2011 is turning out to be a year for the record books in recorded music – in a good way.
Nope, none of the negative story lines about collapsing sales that we’ve read ad nauseum for the last six years.
In fact, physical sales are down just a couple percent from last year (just 5 million units) and when you factor digital into the mix, business is up 5 percent and the 4th quarter looks very promising compared to the lackluster release schedule for the last quarter of the last two years.
Still to come this year are new releases from Ryan Adams, Nickelback, Coldplay and Miranda Lambert, the return of Evanescence, another Susan Boyle, the Pearl Jam documentary, the strange bedfellows collaboration between Lou Reed and Metallica and Brian Wilson does Disney. Not to mention all the cool box sets from U2, the Smiths, Pink Floyd and more.
Add to the mix recently released albums from Wilco, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Lady Antebellum and Lil Wayne and music retailers are feeling optimistic despite current economic conditions.
Plus, there are some super cool holiday releases on the way that look like they could be big. Michael Buble drops an official holiday record Oct. 24. His holiday EP from years ago has moved over one million so this could challenge the sales of Susan Boyle’s holiday chart topper from a couple years ago. She & Him also have a Christmas album due and this could be a surprise hit.
And don’t forget Adele racking up the most consecutive weeks at number one (12) on the Billboard charts since Carlos Santana’s “Supernatural” in 2000, the biggest year in recorded music.
That’s not all. Adele’s “21” is now the biggest selling digital album surpassing the mark set by Eminem. It’s also the fastest selling digital album ever. She is breaking chart records all over the world eclipsing benchmarks set by artists like Bob Marley, Shania Twain, Madonna, and more.
It’s also the biggest selling album of the year nearing four million units and with the holiday season coming and Grammys early next year, this album is headed for six million or more.
That’s a great story for the music business after getting bitch slapped for the last couple years.
She’s not alone, though. Mumford & Sons is closing in on two million, as are Lady Gaga, Jason Aldean and Katy Perry. Jason actually already surpassed two million units but is on track to sell that amount in this calendar year.
Oh, and don’t believe the b.s. the media is feeding you about Gaga’s album tanking. Nonsense. Yes, she sold over a half million full album downloads via Amazon at 99 cents the first week of release pushing her just slightly over the one million mark when combined with physical goods on release week. This, for some reason, caused a media backlash against her when her album sales dropped 80 percent the following week. But, the thing is, she is now at 1.8 million after 18 weeks and moving a steady 20,000 a week (up 9 percent from the week before!) and her digital total is around 800,000. So, this record has legs despite the ill-informed naysayers.
Compare that to Beyonce. Her latest has been out 13 weeks, has only racked up 800,000 units and is fading with weekly sales around 15k. Where is the media on this? She and Jay-Z should be getting pounded in the media for lackluster schlock and whoring themselves out to the Qaddafi family for parties.
If you want to talk about another album that is under-performing, let’s talk about Jay-Z and the incredibly over-hyped collaboration with Kanye West. Just over 900,000 in seven weeks and selling about 25,000 a week. Sure, it’ll make it to platinum status but probably not much more.
That doesn’t mean rap is not bringing the goods. Leave that to Lil Wayne who after just four weeks is closing in on 1.5 million.
Let’s not forget Tony Bennett, who broke two records last week. He is the oldest artist to ever snag a number one chart debut, he’s 85, and this is also, wait for it … his first number one album ever!
Sure, his duet with Amy Winehouse likely played a role, but it’s also because it’s a pretty decent album. The Lady Gaga duet opens the CD and gets the party rolling.
Last, but certainly not least, watch out for Foster the People. This debut is approaching 400,000 in sales and may be the hottest Christmas list item this year. With approximately 12 weeks to go in the year it is entirely possible this record could rocket to one million in sales by then.
So, biz is down five million units for the year. Could it catch up and eclipse sales from last year? Stay tuned.
Mike is the General Manager of Homer’s Records and has been active in the music industry for more than three decades as a retailer, writer, musician and radio deejay. He currently hosts “Sunday Morning” on 89.7 the River, and serves as a board member for the National Association of Recording Merchandisers and the Coalition of Independent Music Stores.