Country ’10 Sales Fall Short

Nielsen SoundScan handicappers are now melancholy with the realization that country will not achieve flat sales compared with 2009. With two 2010 sales weeks remaining—one leading into the holiday and one after, your Scribe is predicting that country album sales will total about 42.2 million units a drop of about 6.9% when compared with 2009 and adjusted for 52-week comparison. Overall music industry album sales remain down 13%.

Source: Nielsen SoundScan

The numbers are especially significant when considering that country labels and marketers threw everything they had into the 2010 season. Virtually every superstar and rising star found themselves on the release schedule—Taylor Swift, Rascal Flatts, Jason Aldean, Sugarland, Keith Urban, Kenny Chesney, Zac Brown Band, Tim McGraw, The Band Perry, Alan Jackson, Reba, Blake Shelton and more issued new and/or Greatest Hits packages in a mammoth effort to pry open holiday wallets. And it worked—but maybe not as well as one might have hoped. Especially when considering the boost when Taylor’s first week eclipsed expectations hitting the one million unit plus mark.

Speaking about Taylor, how do sales of Speak Now compare with Fearless? Answer: very well. Release to date (RTD) 8 week numbers show Speak Now with 2.607 million and Fearless (1/4/09) with 2.201 million. For the week ending 12/19/2010 Taylor Swift again rises to top all lists with about 259k units. On the country list she was miles in front, but on the all genre Top 200, Susan Boyle, who was No. 1 last week closely followed with over 254k units.

Spunky siblings The Band Perry remain atop the country genre tracks list, shifting over 4j7k additional copies this week of “If I Die Young.” Swift (39+), Chesney (38+), Sugarland (37+) and Aldean (31+) also sold in the over 30k range.

And now some year-end musings…(a good time to go to the kitchen for a snack if you don’t like to face the hard truth..)

[Editorial paragraph] The question waiting in the wings is what will happen in 2011? Will all the same artists be forced to record and release again? Will the fans continue to support all of them? Will the country music industry finally join hands and say, “We want people to pay on the way into the digital store, so we don’t lose sales as they walk out with free goods.” Will Washington politicians make a return Nashville visit with reassuring, but useless talk about how they plan to educate consumers and find new safeguards? What about a stimulus for lost revenues since 2004 when country sold 77.91 million units? Over the past six years country album sales have fallen about 45%. A few more years of similar losses and the industry will be too weak to have its voice heard, labels will be broke and the CMA will be handing out lunch to upper level executives in daily bread lines. Will 2011 be the year that the CMA helps focus discussions on developing a new digital model? Well, readers, if I knew the answer to all these questions, than you could just go on vacation next year and come back after all the hard work was done. [haha]. In the meantime, 2011 seems to offer lots of hope and promise with new companies taking root and older ones adapting and re-establishing themselves.

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About the Author

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

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