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The arrangement between Columbia and Wal-Mart involved an initial sale of 2.5 million AC/DC albums at $8.75 apiece—meaning the label receives a check for a hefty $21.8 million up front.

I.B. BAD: THE HOME STRETCH

Will Any Upcoming Release Pass Lil Wayne to Become the Year’s Best-Selling Album? And What Label Will Wind Up on Top of the Marketshare Heap?
With 10 weeks left on the calendar, the majors are rolling out potentially game-changing releases in an all-out effort to make their numbers and their years. Whether any of these albums will challenge Universal Motown’s Lil Wayne as 2008’s top seller seems unlikely given his present lead—2.6 million to #2 Coldplay’s 1.8 million. But history has taught us never to say never. AC/DC, one potential challenger, is benefiting from an exclusive arrangement with Wal-Mart orchestrated by Sony Music’s Rob Stringer and Columbia’s Steve Barnett, the group’s onetime manager, who become the first label executives to make an exclusive deal with a big-box retailer. Early projections have Black Ice bowing at north of 800k; if this speculation holds up, the LP will top the Eagles’ 714k first week in its precedent-setting exclusive with Wal-Mart last fall. The arrangement between Columbia and the retailer involved an initial sale of 2.5 million units at $8.75 apiece—meaning the label receives a check for a hefty $21.8 million up front. With these kinds of numbers and the risk removed, is it any wonder that the big-box exclusive is becoming a trend for the most commercially viable major acts? The initiator of this phenomenon is mega-manager Irving Azoff, who made the Eagles deal and brokered the AC/DC arrangement on behalf of Wal-Mart, as well as setting up client Guns N’ Roses with Best Buy (see below)... Between AC/DC, John Legend (10/28; previous album 1.2m) and Beyonce (11/18; 3.2m), Columbia could substantially improve its new-release share, which stands at just under 4% year-to-date, putting the label at #7… The New York-based Sony Music labels previously known as BMG, now under the sole rule of Barry Weiss, boast a loaded release schedule that includes Pink (10/28; 1.3m), Idol alums David Archuletta (11/11) and David Cook (11/18), Dido (11/18; 2.1m) and Britney Spears (12/2, 900k). If RCA and Zomba were counted together, their combined share of just under 6.2% would tie for #3… Disney (5.1%, #5) should get a substantial boost from this week’s other big debut, the soundtrack to High School Musical 3 (HSM2 sold 3.3m). The film it accompanies is a theatrical feature, unlike its much-televised predecessors, though HSM3 is being heavily promoted across the Disney platforms… There’s a great deal of uncertainty at Interscope, which may get an album from Eminem this year after all, according to the artist’s own statement last week. That would obviously make a huge difference to Jimmy Iovine’s long-dominant label, down 2.5 percentage points from its industry leading 8.7% share last year, dropping it to #3. Further deepening the intrigue is Axl Rose, whose legendary unpredictability puts the Nov. 23 exclusive release of Chinese Democracy through Best Buy in jeopardy right up to the moment the palettes are loaded onto the trucks. Also coming this quarter are Snow Patrol (10/28; 1.2m), 50 Cent (12/9; 1.3m), Keyshia Cole (12/9; 1.5m) and All-American Rejects (12/9; 2m), with Black Eyed Peas still a possibility, so Interscope has a shot at making up some of that lost marketshare by year’s end… Universal (6.5%, #2) is 2008’s biggest success story, thanks to three of the top five sellers year-to-date: Lil Wayne, #4 Jack Johnson (1.4m) and #5 Taylor Swift (1.2m). The company still has three bullets left in the chamber, with Hinder (11/4; 2.6m), Swift (11/11) and Akon (12/2; 2.9m)… At L.A. Reid’s IDJ (5%, #6), Kanye West (2.2m) is expected to have a monster first week in the 900k range, while the moving up of the release from Dec. 16 to Nov. 25 will give it an increased sales window. The combination of Ludacris (11/25; 1.2m), The Killers (11/25; 1.3m) and Fall Out Boy (12/16; 1.3m) will help IDJ’s standing as well, though Jay-Z has been moved to TBD… At WMG, Atlantic is at 5.6%, but distributed labels Roadrunner, Bad Boy and Fueled by Ramen add another 2.5%, for an industry-leading combined total of 8.1%. That number is attributable to a front-loaded schedule and the belated explosion of Kid Rock’s 2007 release. The label still has one face card to play—mega-selling Nickelback (11/18; 6.9m)… Meanwhile, on the West Coast, Warner Bros. (5.3%, #4), with no big releases remaining on the ’08 schedule, will ride Metallica for all it’s worth, hoping that it continues to chalk up 40-50k a week and picks up toward the holidays… As for the big (as in Big Four) picture, UMG has increased its share to 35%, followed by SBMG with 18.6%, WMG with 16% and EMI with 8.3%… Names in the Rumor Mill: Steve Bartels, Mark DiDia, Steve Berman, Monte Lipman, Todd Moscowitz, Rick Rubin, Andy Gould and Rick Yorn.
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