Sunday, July 10, 2011

July 4-10: Reports Of the Music Industry's Demise Greatly Exaggerated?


With music magazines powering down their printing presses, record companies slashing expense accounts, venerable chains like Tower Records closing shop, and even A-list pop stars failing to fill seats in this nation's concert venues (even with Groupon's help), it seems clear that the music industry is in serious trouble. But rock 'n' roll is not dead, dear readers. According to an encouraging mid-year report by Nielsen SoundScan, album sales experienced their first boost since SoundScan started tracking digital sales in 2004--up 8.5 percent from last year's all-time lows. This is good news, and on top of that, this week Eminem became the first artist to sell 1 million digital copies of a single album. Physical album sales may be down 11 percent--that's the bad news--but digital album sales are in fact up 19 percent, so maybe downloading (at least the legal kind) isn't killing music after all.

Eminem's aptly titled Recovery passed the 1 million digital mark this week; of this milestone, his manager Paul Rosenberg declared in a happy statement: "Over the years, we've made a concerted effort to engage Em's online fanbase, so this achievement is especially rewarding." Lady Gaga's The Fame is close to joining Eminem, with more than 900,000 digital sales and counting, but it's looking likely that Adele will actually be the next member of the million-album-download club, since her sophomore smash 21 has already sold a whopping 992,000 digital copies in just 19 weeks.
Of course, in an era when individual digital songs sell by the millions (the most-downloaded track of all time, the Black Eyed Peas' "I Got A Feeling," has sold seven times more copies than Recovery; Flo Rida, Gaga, Jason Mraz, and Ke$ha have all sold 5 million or more copies of a single song; and more than 200 songs have sold 2 million downloads), Recovery's digital numbers seem a tad less impressive. But album sales are moving in the right direction--UP, that is--so allow us to celebrate a little.
Maybe the Stateside launch of the British digital music service Spotify will help the music biz even more. This week Spotify announced on its website that its innovative free streaming service, which basically makes it possible to turn any computer into a never-ending jukebox of one's dreams, will soon be available in America. Spotify's slogan is "Any track, any time, anywhere. And it's free," which might make it seem like record labels wouldn't exactly be thrilled about this company's existence. But four major labels have already signed off on Spotify's U.S. launch, which will generate revenue via a combination of advertising, subscription services, and digital downloads. Will Spotify revive the music business, or hurt it? Apparently we will all find out "soon," according to Spotify's cryptic announcement.
Music industry machinations may have dominated headlines this week, but the artists behind the music kept pretty busy themselves. Bow Wow revealed that he has a secret daughter; ex-Oasis man Noel Gallagher held a London press conference to announce two forthcoming solo albums and, of course, talk smack about his estranged little brother Liam; Ghostface Killah was sued for allegedly illegally sampling the "Iron Man" theme; "American Idol" castoff Pia Toscano signed the dotted line on her Interscope Records contract, then hit the road with her Season 10 "Idol" castmates for a big summer tour; a bunch of Latin jazz musicians threatened to sue the Grammys; Gucci Mane was freed from prison; and, back to the subject of sales, Justin Bieber may sell downloads, but pretty much no one wanted to buy his cover issue of Vanity Fair this week.
And finally, in heavier, sadder news, Nicki Minaj's cousin, 27-year-old Nicholas Telemaque, was shot dead in Brooklyn in what police believe was a case of mistaken identity--and a lost track she recorded last year, "We Miss You," seemed to eerily predict his fate. We send our condolences to Nicki and her entire family.
Be sure to check out the links below for more details on all those stories, and we'll see you next week for another roundup of the biggest music news.


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