Country Sales Thunder Toward Holiday Finish

The graph shows 2010 YTD album sales for all genre (purple) and country (red) compared with the same period in 2009. Country began the year up 18% on 3/14 but quickly started slipping. Note the strong uptick between 9/5 and 11/28 showing country's gaining from -13.2% to -6.1%.

With the warm buzz of family and friends gathered round the holiday table still in our hearts, it gives us added joy to note that country sales also had a robust holiday, resounding in the sweet sound of registers ringing. According to Nielsen SoundScan, country album sales for the period ending 11/28/2010 were up 12% compared with the previous week. The increase also had a nice effect on shrinking the 2010 sales deficit (see graph) which is now -6.1% compared with the same period in 2009. With five weeks remaining, country needs to shift 2.1 million album units each week to equal last year’s total album sales of 46.13 million units. (This week’s album tally was 1.574.) Attaining the 46.13 million unit mark appears a stiff challenge and inside odds-makers are predicting a finish down 5-7%. Country labels would like to be in positive territory, but when compared with all-genre album sales which are down 12.8% we’re ahead of the group. That’s the big picture, now let’s delve into some of the week’s highlights.

Albums
One could call the country album chart, “Swift’s List.” Riding her T-day, TV special, Taylor’s Speak Now CD jumped up 64%—almost 100k units—to sell over 240k (20k in digital format). Her Fearless disc also got a 72% bump of almost 20k. Alan Jackson’s 34 Number Ones was the only significant debut of the week landing at No. 7 with sales slightly over 32k. (Over on the Top 200 chart, however, Swift’s buddy Kanye West ruled with a strong debut of 496k units.)

Country consumers also stuffed acts like Sugarland (No. 4; +31%; 63k+), both Lady A discs (No. 6; +52%; 50k–No. 19; +260%; 14k+), and Darius Rucker (No. 14; +29%; 21k)  into shopping carts in record numbers. Rascal Flatts (-50%) and Keith Urban (-53%) saw lighter than normal week two declines and landed respectively at No. 2 and 3 on the country album chart.

Digital Tracks
Country track sales dropped 6% this week to about 963k total on the Top 100. This week eleven songs were downloaded over 20k times. The Band Perry narrowly topped Sugarland, both selling slightly more than 58k units to land at No. 1 and 2 respectively. Swift (No. 3, 4) and Jason Aldean (No. 8, 9) claimed two spots each on the Top 11. Others included Zac Brown Band (No. 5), Tim McGraw (No. 6) and Kenny Chesney (No. 7). Blake Shelton (No. 10) and Eric Church (No. 11) closed out the over 20k crowd.

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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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