Country Slide—YTD Sales Off 14.3%

Warner's the JaneDear Girls debuted with over 10k units.

The winter doldrums haven’t just frozen Nashville’s weather. The country sales charts are also shivering from cold consumer indifference. According to Nielsen SoundScan, Top 75 Current Country sales slid slightly from last week, remaining in the root cellar, i.e. under 320k. Overall, YTD country album sales are off 14.3% compared with the same period last year. Last year’s highly successful Lady A album which was released in early Jan. 2010 is one reason for the significant 2011 country sales shortfall. For example, in 2010 Lady A sold 470k albums during the last three weeks of Feb. 2010. This year, with no major new releases during that period, we are bound to see the YTD percentage fall further.

But wait, let’s not abandon ship, jump off a ledge or otherwise do anything rash. Sales numbers are highly dependent upon release schedules and the race isn’t over till year end. Later this year we will likely see a new album from Lady A and possibly new Taylor Swift product just to name a few. These developments will have a strong effect on brightening the tally.

Meanwhile, Jason Aldean nudges Ms. Swift to the No. 2 album position by less than a 100 units as they both shift almost 27k. Landing in the No. 10 spot is the likeable JaneDear Girls whose self-titled CD debuts with over 10k units. Of course the usual suspects make up the remainder of the Top 10. From positions 3-9 are: Lady Antebellum, Zac Brown Band, Rascal Flatts, Kenny Chesney, the Band Perry and the Country Strong soundtrack.

Tracks Back
Digital tracks are becoming more important in our numbers game. This week’s country genre tracks chart Top 100 boasts 1,069,926 downloads, down about 3% from last week’s total. From a track equivalent album (TEA) perspective (10 tracks= one album) that is another 107k albums.

Industry execs have been hoping that growing track purchases will offset shrinking physical product sales by units. But that has not happened. The track/album equation is also disappointing when looked at from a dollar standpoint. In an interview last week for MusicRow’s upcoming CRS issue, CMT’s Jay Frank told this writer he expects to see a week soon where the top track passes the top album in terms of retail value and profitability. (Retail value example: 30k albums X $10= $300k. 300k tracks X $1.29=$387k. Profitability example: 30k albums X $7.50=$225k and 300k tracks X .90¢=$270k.)

The top seven tracks on the country digital download list all sold greater than 30k downloads. In order they are Jason Aldean, Taylor Swift, Thompson Square, Kenny Chesney, Zac Brown Band, The Band Perry and the JaneDear Girls. JaneDear’s “Wildflower” showed a 109% jump this week with over 31k downloads.

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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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