Record Biz Crisis: Top 20 Misses 750G
The top 20 pop albums sold fewer than a total of 750,000 CDs last week.
You read that correctly. The actual total was 738,211. The number includes 220,000 copies of a greatest hits singles collection from all the labels, "Now That's What I Call Music! Vol. 22." Without “Now 22,” regular releases came in around 500,000 copies.
This is a crisis that no one acknowledges in the record business. But consider that recently dismissed Sony execs Donnie Ienner and Michelle Anthony were making $2 million a year, and that their income is typical of upper echelon management in any record company. If the half million CDs sold at full price — $15 — then they didn’t even pay for a small part of one salary.
Consider also the execs at radio conglomerates, who have tightened playlists so that few new records are played unless — as identified by New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer’s findings — stations receive free trips, gadgets and other gifts as inducements. You might wonder how any of the companies on either side can afford to stay in business.
Consider that last Tuesday, “Now 22” was not the only new release. Sony/Epic issued a new CD by writer-producer Butch Walker, a performer whom this column has extolled over and over. Not only did no one from the company bother to send it here, this reporter only learned about it by accident — yesterday.
Walker should have a following from his extensive touring — he produces and opens for Avril Lavigne. But he’s been ignored by his label and radio. What’s he supposed to do? The CD sold fewer than 15,535 copies — the minimum it would have taken to hit the top 50.
And here’s an amazing statistic: four songs from the new album have been played a total of 200,000 times on Walker’s MySpace page. I doubt this is the work of one person who clicked the links that many times. Some group of people is interested in Butch Walker. They’re just not a group that his label or radio stations are interested in, apparently.
If they were, there would be more of an investment in Walker’s career — and other countless talented artists like him — by the record companies. Instead, the record stores are empty, and customers are drifting toward other entertainment.
There isn’t a lot to look forward to right away in terms of new releases: Rapper DMX has a new album on Aug. 1, but his last one was three years ago. Rocker Tom Petty’s waited four years to put out his new CD, and the last one wasn’t exactly a bestseller, with fewer than 350,000 copies sold.
Yesterday’s crop of new releases has only one promising title, by Los Lonely Boys, whose previous album sold 2 million copies. All eyes will be on them to see if they can beat their last first week sales record: 4,000 copies. That shouldn’t be too hard. Or Music, a satellite label from Epic, sticks with their artists the way most labels do not.