Early success is proving inspirational and is making Rock the genre to watch.
Three New Artists Are Making the Case
for the Growth Genre of ’02
It may or may not save your soul these days, but Rock is definitely rolling. RCA’s The Strokes, Island Def Jam’s Hoobastank and TVT’s Default are three new artists who scored momentum out of fourth quarter campaigns, when conventional wisdom says it’s impossible to break a new act. And, thanks to Rock’s ongoing strength, all three continue to ride that momentum to becoming mass-appeal smashes.

For example, The Strokes recently logged a whopping 79% increase in sales, moving to #26 from #50 on the HITS Top 50 Album Chart on the strength of the band’s Saturday Night Live appearance. Meanwhile, Default recently made its first appearance on the chart with a near-50% increase. Similarly, Hoobastank has seen impressive gains, with weekly sales over 40k.

On the average, it takes at least a year to break a new Rock act, and to fairly evaluate these three projects, we’ll need to track their progress over the coming months. But early success is proving inspirational and is making Rock the genre to watch. If everything goes right, these records could be the next to join the likes of Wind-Up’s Creed (20.5 million in the U.S.), Warner Bros.Linkin Park (5.9m), Flip/Elektra’s Staind (5.7m) and Atlantic’s P.O.D. (1.6m) in capturing listeners’ imaginations—and dollars. Below, the

latest on The Q4 Three:

THE STROKES: This NY quintet, whom gushing critics have compared to the Velvet Underground, broke first in Europe on the strength "Last Nite" and "Hard to Explain." Since the release of Is This It? in the U.S., they’ve sold 400k OTC in the U.S., and their ex-U.S. tally stands at over a million. Here, "Last Nite" has scored huge MTV support and gone Top 5 PoMo and Rock nationally. RCA plans to build the U.S. audience further with "Hard to Explain" before attempting a cross. The band, already on the road for a year, is in Japan now and will do two months in Europe before heading back to the States.

Says RCA President Jack Rovner, "It’s been growing organically for a while. It’s a new rock sound, but I think the audience just finds it good music. The album is full of hits. The SNL appearance helped connect the dots for us, in terms of getting the word out, because for the first time, other than on MTV, kids got to see the band. Though the band’s been touring, they’ve yet to hit the secondary and tertiary markets."

As for whether The Strokes are helping usher in a new era of rock dominance, Rovner notes, "There’s something to be said about this audience that first got into NSYNC, Backstreet Boys and Britney—very early on, in some cases 8, 9 and 10—starting to graduate and look for other forms of music, and certainly Rock falls into their focus. I think the good news is we’re getting kids to listen to music at a younger age, and this is part of their taste transition, from Pop to Rock."

HOOBASTANK: The Tool-influenced California shredders with the weird name recently blew past 300k in U.S. OTC sales, and is the highest-charted of the three acts dealt with here (#38 this week) behind an aggressive retail campaign. They’ve supported their debut, released Nov. 20, with two tours—with 311 and with Incubus. Though closed out, first single, "Crawling in the Dark" is far from over, with PoMo and Rock rotations strong and #1 MTV spins and TRL love kicking in, but Island is prepping videos for both "Remember Me" and "Running Away," and intends to work both, saving crossover efforts for one of the latter.

"We’re establishing a brand," says new Island President Julie Greenwald. We have micromarketed the shit out of this record. Before they go into a market, we make sure Hoobastank is there, and after they leave, we make sure the impact of seeing them live penetrated. Any way we can touch that city, we touch it and touch it hard. We kill them with the Stank." Adds VP Promotion Stu Bergen, "We could work this record for another two years."

Is Rock’s momentum still on the upswing? "We’re betting on it," says Bergen. "Adds Greenwald, "The key is they’re stars. When you see Doug [Robb] onstage, you say to yourself, ‘That kid is a star.’ And because of the hard work we did with Rock last year, people are giving us the benefit of the doubt, and they’re showing us the love."

DEFAULT: Defining post-g runge hard rock, Vancouver style, this debut, The Fallout released Oct. 2, has clearly benefited from the guidance of Nickelback’s Chad Kroeger, as well as the discovery of singer Dallas Smith, whose musical resume, incredibly, was nonexistent. Default has scanned nearly 300k U.S. (and currently over 30k/week) on the strength of smash single "Wasting My Time," which is huge at MTV/VH1, Rock and PoMo and is crossing to Modern Adult and Top 40 now, as the band tours relentlessly.

TVT President Steve Gottlieb notes, "We’re doing these numbers, and we haven’t broken a sweat yet. This is a band that nobody knows, and we think by the time people get to know them, it’s going to go through the roof." And of the Nickelback connection? "It certainly doesn’t hurt, but it’s one thing to know that Chad was involved in making some of these songs, and another thing to know this band on their own terms—and they’re very much their own thing. Great songwriters, phenomenal live performers."

Is Default on the cusp of a new Rock sound? "I think there’s definitely a return to melody and vocals," Gottlieb says, "but these guys also play like motherfuckers. I think the genuineness comes through—there seems to be a real response to that. But there is a tectonic shift going on. Everyone has to feel this is a pivotal moment in music. I think by next year we’ll see a different cast of characters."

TO RECAP: All three of these new artists broke in the fourth quarter (thus the reason we call them The Q4 Three), and with the current Rock appetite, we expect all to grow throughout the year, building toward the big Q4 score, which comes with their second Christmas. Watch this space for updates.

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