CD Sales: How Low Can They Go?

noah | April 3, 2009 5:00 am

In the morass of press releases I received yesterday, one stood out for an absurd-on-first-glance claim inside: “PAPA ROACH: RECESSION PROOF!” it said, heralding the fact that the Al Shipley-beloved band had sold 44,456 copies of its new album Metamorphosis in that record’s first week in stories. Which was enough to land it at No. 8. Normally I would have rolled my eyes at such puffery, but a stat that appeared in Hits on Wednesday was enough to make me think that the press release had a point:

Q1 FUN FACT: We’d like to tell you the following is an April Fool’s joke, but it’s not. According to HITS’ numbers-crunching division (OK, it’s one guy with an abacus) , a less-than-grand total of 39 Q1 releases debuted north of 25k, and no album released during the quarter has yet hit the million mark in year-to-date sales. (4/1a)

And here are a few more fun facts for you: • The best-selling album to come out in 2009, U2’s No Line On The Horizon, is at the 744,000-sold mark in four weeks out. • The album right above it on this week’s SoundScan charts, Kelly Clarkson‘s All I Ever Wanted, has been out for a week less, and hasn’t broken 400,000 yet. • Martina McBride‘s first-week sales on her album Shine—which debuted at No. 10 this week with 41,000 sales—were 71% lower than the opening-week sales of her last album, which came out in 2007. And that was with two American Idol contestants singing songs of hers in recent weeks!

And so on. So, will an album go platinum this year? My gut says that the U2 album will; there is, after all, a lot of year left. But any others… well, that’s up for debate. And more importantly, what do the album charts even mean in this ? I’ve refrained from writing the old “Who Charted” column because I just feel like the old metrics don’t apply… but I don’t know what does yet. A combination of album sales and streaming stats and touring and merch? (Are there even charts for merch, or is the old-school secrecy of record labels still ruling supreme there?) What about file-sharing? Are the dropping sales for music and the decimation of places to actually buy music engaged in an endless chicken-and-egg scenario? And am I outing myself as An Old (or at least A Relatively Old) by even caring about sales at this point?

Rumor Mill [Hits]