Weekly Register: House Of Discs

(A Music City Adaptation. Based upon House Of Cards, Netflix’s new 13-episode Washington political drama.)

HOCEpisode One
Announcer: Although the thermometer says Music City’s winter has been quite temperate, a mid-winter funk has descended upon Nashville label boardrooms. Jobs could be at stake. As measured by the Nielsen SoundScan sales charts, strong consumer headwinds and chilling indifference have hit Music City marketers.

[Background music–hauntingly plays Barbara Mandrell singing “I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool…”]

[Ruggedly handsome, middle-age label head] 
[Talks directly to the audience as way of introducing his character]
Scott Espodungerton: Yeah, there is a disturbing downward trend YTD on our sales charts, but so what? Country music is also enjoying a surge in cultural popularity. Nashville has its own self-titled TV show, the format boasts numerous arena-filling songslingers and is well represented on national award shows (including the upcoming Grammys). In addition, country is reaching foreign shores with new initiatives such as the CMA’s International Marketing Summit in Paris on March 1. Don’t chase the quick money, I always say. To dominate, real power is created by accumulating top artist brands—for the long term.

weeklygrid2-3-13[Knock on the door. Assistant shows in a stunning young female journalist, ambitious, determined and very frank…Chloe Barnes]
Chloe Barnes: Scott Espodungerton, you and I should become news buddies. If you start leaking inside news to me then in episodes 3 or 4 we can provide some love interest to move the plot of this series along. Your insider tips will make me look smart (I already have sexy covered…)
Scott Espodungerton: Chloe, point your readers to the Weekly Grid which shows country music is off almost 6% YTD and far deeper than the all-genre deficit of -2.5%. Then note that this week’s Top 75 Current Country chart shows sparse total sales of about 265k or 13.5% less than the same time last year. Also throw in some concerns about low streaming royalties.
Chloe: [Furiously tapping the information into her phone which she somehow uses to write her stories. Subtle swoon] Oh, that’s perfect.
Scott Espodungerton: Come over here. Take off your heels… [Scene fades quickly as label head confidently wraps his arm—quid pro quo—around Chloe’s waist]

weeklygrid1-27-13Episode Two
Announcer: Country sales analysts continue to show concern over country’s upcoming album release schedule for February and March. Debuts this week from Kris Kristofferson (No. 28) and Blue Sky Riders (No. 30) each failed to crack the 2k mark. A Tim McGraw effort from the artist’s new label Big Machine hit bins earlier this week and will be reflected in next week’s numbers. However, Curb released a McGraw project which after two weeks has registered a disappointing 6k units. Fortunately, last year’s Q1 list was also devoid of “register ringers” until the Lionel Richie release (week ended 4/1/12), so although the deficit will likely increase it may not plunge over the next two months.

Chloe Barnes: [Texting Scott Espodungerton] Need something new to feed the news machine. Whatcha got?
Scott Espodungerton: [Texting back] Check digital download tracks chart and YTD Albums with TEA. CU this evening?

Announcer: This morning a new reporter seemingly out of nowhere has the front page on MusicRow magazine and a feature GAC interview with Storme Warren to discuss her startling behind-the-scenes breaking sales updates. The town is buzzing about where this bright new reporter came from and how she could possibly have gotten “inside” so fast…

[MusicRow article]
Tracks Talk While Country Tops YTD TEA List
by Chloe Barnes
Announcer: [Reading out loud] “Despite naysayers pointing to the deficit in country music album sales (-5.9%) there are bright signs on the horizon,” says an unnamed, but high-placed, industry source. “One of the best measures of overall sales power is YTD TEA which aggregates albums (digital and physical plus tracks).”

Topping that chart this week is Nashville flag waver Taylor Swift with over 412k TEA units YTD. (Bruno Mars is No. 2 with about 321k units. Dualtone’s Lumineers are No. 4 with almost 300k TEA units.)

Country track downloads also continue to be a bright spot, up 7 percent YTD. Blake Shelton’s “Sure Be Cool…” leads with over 65k downloads followed by The Band Perry (No. 2; 60k), Gary Allan (No. 3; 57k), Hunter Hayes (No. 4; 49k) and FGL (No. 5; 46k).

Country and Nashville are also represented in top Grammy nominee categories—Record, Album and Best New Artist. Taylor Swift earned a nod for Record of the Year with “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” and Hunter Hayes is nominated for Best New Artist. Other artists with Nashville ties in the categories include Record—The Black Keys, Kelly Clarkson; Album—The Black Keys, Jack White; and New Artist—The Lumineers. Stay tuned next week as we investigate and analyze the upcoming Tim McGraw launch and more…

[Announcer fades, enter label head at his desk]

Scott Espodungerton: [Talks directly to the audience] Power in Music City is controlled by those who spend the most money. Yes, we are facing shrinking retail shelf space and margins, plus increased marketing costs, but we’re still at the top of the Music Row food chain. But those who play the game long term realize humility beats arrogance every time. It’s important to remember one’s friends on the way up, that’s what I always say…

[Scene fades with teaser for Episode 3 showing Scott Espodungerton taking a phone call from the New York boss to explain slumping sales…]

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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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