Elvis Presley left the building 43 years ago...
Early this month, a music milestone was made — Drake broke the record for the most top 10 hits in the history of the Billboard Hot 100. At the same time, a legend has slipped down the ladder to number 10 on the same list — Elvis Presley, who passed away on August 16, 1977. While Drake — who is 33 years old — has 40 hits, Elvis could manage 25 by the time he passed away at the age of 42. The rock-and-roll legend is now kept company by Lil Wayne and Taylor Swift.
No, a comparison is not possible between Drake’s achievements and that of The King. It’s futile. To expect more under 18-year-olds turning up at Graceland or hoping them to listen to the man’s entire catalogue is like being stuck in time. The real importance of Elvis lives on... it’s about how he reshaped the modern music industry and inspired countless musicians before leaving the building. That’s his lasting legacy. There will be, from time to time, some different takes to his music, like what we have seen with A Little Less Conversation or Rubberneckin’. Hits like Heartbreak Hotel and Jailhouse Rock will continue to get featured on soundtracks. What Drake’s achievement shows is the story of two music industries. What Elvis continues to show 43 years after his death is the degree of success a driven young man can achieve.
Pre- and post-Napster era
Ownership and streaming are worlds apart. Elvis ruled in an era when it was impossible for a person to have access to almost every other album out there but at the same time, he or she didn’t have to worry about the fact that a streaming service can pull the plug on any album.
Most streaming services were a response to Napster. Suddenly music companies saw how powerful technology could be. Without tech help, labels were drowning in piracy.
Now you have streaming services but another problem is at hand. At Neftlix or Disney there is a lot of original movie content, which is great. But look at music streaming services — they are basically the same. And going to war using pricing as a tool can take a service only that much further. That is why companies like Spotify are looking at newer avenues, like podcasts.
Radio vs playlists
August 1, 1981. MTV kicked off with the video of The Buggles singing Video Killed the Radio Star. Prophetic title indeed. The Elvis generation dependent much on RJs for their success. In July 1954 Memphis DJ Dewey Phillips played That’s All Right / Blue Moon Of Kentucky and the rest is history. With streaming, life has come full circle. There was a time when record labels wanted their artistes to be heard on radio and then came MTV, but now the push comes in the form of a spot on Spotify or Apple and a place in video games. Just imagine what if Rihanna or Pharrel Williams doesn’t make it to a popular playlist! In the era of all-powerful algorithms, an artiste like Elvis would have required more marketing shakes than that of the vocal cords. Yes, playlist is king and the King obviously couldn’t imagine this at the peak of his career.
Do albums matter?
Many wouldn’t remember the last time when an album was heard in full. Sad? Well, that’s the way the industry works. For 125-year-old-plus music trade publication Billboard, compiling the weekly charts is no joke. Starting January this year — New York Times has reported — Billboard is counting the popularity of official music videos on YouTube, as well as those on Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal and Vevo, in the magazine’s flagship album chart, the Billboard 200. (YouTube plays have been part of Billboard’s singles ranking, the Hot 100, since 2013.) User-generated content — like memes or cover versions — will not count. Elvis was about albums.
- During Elvis Week (August 9 to 17) last year in Memphis, Spotify looked at how listeners continue to love The King’s music on the streaming service. Spotify had said there was more than 16.5 million hours of streaming of Elvis music in 2019 alone and more than 2.3 million playlists based on the iconic artiste on Spotify. It said that 18-22 year-olds stream his music almost as much as listeners aged 45-59.
- Top Elvis Presley songs on Spotify in 2019 were Can’t Help Falling In Love, Jailhouse Rock, Suspicious Mind, Hound Dog, Burning Love, A Little Less Conversation (JXL Radio Edit Remix), Heartbreak Hotel, Don’t Be Cruel, Blue Suede Shoes and In The Ghetto.
- Top countries for streaming Elvis in 2019: USA, UK, Mexico, Brazil and Germany.
- Top Elvis Christmas song: Blue Christmas.
- Number of Elvis listeners on Spotify: 9.9m plus.
- John Lennon: Nothing really affected me until I heard Elvis. If there hadn’t been an Elvis, there wouldn’t have been a Beatles.
- Paul McCartney: When we were kids growing up in Liverpool, all we ever wanted to be was Elvis Presley.
- Bruce Springsteen: There have been a lotta tough guys. There have been pretenders. And there have been contenders. But there is only one king.
- Bob Dylan: When I first heard Elvis’ voice, I just knew that I wasn’t going to work for anybody; and nobody was going to be my boss…. Hearing him for the first time was like busting out of jail.
- Elton John: Ask anyone. If it hadn’t been for Elvis, I don’t know where popular music would be. He was the one that started it all off, and he was definitely the start of it for me.
- Beyonce: Elvis is iconic; a lot of performers today look to that for inspiration.
- Mick Jagger: He was a unique artiste, an original in an area of imitators.
- Bono: Elvis Presley is like the ‘Big Bang’ of rock ’n’ roll.
- Madonna: Without Elvis you’re nothing.