2nd To None: Sacrificial Lamb?
a thought provoking article, Bryan Gruszka presents his theory
about the realisation of 'Elvis 2nd To None'. A theory many
fans may not agree with, but one that bears consideration.
BMG's idea for Elvis 2nd To None ill conceived? Was the album
a sacrificial lamb, shackled by inadequate promotion, after
the huge success of Elvis 30 #1 Hits?
Gruszka presents his views on these and other questions in this
thought provoking article..
is just a theory I have been kicking around about 2nd to None and
the lack of advance promotion. Several months ago, BMG was commenting
on how their projected sales figures for 2nd to None would be 6
million worldwide, with 2 million in the U.S. alone. More recent
sales estimates are now 3.5 million worldwide - thus, BMG have quietly
revised their sales figures and, in my opinion, have tailored their
publicity to match.
main question about 2TN publicity was not why there was none, but
rather why the publicity onslaught began the day of release. Clearly
this was not a case of BMG deciding to skimp on promotion, but rather
a conscious choice on their part to delay promotion until the release
date, as since 2TN has been released, promotion has, at least in
my area (Chicago) been relatively obvious.
contrast to E#1's, however, which had promo starting as early as
June, 2TN had literally none in the Chicago area until the day of
release. This is the major difference between the two releases.
The question, of course, is the reason behind it. BMG, like other
record labels, does their own internal sales projections, based
on things that I don't have enough knowledge to comment specifically
about, but suffice it to say that they know well beforehand roughly
how much a release will sell the first week.
the case of 2TN, my theory is that somewhere along the line (before
the release) BMG realized that whether or not they ramped up advance
publicity or they started publicity the day of the release, first
week sales would not produce a number one record.
BMG saw competition from other artists in the 2nd and third week
(particularly Clay Aiken, who will definitely keep Elvis from having
another #1 release) and made a decision to sacrifice advance publicity
and first week sales for the hope of better 2nd week and possibly
third week sales and a potentially higher chart position given that
rap artists generally have weaker 2nd week sales than more "traditional"
is possible, too, that Clay Aiken's release might drop like a stone
in the 2nd week of release, given that its release date was pushed
back a few times (not a good indicator for sales) and this might
help Elvis in the long run. Again, this is only a theory, but it
makes sense in the sense that there has been a publicity blitz since
the day of release (although still not on the level of E#1's) but
practically nothing beforehand.
what does this mean? Well, overall it means that Elvis may not get
a #1 with 2TN, but does add another top ten and top 40 album to
his credit (and possibly another platinum or multi-platinum album).
I think that somewhere along the line BMG realized that another
#1 might not be possible, and while I am most disappointed in the
lack of advance publicity, I do think that there has been a huge
shift in the thinking of the general public regarding Elvis.
be honest, when E#1's was announced, I was not happy. Since that
had been done before and particularly since the Beatles #1's had
done so well, I assumed that BMG would have another release that
did nothing due to lack of promotion, and it would be made doubly
painful by its inevitable comparison to the Beatles #1's album's
success. I was pleasantly surprised, though, and E#1's proved that,
with killer publicity, even Elvis, who hasn't been a serious chart
presence in many a year (again, in big part due to lack of promotion!)
could score very well.
the release of E#1's, the public now realized that Elvis is
just as much of a chart presence as any other artist. It was
about time that BMG gave Elvis his due, as other dead or "old"
artists (Sinatra, Santana, the Beatles, Led Zeppelin to name
a few) have been given. 2TN debuted at #3 with little advance
was the last time an Elvis release did that? I can't remember a
time. In addition, it did it without the strength of a catchy remix
backed by a big ad campaign (and let's face it, Rubberneckin' was
pretty much a worldwide flop), and it did it on the heels of a highly
successful and highly touted, very similar compilation from just
a year ago. That's pretty good overall.
I will stress again that I am not happy at the lack of a #1 debut
(as I think Elvis has been denied the #1 spot so many, many times
in the past 10-12 years due to shameful lack of publicity from BMG),
it still is a remarkable achievement for Elvis to go from not even
being able to crack the Top 50 on the album charts with any release
to having two top 3 albums in two years.
more thing to consider, and I have no real evidence for this, is
that 2TN was the "sacrifical lamb" album that was never meant to
go to #1, but rather was meant to bridge the gap between E#1's and
that 50th anniversary celebrations coming in 2004. It, at the very
least, has kept Elvis in the public eye in a favorable light in
the interim period, and that's a good thing.
and perhaps most importantly, it has placed Elvis well within the
realm of other artists that record stores and other merchandisers
consider viable, which helps with future publicity as record stores
and other outlets will be willing to promote Elvis releases along
with BMG, rather than having BMG do all the work. No matter how
much publicity materials BMG sends to record stores (and I am not
saying they are good in this regard) if a store decides not to display
it, it won't go up (excepting, of course, those instances where
it's contractually obligated to do so).
if Elvis has the image of a popular seller, record stores will be
more inclined to use publicity materials overall. Will BMG keep
the ball rolling? Who knows. So far, although 2TN promotion was
dismal compared to E#1's, there is something happening with Elvis,
and his high chart placing cannot, in this case, be attributed to
a barrage of publicity.
this mean the general public actually think Elvis is hip? That might
be too much to hope for, but one cannot use the argument that it
was simply Elvis fans buying 2TN, as if that were the case, every
Elvis release would have big first week sales. 180 odd thousand
in first week sales may seem small compared to E#1's (and justifiably
so) but it's far and away much more than most Elvis releases (without
publicity) achieve, so it must be more than just Elvis fans buying
it. Also, 180 odd thousand in sales is also close to the #2 selling
album, by a very contemporary artist...not bad.
key, as always, is to keep Elvis in the spotlight, and if BMG manages
to do this, and to keep up anticipation for each successive Elvis
release, that, while not as good as a string of #1 albums, is, at
the very least, very much better than what has come before.
Gruszka can be contacted at: