Why Ariana Grande’s “Focus” is Dropping Like a Rock at Radio, Even as YouTube Streams Remain Impressive

Do you think “Focus” is, should be, or should have been a hit?

With just over 30 million weekly audience impressions (30.482m, -4.056 m), Ariana Grande’s “Focus” is the fastest-falling song in terms of overall audience impressions today, beating out Dan + Shay’s “Nothin’ Like You,” which shed 3.849 million audience impressions. In fact, it is the fastest-moving song altogether, as Justin Bieber’s current smash, “Sorry,” only gained 3.644 million audience impressions today.

Why is “Focus” falling so quickly? 

According to Mediabase Callout Research, pop audiences just don’t like the song. In the most recent survey, “Focus” was rated positively by only 43.5% of listeners, as compared to 38.4% who disliked it. Her net positive score of +5.1% was the worst of all songs surveyed (which included all 32 currently charting pop songs that had audience familiarity of at least 60%). In fact, every other song had a net positive score of at least +17%. Also, “Focus” was listed as a favorite by only 9.5% of listeners, also the worst showing.

So, if Ariana’s song is so terrible, then why is it weird that it is falling so fast?

1) Callout numbers are improving.

Interestingly, the callout figures are actually an improvement over earlier callout reports, in which Ariana’s net positive score was approximately +0%. Why would Ariana’s callout numbers be improving just as radio starts abandoning her song?

2) Ariana’s performance of “Focus” at the AMA’s was EXTREMELY well-received.

Exhibit A, B, C, D, E, F, G

3) The “Focus” music video is getting tons of streams.

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 12.14.42 PM

If everyone hates this song and wants it to die, then why are 4 million people streaming it on YouTube ever day? This is a seriously impressive view-curve, competitive with recent massive hits by Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, Drake, and The Weeknd.

Last summer’s smash “Problem,” which is arguably Ariana’s biggest hit to-date, was only getting about 2 million views/day at its peak, and it never went over 3 million views, even as it became one of the ten fastest-selling singles in digital history in its first week.

This song has been out long enough that if it were a complete flop, its YouTube views would be dropping by now. They should have fallen faster, and they shouldn’t be popping back up (except on Saturdays).

4) The song is perfectly structured to be a smash pop hit.

Yes, to some extent, I am expressing my subjective impression of the song. But, I am not alone. When this song was released, radio programmers across the country were dead certain that it was a hit. It was rocketing up the radio charts at a seriously fast pace. Only Adele’s “Hello” was rising faster (for a while). Then, when callout finally issued its first report, and it turned out audiences weren’t entirely thrilled by the song, its progression stopped dead, after rocketing halfway up the chart. Radio programmers were confused, so they did nothing. The song was an obvious hit, but it was disliked by a huge number of people. So, they left the song at current levels, and slowly decided to start dropping it off their playlists.

Listen to last summer’s “Problem,” and then listen to “Focus.” Then tell me exactly why one song is beloved by audiences, and the other passionately hated. You can’t. The only salient difference between them is that one came out in 2014, before Ariana Grande’s last album became a massive success.

5) The music video for “Focus” is seriously emaculate.

Exhibit A: Ariana, wearing freaking amazing contact lenses in “Focus!”

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Exhibit B: This is what she looks like when nobody is watching…

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Exhibit C: “Who me?”

Screen Shot 2015-10-31 at 6.41.16 PM

Exhibit D: Selfie time!

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Exhibit E: Sleek profile shot.

Screen Shot 2015-10-31 at 6.35.12 PM

Exhibit F: You’re totes jelly of mah nails bi-otch.

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Exhibit G: Test tube baby.

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Exhibit H: Wink!

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Exhibit I: Just kicking it with mah tube friends (sisters?).

Screen Shot 2015-10-31 at 6.36.36 PM

Conclusion

Maybe the problem is simply a combination of simple and non-simple factors. Audiences loved “Problem,” because it was fresh and new. If it sounds like “Problem: Part 2,” then it is probably not going to excite people.

After a long string of hits from Ariana, radio programmers saw a song that preserved the best qualities of the biggest of the hits, and they immediately started putting it on heavy rotation. But audiences almost never love a song instantly. Audiences like songs that they know. That is why songs almost never debut in the top ten on radio songs. Even the biggest hits by the biggest artists in history take several weeks before they are allowed to reach #1 at radio. Radio programmers took a song that audiences were naturally inclined to be disenchanted with, and they committed the most grievous sin of all: they overplayed it too soon.

The song is still a solid one. The music video is captivating, and Ariana has a massive fan base. 40% of people can strongly dislike the song, and it will still get massive YouTube streams if 40% of people want to watch it on YouTube.

But, radio programmers thrive on not offending people. Radio doesn’t like risks. Radio programmers try to play music that is least objectionable, so that everyone can passively listen to it on their way to work. 40% dislike of a song is a big problem for radio, and that is why it is currently collapsing at such a rapid clip.

Do you think “Focus” is, should be, or should have been a hit?

— More —

The iTunes and Spotify Chart Positions of Every Ariana Grande Song in Every Country in the World 12/15/15 11:04AM Eastern. 

Focus

Santa Tell Me

One Last Time

Boys Like You

Break Free

Love Me Harder

Bang Bang

Problem

Almost Is Never Enough

Last Christmas

All My Love

E più ti penso

The Way

iTunes:


Baby I

Santa Baby

My Everything

iTunes:

“Another Lonely Night” Accelerates at Hot AC

Adam Lambert’s latest single off of The Original High has been accelerating modestly on Hot AC/Adult Pop. In other words, the rate at which it is increasing in audience impressions and spins has itself been increasing. For Adam Lambert fans, this is good news, as it implies that the song will be a bigger hit sooner.

“Another Lonely Night” has risen at least one position each day on the 50-position Hot AC radio airplay chart since it debuted on 11/14/15, and it currently sits at #33, with 416 spins representing 1,376,000 audience impressions over the past week.

Over the past week, it is the 16th fastest-growing song on the HAC chart by spins. Over the day yesterday (Saturday) relative to the prior day (Friday), it was the 8th fastest-growing song by spins and the 10th fastest-growing by audience impressions.

Overall, “Another Lonely Night” rises from #601 to #584 (+17) on radio today. Since the day before its first appearance on the chart (9 days ago), its weekly audience impressions have increased from 895,000 to 1,376,000 (+481,000, or 53.74%), with most of that gain (262,000, or 54.47%) occurring in the past two days. In that same time frame, weekly spins have increased from 235 to 416 (+181, or 77.02%), with the weekly rate of change accelerating from 108 to 141 (+33, or +30.56%).

If the overall audience impressions still seem weak, its because they are. Keep in mind that this is a song that just debuted on its first airplay chart one week ago. Wait until it debuts on Pop (which it will reasonably soon, since it is getting a lot of adds), and give it a month to get established, and then the overall numbers should start to look competitive.

But, for now, we can look for patterns in the data that can be used to predict future performance.

Here is essentially all of the data we currently have on the radio performance of “Another Lonely Night.” This information is available and updated semi-regularly on the data page for “Another Lonely Night.”

Adult Pop (HAC)
11/13 Friday: #NA; 235 weekly spins; +108 week-over-week weekly spins; 895,000 weekly audience impressions.
11/14 Saturday: #50; 252 weekly spins (+17); +109 week-over-week weekly spins (+1); 903,000 weekly audience impressions (+8,000).
11/15 Sunday: #48 (+2); 275 weekly spins (+23); +113 week-over-week weekly spins (+4); 949,000 weekly audience impressions (+46,000).
11/16 Monday: #41 (+7); 297 weekly spins (+22); +119 week-over-week weekly spins (+6); 993,000 weekly audience impressions (+44,000).
11/17 Tuesday: #39 (+2); 314 weekly spins (+17); +121 week-over-week weekly spins (+2); 1,035,000 weekly audience impressions (+42,000).
11/18 Wednesday: #38 (+1); 328 weekly spins (+14); +117 week-over-week weekly spins (-4); 1,023,000 weekly audience impressions (-12,000).
11/19 Thursday: #37 (+1); 350 weekly spins (+22); +128 week-over-week weekly spins (+11); 1,066,000 weekly audience impressions (+43,000).

11/20 Friday: #35 (+2); 372 weekly spins (+22); +137 week-over-week weekly spins (+9); 1,114,000 weekly audience impressions (+48,000).
11/21 Saturday: #34 (+1); 389 weekly spins (+17); +137 week-over-week weekly spins (+0); 1,221,000 weekly audience impressions (+107,000).
11/22 Sunday: #33 (+1); 416 weekly spins (+27); +141 week-over-week weekly spins (+4); 1,376,000 weekly audience impressions (+155,000).

So what can we do with this data?

The easiest thing to do is to extrapolate future chart positions from the current week-over-week spin increase. If we simply assume that spins will continue to increase at their current rate of 141/week, then we can project future chart positions in coming Sundays of: 31 (557 spins), 30 (698 spins), 28 (839 spins), 25 (980 spins), 24 (1121 spins), and 23 (1262 spins).

But, the rate of increase of weekly spins has itself been increasing at a rate of 3 2/3 per day, or 25 2/3 per week. If we assume a constant rate of acceleration of 25 2/3 spins per week, then we can project future chart positions in coming Sundays of: 31 (582.67 spins, or +166.67), 29 (775 spins, or +192.33), 25 (993 spins, or +218), 24 (1226.67 spins, or +233.67), 22 (1486 spins, or +259.33), and 19 (1771 spins, or +285).

So, take from that what you will. It’s by no means inconceivable that Adam Lambert’s song could be a top 20 hit on HAC in 6 weeks, but neither is it guaranteed. The song could slow before then, or it could start picking up steam.

Right now, of course, we are only operating on nine days’ worth of data. Adam hasn’t been performing the song on a lot of television shows, and we don’t have any Callout survey data on song-popularity yet. As more data start to come in, we will be able to generate more firm predictions.

So what can we say?

We can definitively say that the song is not toast yet. There is no real probative evidence that suggests that the song won’t be a hit.

Personally, I always thought “Another Lonely Night” was one of if not the song on the album with the biggest hit potential. “Ghost Town” is a good song, but it sounds like something you would hear in the club or on certain specialized radio stations. It never sounded like a pop hit to me.

“Another Lonely Night” sounds EXACTLY like a pop hit. Honestly, I kindof suspect that Warner Bros. released “Ghost Town” first in order to break the ice. They wanted to put a song out there that would slowly build up radio airplay in a completely organic and non-controversial way, so that radio would get used to the idea that it is safe to play Adam Lambert. Then, they drop the next big thing out of the bag. It isn’t dead on entry because radio has already been warmed up for Adam Lambert. The song gets a critical mass of early spins, and it starts to take root in people’s minds. It does well because its a good song, and then it starts to generate mainstream attention and pull in heavy radio airplay.

Keep in mind that Max Martin and Shellback are responsible for more pop hits than practically anyone else in history. They were at the heart of Adam Lambert’s early success, and they were absent from his commercially unsuccessful second studio effort. Adam Lambert has the capacity to be a permanent force in the music industry. He has a core fanbase that rivals (and frequently bests) those of any female pop diva, on, for example, stacking online votes. His flamboyant sexuality is barely even an issue these days. Coupled with hitmakers like Max Martin and Shellback and firmly backed by a supportive label, there is no reason to think that Adam can’t achieve mainstream success, and if “Another Lonely Night” isn’t the song that is going to get him there, then I’m seriously misreading the music market.

But, it will be interesting to see if the data end up confirming my suspicions. Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Another Lonely Night

Spotify:

Adele Could Break the 2.415m NSYNC Record

Dear Billboard,

I told you so.

Love,
Music Industry Sandbox

On November 4th, I ran a few numbers and concluded that Billboard’s estimate of Adele’s opening week sales for 25 (1.3 – 1.8 million) was too conservative. In fact, I predicted that 25 would sell over 2 million in its first week, and that it was not at all inconceivable that it could sell as high as 2.5 million, breaking NSYNC’s 2000 No Strings Attached record (2.415 million first-week sales).

I also noted Billboard’s tendency lately to underestimate the first-week sales of the biggest stars. Billboard correctly cites declining overall album sales. However, Billboard misses one important counter-trend that affects the biggest acts: the population of potential album-buyers is increasing even as the number of regular album-buyers decreases, and that trend creates extraordinary potential for those few superstar acts capable of galvanizing the population.

Here’s how my predictions stack up

Billboard Predictions as of November 4th

1.3 – 1.8 million first-week sales
(200,000 pre-orders in the first three days)

My Predictions as of November 4th

2 – 2.5 million first-week sales
550,000 total pre-orders

Billboard’s Current Projections

2.5 million total first-week sales
550,000 total pre-orders (450,000 from iTunes)

Actual Sales?

What do you think?

Continue reading Adele Could Break the 2.415m NSYNC Record

Missy Elliott is BACK w/ WTF

“I’m a big mac/make you wanna eat that.”

Missy Elliott, AKA the woman who popularized the trash-bag dress, big black female pop/rap, and the time-stop spit-swap… is back.

Stats

Current first week sales prediction: Minimum 45,000 units. This estimate assumes that the song is nearing its initial peak and will start collapsing soon. Should it keep increasing, and should radio airplay pick up, sales could be substantial and sustained.

The new single, WTF (Where They From) sits at #3 (and rising) on US iTunes after about 24 hours of release. The music video has registered 4,767,018 views since release. It has an expected final first-day view-count of around 4 million. For comparison, it is a stronger showing than Gwen Stefani’s “Used to Love You,” which pulled in 1.5 million views in its first two days, and just over 5 million in its entire 23 days of release, and comparable to many current, big-name pop stars. For example, Selena Gomez’s “Good for You” pulled in around 3.3 million first day views. But Missy Elliott has been absent from the music scene for a long time, and she will undoubtedly see a sharper decline than did Selena Gomez, after a sharper bump. Still, the initial view numbers indicate that the world IS watching Missy Elliott, and if they like what they see, she will have a hit on her hands. I’ll watch sales, radio, and streaming in coming days and get an initial chart ranking prediction out when I can. For now, all I can say is that a Top 20 debut on the Billboard Hot 100 on the basis of strong initial sales and streaming isn’t out of the question.

Missy Elliott has 5 solo US top ten hits, and is a featured artist on another 6. She hasn’t released a solo album since 2005’s The Cookbook peaked at #2 on the Billboard 200, producing the #3 Hot 100 hit “Lose Control.”

Watch some of Missy’s old music videos for her hits:

The Rain” “Work It” “Get Your Freak On” “She’s a Bitch” “Hot Boys” “Gossip Folks

Oh yeah… and here’s Missy performing as the surprise star of this year’s Super Bowl.

Continue reading Missy Elliott is BACK w/ WTF