Industry veterans compare today’s music industry to that of the early ’60s, an era dominated by singles sales, while records were primarily purchased at department stores.


Columbia/Epic Comes From Behind in Late Surge to Win Going Away
In a suddenly fierce contest among label groups for bragging rights in 2009 new-release marketshare, the Rob Stringer-led Columbia/Epic (9.1%) overtook Craig Kallman and Julie Greenwald’s Atlantic (8.3%) during Christmas week behind the molten hot Susan Boyle, who sold nearly as many albums in six weeks (3.1m) as Taylor Swift’s Fearless sold in 12 months (3.22m). Columbia/Epic was further enhanced by Michael Jackson, who placed four LPs in the Top 50, led by the #3 Number Ones (2.35m), #18 Beyonce (1.2m), #26 Maxwell (950k), the surging John Mayer (700k) at #41 and the Glee Vol. 1 soundtrack (643k) at #48. Atlantic was wise to pick up the Jay-Z album, #9 and its biggest seller with 1.51m, followed by Roadrunner’s Nickelback (#11, 1.37m). Interestingly, both are Live Nation 360 acts. Atlantic’s other million sellers are Twilight (#12, 1.28m) and the Zac Brown Band (#15, 1.27m). Behind these two label-group powerhouses, Jimmy Iovine’s IGA and Barry WeissRCA/Jive are running neck and neck for #3, with each at 7.5%. IGA has three in the Top 10—#5 Lady Gaga (2.24m), #7 Black Eyed Peas (1.79m) and #8 Eminem (1.83m)—while RCA/Jive placed eight albums in the Top 50, topped by the Kings of Leon (#10, 1.4m on the year) and the Dave Matthews Band (#23, 995k), putting it just behind Columbia/Epic’s 10 entries—giving Sony Music 18 of the Top 50 overall. Rounding out the Top 5 is Mel Lewinter’s Universal Records Group, with 5.5%, paced by Swift, edging out Tom Whalley’s Warner/Reprise (5.2%), whose biggest seller was Michael Buble (#17, 1.22m). Columbia/Epic was also tops in overall marketshare with a whopping 11.6%, more than four percentage points ahead of #2 Atlantic. Even with Jackson’s millions in sales on the Epic side, Steve Barnett’s Columbia led the way in the catalog sector at 7.1%, as it did in new-releases, at 6.9%. The other big winner in terms of catalog activity was, of course, Capitol Music Group, with 3.97%, compared to 2.6% on the new-release side. It’s worth noting that while individual label heads are preoccupied with new-release marketshare, which charts the combined performance of promotion, marketing and A&R, their bosses at the music groups are focused on overall share, which reflects profitability… Late-year releases generating the most heat include Island’s Justin Beiber, who has rocketed to #39 with 730k to become IDJ’s top seller of ’09, and Universal Republic’s Owl City, #46 with 654k… What these marketshare numbers don’t reflect is the encouraging vibrancy of the singles business, which was brought into focus last week by the news that Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok” had obliterated the previous record for one-week sales by a female artist with 610k legal downloads. Indeed, some singles watchers are predicting that “Tik Tok” will eventually sell 6-7m digital units. That isn’t a stretch, considering Lady Gaga has sold more than 20m singles overall. Industry veterans compare today’s music industry to that of the early ’60s, an era dominated by singles sales, while records were primarily purchased at department stores. Given the explosive growth of the digital singles sector, most find it hard to believe the claims of label executives that they’re making less money per unit on digital than physical sales, despite the absence of manufacturing and shipping costs or brick-and-mortar product placement… Columbia’s momentum will likely get a further spike in the spring with the return of two of the three Dixie Chicks—sisters Marti McGuire and Emily Robison—who’ll release an album and go out on tour. Natalie Maines hasn’t left the band, but she’s said to be enjoying motherhood and living in Hawaii too much to go back to work just yet. The group’s last album, released in May 2006, debuted with 526k and went on to sell 2.46m… Vevo continues to be a work in progress, with EMI content yet to be added, while WMG’s non-exclusive deal with Hulu throws doubt on the prospect of the UMG-conceived service encompassing all of the Big Four... Some are saying that iTunes has saved the soundtrack business by re-creating it along digital lines. Adding credibility to this assertion is the store’s album chart, which on Tuesday had nine soundtrack albums in its Top 40, led by the James Horner score for Avatar at #3. The chart encompasses both Glee sets (#5 and #7), soundtracks from films recently released on DVD (#12 The Hangover, #19 [500] Days of Summer) and current theatrical releases (#27 New Moon, #33 Sherlock Holmes)… Industry watchers are noting that the most anticipated January releases are from the indie bands Vampire Weekend (XL, 1/12) and Spoon (Merge, 1/19), both of which have a solid chance of bowing in the Top 10… It’s a new year and decade, but the same crushing problem for EMI owner Guy Hands, who has yet to come close to resolving his massive debt problem with Citigroup. The lender has yet to play its hand, but most believe the company has no intention of stepping in and taking over the music group—leaving open the possibility of a sale to WMG at a small fraction of that proposed $32 a share/$4.75 billion scenario of mid-2006… Lots of industry chatter about a New Year’s Eve post on a well-read industry blog from Randy Phillips, who takes inordinate pleasure in seeing his name and likeness in print and online, and whose every utterance seems to deepen his long-standing credibility problem. In the email, the AEG Live showers praise on Whitney Houston, Jay-Z and Alicia Keys, and the Black Eyed Peas, taking pains in one instance to disingenuously point out that he’s speaking “purely as a fan.” But those familiar with his M.O. note that Phillips is making oblique reference to several high-profile, under-performing AEG tours, most notably the Peas, who are having an extremely hard time selling tickets. These observers point out that the individuals who sold Phillips the tours aren’t complaining that he overpaid for them. Phillips closes with this thought: “The truth is that I do not have to defend Whitney, Jay and Alicia, or the Peas. Facts always trump fiction and results matter more than the negative banter of ‘haters’ or misguided speculation. I would like to continue to hold your blog in higher regard than, say, HITS Magazine!”