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Are labels becoming too reliant on new releases from established acts and the repackaging of past hits to maintain sales?

WHO DISMANTLED THE
STARMAKING MACHINERY?

Wheels & Deals Exclusive: The Dearth of New Hit Artists Is Hurting the Industry
A quick survey of the Top 50 Albums chart a month into Q4 shows a substantial drop, during the course of the last year, in new artists breaking through to the top. In fact, only one new artist—Avril Lavigne—is in the Top 10 as we approach the holiday season, while one of the top five spots is held by an artist who died 25 years ago… Yes, unfortunately, Elvis is still dead.

It’s more apparent than ever that several factors currently plaguing the talent-acquisition side of the biz have drastically affected the hit-making process as well. Will there be enough success with new acts to sustain the industry through the current depression? Are labels becoming too reliant on new releases from established acts and the repackaging of past hits to maintain sales?

Still, it’s worth noting the debuts or breakthrough efforts that did deliver this year: Norah Jones, John Mayer, Michelle Branch, Puddle of Mudd, Josh Groban, Nappy Roots, System of a Down, Craig David, Jack Johnson, Jimmy Eat World, Default, The Vines, Hoobastank, Vanessa Carlton, Ashanti, Clipse and, of course, the impressive Lavigne. Bucking the trends, these acts posted the kinds of numbers that make the corporate types smile, which is quite a feat these days. Some were quiet signings with no pre-release buzz, while others were high-profile debuts following closely watched signing derbies.

One thing is clear about this year’s crop of breakthrough acts: At least part of the A&R community is earning its keep. So the next time you’re not getting enough attention from your boss regarding the signing of your latest Yugoslavian yak-herder/techno-dance discovery, remind him or her that you’re looking out for the future of the biz, man.

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