Weekly Register: Fighting For Dashboard Control

tateSirius XM Radio recently reported its first quarter profits increased 15% and revenue grew 12% to $897.4 million. Perhaps the best news from the satellite radio provider was an increase in net subscribers of 452,890 from a year ago, giving the company a total of 24.4 million paying customers.

According to a WSJ article, the bullish growth has been driven by used-car buyers who, due to special dealer arrangements, are being offered free trials. Data shows that over 50 million cars in the U.S. are equipped with satellite radios, while only half that number are paying subscribers.

SiriusXM’s good news was tempered by increasing competition from Internet radio offerings such as Pandora and interactive music channels like Spotify. In response to those and other online competitors, Sirius has created its own Internet offerings (extra $3.50 per month) that give listeners the ability to custom design their own channels.

Content providers will soon be immersed in a major slugfest for control of the all-powerful automobile dashboard. This writer, and many observers, now believe that Internet will drive distribution for the new dashboard interface. That means that all parties—terrestrial radio, satellite radio and Internet radio must establish or maintain a strong online presence. (Satellite radio will eventually reap a giant bonus with this strategy if, instead of costly replacement rocket launches, they simply use the Internet for distribution when its lofty sputniks burn out.)

weeklygrid4-28-13Sirius is especially well positioned for the upcoming battle with five times more paying subscribers than all the other players combined, although its road ahead may require flexibility if indeed it does transition to Internet distribution and face competitive pricing challenges.

The Nitty Grid-y
Seems like only yesterday the Nashville record community was arguing about Warner Music’s unorthodox Blake Shelton sixpak strategy. Would it devalue the music? Did it make the artist seem less important without a full size album? But more importantly, did Shelton’s increased six-pak visibility lead to getting the Voice judgeship which has played a major role in his exploding profile? With Shelton at No. 1 again this week and over 420k albums sold in five weeks, maybe we should send WMGN strategists Peter Strickland and John Esposito a little note saying, “Job well done, guys.”

weeklygrid4-21-13RCA’s Tate Stevens debuted this week in the No. 4 spot with sales of almost 17k (22.2% digital). Last week’s Casey Donahew Band debut tumbled 72% from No. 7 to No. 26.

Expect a frenzy of register ringing over the next four weeks as we see offerings from Kenny Chesney, Lady Antebellum, Pistol Annies, George Strait, Trace Adkins and Darius Rucker.

Overall, the week’s tepid country performance caused the YTD gain to slip in half from .9% last week to only .4% gain for the year. All genre music is faring much worse however, down 5.3% YTD.

The sad passing of Mr. George Jones was reflected in an outpouring of love on this week’s country digital tracks chart. “He Stopped Loving Her Today” entered at No. 15 with over 34k downloads followed by “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes” (11k), “White Lightning” (7.6k), “I Don’t Need Your Rockin’ Chair” (6k), “Finally Friday” (5k), “Choices” (5k) and ”The Grand Tour” (5k). RIP George Jones.

All genre track sales are down 2% YTD, but country track sales are up 7%.

Look for Kenny Chesney launch results next week…

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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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