They’re online, they listen to satellite, they attend every show that comes through their town on an endless search for great new music. They are desperate to connect to something the way their neighbors have connected to Nickelback, but at this point, they’re on their own. Even with all of the options and access they have through technology, finding the one great band in the endless ocean of shit is a full time job many of us are being paid to perform. There is great potential for an industry to exist outside of the ‘old system,’ but as of right now, it is in no way regulated and there are no clear leaders yet. MySpace seems to be the website of choice for artist self-promotion, but it’s a site that’s so huge and so poorly designed, artists are reduced to spamming to justify having a profile there. How often does it happen that you are spammed on MySpace by a band and they end up being the greatest thing you’ve ever heard? It never happens. Maybe because artists are spending more time spamming and updating profiles than actually working on their music and building their careers.
For those NOT interested in the mainstream and the major label system, where mass appeal hits are required with great consistency and the ‘game’ must be played, there isn’t really a working system for them, but it’s getting there. Bands CAN pick up a certain amount of traction and make waves almost solely through the internet, but there are no examples of that resulting in a legendary, great or even really good artist. We know it’s coming. We know it will eventually happen, but it hasn’t happened yet. There are literally thousands of music sites and internet-based third party companies of varying quality, taste and ability. As the better ones rise to the top, better opportunities will be available to those looking for other options. So, at some point a great band will come along and opt for this system and they will be successful at it, by anyone’s measurement. Until then, it is still a struggle.
Great music is out there. Great artists still exist. Whether they choose to be a part of the major label system or blaze their own trail, their true value can never be measured in album sales or awards. A band’s quality can only be determined by the connection they establish with their fans, and no one can say one connection means more or is worth more than another. ‘Success‘ means different things to different people and although labels may define it as ‘millions of copies sold,’ I’ve met very few artists who share that definition. There is no right way or wrong way to be in this business, there is only truth and lies. If you’re an artist or if you work with artists, you have to love the music you’re working with and believe in what you’re working towards. If you simply see it as a cash cow or a means to an end, you’re missing the point. I think Chad Kroeger has no problem sleeping at night. I believe he looks himself in the mirror and likes who he sees. No matter how I feel or don’t feel about Nickelback’s music, I think Chad Kroeger is a good dude and has a lot to be proud of. It’s not right to belittle his success or his fans just because the new system we would like to see isn’t in place yet or because things didn’t work out the same way for another artist.