About half of musicians who reach the charts are one-hit wonders

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2017/04/05/about-half-of-musicians-who-re.html


That video is brilliant! I never saw it back in the last century.


Chumbawamba is mentioned in this article as if they were a money-hungry band in search of a big hit record. They had already put out a lot of records pooh-poohing commercialism, and Tubthumper’s fame was more of an annoyance than a heady success to them, as I recall.


Well, that was three minutes out of my life I’ll never get back.

You know why most chart toppers only have one hit? Because being a musician is fucking hard and pop culture is fickle.


not R?


Hang on, since when were A-ha one hit wonders?

Has the study never heard of this?

Ah, it would appear that the USA is the world. Again.


And don’t forget the producers who use unknown groups to promote a particular novelty.


Seems like there are tons of bands that did quite well in others markets, but only had a single hit here. I think that doing well in the US, though (as it’s still the largest market for popular music) means you’ve really made it. This is why when many artists, when seeking to expand outside of their regional market, will sing in English (if they aren’t from an English speaking country, I mean).

I do remember that song, too, actually and it seems to me it charted, though not as high as Take On Me.


It’s all about the literal video version, I say.

Come to me (come to me)
Magic frame (magic frame)
Sing to you
Band montage!


I do think a lot more depends on the proper support, too, though. It’s not just about people’s tastes, but how one’s label perceives the public’s tastes and seeks to exploit it for their artists. It’s a pretty complicated formulation, but the perception is that you have to pour tons of cash into a new artist to get them public attention, and the label will pretty quickly dump the artist if they don’t get instant traction. I’d say it’s the pipeline between the label and the public that’s the most fickle.


Also, isn’t comparing 1955, to say 1970, to 2005 kind of apples and oranges? By that time, the structure of the industry had changed, consolidated, and fragmented again. Jukeboxes, radio, MTV, commercials, and filesharing all had an influence on how people consumed and related to music. The format on which people bought music also plays a role - from singles to LPs, CDs and MP3s. And then there are submarkets of the major market for popular music - the subculturing of popular music. Nor is there much about how the industry itself operates and how much the success of an artist depends on the strength of their label support, often times.

This article kind of reinforces many misconceptions about how popular music as a commodity functions.


Hang on, since when were A-ha one hit wonders?

My thought exactly! I have BOTH their songs! :wink:

(and, since I was in the States then, and I depended wholly upon top 40 radio, that must have charted)


What I find more surprising is that many of these one-hit wonders are still actively touring despite not seeing much in the way of similar success, and people are flocking to see them. Usually with the Nth round of band members outside the lead singer. Nostalgia?

I get it that many had some baseline of skill to get where they were - hell even Psy (Gangnam Style) could be considered talented on some level - but others? Vanilla Ice???


It’s even more brilliant when you consider when it was released, and the milieu of music videos it emerged from.

Was that me? Was I singing?


That was more or less my first though too. Well, second thought. It’s an interesting factoid, but I wonder if there are any noticeable trends over time. Sort of like this. (because by now there is an xkcd for everything.^)

^ which, I assume, is Rule 35.


My favourite one-hit wonder is Tasmin Archer’s Sleeping Satellite. I remember hearing a street musician here in France singing it with just his guitar, years after it was a hit, and it was nifty. The guy was good, that’s for sure, but the fact that this song worked in such a simplified format is a credit to its quality.


A job?

I’m doing more-or-less the same thing I’ve been doing for the last 20-mumble years. There was that one time I did something pretty great, but not many people - aside from me - remember that now. But folks still pay me to do my job, so I keep doing it.

Being a musician isn’t a binary [unlimited_wealth]/[abject_failure] proposition.


So I guess “one-hit wonder” is a bit of a misnomer. But maybe “one-hit pretty typical musician” isn’t as catchy.


Totally get it. Maybe I misspoke - but what surprises me is the following many one-hit wonders have, in some cases growing over time. This may be due to the fact they like the job, have talent, just got lucky, are fame whores - whatever.
More power to them, and anyone else in this industry to stick with it for the long haul. Even Vanilla Ice (shudder).