Weekly Register: Discounters Create Sales Iceberg

This week’s quick take away is—the sky is not falling (any faster than it was last week); physical sales are weakening while digital sales get stronger; and Lionel Richie remains country’s newest and best seller.

Unfortunately, the real story, like an iceberg under water, is hidden from view. That real story is a too familiar parable of revenues and costs which is being redefined by retailers like Google with its regular $3.99 album specials. For example, this week a quick search for country in the $3.99 digital bin found found Taylor Swift’s Fearless, Sugarland’s Incredible Machine, Martina McBride’s Eleven, Alison Krauss A Hundred Miles.. and more. We’ve been told that discounters like Google, Amazon and others are still paying labels the normal wholesale value, but this activity is a ticking time bomb sure to redefine music pricing going forward which can’t be good for record label bottom lines, long term.

Average Joes Entertainment CEO Shannon Houchins, in this week’s two-part MusicRow interview says he believes music sales will no longer be a revenue stream in as soon as a few years. [Click HERE to read.] It’s hard to accept that vision might become reality in the country industry. However, as music sales from all formats converge into a single handheld mobile device, it seems likely that what happens in one format will quickly spread to all. Imagine how the Nashville landscape might look if the revenue landscape were to alter itself that dramatically!

Albums
For the week ended 4/29/12 we see the overall industry struggling to remain even with last year, and falling .9% behind. As the grid shows, if one includes YTD TEA numbers, then sales are up slightly, 1.3%. Nashville-based Jack White debuts Blunderbuss this past week and sees it sit on top of the Top 200 list with sales of almost 138k.

In the world of country, Lionel Richie remains at No. 1 scanning an additional 78k units to push his 5-week total above 615k and YTD country album sales ahead 5.9%. Debuts take spots No. 2 and 3 on the country list; Curb’s Lee Brice sells 46k with Hard 2 Love and MCA’s Kip Moore scans 37k with Up All Night.

Carrie Underwood’s Blown Away just hit bins and next week’s debut numbers will surely bump up and keep country album sales in positive territory.

Tracks
Digital track sales are ahead for all genre and for country which explains why YTD TEA album numbers are higher than pure album sales. On the country list we see the usual suspects holding court in the Top Ten; Taylor, Eric, Luke, Carrie, Kip, Jason, Lee, Miranda, a Kenny/Tim duet and Eli Young Band. Eric Church’s “Springsteen” moves up a spot to No. 2 notching sales of almost 79k units.

Church’s tough-edged attitude brought him a few media lessons this past week when he dissed TV singing contests in a Rolling Stone interview and then incurred the Twitter wrath of Miranda and Blake. Church later apologized saying it was about the shows and “not the artists themselves.” We’ll watch next week for any chart fallout.

Country track sales are doing nicely passing the 54.7 million mark and up a robust 21.7% YTD.

See you next week!

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About the Author

Journalist, entrepreneur, tech-a-phile, MusicRow magazine founder, lives in Nashville, TN. Twitter him @davidmross or read his non-music industry musings at Secrets Of The List

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