Author Ryan Holiday wrote an excellent book called Perennial Seller which explores the value of creating something that will sell steadily over time: be it a novel, a record, a movie, or a product – and how a lot of creatives and the companies who work with them are often blinded by first-week sales, opening weekend box-office take, or the thrill of competing for spots on hype-driven best-seller lists.
The Great Gatsby initially sold poorly, and was considered a failure. ‘Khe Sanh’ was banned by every Australian commercial radio station upon release, despite its current position as the quintessential Aussie FM staple. Jim DeRogatis, one of the most storied reviewers, referred to The Beatles’ magnum opus Sgt. Pepper in the Chicago Sun-Times as “rather unremarkable, uninspired music.”
People don’t have to get it straight away.
Carole King’s 1971 album Tapestry is going to re-enter the ARIA Top 50 this weekend, buoyed by a recent musical that is touring Australia. This album has bounced in and out of the charts throughout the past two years, as different groups of people go to the musical, (re)discover the evergreen appeal of King’s classic tunes, and (re)buy the album.
Every Christmas the same albums reenter the charts: Greatest Hits sets from Queen, Cold Chisel, AC/DC, ABBA, Crowded House, Fleetwood Mac, and Midnight Oil. These are also the artists who are constantly played on radio. You’d be hard-pressed to enter any house in Australia devoid of an album by at least one of the aforementioned bands.
Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want For Christmas’ is a perennial seller. It is perhaps the only Christmas staple to have been written in the past 50 years.
Someone like Ed Sheeran certainly seems invincible at the moment, but it will remain to be seen if he is a Fleetwood Mac or merely an Alanis Morrisette – someone whose astronomical success is representative of the times; an era-specific punchline.
The best things often reveal themselves over time.