Have Temperatures Cooled For Usher & Chris Brown During This Climate Change In The Music Industry?

photo courtesy of Boi Genius

First week sales figures for music acts and celebrated artists have experienced a huge decline over the past seven years. It still comes as a surprise to many fans and music lovers alike when mainstream stars aren’t able to top the charts or push major album units during their first week of release. As both Usher and Chris brown have risen to the upper echelon of Pop and R&B success, their latest music efforts have commercially paled in comparison to the acclaim that each has experienced in the past. Usher’s 7th studio album, LOOKING 4 MYSELF, secured the top spot on the mainstream, Billboard HOT 100. However, the LP sold a disappointing 128,000 copies despite a massive, U.S. campaign to market the project. While Chris Brown saturated his fan base with free tracks, numerous singles and two collabos alongside his mega-star ex girlfriend, FORTUNE only managed to push 134,000 units during its first seven days of release. These numbers are quite puzzling. Usher and Chris Brown do an amazing job of appealing to a global audience without alienating their core, Rhythm and Blues fans. Both artists still receive public and critical praise for their high energy stage performances. Neither star can blame their support teams for poor promotion or a lack of label support.However, Usher and Chris Brown have become the latest storm victims in this modern day music forecast. Temperatures are predicted to be slow in album sales for artists who aren’t able to smash the music charts with monster iTunes singles. Usher’s core fan base have literally grown up alongside him. The then fifteen and sixteen year old teenage girls who once bought his albums on the release date, are now thirty two and thirty three year old women who have more important things to do with their money. Though Usher’s name and brand are recognized in cross-cultural markets, he hasn’t been able to appeal to this generations teen and pre-teen audiences. That’s the target group that consistently purchases music. However, they are now focused on Usher’s young prodigy, Justin Bieber. In the case of Chris brown, who does maintain a huge, teen following, his fans have become use to receiving Chris’ music for free. Though Chris was generous in gifting free downloads, mix tapes and compilations, he may have spoiled his fans into the comfort of not paying for his full fledged albums. Both Usher and Chris are faced with the dilemma of discovering new ways to package their albums in order to guarantee sales.
Though Usher has not yet been able to match the critical praise and commercial dominance achieved during his CONFESSIONS era, he has indeed grown musically over the past seven years. With the release of HERE I STAND (2008), RAYMOND VS. RAYMOND (2010) and his recent, LOOKING 4 MYSELF (2012), Usher has successfully created records that easily appeal to both urban and popular audiences. Some could argue that the R&B veteran has abandoned his roots for the latest trend in dance/techno music. Usher’s release of tracks that include WITHOUT YOU, SCREAM and DJ GOT US FALLIN’ IN LOVE, have made him the target of criticism from fans who fell in love with his strict, R&B music during the first ten years of his career. As he has now become an 18 year veteran in the music game, it’s clear that Usher desires longevity and ultimate legend status. Artistically, Usher maintains a sound that transcends genres. However, as a businessman as well, Usher understands the need to tweak his musical style to match the shift in contemporary, global success.There are very few urban records that have made a major impact on mainstream charts since the emergence of iTunes and other digital music retailers. Once upon a time, songs like Usher’s past hits, YOU MAKE ME WANNA and YEAH! were enough to secure his mainstay amongst other popular artists. Now, Usher has tailored his platform to display an ability to churn out records that showcase the roots of his career, while also promising him a platform that will stand the tests of time.

Chris Brown, as far as Im concerned, is the only other young, male artist who easily transcends beyond his R&B roots to appeal to a global market. Chris has managed to once again place his music at the forefront of his career and industry reputation. As a result, he has taken the approach of over saturating his audience with a mass release of singles, bonus tracks, viral footage, and accompanying music videos to support his mixtape and mainstream records. Despite the hide and seek tweets that address his public drama, Chris Brown seems to have focused himself on remaining relevant for his musical craft. In preparation for the launch of this new era, Chris pushed several promotional and official singles to radio. Strip and Turn Up The Music served as the musical gems to draw public attention to his Fortune. Chris Brown made high profile appearances on The Today Show, Billboard Music Awards and the 2012 BET Awards. He performed his new and some old material before viewing audiences comprised of millions. His name remained stitched in headlines for a busted chin he received during a nightclub brawl with Young Money rapper, Drake. Chris was also featured on countless blogs for his questionable lyrics in the THERAFLU remix. Chris was accused of taking verbal jabs at Rihanna, causing her to unfollow him on the Twitter social network. Though there was no blonde dye job or full frontal nude leak to further push the promotion of FORTUNE, it was expected that Chris would either exceed or at least match the initial sales of his previous FAME album.Both Usher and Chris Brown have framed their careers on delivering radio friendly records that receive cross genre airplay. Each maintains the ability to captivate audiences with a display of their physiques and intense choreography during stage performances. Additionally, Usher and Chris Brown have become two of the only male, urban acts of our generation who receive daily press amongst mainstream media outlets. As physically appealing as they are talented, Usher and Chris Brown aren’t competing with one another. They are both simply having to remain afloat as the tides of the music industry are constantly crashing.