On June 13, 2012, Pentatonix' debut EP surpassed Adele's "21" to take the #1 spot on the iTunes pop charts - in pre-orders alone.
It's the latest in a long string of signs that a cappella has hit the mainstream in a big way. In addition to PTX' smash-success, we've seen a huge upsurge in the amount of a cappella music available online and throughout the world. Where, then, is our genre? Why has iTunes stubbornly denied a cappella any scrap of its own identity, even going so far as to remove the "vocal" genre from their US store?
We need to tell iTunes, and other online stores, that a cappella is not only a hugely popular, but GROWING genre, and that it deserves to have its voice heard, for the first time under its own name.
A Case for A Cappella
Glee responded to the demand for true a cappella music when they created the Warblers, tapping the Tufts Beelzebubs to voice the group. Their debut track, a cover of Katie Perry's "Teenage Dream" immediately hit #1 on iTunes and Billboard, and stayed there for a solid week. By March 2011, they had sold 1.3 Million singles. In April 2011, they released a full Warblers' album, debuting at #2 on both charts (right behind Adele), and selling 86,000 copies in the album's first week.
We all remember Straight No Chaser's TV appearance - the first time in ages that an a cappella group occupied a major television special, based on their video of the 12 Days of Christmas (which in itself racked up almost 15 million views). The group has gone on to sell over 890,000 tracks, and was invited to perform at a holiday party for - surprise - iTunes.
And of course, Pentatonix: we all know that hitting #1 on the iTunes pop charts and besting Adele is no small feat - "21" was the best-selling album of 2011. In addition, PTX has sold over 268,000 tracks, racked up 116,000 Facebook fans, 106,000 YouTube Subscribers (with a total video view count of over 11 Million), and 46,000 Twitter fans. Oh yeah, and they won the Sing Off on its biggest season ever.
There are a host of others: Universal Pictures is planning to release a major motion picture based on the bestselling novel "Pitch Perfect" on October 5th - we can already guess what most of the soundtrack will be. Naturally 7 was the opening act for Michael Bublé's "Crazy Love" tour. Sara Bareilles did a hugely-popular collaboration with Sonos. Kid Beyond was invited to tour with Imogen Heap, whose a cappella song "Hide and Seek" is one of her most popular and recognizable songs, grabbing airtime on the season 2 finale of "The OC" (which spawned a hilarious parody on SNL), and even getting sampled in a Jason Derülo song.
Bobby McFerrin... I mean, he's Bobby McFerrin. And he's artistically homeless. All these amazing artists are, having been forced to find shelter on the “rock”, “pop”, or even “country” charts... It's way beyond time we gave them the home they deserve. Tell iTunes that we - the fans, friends, and faces of a cappella - demand that our genre be recognized.
You can help
iTunes disabled the US vocal chart because there wasn't enough music to support its continued existence. That was three years ago. Since then, the vocal genre has seen a huge upsurge in its digital presence. Thanks to programs and initiatives like Glee, The Sing Off, CASA, A Cappella Records, diovoce, The Vocal Company, Sled Dog Studios, Bill Hare Productions, and others, thousands of previously-unreleased tracks are now digitally available. Even more-mainstream acts like American Idol and The Voice have brought new fans to the vocal genre.
The point is: iTunes is working with outdated information. It's time for vocal to come back, and for a cappella to have a home. We have their ear - let's use our voices.