THE LONG HAUL
Where does the pop boom leave other genres? According to Weiss, rock could be in further jeopardy as labels trying to make their bottom line find that pop acts can deliver the most revenue streams in the shortest amount of time.
"Bands require a different kind of development -- it's a longer gestation period," he says. "Kings of Leon and Phoenix took four albums to develop, so it's different from an artist like Ke$ha, who can have a hit almost instantly."
Braun cautions, however, that this quick success could also spell trouble for pop acts' long-term prospects. "If the single becomes bigger than the artist, you'll never build a touring career out of that."
It's especially a challenge for male acts like Taio Cruz and Far*East Movement, which have racked up massive digital track sales, but haven't yet sold many albums or concert tickets. "I would love to find a male artist that I could work with, but it just so happens that they don't sell records," Gottwald says. "It's just really hard. Taio is an incredible writer, but he's not moving the units that Ke$ha or Katy are."
In the case of Train, one of the year's few bands that broke through the clutter, frontman Pat Monahan says that an "attitude change" was crucial. For "Hey, Soul Sister," the band decided to work with outside songwriters-Norwegian team Espen Lind and Amund Bjørklundon, known as Espionage. The decision reaped huge rewards.
"We made a conscious decision to stop saying 'no' and start saying 'yes,' " Monahan says, adding that "constant communication with your fans is necessary... if you don't have a Twitter account, you're not going to do as well as you think."
The Twitter and TMZ-driven culture of celebrity oversharing clearly favors pop stars, who are far more willing thank their rock counterparts to be photographed frolicking on the beach with Kim Kardashian or changing outfits five times in one awards show, if it furthers their brand.
The biggest pop stars delivered a virtually uninterrupted flow of content this year, with Gaga churning out press-worthy spectacles with regularity and unveiling new material at strategic points on her Monster Ball tour. Bieber, meanwhile, also toured year-round and released an acoustic album in November, while Ke$ha released two albums this year and joined Rihanna on tour before mounting her own European trek.
It worked on a smaller scale too, as independent Swedish pop star Robyn proved by releasing three sets of music in 2010 and launching a successful club tour, resulting in a breakthrough year.
"It used to be enough to release an album every third or fourth year," she says. "What I've done is figure out a way to keep myself up to speed, to stay inspired and be liked in this kind of new landscape. Most labels realize that you have nothing to lose by trying new things at this point."
As for hip-hop, many of those interviewed suggest that it's the most volatile genre right now, but also the most exciting from a creative standpoint.
"Artists like myself and B.o.B, we definitely understand the power of song," says Drake, whose debut album "Thank Me Later" sold more than 400,000 copies in its first week, according to Nielsen SoundScan. "Having the world connect to a melody is more powerful than anything, and when you can incorporate that with rap music you really have a winning formula... People that don't necessarily love hip-hop love [B.o.B's] 'Nothin' on You,' and that's great because it opens our genre to new ears."
"When pop music becomes the genre of choice, it is usually a signal that there's something coming," IDJMG's Reid says. "I don't know where it's going to go, but this mix of singing and rapping that we're hearing from artists like Drake, and Lil Wayne and Kanye West before them might be a sign of that."