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Why Mariah Carey’s Chart Success May Be Elusive This Time Around

Mariah Carey Billboard

Navigating Mariah’s chart success in the streaming era demands a shift in fan engagement. Simply enjoy the music or adapt to the game; the choice is ours.

The music world buzzed with anticipation when Ariana Grande and Mariah Carey unveiled their long-awaited collaboration: a remix to the track “yes, and?” The announcement sent shockwaves across a multi-million-strong audience, raising expectations for chart-topping success. However, beneath the excitement lies a confluence of factors that most likely will hinder Mariah’s ascent to the top of the charts this time around.

We will dig into some of these factors, and while many of these appear to be opinions on the surface, they’re supported by historical data. But let’s start with one of the most generalistic approaches that affects the fresh acts of yesteryears, who are now musical legends.

Ageism and Industry Dynamics

One of the key challenges facing Mariah Carey’s chart success is ageism within the music industry. At 54 years old, Mariah represents a generation of iconic artists whose relevance in mainstream music is often questioned. The industry’s relentless pursuit of youth and novelty tends to overshadow the contributions of seasoned performers like Mariah. Despite her undeniable talent and enduring legacy, the industry’s fixation on emerging artists poses a significant barrier to Mariah’s chart dominance. And it’s understandable: many fans want to idolise an artist they grow up with since the beginning. Like many of us did, back in the day.

Erosion of the Fanbase

Over the years, Mariah Carey’s fanbase, known affectionately as the Lambily, has witnessed a gradual decline in its fervor and dedication. Several factors contribute to this erosion, including Mariah’s diva persona, vocal controversies, musical directions outside the Music Box format and lip-syncing incidents. While die-hard fans remain steadfast in their support, a segment of the fanbase has waned, disillusioned by Mariah’s perceived decline in vocal prowess and stage presence. As a result, Mariah finds herself grappling with a fractured fanbase, which undermines her ability to rally widespread support for her chart endeavors.

Online Discourse and Public Perception

And yet, while we might think the world is against Mariah Carey with comments such as “flopriah”, and “the lip-sync supreme”, there is a lot more love in the comments than actual hate if we put things into perspective: when Billboard posted Beyoncé’s updated figures for “Texas Hold ‘Em”, the comments were brutal – two supportive comments against over 40 hateful remarks. And yet the song is charting number one on Spotify Global. We focus so much on past debacles and public ridicule that any negative comment will serve as the trigger to reenhance “everybody hates Mariah”. The truth though is quite the opposite: other artists currently on the top of the charts, garner thousands of toxic comments if we care to take a closer look, when compared to Mariah’s comments who is now at a more cemented legend status.

Now, it’s imperative to delve into the dynamics between Mariah Carey and her team:

Attention to Strategy and Detail

Addressing any issues, particularly regarding the initial remix version’s sound quality, should have been a priority well before the release date. Neglecting to rectify such concerns ahead of time risks alienating a vast and eagerly anticipating audience. As the saying goes, “first impressions last,” and in the competitive realm of the music industry, they can either catapult a song to success or hinder its reception. While it was corrected the day after, thousands of listeners were alienated. Therefore, meticulous attention to detail and proactive problem-solving are essential to ensure a positive initial impact and sustain audience engagement in the long run.

Indeed, Mariah Carey’s prominence during the Christmas season is undeniable. However, in today’s music industry landscape where every form of consumption contributes to chart success, there are aspects that warrant scrutiny. For instance, the exclusive availability of certain physical releases in the U.S. may bolster Billboard Hot 100 positioning but alienates the international fanbase craving access to cassettes and vinyl singles. This strategy, while effective in one market, undermines global accessibility and inclusivity.

Why is this important? While chart placements generate buzz, accolades like RIAA certifications serve as symbols of credibility and quality endorsement. These certifications signal to audiences, “Hey, listen to this, it must be good.” Yet, the emphasis on U.S.-centric metrics overlooks the significance of worldwide sales and platinum/gold certifications across diverse markets.

Unlike some U.S.-based accolades requiring label payment, many international certifications are automatically conferred upon reaching milestone sales figures. Such global recognition reflects an artist’s universal appeal and resonates with fans worldwide, transcending regional boundaries and fostering a more inclusive music industry ecosystem. Therefore, while North American chart success remains important, a holistic approach that acknowledges diverse forms of recognition and celebrates global achievements is essential in today’s charting world, especially among the increased significance of the Global charts in today’s industry.

The “Trouble” of Video Recording

Yet another aspect of consumption that has fallen by the wayside is the production of high-end music videos. It’s been a while since we’ve witnessed the visual extravagance of videos like “Honey,” “Heartbreaker,” “It’s Like That,” “Touch My Body,” or “Obsessed.” While our primary focus tends to be on audio, it’s essential to recognize the significance of visual accompaniments in enhancing equivalent sales and charting points.

Music videos serve as a crucial medium for engaging audiences and expanding media crossover. They captivate viewers, evoke emotions, and create lasting impressions that resonate long after the song ends. However, the production of high-quality music videos entails considerable investment and resources. In today’s streaming-dominated era, the returns on such investments may take time to materialize, making them a less attractive option for some artists and labels.

Nevertheless, neglecting to produce visually captivating music videos or resorting to low-budget alternatives like green-screening or “home videos” can diminish audience engagement and limit media exposure. While cost considerations are valid, overlooking the potential impact of music videos on sales, chart performance, and overall brand visibility is shortsighted. Therefore, striking a balance between fiscal prudence and artistic investment is crucial to harnessing the full potential of music videos in today’s competitive music landscape.

Streaming: The Silence of the Lambs

The Mariah Carey fanbase has exhibited remarkable prowess in digital sales. With just a few downloads, we can exert a significant influence on global charts, often ascending to the top with minimal effort. In many countries, a mere two downloads suffice to secure a top position in this era of declining music downloading habits.

However, it’s essential to recognize the interplay between digital downloads and streaming metrics. While downloads yield immediate itunes chart impact, the streaming landscape operates on a different scale when joining in for charting metrics. For every download or physical two-track CD purchase, the equivalent in streaming numbers must be considered. One download or a physical CD single is equivalent to 150 streams, illustrating the disparity in impact between these consumption methods. This serves for charting as well as sales accounting metrics.

For instance, 1000 downloads, which may seem like a lot, translate to 150,000 streams, a relatively modest boost when compared to the millions of daily streams prevalent in today’s digital ecosystem. While digital sales remain a faster force in chart domination, the exponential growth of streaming platforms underscores the need for a comprehensive approach to chart success. Balancing digital sales with streaming engagement is imperative for maintaining chart relevance and maximizing visibility in an evolving music landscape. Thus, while digital sales demonstrate the lambs’ dedication and influence, integrating streaming strategies is essential for sustaining chart dominance in the long term.

When it comes to streaming, the Mariah Carey fanbase, known as the lambs, have always somewhat faltered. Whether due to insufficient numbers or a lack of enthusiasm, the truth lies in the numbers. Millions of daily streams on “today’s hits” consistently outperform the relatively few thousand physical sales and downloads attributed to the lambs.

Historically, the lambs have struggled to make a substantial impact in the streaming arena, particularly when compared to other fanbases’ dedicated streaming efforts. Despite boasting a considerable following of 13.4 million on Instagram and thriving fan communities, many Mariah Carey releases have failed to garner significant streaming numbers upon their release – some tracks even barely hit the 10,000 mark. This discrepancy is puzzling, considering the fanbase’s size and dedication.

However, there are strategies that can be employed to bolster streaming numbers. Some lambs have embraced techniques utilized by other fanbases, such as employing 36-second methods or utilizing offline devices to increase streaming counts. For example, a single individual (me) managed to generate 467 streams in one day for the song “yes and?” and another track previously receiving only 2-3 streams daily. These results demonstrate that increased streaming numbers are achievable with proactive engagement, if employed by… more than one.

Streaming Mariah Carey

(I’m trying to get all Mariah’s tracks past the 10,000 mark… bear with me, I’m a freak)

Ultimately, it’s essential to acknowledge the reality of the streaming landscape. While it may seem rigged against smaller fanbases, simply lamenting poor chart performances is not a productive approach. Instead, there’s a choice to either ignore the game or actively participate in it. By adopting innovative strategies and embracing the streaming culture, the lambs can enhance their impact and contribute to Mariah Carey’s chart success in today’s competitive environment.

The Yes and? Discourse

The impact of “yes, and?” extended far beyond the Lambily. The song surpassed almost 3 million streams (youtube and spotify) on its first day.

While the Lambily played a significant role in re-upping the original back up a few notches, let’s not kid ourselves: we didn’t do this alone. Both fanbases and the curious population digged into the track, aided by the multiple popular playlists who finally placed a Mariah track in its first song listing. Many might be mad that Grande’s fanbase didn’t pitch in as they “should have”, but history and realism should be faced: not ever have we alone as a fanbase been able to boost 2 million streams on release day. It’s a historical truth. We’re just not hardcore streaming fans.

But the essential point is that this isn’t a bad thing: While our love for Mariah Carey is undoubtedly rooted in her music, the evolving music landscape demands a nuanced perspective. We either just love her songs casually and hope she keeps releasing new material, or we admit the game has changed for several factors. Simply downloading a song and streaming it a few times no longer guarantees chart success, especially now that the inclusive nature of the Billboard Global 200, accounts for everyone’s streaming and downloading habits worldwide. We love it, we hear it and we go to bed, and that’s fine. But we can’t complain that “others” aren’t putting in the work because we wanted the song to chart high and mighty.

It’s essential to strike a balance between enjoying the music organically, as we always have, and recognizing the transformed dynamics of charting in the current mass streaming environment. Complaining about poor charting figures while adhering to outdated methods is counterproductive. So before we all complain, the choice is clear: either revel in the intrinsic joy of the music, understanding that organic fan appeal may not suffice in the contemporary streaming era, or adapt to the changing times and actively participate in the game if chart success is the desired outcome. 

Until then, Mariah might not get her 20th number one this time around. Yes, and?

Mariah Carey Ariana Grande

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