The Record Business Celebrates The Bad Kind Of Black Friday

noah | December 2, 2008 10:00 am

If anyone in the music business was hoping that the one-two punch of a holiday weekend and big-name releases would magically convince people to pay for music one last time, they may want to pour themselves a stiff drink, or at least spike their morning latte: Billboard is reporting that the No. 1 album, Kanye West’s 808s & Heartbreak, sold 425,000-450,000 copies over the course of last week, while Guns N’ Roses’ Chinese Democracy woefully underperformed, moving between 250,000 and 260,000 copies during its first week on Best Buy’s shelves. And that’s not all: Depending on who you ask, overall music sales were down anywhere between 10% and 30% when compared with last year’s holiday weekend, although online numbers were OK. Meanwhile, a UK tabloid is claiming that bigwigs at Universal Music Group are blaming the soft landing of Chinese Democracy squarely on Axl, because he didn’t do enough press for the album. Even though it probably received more free press than any other record this year. Yeah, it couldn’t be that people currently see Guns N’ Roses as something of a novelty act, and that people who liked Appetite probably aren’t so into the new sound, and that even those people who wanted to give Axl a shot were a bit weirded out by the whole preserved-in-1999-amber feel of the final recorded product, could it?

Bosses at label Geffen are blaming unpredictable Axl for the disappointing sales after he went AWOL for two months before the release date.

Despite all the effort put into one of the most extravagant rock albums of all time, staff could not contact Axl to get him to promote his rock epic.

In fact, they failed to make contact with him from the day he delivered the final cut. …

An insider said: “Everyone knows Axl is a bit of a maverick genius and won’t do anything he doesn’t want to do.

“The label is really glad to have him back. But it is frustrating because the album would have had a much better chance of going to No1 if he had only been prepared to show his face.

“People have been trying to contact him for two months and he’s been completely AWOL.

“You would have thought after spending 15 years on an album you might do a few weeks promotion.”

Of course, this has to be taken with the usual Grain Of UK Tabloid Salt (approximate diameter: 12 inches), but you have to admit that the idea of Axl going into hiding immediately upon handing in his album, and only speaking through his lawyers when he wants to get pissy with carbonated-beverage manufacturers over their online coupons not working, doesn’t seem all that far-fetched.

Axl goes AWOL [The Sun]