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Thursday, July 2, 2009

A Sales Party Like It's 1999

Michael Jackson has sold over 1 million CDs in the US alone in the last 5 days, and Sony Music has orders for at least 2 million more, according to industry standard Hits magazine. What's more, an unprecedented 2.4 million downloads of MJ tracks have been sold, giving him also an unprecedented 48 places out of the Top 200 Digital Songs chart. There hasn't been a week like this in the music business since it's heyday of the 90's.

To give an example of how unusual and exceptional all this sales activity is, Nirvana sales rose to only 77,000 the week after Kurt Cobain died in 1994 (Nirvana started the last big trend in music), and sales of Notorious B.I.G. Life After Death (which was just about to be released) were 698,000 the first week after his death in 1997.

What MJ's sales success proves is that there are still plenty of potential music purchasers out there. The problem is that there's not a lot of music that's exciting enough for them to want to buy. Granted, this is a special case that may not be repeated for a long time, if ever. But it's also possible that a new artist at the tip of a new trend can duplicate MJ's current numbers. As everyone in the business is brutally aware, we're way past due for something new.


Larry Jones said...

All respect, Bob, but these are not music lovers. They are souvenir collectors and curiosity seekers, driven by nonstop coverage on 24-hour news networks, talk radio, and entertainment programs, not to mention the ease with which they can place their orders on Amazon, iTunes, etc. With Jackson's death, these factors are coming together as never before. The only precedent is Princess Diana, and if she'd had a catalog you can bet there would have been a surge in sales, regardless of the quality. With our vastly "improved" 21st century communication systems, you can bet this will happen again, when Elton John dies, then Paul McCartney, then Bono and more. But it's not logical to imagine that this frenzy surrounding the death of a huge celebrity portends anything for the future of the industry, unless our big stars start to include dying as a possible marketing strategy.

And I'm not saying the current buyers are not getting some good music and high-quality productions into their collections. I'm saying this is a sad example of the disconnect between the music business, and music.

Bobby Owsinski said...

No doubt at least some of them are collectors, but many bought because they neglected to the first time around, as I did.

Disconnect from the music business indeed. A gap that was always there but grows ever wider.


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