Thursday, April 30, 2009

FootColumn #2: "We were meant to move..." Part 1 in an analysis of past singles and what that could mean for this new album

We finally know the approximate release date, and title for the upcoming Switchfoot record. Naturally, our thoughts turn to the possibility of a brand new single on the horizon and a new promotional campaign amongst the fans.. The “single” has really been one of the reasons Switchfoot’s career is where it’s at right now. As I begin part 1 of this series, we will look into the methods Columbia/Sony (the old Sony) took in marketing their singles for “The Beautiful Letdown,” and how effective they were in netting a larger audience.

When “Meant to Live” was first released back in 2003 as a single, no one (not even the label) really expected that it would ride the type of success that it did. The song helped propel “The Beautiful Letdown” to platinum status, but it wasn’t an overnight success by any means. By the time 2004 had come around, however, anybody who listened to radio or watched MTV had heard the song.

Analyzing the Billboard charts, we find that “Meant to Live” began charting the week of August 9, 2003, a little more than five months after “The Beautiful Letdown” was released. Switchfoot entered the Hot Modern Rock Tracks chart that time at No. 36. It slowly, but steadily began to pick up a few more plays across that format, and by November it had reached as high as No. 11, beginning to achieve consideration for the Hot 100 Singles chart.

Then, crossover happened. Even as “Meant to Live” was peaking at No. 5 on Modern Rock radio, it broke into coveted Top 40 airspace in March of 2004, 7 months after it had first broke into the Modern Rock format. Later in March, “Dare You to Move” debuted on Modern Rock radio, while “Meant to Live” was crossing over into yet another format, the Hot AC/Hot Adult Top 40. The radio cycle for “Dare” followed much in the same path as the previous single’s, and two major hits with long-lasting chart runs were broken for the album. Columbia would go on to release one more single to radio, “This Is Your Life.” But for whatever reason, whether it was the band vetoing the idea of another huge marketing campaign for the single, or just the lack of attention overall from the label, no video was produced for it and it peaked at No. 30 on Modern Rock.

It is important to notice that the label, Columbia Records, recognized the exact market that Switchfoot’s music would immediately appeal to: rock fans. The buzzing guitar intro hook of “Meant to Live,” as well as Jon Foreman’s soaring, passionate vocals on that song was tailor-made for Modern Rock radio. As such, it was marketed heavily to that format, and crossover to the mainstream Top 40 and Hot AC formats soon followed, because of the buzz it got from the rock scene. Modern Rock gave Switchfoot a solid foundation, and they were able to branch out from there.

In the next segment, we’ll explore the marketing for “Nothing Is Sound” and “Oh! Gravity.”, and preview what needs to happen for the new record.

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