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By including the Eagles number, we now have a much truer picture of what is selling and, more importantly, how much business we are all doing.
LENNYBEERBLOG:
THE FUTURE IS NOW
The First Step in Transitioning From the Old Model to a New One Is Facing Reality
For those of you living under a rock, the Eagles topped the sales charts this week with a sensational 700k-plus debut, despite the fact that Long Road Out of Eden was only available at Wal-Mart and on the band's site. This is quite an accomplishment for the retailer, for the band, for a double album and as a loud harbinger of things to come. It's the future I’ve been talking about, and the future is now.

It's a different game now, with different rules and different outcomes. Billboard's last-minute decision to drop their stupid rule about music having to be widely available to be able to earn a spot on their Top 200 album chart was monumental for many reasons. First and most obvious, the Eagles’ sales were more than 400k higher than Britney Spears' solid #2 debut, which appeared to have the top slot sewn up until the industry bible came to its senses.

Truth be told, we weren’t planning on counting the Eagles sales total either as the sales week began, but when we found out what that number was, we changed our minds—because eleventh hour or not, fair is fair, a sale is a sale. The Eagles sold more, and they deserved to be #1.

And hence, the real winner was declared the winner (call it our industry's version of instant replay). By including the Eagles number—and we assume all future and similar deals that are yet to come—we now have a much truer picture of what is selling and, more importantly, how much business we are all doing. For example, just assume the Eagles will end the year in the 2.5m range. This will have a major impact on the year's plus or minus final sales tally and tell us all where we really stand now, and how we stood to future historians looking back at 2007. As will the addition of all the similar (although not nearly as staggeringly successful) deals; Garth Brooks, Spice Girls, et al., will now have tallies we can understand and better evaluate. And the industry as a whole will have a more accurate barometer of where things stand.

So kudos to Geoff Mayfield and company for realizing that having a rule for nothing more than the sake of the rule is not always a good policy.

And kudos to the heads of the distribution companies, who all lobbied Billboard to come to their senses and play it as it lays. All of them were smart enough to realize that this wasn't just about the Eagles/Spears microcosm, but about the macro of us all.

As a playwright friend of mine named John Bunzel once wrote in a show called Delirious: "Reality is a hard thing to ignore." I'm glad we all chose not to ignore it in this critical case.

So what is the reality of today's music business? Where is change most apparent, and where is it most needed? As always, we welcome your takes; send them to [email protected].
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Hi Lenny,
 
Couldn't agree with you more... Also, another aspect that industry and media people need to take note of is that artists from the '60s, '70s and '80s are getting re-discovered by a younger generation, therefore, they need to be acknowledged more often in the music trades and consumer magazines and newspapers. Their stories, activities and the "what's happening now in their career" is important. So many of these artists' music transcends time. Let's not forget that!!! The Eagles have set a great example for the rest... 
 
Carol Ross
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Hey Lenny. 

I like your writing even if the hacker shit at the entrance to the site stopped being clever towards the end of the last century. Can any site be reliable if you have to click on a dumb ass dancing devil head to get in? 
 
Anyway...  You may want to look at the CD war from another angle based on some corporate reality. 
 
Fact 1. If major record companies were greedy, they would maximize their profits by positioning themselves favorably in a technically dynamic environment (corporate speak for: record companies would make more money by being web-savvy).
 
Fact 2. Companies do not make decisions, executives do.
 
Fact 3. In any industry, executives do what's best for themselves, not necessarily what's best for the company.  It's up to owners/shareholders to ensure that incentives are in place so that corporation and executives have common goals and measures of success (corporate speak for: shareholders should not allow themselves to be hood-winked by incompetent executives).
 
Fact 4. Most large record company executives and existing management don't have the skills necessary to understand how to utilize the opportunities afforded by the Internet (corporate speak for: the guys running the record companies don't know shit about computers or what to do with them).
 
Fact 5. Even if file-sharing is good for the music business as a whole, that does NOT automatically mean it is good for a specific record company.  Record companies and their business partners in radio have been able exert a great deal of control over what choices the public has in music.  File sharing sites take away that control and allows the public access to **gasp** indie recordings. 
 
Opinion: What's best for the record companies would be to replace upper management with innovative executives who can visualize success in an Internet age. That's not, however, what's best for the existing management. It's to their best advantage to stay, milking the cash cow until retirement even if it means bringing the company to bankruptcy. Blame, therefore, is spun out to everyone from the file sharing grandma to Wal-Mart.
 
This situation is not new or unique; it is part of the natural evolution of commerce. It's also an exciting time for the innovators who are replacing the old rusty institutions. The king is dead; long live the king.
 
IamMusic
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Hi Lenny,

Great question.
 
The reality is that musicians need to realize that they have to develop the online skill set necessary to be successful in a Music 2.0 world. Whether it's discovering that they don't know how to use the tools at their disposal, or simply don't want to work hard enough as the next band, that realization is paramount.
 
This new DIY paradigm is all about "me, me and more me," and the artists have to realize that, in order to be get over, it takes mega hard work. It's not just having a MySpace page and your music on iTunes, etc. It's about a total commitment to your craft, artistry and BUSINESS work ethic.
 
The fundamental change is that artists for so long relied too heavily on the label to do all of the work in terms of marketing, publicity, branding, promotion, etc., and consequently became effectively illiterate. Artists want an egalitarian system; well, now you've got it! That's the good news. The bad news is that, it's more than showing up to the club and playing a great show. You now have to work offstage too!
 
Kind Regards,
Guy Eckstine
MIAATV.com.
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Lenny,

How does it feel to be the market leader and wag Billboard's tail?  They changed the rule at the last minute because otherwise HITS would have the real charts. It's just another indication of the erosion of the record companies' power since they are the clear losers here. Kudos to the Eagles for daring to go with what makes good business sense instead of bowing to the recording companies' threat of "if you don't sign with us, you won't be on the charts."  I'm glad you guys were there to keep Billboard (somewhat) honest since I truly believe all musicians will be much better off in the long run.

What's out:
1. Record companies being all-powerful
2. Mega-pop stars whose hits are so overproduced they must lipsynch to perform
3. Music you hide from your parents... Face it, the shock value has worn off trash talk
4. Major record companies who promise stardom and just remove acts from the market or keep them in debt
5. Any publicity is good publicity
6. Standard 12-song albums
7. Billboard being confident in its monopoly and support of record companies
 
What's in:
1. Empowerment of musicians with more distribution options
2. Acts with real musicians who can play and sing live
3. Pop icons who sing with their Dad
4. Music with negative space and feeling
5. Management companies getting more involved in artist development
6. Recording and release of singles without albums
7. Billboard following HITS to acknowledge successful musicians
 
IamMusic
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Although I am biased because I have two songs on the Britney Spears  album, I have to agree with Brian. "A Sale is a Sale." Hi Brian. Long time no talk to!

Ezekiel "Zeke" Lewis
THE CLUTCH

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Sales are sales from wherever they come.  Wal-Mart, Target, Joe’s liquor store, they should all be counted. You did the right thing.

Brian Avnet
Avnet Management
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Dear Lenny Beer Blog...

If the Eagles/Wal-Mart exclusive is a sign of what is to come, then what is going to happen to indie stores when the big-boxes have exclusives on the hits?  Where are the new acts going to break? Certainly not on radio, because new, unsigned acts more often than not lack the necessary payola needed to bribe their way onto the major radio chains. MTV is worthless, and there is so much crap on the Internet these daze that breaking an act on YouTube without off-line promotion is difficult, if not impossible. 

Yes, these sales need to be reported, but there needs to be a qualifier in analyzing those sales. The Eagles are a legacy act and were probably paid a good chunk of money for this, considering the rumors that Don Henley and Glenn Frey can't stand to be in the same room together, much less play in a band together. While the Spice Girls/Victoria's Secret deal is to be expected (low-IQ music and lingerie somehow goes together), if more hit acts get cannabalized by exclusives, that will ultimately make it HARDER to get mainstream retailers such as Boscov's and the Bon Ton, who used to have CD sections, to start stocking discs again, unless they have exclusives of their own.

Not to discount the fact that my local mom-and-pop here in York, PA, which stocks roughly 20,000 titles at any given time, does a brisk business in new and used vinyl, used CDs and cassettes, and consignment merchandise such as guitars, stocks very little in the way of current hit CDs. 

What I would like to see is Billboard and Soundscan add categories and rankings for second-hand CDs and both new and used vinyl. There is no data that I know of which tracks the sale of second-hand merchandise, which is information that would be very useful to all segments of the biz. My bet is that the head bagels at the focus group research agencies' eyes would pop when they find out just how many teenagers these daze are listening to the likes of Aerosmith and Deep Purple next to their Korn and Killers.

Have a great day. 

Peter Carli
WMSS Radio
, XM Satellite Radio
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Lenny -

This past week, after the Drudge Report and a whole bunch of other websites had reported that Britney Spears' new album would debut at #1 on the charts, just a few short hours later, they had to eat their words, take down those early posts, and scratch their heads when Billboard magazine announced they decided to "revise" their chart policy and make the new Eagles album, Long Road Out of Eden, #1 instead. This happened coincidentally (ahem) after HITS had already made the new Eagles album #1 on their album chart.

Fox News' Roger Friedman had also posted his popular daily 411 column Tuesday on the Fox News website announcing Britney was the #1 album, but later in the day did what others did and had to take it all back and post another column titled, "Sorry Britney, the Eagles Are Really #1," in which he said, "Spears, in fact, did not do so well. Blackout was predicted to sell 325,000 copies, but came in at 289,791. On Amazon.com, the album has already dropped from #5 to #9, and may be lower still by Wednesday morning."  (My guess is, we'll see Britney do a fast fade on the charts in the next few weeks)

The facts are this: The Long Road Out of Eden had sold over 700,000 copies, more than twice as much as Spears. Prior to this week, the album would have been excluded completely from Billboard's chart because it's only available at one retailer, Wal-Mart, and at the band's website. Billboard policy, prior to this week, did not allow for listing albums sold in a single retail outlet. Now, that policy is changed and according to a press release, "Billboard will now allow exclusive album titles that are only available through one retailer to appear on the Billboard 200 and other Billboard charts."  Makes sense. If Billboard had made Spears album #1, it would have looked silly, don't you think?

But it doesn't matter. This now means a real score for reaffirming chart credibility in the public's eyes, but in the big (industry) picture, it means a whole lot more.

First: Wal-Mart's television advertising and marketing for the album was done extremely well. As Eagles manager, Irving Azoff said this week, "The phenomenal first-week sales of Long Road Out of Eden are a testament to Wal-Mart's marketing and distribution." 

While Garth Brooks already knew about Wal-Mart's distribution power from a previous exclusive agreement he had established with the retailer, Billboard's capitulation in changing chart policy this week now changes the music retail landscape dramatically. (Brooks album sales at Wal-Mart though in the hundreds of thousands on release, were not reflected in Billboard.) How many other artists are now likely to follow the Eagles approach remains to be seen, but there certainly seems no downside to creating such a strategic alliance if the artists are well-established.

Smart Pricing: I've been talking about CD prices for almost five years now and it seems apparent to me (and anyone looking at this objectively) that selling a two-disc album from such a premier act as the Eagles (let's not forget that the Eagles have the best-selling album of all time in the U.S., their Greatest Hits is certified in excess of 29 million sold) for an incredibly low price of $11.88 at retail, and a dollar cheaper for the MP3 download, provides great value to the music consumer. The double-disc album contains 20 new songs, so at these prices, buying the CD or downloading the album, the consumer is getting the songs for about 59 cents apiece. That's almost half of what iTunes and other online stores sell songs for!

If labels are truly concerned about falling CD sales, they need only see the success the Eagles just had in one week, and think a whole lot more about current CD pricing. The Eagles first-week sales eclipses those of the new Springsteen and Carrie Underwood albums, which both debuted atop the Billboard charts with less units sold, and both were single disc albums
vs. The Eagles two-disc set, but sold for more per song than the Eagles album did.

More: It's been almost three decades since the Eagles released their last new studio album, and that makes their success this week at retail and on the charts that much more meaningful.

The Eagles' success proves yet again that when labels were focused on signing artists with long-term potential, when they believed in artist development and had departments handling it, real talent would always win out in the end time after time. If labels invested more in developing talent for the long-term, their rosters might be healthier today and in the future. Without a strong roster, labels are now relying on a fewer number of mega-selling acts to make their "numbers." But if one of those acts stumbles at retail (e.g., Ms. Spears), there's trouble right there in River City, and that's capitol T, that rhymes with P, and that stands for "Poor" sales.

The strong retail success also proves that older demographics (ignored by most of the labels today) are still very active music consumers when they see something they like. They aren't watching MTV or VH1, and most probably gave up reading Rolling Stone some time ago. But they know quality music when they hear it, and they've got the money to buy it when they want to.

The Long Road Out of Eden is a great success story for the Eagles. But as I mentioned above "in the big (industry) picture, it means a whole lot more."  It means that music retail will be forever changed as more artists seek new retailers to partner with. It means that sensible pricing can generate significant sales online and off. Most importantly, it means that great music by quality artists outlasts all the marginal and disposable flavors-of-the-month that have permeated the pop music landscape for far too long.

Over 700,000 people bought the new Eagles album this past week, their first new album in 28 years. How many artists established in the past decade-and-a-half will be able to generate the same response from consumers 28 years from now?

It might be a Long Road Out of Eden, but I'm sure the Eagles will tell you, it was well worth the journey.

Steve Meyer
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In this environment, record sales from the back of an ice cream should be counted.

Jack Ponti
Merovingian Music, Ltd.
CazzyDog Management
Visigoth Entertainment Holdings, llc

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Lenny,

Thank you Eagles, thank you Wal-Mart for showing that good music sells.

WOW, consumers actually paid for music. Take that, Radiohead, guess it proves people like good music and are willing to pay for it.


Thanks Billboard, who’d guess that this change in the “rules” finally was done for some reason that benefits the value of your charts.


One of our accounts sells over a half million units of catalog product a year, we have some 8000 locations on an everyday music program, none of that is reported.


Catalog sales won’t make everything better, but properly reported will make our industry look better and perhaps help convince other retail chains to carry music.


700,000 units sold, I love it… positive news helps keep the CD alive. Now when they tell me selling music is like trying to sell typewriters, I can tell them about the Eagles.


Now if we want to put a new release in our retailers’ stores, we can show them a success story that will combat all the negative news they read about the music industry.


How about getting rid of “Give the Gift of Music” and replacing it with “If it Sells, Report It”?


Carl Rosenbaum

Top Hits Entertainment
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You did the right thing to include Eagles as number one. Just simply and accurately reflect the marketplace.

Michael Papale
The Firm Entertainment
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Lenny:

Good articles on the state of the business and on the meaning of Billboard coming to its senses re: Eagles sales and #1.    

Yeah, "alternative" outlets are selling a lot of physical goods which should be reflected in the doomsday reports.
 
Odd, though, that the "exclusive" is also being sold at the Virgin Megastore in Times Square. I just purchased a copy for $18.99.  Think Virgin bought a few hundred thousand from Wal-Mart?
 
Enjoy the fun
Kenneth Higney
Sr. Vice President, Copyright & Licensing
Arc Music Group
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Not sure how you can call an anomaly like the Eagles Wal-Mart pairing a winner.  

With all of the Boomers' favorites within 10 years of retirement, the industry isn't going to be saved, or more to the point, evolve to a point of survival with established acts cashing in with corporate retailers.  

Survival will only come with the development of new artists.  This business needs to go back to the model of the '70s, with real mavericks like Geffen, Branson, etc., record labels that are fiscally responsible, and have long-term artist development plans.  

We can only continue if there are new acts that can sustain careers, grow their catalog and enrich their fan base on continuing basis.

The Shins about to go gold on Sub Pop (selling almost 1.5 mil combined on their three albums)... Now that's a success story.

Thanks,
Blaine Kaplan
MODern ARTist MANagement
 
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