You’ve all been reading about the plunge in album sales this year, a total of 15%. But if you think sales are dropping across the board, on a strict percentage basis, you’re wrong. The best sellers are taking a disproportionate hit. In other words, they’re just not selling THAT WELL!
Sales in 2007, including both physical and digital, topped out at 500.5 million albums. The peak year was 2000, when 785 million units were sold. So, you’d expect sales of best sellers to drop by approximately one third, or 36.25%, to be exact.
The best selling albums of 2000 were:
1. "No Strings Attached/’N Sync: 9,936,104
2. "Marshall Mathers LP"/Eminem: 7,921,107
3. "Oops!…I Did It Again"/Britney Spears: 7,893,544
4. "Human Clay"/Creed: 6,587,834
5. "Supernatural"/Santana: 5,857,824
6. "Beatles 1"/Beatles: 5,068,300
7. "Country Grammar"/Nelly: 5,067,529
8. "Black & Blue"/Backstreet Boys: 4,289,865
9. "Dr. Dre 2001"/Dr. Dre: 3,992,311
10. "Writing’s On The Wall"/Destiny’s Child: 3,802,165
The best selling albums of 2007 were:
1. "Noel"/Josh Groban: 3,699,000
2. "Soundtrack"/ High School Musical 2: 2,957,000
3. "Long Road Out of Eden"/Eagles: 2,608,000
4. "As I Am"/Alicia Keys: 2,543,000
5. "Daughtry"/Daughtry: 2,497,000
6. "Soundtrack"/Hannah Montana 2: Meet Miley: 2,489,000
7. "Minutes To Midnight"/Linkin Park: 2,099,000
8. "Dutchess"/Fergie: 2,064,000
9. "Taylor Swift"/Taylor Swift: 1,951,000
10."Graduation"/Kanye West: 1,892,000
So, the drop from number one over the past seven years was a whopping 62.77%!
Number two: also a 62% drop.
Number three: 67% drop.
Number four: 61% drop.
Number five: 57% drop.
Number six: 50% drop.
Number seven: 58% drop.
Number eight: 51% drop.
Number nine: 51% drop.
Number ten: 50% drop.
In other words, best sellers aren’t selling tonnage! They’re outpacing the decline of the industry SIGNIFICANTLY!
The major label scorched earth policy of overexposing an album to ubiquity seems to be less effective than EVER!
It’s not like Josh Groban didn’t get TV exposure. Hell, he was featured on Oprah. But it was not like ‘N Sync being all over MTV, back when the "M" stood for music and the outlet banged videos AND PEOPLE WATCHED THEM!
Eminem was a cultural phenomenon. But today you’re famous for your antics, not your music. And your antics don’t sell records. Just ask Paris, Lindsay or even Britney. TMZ and PerezHilton will reach a lot of people, but they’re not about music.
Funny, vapid rock still sells. Creed was at number four in 2000 and Daughtry is at number five in 2007. Anybody who says rock is dead… Well, meat and potatoes rock is alive and kicking. But Daughtry is no Creed, able to sell out large venues from coast to coast.
There’s only one hip-hop album in the Top Ten in 2007. And the boy band genre is kaput. But is this steep sales decline amongst best sellers about the lack of fads, or of stars, or just an indication that society has changed, that in the Net era, everything is niche. You’re lucky to gain a foothold. Hold on to your fan base, maximize the revenue there, because it’s going to be damn hard to convert the casual fan…BECAUSE HE’S JUST NOT PAYING ATTENTION!
You’ve got hundreds of TV channels. Endless movies in the theatres and on NetFlix. The infinite Web and hand-held mobile devices. It’s just impossible to reach everybody. Marketers realize you can have an ad on network television and a great percentage of the public can be IGNORANT OF YOUR PRODUCT!
People still want music. In prodigious amounts. They just don’t all want the same thing.
This is bad news for the major labels. Starting in the seventies, with the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, and Boston, the labels counted on the breakout superstar to make their numbers, to pay for all the failures. Well now that paradigm is done. You just can’t sell that many of ANYTHING! Albums have to pull their own weight. Saturation marketing moves very little. You’ve got to find something that resonates with a portion of the public and then hope people spread the word.
Piracy is hurting the record business. But that’s not the only thorn in the side of the major label. It’s not 2000 anymore. We don’t live in one homogenous society, everybody paying attention to the same thing. We live in an era of endless narrowcasting. Although the majors still believe we live in an era of broadcasting. And that’s hurting them.
So, if you’re operating on a smaller level, if you’re not swinging for the fences, there’s still a market out there for you. Don’t overspend, know it takes time for people to catch on to you. And know that being as big as the Beatles, even the Backstreet Boys, is presently an impossibility.
All the structures built upon superstardom… The majors, LiveNation… They’re in trouble. Their only hope is to go niche, to try and find quality that resonates and build slowly for the long term. But they don’t want to do this. Because it’s too hard to earn money this way. Leaving the field wide open for entrepreneurs.
The old game is done. Superstardom is within almost no one’s grasp. Be happy that ANYBODY cares about your music!