This Week’s Sales

1. Young Jeezy "Inspiration: Thug Motivation"

Sales this week: 352,392
Debut

These rap albums, they come and they go.  One used to feel ignorant and out of it not knowing the rap stars, now one just sees them as a sideshow, part of the Top Forty/MTV circus.

Interestingly, the single, "I Luv It", is number 15 on the digital tracks chart.  Implying that even though he debuted at number one, Young Jeezy is not as hot as he seems.  It’s just that he’s got a debut, and there’s pent-up demand.  In other words, it appears this album will slide quickly down the chart, like every other rap album this year.

2. Taylor Hicks "Taylor Hicks"

Sales this week: 298,199
Debut

I wouldn’t quite call this a phenomenon.  ‘N Sync, the Backstreet Boys, THEY were phenomena.

If you’re all over TV’s hottest show and you only sell 298,199…  Then you just must not be in that big demand.

It’s not his age.  It’s not his type of music (although hit singles ALWAYS help).  It’s just that the mania of "American Idol" has worn off.  It was ALWAYS a television show.  It was always about DRAMA!  (And comedy, with Simon and Paula.)  It was NEVER about music.  But the supernova of the show created a mania that drove people into the stores.  People no longer need to own the album to be part of a clique/movement.

And there’s confusion in the marketplace, what with SO many Idols having albums out.

I’d like to say that if an Idol were credible, wrote his own material and was good, it would make a difference.  But I don’t think so.  Real music has to come up from the streets to survive.

3. "Hannah Montana"

Sales this week: 273,865
Cume: 1,560,403

How come kids’ music has melody, hooky changes, you can sing along, and all these elements are absent from mainstream adult music?

I always thought when the boy bands’ audience grew up, they’d want melodious material, sung by people with good voices.  But the business believed they wanted beats.  Isn’t that like saying if you like hamburgers today, you’ll like grits tomorrow?  Maybe you want MORE hamburgers, maybe with a slice of red onion, or a better bun.

There’s ALWAYS room for a hit SONG!  A hit song can be sung by ANYBODY!  A hit record…that’s a time capsule.  Now more than ever, a time stamp of an era.  Listen to "The Eminem Show" today.  Reminds you of when you were younger and stupider, it’s the past.  Whereas those Beatle tracks, they don’t creep you out, sure they remind you of the old days, but they exist in the present just fine.

5. Josh Groban "Awake"

Sales this week: 222,176
Cume: 1,006,672

He seems like a nice enough chap, I sat next to him at a party, but "awake" is not what I’d be listening to one of his albums.

But this is a juggernaut.  You’ve got to take this number in context.

Josh’s album "Closer" is number 13 on the catalogue chart.  With 5,123,975 sold!

But it doesn’t stop there…  His self-titled LP has done 4,699,760!

Josh has a career.  It’s not about this week’s number as much as the ongoing CUME!

The guy is not only moving units THIS week, he can go on the road, he can sell merch, he can sing on TV…  It may be cheesy to you, but Josh Groban is a lot closer to the classic rock acts of yore than what dominates Top Forty radio.  It’s not about the track, not about the song, but the SINGER!

8. The Beatles "Love"

Sales this week: 177,898
Cume: 748,048

A stunt.

Expect more Beatle stunts as the years go by.  That’s what labels do, comb their catalogues and find ways to make money.  Hell, that’s where the real money IS today.  That new stuff, you’re never ever going to be able to sell almost ALL of it in the future, so you’d better get your money out NOW!

Forget the hype, this is a meaningless record.  As important as a David Blaine stunt.  In other words, not at all.  It’s something you pay attention to for a moment, and then forget.

10. Il Divo "Siempre"

Sales this week: 167,002
Cume: 513,857

This is the opposite of the Top Forty game.  It’s not about running a track up the chart (the act doesn’t even have a song ON the digital tracks chart), but being in the marketplace, picking up fans every day, making new ones at the show (they opened for Barbra Streisand).

Meanwhile, the act’s Christmas collection is number ONE on the catalogue chart, selling 85,334 this week with a 906,548 cume.  As for those Fox talking heads saying Christmas is dead, that it’s being repressed, let me tell you that the first NINE places on the catalogue chart are Christmas records.

But could it be that Christmas records are the new soundtrack albums?  Overdone to the point that the public tunes out?

Interesting question.  I believe there is an issue of saturation.  As to whether there will be a backlash…  Well, there hasn’t been a backlash against CHRISTMAS yet!

I’d recommend EVERY act prepare a Christmas single for iTunes next year.  Don’t save up for an album, sure there’s money in a Christmas album, but by selling Christmas music, it keeps you in the MARKETPLACE, people THINK about you.  And if you cut a good enough track, it’ll last forever.  Like the Eagles’ "Please Come Home For Christmas", which was a single release only.  (Although it’s not one of MY favorite Christmas songs…  My favorite is the Waitresses’ "Christmas Wrapping"!)

12. Tony Bennett "Duets: American Classic"

Sales this week: 154,345
Cume: 1,120,536

Ever think that it’s the SONGS that are classics instead of Mr. Bennett himself?

Songs not records, that’s the mantra of this week’s analysis.

13. "Eminem Presents: The Re-Up"

Sales this week: 150,829
Cume: 460,989

What the fuck is the "Re-Up"?

That’s how out of touch Marshall is.  He doesn’t know that he’s caused confusion in the marketplace, that a few diehards will buy anything with his name on it, but most of us remember D12, or just don’t care.

Come on, give us a Marshall record.

Oh yeah, most people wouldn’t care.

Maybe Marshall should wait a few decades and then put out a sequel a la Stallone, at least it’d have TRAIN-WRECK value!

14. Gwen Stefani "Sweet Escape"

Sales this week: 148,787
Cume: 392,198

This is a dud.  What did you expect, when she repeated the formula?

Last year the novelty of "Fiddler On The Roof", this time "The Sound Of Music".

This is the crassest cash-in of the year.  Credible artist goes totally formula, BLECCH!

It’s not like she had that much talent to begin with.  The whole thing has been propped up with smoke and mirrors.  It’s a Hollywood circle jerk.  We dress her up and put her all over the media and at the core there’s…NOTHING?

Never underestimate the power of Jimmy Iovine to run a single up the chart, just to keep HIS name in the game, but this number is horrible for a perceived superstar this late in the fourth quarter.

15. Rascal Flatts "Me and My Gang"

Sales this week: 142,719
Cume: 3,204,431

Owners of the only non-Christmas album in the catalogue chart Top Ten, "Feels Like Today" with 4,604,993.  And, their album "Melt" may only be at number 118 on said chart, but it has sold 2,877,912 copies!  Ahead of Bon Jovi’s greatest hits "Cross Road" at number 119 (which has done 4,105,427).

17. Fergie "Dutchess"

Sales this week: 140,591
Cume: 945,567

So I’m driving up 20th Street yesterday, on the way to the shrink, and "Fergalicious" comes up on XM’s 20 On 20.  I became incensed, I felt like the Nazi in "The Producers", THIS IS NOT MUSIC!

Sure, there was evanescent crap forever.  But in the heyday of classic rock, Top Forty didn’t MATTER!  Top Forty was a sideshow, for those not clued in.  Today, the business is not looking to the fringe, but to the lowest common denominator.  Major labels have given up on anything that doesn’t have a decent chance of going gold on the initial go-round, and this will ultimately be the death of them.

It’s not only the music business, it’s movies, and TV, and newspapers and magazines, all mainstream media has become number obsessed.  In an era where there’s ever more choice, where the niche is king, those in power focus on the bland, the edge-less, the FAUX dangerous, in a dash for cash.

Content is not king, distribution is.  Finally, the public has access to distribution.  It’s going to be the death of the old timers.  THIS is the story.  Not crap user generated content, but GREAT STUFF, that touches people’s SOULS!  Entrepreneurs are going to work this stuff from the ground up, and one day the old wave is gonna wake up and realize Top Forty and trash like this is the sideshow once again.

I mean really…  "Yummy Yummy Yummy" is not only better than "Fergalicious", it has more STAYING POWER!

Used to be the acts were artists, testing the limits.  Fergie is a two-dimensional vessel manipulated by old fucks at her record label.  Oh how far we’ve sunk.

29. Sugarland "Enjoy The Ride"

Sales this week: 90,592
Cume: 598,138

Now insiders say this record is a comedown.  Because there’s a mainstream producer and a key member left the act.

But that’s all for insiders, and I’m not an insider.

Now if you grew up in the seventies, those Charlie Daniels songs were real, same deal with the Five Man Electrical Band’s "Signs".  If you had long hair, if you were Jewish, you didn’t belong in the south.  Country music was the home of ignorance.

But what kind of fucked up world do we live in where ancient Willie Nelson is hipper than any act in the Top Forty.  Come on, who do you believe in more, Snoop or Willie?  They both smoke dope, but Willie’s got INTEGRITY!

Now if you’re a shitkicker, today’s country music just ain’t got the same soul.  The twang is mostly gone.  Where’s the WESTERN?  But if you’re a baby boomer and you wonder where all the melody went, how come you can’t understand the mainstream hit music, you’ve got to come over to the Nashville sound.  There are verifiable SONGS, sung by people with good voices, ABOUT something!

Sugarland’s previous album did 2,207,366.  A number Jay-Z would DIE for.

We need a cultural realignment.  Bring back true Top Forty, the best of the best, or know that what passes for hit radio today is IRRELEVANT!

32. Jay-Z "Kingdom Come"

Sales this week: 86,730
Cume: 1,009,888

Not on the catalogue chart.  Not in any incarnation.

So you’ve got to ask yourself, were people REALLY waiting for the comeback?

Obviously not.

33. Evanescence "Open Door"

Sales this week: 80,463
Cume: 1,240,674

So I’m sitting with a buddy in the St. Regis bar, we’re discussing where he should sign his band.  The household name major, or Wind-Up.

The more he talked, the more I felt Wind-Up was the right place.
_____ ______ wants to fuck with the songs, he doesn’t want the album released until HE’S happy.  Sure, he’s had a ton of success, but who’s the artist, the musician or the exec?

And the head of the other label…  She lets too much slip through her fingers.

But Wind-Up, they don’t want to fuck with your music.  If they sign you, they believe in you.  And they won’t give up if the first single doesn’t take off.  They’ll work you for a YEAR!

If they don’t go out of business…  Ahmet dies, Atlantic continues.  The owner of Wind-Up bites the dust, and you’re probably FINISHED!

It’s so much easier when only one company wants your act, you’ve got no choice.  But when there IS choice!!!

And the VARIABLES!  Look at Neil Diamond, whose record was killed by the rootkit debacle.  Look at all the acts that were priorities until their champions got ousted.

If I’m an act, I don’t want a company that’s gonna image me, gonna massage my tunes, just one that’s gonna SELL MY MUSIC!

That’s what Wind-Up does, and they’re doing it very well.

On another label, Evanescence’s album would already be done.  Call it the Gin Blossoms syndrome.  Key songwriter leaves the band, and no one cares again.

Then again, look at the BASE!  Evanescence’s previous album sold 6,671,935 copies.  That’s MARIAH terrain.  Except Amy Lee isn’t a bumbling airhead like Ms. Carey.  She doesn’t trumpet her success.  She doesn’t NEED the publicity.  Amy Lee is the ultimate rock chick and her fans BELIEVE IN HER!

And they said rock music was dead…  Bah humbug.

34. U2 "U218 Singles"

Sales this week: 80,387
Cume: 342,254

What a joke.

The band was at a creative AND commercial peak at the time of "Achtung Baby" and the Zoo TV tour.  Now they’re elder statesmen playing it safe.  I mean where’s the EDGE??

Was the market demanding another greatest hits album?  Was this package really NECESSARY?

Bono…  Throw off the bogus glasses.  Stop saving the world.  And make some dark, gritty music.  Enough of the "Beautiful Day" crap.  You’re not everyman, so stop acting like one.  Be the Irishman with the huge desire to get off the island, to leave his mark.  I want to hear the HUNGER!  I want to hear the PAIN!  The last two U2 records were akin to "Rocky" sequels, by the book.  Break the fucking mold, would you?  Make it about the MUSIC!  Test our LIMITS!  Bring us to YOU, stop saying please let us in!  You’re not OLIVER, you’re a fucking ROCK STAR!  Either act like one, or HANG IT UP!

42. J.J. Cale/Eric Clapton "Road To Escondido"

Sales this week: 62,765
Cume: 250,141

I’ll wager most of the potential audience for this album isn’t even aware it’s out.

This cries out for some innovative marketing.  I think the label should GIVE the album away, for a week, on Eric’s Website!

Heresy you say.

No, listen.

It’s about the STORY, stupid!  You know it’s going to be all over the print media, where you REACH the adult consumer.  Awareness will be created.  Will they even know how to download the fucking record?  PROBABLY NOT!  But put a link on the homepage to buy it for under $10, and you’ll probably sell plenty.

And how about an innovative contest.  Eric and J.J. come and play acoustic at your domicile, yes, do a HOUSE CONCERT!  Not for Mr. Goldman Sachs, this is not a private, this is a REWARD, for FANS!  Just one show, that will be broadcast live on the Web, yup, partner with AT&T for that.

I mean I could blame Eric for being so out of it, not knowing how to sell his own record, but after all, he’s a musician.  He depends on his LABEL to do the selling.  And they’re letting him down here.

44. My Chemical Romance "The Black Parade"

Sales this week: 59,174
Cume: 608,404

My Chem does not have a traditional deal, not according to Diarmuid Quinn, number two at Warner Brothers.  The label shares in merchandising, maybe some other revenue streams.

That’s what was so fascinating in Aspen, to hear the MAJOR players state that content is now free!

How fucked up is our world where those in power have not figured out how to charge for music acquisition.  We’re throwing up our hands in defeat??

Monetize the stealing.

Oh yeah, that would require the old farts to come to grips with the fact that they’re living in a changed world.

Music IS free, and if you’re paying for it, you’re a chump.  Because only when sales drop DRAMATICALLY will those with their heads up their asses make a serious move.

You’re either with us, or against us.  Oh, don’t tell me about the plight of the musician, he’s not getting paid royalties ANYWAY!  This is about the music itself.  A soul-fulfilling force.  Everybody should own music and listen, just like everybody has a cell phone.  This should be a GOAL!  It pays dividends for EVERYBODY!  The label, the concert promoter, certainly the act, and obviously the fan.  We’ve got to stop holding the music back.

License P2P.  Then we’ll have what we’ve got with YouTube.  EXCITEMENT!

Go to: SNL – Digital Short – A Special Christmas Box *Uncensored Version.  Check out the VIEWS!  Yup, over THREE MILLION!  THAT’S what’s important.  YouTube has single-handedly rebuilt the credibility of SNL.  Legalized P2P won’t only bolster old bands, it will build up new ones.  With everybody partaking, everybody excited.

This is what is coming, it’s just a matter of when.

47. Incubus "Light Grenades"

Sales this week: 55,578
Cume: 277,926

And it entered the chart at number one, who gives a shit!

Did it deserve all that attention?  No!

This may not even go gold.

76. Tupac "Pac’s Life"

Sales this week: 33,037
Cume: 279,900

Ten years gone.  And the public is finally burning out on the "new" albums.

85. Kenny Chesney "Live Those Songs Again"

Sales this week: 27,983
Cume: 356,479

A live album is something you buy at the gig, something you download, it’s NOT something you buy at a store, that’s a communal experience.

A live album is a SOUVENIR!  Sell it like that.

The days of "Frampton Comes Alive" are done.  A live album is an artifact, not a cultural rallying post.
Dumb management.  This guy’s losing momentum.

93. Yusuf "An Other Cup"

Sales this week: 25,072
Cume: 98,343

The guy basically self-immolated, but he’d have a fighting chance if only he’d used his FAMOUS NAME!

I mean this guy had his hits thirty years ago, to sell to his old audience call it CAT STEVENS!

97. KT Tunstall "Eye To The Telescope"

Sales this week: 24,514
Cume: 834,241

She needs a new album.

But that’s not the world we live in, where radio can play the same track for a YEAR!

Quicker cycles, of both airplay and release.  That’s how you keep career momentum.  Satisfy the CORE, don’t constantly try to add casual fans on the penumbra.  Are you an artist, or a SALES MACHINE!

114. Little Big Town "Road To Here"

Sales this week: 21,284
Cume: 855,365

The problem is we don’t listen anymore.  But if you listen, if you make wise purchases, you FALL IN LOVE!

I’m not gonna sell you this record, not tell you it’s one of my favorites of the year.  Then again, I AM!

Every night in Vancouver I walked around town listening to this on my iPod, and the album REVEALED ITSELF TO ME!

Yes, there’s the hit "Boondocks", and the Fleetwood Mac rip-off "Bones".  But my favorite is "A Little More You".  I e-mailed it to Felice, telling her that’s what I wanted.

"A Little More You" is an ALBUM TRACK!  It’s not an in-your-face single, rather it’s something just for you, to be discovered deep in the disc, back when there USED TO BE A DISC!  It’s got harmonies, it swings!

And walking in the snow, I started to resonate with "Live With Lonesome", with its fiddle.  It spoke to my heart, and what’s on Top Forty doesn’t.

"Welcome To The Family" is a throwaway, but it GROWS ON YOU!

And you’ll dig "Mean Streak".  It’s got that pathos country is famous for, without beating you on top of the head.

You’ll play this album and wonder what the fuck I’m thinking.  But if we were at a house in the country, and I played it through a few times in the background, I’d swear you’d buy it when you got back to the city.

You see this record’s got life.  There’s somebody INSIDE!  It’s HUMAN, and that’s what the beat-driven music lacks, HUMANITY!

Meanwhile, I had the same experience with Little Big Town’s svengali Wayne Kirkpatrick’s "Maple Room", which I kept playing in my car CD player until it revealed itself.  Oh, you’ll get the opener, "It’s Me Again" IMMEDIATELY!  But it took me about three plays until I got "Kiss The Cheek Of The Moon".  This is the kind of stuff we discovered when we purchased albums based on reviews, not needing to hear them on the radio to either be motivated to buy or believe.

I like being irreverent, I like displaying attitude.  But neither works after midnight, neither works when I’m alone.  When I’m alone I yearn for a companion, this music is my companion, it fits the bill.

If albums survive, they must be that, albums, of a piece, all good.  And they must be under forty minutes.  They must be DIGESTIBLE!

And listening must come back as a sport.  Music must be more than the special sauce, it must be the whole thing, the bun, the burger and the condiments, a FULL MEAL!

Music should be SO good that it speaks to your head and heart.  Not just a lubricant helping you move your body.

Okay, maybe I’m not as strong as I pretend to be
Okay, maybe I’m just as insecure as everybody else

We live in a culture of posing.  You’re supposed to LOOK together, so everybody ACTS together.  I’m here to tell you I’M not together.  I go to the shrink three times a week, searching for answers.  I wince at things I do all the time.  Does everybody else feel so untogether?  Does everybody else have so many questions?  Don’t they want answers?  Or are they just too afraid to look?

But I tell myself, maybe
I can work it out alone
And no one else will ever know

One of my favorite lyrics ever comes from James Taylor’s "Shower The People":

Once you tell somebody the way that you feel
You can feel it beginning to ease

It’s all about community.  The young ‘uns have it figured out, that’s why they’re all on the Net.  CONNECTING!  It’s only the baby boomers who are stoics.  We need to reveal our foibles, that’s the only way we can intertwine.  In a nation based on perfection, everybody’s afraid to reveal their flaws, but we’ve all got them, they’re what make us lovable.

You there
Watching and waiting with the patience of a saint
While I wallow in self-indulgent, paranoid philosophies
But I’m no Socrates, baby
and in the end it’s like a marathon
I’m running straight to you

"The Maple Room" is a Christian record.  I don’t understand religious mania.  Like George Carlin says, let me get this straight, there’s a little man in the sky, and he knows everything, if you’ve been naughty or nice, and…

Utter bullshit.

But leave the religion out, and you can see the above lyrics are about love.

I don’t understand those people who leave their spouses when they’re down, when they get sick, when they lose their jobs.  Like life is a competition, and now you’re saddled with a loser, like you’ve got to throw off the weight so you can continue on to the finishing line.  No, life is about being in it together.  Love is about being ACCEPTED!  Knowing that if you’re dedicated to the connection, dividends will be paid that can never be tabulated in tabloid appearances.  The people on TV do it because they need to be famous, they’re empty on the inside.  Whereas you, you know what’s important, being a member of the group.

I can’t seem to take this ride with ease
I can’t see the forest for the trees
I’m coming undone
Hello, it’s me again
It’s me again

We want someone who can accept our collapses, our foibles, our disappointments.  Who encourages us to be better.

Then again, you’ve got to COMMIT to getting better.  And that’s SO TOUGH!

Tonight while all the world is sleeping
I will roam the halls
Consumed with the obsessions of a terminal insomniac
Under attack
Save me
From the poets and the poltergeists
Playing in my head

It’s always worse at night.  When the demons penetrate your brain, when you don’t think you’re gonna make it.  I’m sure even President Bush doesn’t sleep calmly.  Life is scary, to bully and josh is to deny human nature.

So you tell me not to worry
But I’m a frightened little child
With a strong imagination
That can always be found
running free and wild

Never lose your imagination, never lose your childlike qualities.  Marvel at the wonders of the world.  Don’t die on the inside, try to stay alive.  Don’t slide towards home, stand up and run FREE!

I’ve got to pack.  I’m going to Colorado tomorrow.

I may be in a different a location, but I bring myself with me.  My joys, my pains and my sorrows.  What keeps me centered is my tunes.  Now completely portable via my iPod.  When I’m not feeling so good, when I need to be rooted, I’ll fire up Wayne Kirkpatrick’s "It’s Me Again".  And when it comes up serendipitously on shuffle, I’ll smile, remembering all the good times listening in my car.

This is my track.  It doesn’t need to be yours.

But find yours.  The one that speaks to you.  That rides shotgun.  It’s not about airplay, sales, money, it’s just about you, in this lonely world.  You need help getting through, you might not admit it, but it’s true.  That’s what music does, get you through.  That’s what Ahmet knew, and that’s what today’s indies know.  It’s about how the tunes make you FEEL, not whether they’re radio-friendly.

So find some personal favorites.  I don’t care if they’re sappy or loud.  They’re yours.  Just play them.  And hopefully the act that made them has more, to enrapture you.

This is a read-only blog. E-mail comments directly to Bob.

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