Independent Album Chart-Week Ending 6/24/12

1. Smashing Pumpkins "Oceania"

Sales this week: 53,396
Overall rank: 4

He’s not warm and fuzzy. But his generation, which came of age in the nineties, respects him.

Considered to be a return to form, it appears Billy Corgan is here to stay. Furthermore, this shows the power of brand names. Doesn’t matter who’s in the band, people are interested in "Smashing Pumpkins" a lot more than "Billy Corgan".

2. "Rock Of Ages" Original Soundtrack

Sales this week: 48,767
Percentage change: +34
Cume: 103,194
Overall rank: 5

Whew, pretty good for a stiff movie. But nothing compared to the soundtracks of yore. I guess this is the music/movie business in a nutshell. Movies are made for everyone, and have to sell millions. Most music is a niche product.

4. Glen Hansard "Rhythm And Repose"

Sales this week: 16,064
Overall rank: 21

You’ve got to take a risk. Glen Hansard was a journeyman musician essentially unknown in the U.S. until "Once". Now many people are champing at the bit to do movies, but more credible artists tend to say no to opportunities instead of yes. But if you say yes, you’ve got no idea of the end result. The end result of "Once" is that Glen Hansard has a solo career. If only he’d change his name to "Once"… Ha!

6. Lumineers

Sales this week: 10,662
Percentage change: +1
Cume: 87,836
Overall rank: 38

The buzz is deafening. If you’re listening. This is kind of like the Civil Wars. Insiders know, and they’re spreading the word. People are hungry for authenticity. That’s how they see the Lumineers.

Real songs, real instruments, Mumford & Sons was the first, people want this sound, especially in this phony high tech world that dominates our lives.

9. Alabama Shakes "Boys & Girls"

Sales this week: 9,403
Percentage change: 0
Cume: 196,933
Overall rank: 45

In the old days, the seventies, a band like this would have gotten press buzz and not even cracked 100,000 in the life of the record, like Little Feat. But in the new connected world, if you’re lucky enough to get buzz, and it’s strong, it can seep into nooks and crannies and permeate in a way unheard of previously. In other words, if they didn’t play your track on the radio in the seventies, you were screwed. But today, assuming you don’t make Top Forty stuff, you can do just fine without radio play. Online is the counterculture. And it’s strong.

12. Mumford & Sons "Sigh No More"

Sales this week: 7,659
Percentage change: -16
Cume: 2,308,052
Overall rank: 61

This is the new "Tapestry". Well, not exactly. But what I mean is this album has been on the charts for an amazing 123 weeks. Used to be only "Tapestry" and "Dark Side Of The Moon" sustained. Furthermore, this is Mumford & Sons’ debut.

You can lament the passing of the MTV era, with its saturation marketing supercharged by Top Forty radio, but come on, Mumford never would have sold this amount back then. Of course it would be different if MTV played it, but they never would. Folk music? Maybe electronic and Tony Bennett, but they didn’t stray far from their mainstream genres. But today, you can grow outside the system, you can triumph.

And Mumford is just beginning. There’s the imminent movie, this meshuggeneh tour and eventually a new album. Mumford is shaking it up, breaking all the rules, following their own muse, and it’s all about the music. WHAT A CONCEPT!

13. Bonnie Raitt "Slipstream"

Sales this week: 7,480
Percentage change: -8
Cume: 201,156
Overall rank: 62

This is a positively staggering story. On Capitol, she was a faded has-been who spent a lot to record albums that underperformed. But as an indie, she’s shattering the glass ceiling, doing better than she’d have done on a major, because to them she’s not a priority, they don’t know how to sell her.

Most consumers have no idea this is an indie production. It is cheap and underfunded not a whit. Print sold it. Oldsters still read. And credit must be given to the distributor, RED.

But think about it, Bonnie not only makes all the money, she owns the album!

Other than the Wal-Mart sellers, and that paradigm is now dead, no boomer act has done better as an indie than Bonnie Raitt. Credit a loyal fan base who cares, Bonnie has always been authentic, and flawless execution.

Utterly amazing.

40. Joe Bonamassa "Driving Towards The Daylight"

Sales this week: 2,593
Percentage change: -29
Cume: 34,083
Overall rank: 215

Someone is doing a bad job. Because most people still have no idea who Bonamassa is. He’s got a loyal fan base, he sells a few records, but anyone who wants to make it as a hot guitarist has to be visible, people have to see him execute his chops, it’s even more important than making a great record.

Case in point, Jeff Beck. Beck is no better than he ever was, which in my mind is the best ever, but Harvey Goldsmith has made him visible, and now I’m not the only person who believes Beck is best, now everybody has seen him.

They need to see Bonamassa.

Doesn’t matter if it’s culture clash, whether he’s playing a cheesy July 4th event, cultural dissonance is not a factor, the public just has to see him WAIL!

41. Lit "View From The Bottom"

Sales this week: 2,542
Overall rank: 221

Too early for early 2000s nostalgia. Also, Lit succeeded in an era where people didn’t believe in bands, didn’t believe in credibility, didn’t savor albums as statements. Today hits will gain you momentary audiences. But to last, you’ve got to do it Mumford’s way, you’ve got to create, embrace and sell an entire culture.

51. Bon Iver

Sales this week: 2,161
Percentage change: +7
Cume: 457,472
Overall rank: 283

Image isn’t everything.

We’re hungry for great music. If the cognoscenti find anything worth trumpeting, they do. Ergo the success of Bon Iver and Alabama Shakes.

It’s a thin layer of acts who can make it on music alone. Bon Iver is one of them.

73. Best Coast "Only Place"

Sales this week: 1,567
Percentage change: -14
Cume: 27,598
Overall rank: 449

If the press had power amongst the younger generation, Best Coast would be Top Ten. But despite unending accolades and a photogenic lead singer, people are not buying.

In other words, just because you see it in the paper, don’t think it’s real.

81. Cult "Choice Of Weapon"

Sales this week: 1,381
Percentage change: -24
Cume: 20,435
Overall rank: 538

Come on. If all you knew was the publicity, you’d think the Cult would be alongside Best Coast in the Top Ten, you’d believe they’re on an extremely profitable victory lap.

But they’re not.

They’re a band with some great tracks whose singer has done his best to eviscerate his credibility.

What’s next?

Who knows.

86. Chris Robinson Brotherhood "Big Moon Ritual"

Sales this week: 1,310
Percentage change: -41
Cume: 10,383
Overall rank: 574

Does anybody even know this album is out?

Chris needs to take instruction from Billy Corgan. The only chance of people caring is if he calls it "Black Crowes".

Chris did some good solo work for Best Buy…

Straight into the dumper…

Chris needs to sit down with Bonnie Raitt and see how it’s done. He’s got fans, but somehow he is not reaching them.

112. Lita Ford "Living Like A Runaway"

Sales this week: 911
Overall rank: 868

Positively pitiful.

And I’d leave it at that, but Lita’s problem is her fans don’t know this is out and she doesn’t know who her fans are. If you’re a faded has-been, and she is, first and foremost you must consolidate your tribe, know who its members are and super-serve them.

Saw an article in the L.A. "Times", but does her audience really read the paper?

Then again, how many Lita Ford fans are there…

169. L.A. Guns "Hollywood Forever"

Sales this week: 609
Percentage change: -23
Cume: 2,976

See Lita Ford above.

175. Joey Ramone "Ya Know?"

Sales this week: 596
Percentage change: -42
Cume: 7,164

Makes you reconsider the mainstream press, doesn’t it? If ink automatically translated into sales… But it doesn’t, and nobody really cares. It seems posthumous albums are only successful if you’ve died very recently. Then people are hungering for more. But as time goes by, the classics are good enough.

Then again, maybe in twenty five years this will be seen as classic, just like the Ramones’ output… Ha!


Indie does not always equate with success. Just because you’re in control and own all the rights, that does not mean you’re gonna make a ton of dough.

Therefore, you have to reevaluate, redefine success.

If success is income, raw dollars, dive deeply into your tribe’s wallet. This is what Topspin was built for. Create special projects. Better yet, tap fans on Kickstarter, not only raising funds for production, but charging them for the up close and personal feel fans love.

But if you’re paying the rent but not happy being a has-been or relatively unknown, you’ve got to first and foremost consolidate your tribe, if you’ve even got one, and then build upon it. Top down marketing only seems to work if you’re exceptionally good, or you’re a boomer act. Otherwise you’re scratching out a career. And if you’re not as good as the Alabama Shakes or Bon Iver, almost no one is gonna know your name.

The promise of the Internet was you could reach everybody.

But the reality of the Internet is that you’re competing against so many more than before.

Yes, the Net allows niches to flourish and an occasional one to rear up, but if ubiquity is your game, it’s tougher than ever.

And if you’re happy being known by only a few…

You’re probably not an artist, you should probably give up.

Because true artists want one thing more than money, even more than fame, they want listeners. They want consumers of their art. If you’re not driven by this, please stop.

(O.K. Now I’ve pissed you off. I got a question from the audience at Folk Alliance, this person asked if he was unsuccessful because in some years he eked into the five figures. For those math-challenged, that’s $10,000. You can make that much on a bake sale. I’m not saying you should be unhappy, but I will say you’re a hobbyist. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s no different from winning the local softball championship as opposed to playing for the Yankees.)

(O.K. Again. Oh, that’s right, we live in a country where you can never rain on someone’s parade, where you must always instill hope. Yes, you can run Morgan Stanley, even though you dropped out of high school. And you can be CEO of Apple even though you can’t even touch type. Why in this world do we hate harsh reality? Why in this world do we rip off and encourage people who are never going to make it? Our whole damn nation can’t handle the truth. Not everybody is great, not everybody can make it, you can convince yourself, but convincing the rest of us is something completely different.)

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