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It’s become a common occurrence in recent years for high-profile female artists to come out of the gates with less than blockbuster numbers—a phenomenon that has caused plenty of harried executives to dust off the clichéd but accurate observation, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”
I.B. BAD: A LATE-SUMMER SURPRISE
The Debate About Whether Track Downloads Undercut Album Sales Comes to a Head, With Strong Arguments on Both Sides of the Issue
As Katy Perry’s sophomore album—the first key release of the Roger Faxon era at EMI—hit retail on Tuesday, industry observers wondered whether her remarkable run with the first two singles would enhance or cannibalize sales. As we near the weekend, preliminary retail reports are running below Capitol/EMI’s projections, though not by much, causing some to question the wisdom of releasing an important album at the tail end of summer, a time period that’s long been considered a graveyard by those in the film industry. Meanwhile, Perry’s online sales are brisk, both on the album and its individual tracks, with some prognosticators saying that Teenage Dream’s first-week digital tally will nearly equal its physical sales. Looking at the still-unfolding situation from another standpoint, it’s become a common occurrence in recent years for high-profile female artists to come out of the gates with less than blockbuster numbers—a phenomenon that has caused plenty of executives to dust off the clichéd but accurate observation, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” In this sense, it would be instructive to look at the performance of a pair of albums that generated multiple hit singles while selling steadily but unspectacularly over an extended period of time. The Black Eyed PeasInterscope album The E.N.D. debuted with a solid but less than jaw-dropping 304k in June 2009, but has gone on to sell 2.75m behind initial single “Boom Boom Pow” and the now-iconic follow-up “I Gotta Feeling,” which together spent 26 weeks on top of the singles charts. Overall, the album has yielded a mind-boggling 18.36m track sales. More recently, Justin Bieber’s My World 2.0 (Island/IDJ), which bowed in late March with 283k, has already sold 1.64m, with comparably brisk a la carte activity. From this perspective, it’s safe to assume that Perry’s album will sell steadily during the coming months while continuing to throw off hit tracks… Initially, Perry’s album also faced an unanticipated challenge for next week’s top spot from J/RCA diva Fantasia, whose previous release bowed with 133k in December 2006 and topped out at 530k. The profile of the American Idol Season Three winner has risen considerably since her suicide attempt two weeks ago—though only the most hardened cynics would consider that a marketing move. In any case, on Tuesday morning, Back to Me was actually outselling Teenage Dream at Wal-Mart, Target and Best Buy—immediately after Fantasia’s appearance on ABC’s Good Morning America, causing shockwaves to ripple around the music business. Perry made the rounds as well, of course, performing on Letterman Tuesday night and NBC’s Today Show on Friday. By Thursday afternoon, it appeared that Fantasia would fall short in her underdog bid for #1, but for a while there, it looked like the dog days of summer would be enlivened by a diva duel that absolutely no one saw coming… Another diva, Rihanna, deserves credit for her co-starring role in Eminem’s monster hit “Love the Way You Lie,” bringing even greater momentum to Recovery, which moved another 116k units this week to bring total sales to 2.23m—meaning no one at Interscope is moaning about singles cannibalizing albums. At this rate, it’s only a matter of time before the resurgent superstar passes Need You Now from Capitol Nashville/EMI’s Lady Antebellum (33k this week; 2.55m total) in the contest for the year’s best-selling album… In the ongoing drama at Sony Music, most have now concluded that Rolf Schmidt-Holtz’s exit as CEO is a fait accompli, possibly as soon as October. The elevation of either SME head Rob Stringer or RCA/Jive chief Barry Weiss, both of whom are regularly name-checked as likely successors in media reports, would certainly make sense given their respective track records and astute decision-making abilities. On the other hand, some insist that promoting from within would fail to address one of the company’s biggest internal issues: the unresolved clash of cultures between Sony and the former BMG. The greater likelihood, however, is that either Weiss or Stringer would aggressively seek to meld the two cultures, putting the chosen one’s organization in the dominant position, with the inevitable ensuing difficulties for the other side. Schmidt-Holtz was not only aware of the pressing need for corporate cohesion, he aggressively dealt with it in forcing the exits of Don Ienner, Michele Anthony and Charles Goldstuck, each of whom he suspected of playing partisan politics. But once he’d made these bold moves, the former TV and magazine executive was unable to figure out how to finish the job. Interestingly, none of the media reports on the Sony Music situation has yet come up with the name of an outside executive to postulate as a viable replacement for Schmidt-Holtz... Names in the Rumor Mill: Martin Kirkup & Steve Jensen, Dr. Luke, Max Martin, Clive Davis, Tommy Mottola, Amanda Ghost and Peter Paterno.
MAYBE, JUST MAYBE:
MOBILE PHONES,
IMMOBILE HUMANS
Lenny Beer needs to cut down on his screen time. (9/30a)
RAINMAKERS: MICHAEL RAPINO, NATION BUILDER
A tease for the upcoming edition, eh? (9/30a)
THE DEATH OF PRINT JOURNALISM: GRAMMY PREVIEW EDITION
Gimme an "H." Gimme another "H." (9/30a)
NEAR TRUTHS: PARANOIA STRIKES DEEP—INTO YOUR LIFE
IT WILL CREEP*
A high-revving column (9/30a)
YOUR TOP 20 IS
FULLY LOADED
Prediction: There will be 20 albums in the Top 20 this week. (9/30a)
GRAMMY TALK
We're full of it.
AFRICAN POP
Getting global with it.
IT'S PRETTY SMOKY
And this time it's not from our bong.
WHAT COMES AFTER TIKTOK?
Shorter videos! Weirder trends!
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