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With all the elements now in place, the stage is set for a double blockbuster, and anything less will be considered a bitter disappointment.
I.B. BAD COUNTS DOWN TO HISTORY
As the Year Builds to a Climax, Certain High Scorers Are Separating Themselves From the Pack, Notes Our In-House Pundit
In less than two weeks, we’ll know whether the gargantuan expectations for Sony’s This Is It film and soundtrack album will be met, or even exceeded. Credit for what is expected to be the biggest musical event of 2009 goes to John Branca and John McClain for ably representing the Michael Jackson estate and the artist’s legacy by putting together the deals for the film and album with Sony PicturesAmy Pascal and Columbia/Epic’s Rob Stringer, respectively—powering through numerous obstacles along the way. Those obstacles included Jackson family attorney Londell McMillan and the Jackson non-heirs... The movie opens next Wednesday (10/28) on 3k screens across the country and another 8k worldwide, following its premiere in L.A. Tuesday night, is experiencing record-breaking presales, with some prognosticators estimating $150-200m for the two-week run, and a follow-up engagement expected—to say nothing of the subsequent DVD. The album is currently shipping 1.5 million in the U.S., eclipsing the initial orders for Eminem and Jay-Z, the year’s two biggest until now; each shipped just over 1m. Of that total, 700k is going to Wal-Mart in a reportedly stripped-down edition. On the digital-retail front, it appears that Sony and iTunes have worked out an arrangement for the full LP, a six-track EP and a la carte track downloads apart from the title cut. With all the elements now in place, the stage is set for a double blockbuster, and anything less will be considered a bitter disappointment… In a side note, with many wondering why criminal charges have yet to be filed against Dr. Conrad Murray, one cynical industry maven quipped, “They’re waiting for the movie to open—it’s part of the DA’s marketing plan.”… Warner Music Group has put an exclamation point on a solid year of marketshare growth, bringing the company north of 16%. WMG hit the trifecta with Michael Buble, who held on to #1 in his first full week of sales following a Friday release; the Twilight Saga: New Moon soundtrack, debuting at #2 after streeting last Friday; and Jay-Z, holding strong at #3 in his sixth week, with sales to date of 1.12m. It now appears Warner will have the Top 4 next week, with Curb’s debuting Tim McGraw. Although releasing a record on a Friday cuts the initial sales week in half, the ploy has worked for Buble (whose previous LP sold 1.93m), with a 34% uptick in week two. By moving up the new Twilight soundtrack (the first sold 2.26m) from this Tuesday to last Friday, Warner is hoping to not just duplicate this ascending pattern but extend it over a longer period, hitchhiking on the buildup for the movie, which opens Nov. 20… Warner has made three strategic moves in recent months, moving Todd Moscowitz inside Warner Bros. Records, bringing in Rob Cavallo as creative guru and tapping RCA EVP and onetime Virgin President Ashley Newton for an as yet unspecified slot, with some speculating he’ll be named WB President under Tom Whalley... Atlantic, led by the Kallman-Greenwald team, is going head to head with perennial leader Interscope in the new-release marketshare competition, with each having a claim on the top spot depending on how the numbers are calculated... Lady Gaga (1.54m) and the Black Eyed Peas (1.23m), a pair of old-fashioned mainstream smashes, have combined to bring Interscope back into the battle for #1. According to numbers crunchers, total sales generated by each of these two LPs, including singles, ringtones and other configurations, bring it to the equivalent of 10m album sales worldwide. Expected before the end of the year are releases from Eminem, 50 Cent, Timbaland and Robin Thicke... Meanwhile, the company has partnered with Monster Cable and HP to create Beats Envy, bundling a set of Beats by Dr. Dre headphones with a branded laptop as part of a crusade by Jimmy Iovine to introduce young music fans to “undegraded” sound, confronting the one area of technology that has gone backward in this decade. Iovine (who is in the process of signing a new five-year deal) is betting that younger fans will be blown away by high-quality sound once they actually hear it... During this make-or-break time of the year, labels are pushing hard to get their key releases out in time for the holidays. Nine out of 10 successful albums need hits to drive sales, and in their haste to get product into the pipeline, some labels are rushing out singles just weeks before the album streets, overlooking the fact that it takes time for a track to generate real heat. Further, if the single stiffs, there's no time to shift to Plan B… Names in the Rumor Mill: Nick Gatfield, Rolf Schmidt-Holtz, Jay Brown, CeCi Kurtzman, Steve Berman, Mike Curb and Ray Cooper.
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