standing

Now that it appears likely that 19E / Jive have put David into Tier One of their marketing machine, it begs the question as to the ultimate value of this support. The nature of the situation may at first seem like a no-brainer: What could possibly be undesirable about big-budget, A-list positioning for David? There are, of course, pros and cons to everything, and nothing is purely good or bad. Recent blog and board postings have already explored the process that is likely to unfold here:

This is being set up almost identically to Jordin’s “Tattoo” release last year. This is how Jive operates and if they are going for the Friday Z100 in-studio premiere, there will be a lot of payola behind this song, so it should receive substantial airplay (good or bad, requests or not).

This is how it works: Z100 will premiere it on Friday morning and play it several times over the weekend. They will officially add it on Monday. Other major markets who play monkey see, monkey do with Z100 will start playing it and add it over the month of August. Then, on the official impact date of Sept. 2, the song will be released to itunes and the overall radio push will commence in order to get a respectable to good Hot 100 debut. After the AI tour, the big payola will start with lots of in-studio radio promotions in major markets and contests like “Win breakfast with David Archuleta” or something like that. This will continue for about 2 months to keep the single moving up the charts. It will conclude with the album promotion and release (so, November 4 seems just about right).

This is an entirely different ball game from a runner up single that gets thrown out there with no radio promotion to temporarily appease fans.

— from MJ’s American Idol blog

First of all, let’s remember that this is an indication of the belief that David can sell records, not necessarily in the belief that David is an artist of the magnitude we know him to be (their belief or not in this is essentially immaterial for their purposes). So, what, you may ask, is the possible downside?

The possible downside is that David’s legitimacy in the market, among the general public and, most importantly, in the wider music industry may be compromised by the fact that his initial chart successes might be based not on genuine public interest but on relentless promotion. The quality of the material will have a lot to do with whether critics, industry people, and influential cultural observers assign credit to David or to the money behind him. In other words, whether or not the hype is deserved.

The organizational entities involved here represent the slickest, most manufactured side of the music industry. Although many fine artists fall into this category simply because this how the industry works at this level, many “true” artists who are not the beneficiaries of such support (whether by fate or by choice) are openly contemptuous and perhaps privately envious of the process. It is a great deal of money, after all.

But the problem is one of transition, if and when David may decide to pursue it, to more interesting, less mainstream forms and directions. When an artist’s career begins at a commercial peak, it becomes extremely difficult to ignore the pressures and expectations that accompany subsequent efforts.

If David wasn’t such a unique and special talent, I might have no reservations whatsoever. Huzzah! Best thing that could happen! But as we all know, David is a wellspring of untapped potential. There are depths of soul-stirring sensitivity and power that few artists possess. It has always been terribly gratifying to see how many musicians have responded to David, it is just one indication of just how substantial his gifts are.

Given his integrity and his apparent lack of interest in anything so crass as purely commercial success, it does seem more likely than not that David will be able to eschew the interests of the industry and pursue his passions when the time is right… even if I do feel just a little wistful for the lost opportunity for him to develop in a slightly more independent fashion.

I remind myself of my own mantra: Trust the Archulator.