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"Even when economic conditions have been depressed, the music business has been somewhat shielded from that. I get a sense that people are using music to feel better."
——Trans World Entertainment’s Jerry Kamiler
RADIO, RETAIL RALLY
With Q4 a Week Away, the Music Business
Tries to Return to Normal
Two weeks on, there are signs that the music business is beginning to return to "normal"—whatever that means in a post-9/11 world.

With Q4 a week away and profits on the line, what would ordinarily be a frantic rush to get dozens of new releases through the system has become a far more somber process. But that process is taking place, and things are moving forward.

In radio, the situation has been described as "about 60%" of normal. The mood immediately following 9/11 was best summed up last week by WHTA Atlanta MD Ramona Debreauxx, who said, "Yes, business has to go on ultimately, but to come and tell me that your priority is this record and are we adding it today is disrespectful." This week, as staffers fight the feeling of just going through the motions, stations added new music for the first time since the attacks.

At least one major label was under orders not to work radio last week, with a prevailing attitude of "we’re not going to be the ones to start." However, that feeling began to give way late last week to the urgency of the impending holiday sales season. Said one senior promotion executive, "I’m going there. Of course, it’s sensitive and case-by-case and depends on the geography, but I’m impacting a record on Tuesday."

Another noticeable shift in the radio landscape is the fact that, for the most part, contesting has been put on indefinite hold. Stations’ resources are instead being put into emergency fundraising and blood drives, where they are likely to stay for the foreseeable future. Station-sponsored holiday benefit shows are also likely to be impacted due to reluctance on the part of bands to fly, thus complicating logistics.

KZZP Phoenix PD Tom Calococci says: "I can’t say our station’s back to routine, since we’re still running hourly news updates—but we’re back to playing music, and people are working us on new music again, so that’s something. But none of that changes the fact that everything’s different now."

In retail, with the exception of the day of the attacks, President Bush’s address to Congress last week and Friday’s landmark telethon, store traffic is said to be holding up pretty well, led by two-week chart-topper Jay-Z. "Business has been trending rather normally," says Trans World Entertainment’s Jerry Kamiler. "Even when economic conditions have been depressed, the music business has been somewhat shielded from that. I get a sense that people are using music to feel better."

On the HITS Top 50 Albums chart, albums by Tori Amos, Martina McBride, Diana Krall and Macy Gray make their debuts in the Top 10 this week. Overall sales this week are relatively flat, down only about 3% from last week, which was down about 16% from the week prior to the attacks. Sales remain soft compared to the same period last year, a trend that began before 9/11.

"For us, music seems to have rebounded well since the tragedy, although it is still slightly off," notes Best Buy’s Chris Stidman. "We’re cautiously optimistic about the fourth quarter. And certainly the upcoming releases look strong enough for us to deliver our forecasted objectives."

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