A Year in Review

2011 was a year of hit records, powerful female artists, the discovery of electronic dance music within the US, and more genre crossovers into the main stream, especially rap/hip-hop.  Live music did better than in 2010 and the majors continued their cost-cutting measures, with the demise of EMI in December marking perhaps the end of an era.

Diversity and Renewal

There was diversity and renewal in the charts as measured by Adele (Top Artist), Lil Wayne (Top Artists-Male), Wiz Khalifa (Top New Artist), Taylor Swift (Top Country Artists),  Shakira (Top Latin Artist),  Mumford & Sons (Top Rock Artist), and Katy Perry (Top Club Artist).  But the year was undoubtedly Adele’s.  Since the release of her second album, 21, she soared into the spotlight. 21 spent nearly forty straight weeks in the top five spots of the Billboard 200 Chart, which set the record for the most number in the top five spots for an initial release.  The track “Someone Like You” was number one for fourteen weeks in a row, and she led the Top Artists, Top Billboard 200, and Hot 100 Songs charts.  A female artist has never accomplished this before.

Another marker of the significance of female artists this year is that for the first time in Billboard’s history four female artists have dominated the Top Artists chart: Adele, Rihanna, Katy Perry, and Lady Gaga.

Electronic dance music has been huge in Europe for many years now. But 2011 brought electronic dance music to the United States with a vengeance. Annual festivals and raves became more popular and new artists emerged.  Skrillex won three Grammys this year (Best Dance Recording, Best Dance/Electronica Album, and Best Remixed Recording.), and Deadmau5 performed at the Recording Academy Awards next to the Foo Fighters.  Other artists that have put out popular albums in the genre were LMFAO, Daft Punk, Lady Gaga, and David Guetta.

Live Music

Touring seems to have made a comeback in 2011.  After poor attendances in 2010, managers, promoters, venues, and booking agents adjusted their strategy.  Ticket sales improved, artists were matched with the appropriate venues, and concert attendance increased (artists performed less in order to improve their returns).

The biggest tour of the year was U2’s 360 Tour (the Circletour was the highest grossing ever, bringing in, since 2009, $265 million). Taylor Swift played in major arenas across the United States and then took Speak Now abroad (her receipts for that tour in the US alone were over  $100 million). Other successful tours were by Kenny Chesney, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, and Usher.

General Business

In other business news, Citigroup sold EMI to Universal and Sony.  Universal bought EMI Music for $1.9 billion, while Sony bought EMI Publishing for $2.2 billion.  The spilt and merger of these companies created a shift in the music industry and top executives switched companies, with artists and song catalogs being placed put under new management. The remaining three labels, i.e. Universal, Sony-BMG, and Warner, will likely benefit from EMI’s loss.

This was an important year for Cash Money Records. Because the label is a subsidiary of Universal Music, it has helped that major do well. Its catalog of rap/hip-hop artists was all over the Billboard Charts in 2011.  Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, Drake, Weezy, Wiz Khalifa, and many more rap/hip-hop artists have crossed over between genres.  Many of their albums and singles placed at the top or extremely high on a variety of charts. Tha Carter IV, Pink Friday, and Take Care are a few of its most popular albums. Cash Money Records is producing some of the newest, raw, undiscovered, and most talented acts of the year and the genre is becoming more universal. It wouldn’t be surprising if Cash Money Records makes an even bigger statement on next year’s charts.

The Grammies

As always, the Grammys are a magical night for artists and their audiences.  Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, the Foo Fighters, Adele, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, Nicki Minaj, The Civil Wars, and many more artists went on stage to an all time record TV viewing audience (largely, it seems, because of Whitney Houston’s untimely death). All, in their own right, amazed their fans, but it was the sheer number of performers and the variety of genres that made this year’s Grammys memorable.

The somber tone added to the proceedings, and Jennifer Hudson’s emotional rendition of  “I Will Always Love You” will long be remembered. Overall, this year there were not many awards presented live, as the night mostly focused on the performances.  Adele swept the Awards by winning six:  Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Pop Solo Performance, Best Pop Vocal Album, and Best Short Form Music Video.  Other Grammies for Best New Artist went to Bon Iver, Best Rock Performance to the Foo Fighters, Best Country Duo to the Civil Wars, Best Country Song to Taylor Swift’s  “Mean”, Best Country Album Lady Antebellum’s “Own the Night” and Best Dance Album to Skrillex for “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites”.

It is worthwhile to note that the total number of categories shrunk this year from over one hundred to about eighty, in a controversial attempt, yet to be fully digested in the industry, to prevent the Awards from being diluted over time. Rhythm and Blues, Latin Music, and Native America Music seem to have suffered the most. A full list of the awards, and the changes in question, can be found on the Grammy site.

By Haven Belke



One Reply to “A Year in Review”

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