Record Industry Hoping To Boost Sales By Reminding People Of Albums They Already Own

200px-Original_We%27re_Only_in_It_for_the_Money_front_cover.jpgYesterday, we were peppered with e-mails about the Definitive 200, a list of albums that share the common trait of being bought by a lot of people. But as we found out this morning, this list is more than an opportunity for bloggers to moan about Supernatural‘s popularity–it’s a marketing ploy!

The National Assn. of Record Merchandisers and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame unveiled a list of 200 albums that belong in everybody’s CD collection titled the Definitive 200 that will be used as a marketing tool at big box outlets (Wal-Mart, K mart, Best Buy), chain music shops (Virgin, Trans World outlets), indie CD stores (Cheap Thrills in new Brunswick, N.J.*, J&R in New Yok, Newbury Comics in Boston, Zia in Phoenix, Ariz., and Waterloo in Austin, Texas) and online sites (Amazon, Overstock). Campaign is starting with 75 retailers signed up.

The list has the usual suspects — the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side Of The Moon” and Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” are the top three — but unlike most album lists, this one was compiled by retailers.

The goal, NARM president Jim Donio said at the ceremony in Capitol studio A, was “to highlight music that has enduring popularity among fans. This is to celebrate the album” in an era when downloads and sales of singles are beginning to decimate the classic album. (For the full list go to

Unlike lists compiled by critics, musicians, magazines or Web sites, the Definitive 200 is full of albums everyone has heard of and, instead of showing a historical bias, 81 of the discs were released between 1990 and 2004.

What makes us roll our eyes is the idea that this “campaign”–which seems to be, in sum, a slapped-together roll call of recent platinum albums and a bunch of standalone displays–will somehow invigorate record sales. There are two reasons that there’s no way this will happen: First of all, most of the albums on the list have reached their sales-saturation point–and unless you’re adding bonus discs, the “buy another copy of your favorite album” sleight-of-hand won’t work, especially at stores like the Trans World outposts, which are still clinging to the idea that people want to shell out $18.99 for a CD. Second of all, why would merchandisers want to trick the few people who are still actually visiting record stores into buying Pieces Of You (No. 64) or Human Clay (No. 95)? Are they expecting a high proportion of sales from people who want to be on I Love The ’90s IV, or are they really that backward-looking and clueless? Wait, don’t tell us.

* UPDATE: A bunch of commenters are informing us that Cheap Thrills is actually closed, and has been for years. Which, when you think about it, makes perfect sense, as far as the forward-thinking nature of this project.

Definitive 200 []
Classic albums celebrated [Variety]

  • FionaScrapple

    84. Linkin Park – Hybrid Theory
    191. Steely Dan – Aja
    uh, what kind of list is this again?

    Just missing the cut…201. Chinese Democracy – Guns and Roses

  • tigerpop

    Hybrid Theory is totally way more awesomer than Aja, silly.

    Also, three words: NO JACKET REQUIRED.

  • nosebleed

    Cheap Thrills closed it’s doors sometime in 2000.
    After it’s second home.

    So did Tunes. around the same year.

    Maybe you mean Vintage Vinyl – in Fords?

    heck, while on the topic of Jersey..

    there’s Princeton Record Exchange
    great shop.

  • beta.rogan


    #154. Will Smith – Big Willie Style.

    This list seems like the selection of albums that BMG sends you when they want you to pick our CD’s “9 for a penny” or whatever. You look and look and all you can think is “I own that, I don’t want that…etc etc etc”

  • JudgeFudge

    #144 John Lennon- Imagine
    #154 Will Smith- Big Willie Style

  • mike a

    Wait a minute: Cheap Thrills closed about 5 or 6 years ago. So the creators of this list they wouldn’t be pulling the whole thing out of their asses…would they?

  • mike a

    Couldn’t they have pretended to poll Pier Platters instead?

  • Ozzy


    Nice! In your face, Smith!

  • drinkingmilkshakescoldandlong

    Big Willie Style is also AHEAD of Blood on the Tracks and Ziggy Stardust.

    Will Smith is more important than Bowie — who knew?

  • noamjamski

    If you go to the actual Definitive 200 site, it is a different Cheap Thrills altogether.

    Cheap Thrills Records
    Princeton, WV
    Beckley, WV

    On a side note, I read the Variety article that is linked to here and Brian Wilson played three Pet Sounds songs to “kick off” this campaign at a press conference.

    What has happened to him? Do we know what meds he was put on that make him so damn functional all of a sudden? Did the RIAA have him on Manchurian Candidate style mind control drugs and are now calling him into play?

    I’m happy we all got to hear a finished Smile but he seems to be constantly in public now doing absolutely everything asked of him. He was even a guest counselor at this year’s Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp!

    Brian Wilson is sane, Roky Erickson is playing shows, Jandek plays shows, Daniel Johnston has an action figure coming out….

    What’s next? A Captain Beefheart tour??

  • MickFNS

    Great. Now an entire generation of “hip-dads” can freak out their kids and embarrass them at school… “Say, Timmy, does you little friend here know about ‘Ride The Lightning?’- it’s just killer stuff…a must-have!”

  • brasstax

    Dude, Ride the Lightning is 23 years old. “Hip dads” now were probably listening to it when it was new.

  • bruzie

    Am I too much of a freak to have 36 of those (including 6 in the top ten)? Although I am counting ones where I have all the mp3s from an album….

  • Ozzy

    Hey drinkingmilkshakes…

    157, 154, 171
    But can you tell who’s who?

    “Like your smile and your fingertips.
    Like the way that you move your hips.
    I like the cool way you look at me.
    Everything about you is bringing me misery.”

    “Ciga-cigar right from Cuba-Cuba
    I just bite it.
    It’s for the look I don’t light it.”

    “We can’t dance, we don’t talk much
    We just ball and play
    But then we move like tigers on Vaseline.”

  • More Often Wrong

    Bruzie, you’re a freak for counting.

    I stopped reading at #103: The Titanic Soundtrack! Whoah.

  • Dan Gibson

    Zia is taking quite the slide from the days where a store manager might be fired for not having the entire Big Black catalog out for sale.

    On the upside, the Forrest Gump soundtrack will now be well stocked.

  • Barry White Stripes, Office LW

    Zia in PHX hasn’t been an indie shop for a while now…the old owner died, then they got sucked up by some corporation, and now operate under a faux-indie theme.

    Sucks…they used to the be the balls too…

  • noamjamski

    @bruzie: Eyeballing the list I probably have a little less than half of it.

    They are all great albums. It is the way they are being re-marketed for no apparent reason that is absurd.

    And no Styx? Not even Killroy or Paradise Theater? I thought they were what A&R Major Label dreams were made of. And Foreigner. And lots more Genesis.

  • MC

    Looove the Variety headline: “Classic Albums Celebrated”

    What next?
    “Food Eaten”?
    “Air Breathed”?
    “Record Industry Unveils New Shitty Idea–’Hey, it’s Tuesday’”?

  • MC


    Even #194???

  • Hallux Valgus

    well of course NARM is trying to sell more albums. That’s all NARM is, which is why they can suggest that everyone needs a Kid Rock album in their library.

    Of course, th Hall of Fame’s affiliation shows just how irrelevant the Hall of Fame is.

  • noamjamski

    @MC: No Boccelli in my collection but what is up with the lack of Jazz?

    Especially since Jazz heads are not only still customers, but will buy re-issues if you put that 128 gram extra virgin vinyl in a new gatefold sleeve.

    They are aware there are more people who know how to blow besides Coltrane, right?

  • MC


    One simple equation:

    Jazz=The New Classical

  • Chris Molanphy

    What a tool I am – I own, on disc (seriously, not counting downloads):

    • 18 of the top 20 (the missing two? Dark Side and American Beauty)
    • 65 of the top 100
    • 111 in total

    I realize lists like this were made to make us scoff, but honestly this inspires nothing but pity. This is the last gasp of a dying industry. Picture an army of balding men who look vaguely like Artie Fufkin, and that’s who compiled this list. These are the types of guys who put the Dirty Dancing soundtrack on a greatest-album list because they sigh wistfully at the memory of cash registers ringing back in 1988.

  • saellys

    Does it sadden anyone else that a bunch of industry marketing executives couldn’t come up with anything more interesting and catchy to call this crappy list than “The Definitive 200″? Yeah, that just rolls off the tongue.

  • MC

    I only own 25 of these, but I like music.

  • MC

    Just to spite them, I’m gonna go buy only the best tracks from these albums off of iTunes. Or I could just get them from $6.99 per disc.

  • mreasy

    no you don’t

  • Deadly Tango

    Here’s a cynical/funny note — on the Definitive 200 website, they’re running a contest where one lucky winner will receive a copy of each of the 200 (a gift with limited value to anyone but a library). The official contest rules (as required by various state laws) reports the “approximate retail value” of this prize as $2,000.

    That’s right — the National Association of Recording Merchandisers is telling us that we should be paying an average of $10.00 per disc. Anyone care to do the research to see what purchasing the whole set from one of the online retailers might run?

  • Adam Bernard

    This might inspire more sales if it were “the best 200 albums you DON’T already own” rather than “a list of albums, many of which you probably regret buying.”

  • zibby

    So…2xGreen Day (!?), 2xRCHP (!!??), and Stone Temple Pilots (???!!!), yet no room (unless I missed something) for the Ramones or Husker Du? Wow. Stupid idea, dreadful execution.

    And who would want Paul’s Boutique when you could have two albums by the Dixie Chicks? I can’t believe I’m even typing about this, it’s unworthy of my time.

  • Anonymous

    Okay, soundtracks are questionable in general, but if you aren’t even including any Quentin Tarantino, how has no one mentioned that TOP GUN is on the list??? Come on, Danger Zone?

  • MC

    The Top Gun soundtrack (as well as many other albums on the list I suspect) is included because they have a warehouse in Dubuque crammed floor to ceiling with those mothers.