Country By Numbers (11/26/08)

As the industry heads home for a dose of Thanksgiving family and fowl to replenish its fortitude reservoir, it leaves Black Friday week sales in the hands of retailers nationwide. During last year’s comparable holiday week the Country Top 75 hit a healthy 1.53 million units. This year expectations are more reserved with some insiders hoping to at least break the one million unit mark. Can we do it? To a large degree it may depend upon how aggressive retailers get with loss leader pricing. Will we see $3.99 digital album downloads again from Amazon and perhaps other sites? How low will markdowns go on physical product?

The week ending 11/23/08 was ruled by debuts from Zac Brown Band (No. 3; 43,531), Blake Shelton (No. 7; 26,264) and Randy Houser (No. 21; 7,041). Also pivotal was the natural second week falloff in numbers for the Taylor Swift CD which retained its Top spot on the Current country Top 75, but dropped 63% to 217,209 units. [private]Faith Hill’s Christmas offering leapt 83% wk/wk to the No. 2 country chart position stuffing its stocking with 46,284 scans. Other holiday offerings showing signs of jingle bell fever are the Elvis Christmas Duets (up 135% to 29,000), Julianne Hough Sounds Of The Season (up 115% to 22,460) and George Strait Classic Christmas (up 75% to 6,823).

Zooming out to the big picture, country sales Y/Y are off 23.3% with marketshare leveling off to 10.7% of the overall U.S. music industry. Interestingly, the share of digital country album sales is averaging 8%, up from about 5% at this time last year. However, country digital sales still only account for about 5.3% of overall digital album sales, a number below its marketshare, showing that country buyers are markedly less inclined to go online than total market buyers. [/private]


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David M. Ross has been covering Nashville's music industry for over 25 years. [email protected]

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