HOW DO YOU HANDLE A PROBLEM LIKE MADONNA? —Stellar exclusive from Roger Friedman/Showbiz 411:  Madonna is at a crossroads now. Her record deal with Interscope is over after a decade of not selling records, CD’s, downloads, or streams.Variety first reported this news last week.

It’s a situation not uncommon to older artists. Madonna was once a bestselling pop star with Warner Music. Then she moved into the Interscope phase, which was tied to her concert tours. The albums were bundled with tickets to make it look like they were selling.

But in recent years, the record sales have dried up as radio stations don’t play new music by legacy stars. It’s hard to believe that the woman whose records are ubiquitous on oldies and disco stations can’t get arrested now on radio. The one time Material Girl turns 62 in a couple of weeks.

Madonna’s total sales this year, according to Buzz Angle/Alpha Data, comes to 28,300 albums in CD sales and paid downloads. Her last album, Madame X, has sold 170,000 copies since it was released on June 14, 2019. Of that number 125K was CD’s and downloads. The rest came from streaming. I’m sorry to say, but that’s not enough to engage a contract from a major label.

Madonna could go the way of a lot of older artists and sign a vanity deal with BMG. But they just rubber stamp the release and do no marketing or distribution. (Ask Chrissie Hynde.) Warner’s could make a distribution deal with her since they have her biggest catalog. But there’s no money there for new Madonna music.

What Madonna could do is revive her Maverick Records as indie, use an outside distributor, and hire PR, radio, ad, social marketing etc people. What Madonna hasn’t really explored are box sets, taking old albums and making anniversary packages, finding lost recordings. For some legacy artists, that’s become a good business. (See Paul McCartney.)

But Madonna just posted to Instagram that she did everything to make her career, she had help from no one. She did it her way. So she may not find a lot of people who want to help her now when she needs it.

Jellybean; Madonna and Russell Simmons 

Having been intimately involved in Madonna’s early-career (The Funhouse; Mark Kamins; Jellybean; Sire) I can tell you Roger has really hit the nail-on –the-head this time. Madonna has re-invented her image (or, at least tried to) so many times … I bet even she’s a bit confused now.

Watching the Go Go’s documentary I really zeroed in on the problem: Is Madonna relevant anymore? Sure, she, along with Cyndi Lauper, was at the forefront of femme-artists who would go onto making, not only major record sales, but major pop culture changes. Remember when Madonna wore those cheesy black-rubber bracelets? All the gals did back then … and, even some of the guys.

She was, for better or worse, a major, pop-culture phenomenon. Her music was first and foremost, but the way she looked and acted, just totally unique. Taylor Swift, Britney Spears and Katy Perry owe a lot to Ms. Madonna.

Truth be told, before Madonna, there really hadn’t been such an iconic female figure figure since Cher.

She changed culture for sure. Remember her singing “Like A Virgin” in a wedding dress at the VMA’s at Radio City? Right?

Can she get back in the saddle? Of course. Though last week she practically dismissed everyone who had helped her along the way in an Instagram post, believe me, there are literally dozens who’d help her out in a New York-minute. From Shep Pettibone to Nile Rogers, Bobby Shaw and Seymour Stein too …  they’d all be there. The reason why? They made some great music … and, boy, do we need it now more than ever.

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