"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Politics of Pop Culture Popularity

Dixie Chicks on Entertainment Weekly cover

There is a mad variety of entertainment choices available to the average American today, and celebrities would do well to remember that. Their popularity is always due in large part to a magical combination of talent (not always necessary in any great amount), guile, ambition (absolutely essential), and pure luck that creates a desire on the part of total strangers to welcome these people into our humdrum lives. The one thing that all celebrities have in common—the only thing they all have in common, in fact—is that a very large number of people like them, often for no readlly identifiable reasons.

Television network programmers know that this mysterious likeability is the number one factor in success in that medium, and it is true throughout the Omniculture. There are just so many choices out there that people can never be forced to accept something from someone they don't like. They can always go elsewhere.

That is why celebrities strive so hard to create and maintain a particular public image. And it is also why likeable celebrities do incredibly stupid things that make people cast them aside like yesterday's poop. They don't understand how fragile likeability really is. Apparently they entirely forget the lessons about human fickleness they should have learned indelibly in high school.

To wit . . .

Reuters reports that the pop country band the Dixie Chicks have changed their tour schedule to avoid "red states." As you'll recall, Natalie Maynes, the group's lead singer, said she was ashamed of being from the same state as President Bush, while onstage at a concert before thousands of people. Then the band appeared naked on the cover of Entertainment Weekly magazine with angry words scrawled on their bodies, then Maynes apoligized for criticizing the president, and then she took back her apology.

For some obscure reason, the band's fans decided they didn't want to support them any more and could do without their music. Reuters writes:

Country-pop trio the Dixie Chicks, still feeling a backlash for criticizing President George W. Bush, have been forced to mostly abandon the American heartland and Deep South on their latest tour

Facing lackluster ticket sales in many U.S. cities where radio stations had banned their music to protest the band's anti-Bush remarks, the Chicks' promoters have revised their tour with new stops in Australia and Canada.

Only four Southern U.S. cities remain on the newly overhauled 49-date concert itinerary posted days ago for the Chicks' "Accidents & Accusations" trek, their first major tour in three years.

Those four -- Nashville, Atlanta, Dallas and Austin, Texas -- were pushed back about two months to the end of the tour, now set for late November and early December.

Dropped from the original tour schedule released in May were 14 stops in the Southern and Midwestern regions that traditionally form the core of fan support for country music acts.

Cities stripped from the original itinerary include Indianapolis, St. Louis, Houston, Memphis, Greensboro, North Carolina and Jacksonville, Florida.

The band and its promoter, Concerts West/AEG Live, say the overall number of North American dates remains the same.

But there is no question the Chicks are spending a lot less time in Dixie than they did during their 2003 tour, when Southern stops accounted for nearly a third of the 57 cities they visited.

According to the band's representatives as quoted in the Reuters story, radio stations have cut back on free promotions of the Dixie Chicks tour, which has resulted in the slow ticket sales in several Southern and Midwestern cities. They say the drop in sales is therefore the stations' fault, and not any decline in the band's overall popularity.

Of course, when those stations were giving the band free promotion, market capitalism was a very good thing indeed.

And the fact that instant wealth and worldwide celebrity tempted a young woman and her satellites to think that she was more than just a stupid singer had nothing to do with it.

Right.

From Karnick on Culture.

5 comments:

Tlaloc said...

"According to the band's representatives as quoted in the Reuters story, radio stations have cut back on free promotions of the Dixie Chicks tour, which has resulted in the slow ticket sales in several Southern and Midwestern cities. They say the drop in sales is therefore the stations' fault, and not any decline in the band's overall popularity."

They may have a point, just a few months ago the Chicks had three albums in the top 25 on amazon for sales. Even now several moths later their latest is STILL #3 on amazon. A lack of popularity would not seem to be one of their problems.

Looking for a bit more info we find this suspicion confirmed:

"Despite minimal airplay, Taking the Long Way debuted at number one on both the U.S. pop albums chart and the U.S. country albums chart, selling 526,000 copies in the first week (the year's second-best such total for any country act) and making it a gold record within its first week. The Chicks became the first female group in chart history to have three albums debut at #1.[8]"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dixie_Chicks

Aren't facts pesky things?

S. T. Karnick said...

No, but people who cannot make distinctions are. Where and to whom the discs are selling is a crucial fact missing from the raw numbers of disc sales given here. If the discs are not selling well in St. Louis and Houston but are doing grandly in the "blue" states, both the sales numbers and the decline of the band's popularity in the "red" states are true. A look at the amazon.com customer reviews confirms this, as positive reviews from large cities and "blue" states predominate.

In addition, concert tickets cost a great deal more than CDs do, so if people are buying CDs but not going to concerts, that indicates a serious decline in what they're willing to put out for a performer. That means they are less popular and liked than before. Those are facts.

Tlaloc said...

"If the discs are not selling well in St. Louis and Houston but are doing grandly in the "blue" states, both the sales numbers and the decline of the band's popularity in the "red" states are true."

Ah but you are moving the goal posts here. Now it's become popularity in red states instead of just popularity.



"In addition, concert tickets cost a great deal more than CDs do, so if people are buying CDs but not going to concerts, that indicates a serious decline in what they're willing to put out for a performer."

Or it means the concerts aren't getting as much promotion- which is what the chicks claimed.




"That means they are less popular and liked than before. Those are facts."

Really? So you are saying that advertising has absolutely no effectupon how much of a product is sold? That's fascinating because current business theory- if I'm not mistaken- is the opposite.

S. T. Karnick said...

My original post specifically said the group's popularity was declining in red states. And I also prominently mentioned the radio stations' refusal to give the band free promotion. And it is important to understand exactly what this means. The stations do those promotions because they benefit the station, not because they benefit the artist. The stations in the red states recognized that the DC are not a big plus for them, and made a business decision not to put them on air for free.

Anyone who wishes to believe that the red states still love the Dixie Chicks is free to do so. But the facts say otherwise.

S. T. Karnick said...

I'm deleting your comment as adding nothing new and simply beating a dead horse.