It’s been two weeks since “Weird Al” Yankovic rushed into the digital-music era and rush-released his parody of T.I.’s “Whatever You Like” to iTunes. In the first week that it was available at Apple’s digital-music store, the track sold 21,000 copies and entered the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 104; this was after a snafu that resulted in it coming out a day later than he’d originally announced, which in turn resulted in a lot of typo-riddled comments from frazzled Al fans. That release-date issue has resulted in him deciding to not announce future singles until they’ve safely arrived at store shelves, according to a post at his blog reflecting on what went down. “I’ve learned from hard experience that iTunes is not able to guarantee a time–or, apparently, even a day–that a song will go live on-line,” he wrote. Ouch!
The No. 1 album on iTunes right now–ahead of… More »
In the doldrums of January 2006, several weeks after the annual flurry of post-Christmas music-buying, the iTunes Store was livened up by the sudden appearance on its best-sellers list of a bunch of new hit songs.
It’s not unheard of for the industry to drop new songs in the dead of winter by non-blockbuster, developing acts—but these songs were credited to a bunch of kids who’d never had a hit, or even a shred of major-label promotion.
Within a month, eight songs by this gang of toothsome newcomers with names like “Ashley Tisdale” and “Zac Efron” were on the Hot 100, the largest number of simultaneous charting songs from a single album ever. And that album, the soundtrack to the Disney Channel made-for-TV flick High School Musical, went on to become 2006’s top-selling disc.
The feat was almost precisely duplicated 18 months later, when the flick’s much-hyped sequel premiered. The High School Musical 2 soundtrack spawned seven simultaneous Hot 100 hits and was 2007’s best-selling album until a Josh Groban Christmas CD topped it in the last weeks of December.
In both cases, iTunes sales of single tracks served as early indicators: of the soundtrack albums’ blockbuster futures, and the movies’ repeatability and Zeitgeist-defining success. With High School Musical 3 nine days away from its premiere—in movie theaters this time—and the soundtrack album less than a week out, what are the early iTunes indicators telling us?
Call me an old sourpuss, but they’re telling me that, as a musical force at least, this franchise might be spent.
Yesterday’s New York Times had a story on how AC/DC is standing up against the digital age: The band is putting out Black Ice via brick-and-mortar outlets only next week, with Wal-Mart getting the CD exclusive and indie stores being allowed to sell it on vinyl. Angus Young told the Times that his band’s resistance to going digital was rooted in the idea of iTunes selling chunks of albums instead of full-length records: “It’s like an artist who does a painting… If he thinks it’s a great piece of work, he protects it. It’s the same thing: this is our work.” Well, someone in the chain of getting the album to stores didn’t quite get the memo on AC/DC’s analog ways, or maybe they just found it hypocritical that AC/DC was OK with selling single songs as ringtones, but not as 99-cent downloads, because Black Ice leaked last week, and according to estimates, it’s been downloaded some 400,000 times from BitTorrent alone.
Over the summer, accordion-wielding parodist “Weird Al” Yankovic told Billboard that he was prepared to take advantage of the iTunes age by breaking free from the album mold, and using iTunes to release songs that were more of the moment than was possible during the era of “Eat It” and “Like A Surgeon.” Last week, Yankovic took to his blog (!!) to announce that his first foray into rush-releasing his response songs would land on iTunes tomorrow, although he was cagey about just who would be his target: “I’m only supposed to ‘tease’ this release right now–I’ll post more info about it in a couple days. But I will say that it’s a parody of a song that very recently was (or perhaps still is) the number one song in the country. That would be another first for me–I don’t think I’ve ever released a parody of a song while the original song was still number one!” Uh oh, are you thinking what I’m thinking?
In truth, iTunes only accounts for 5% of Apple’s revenue, but we all know that it’s really there as a Trojan horse to get people to buy iPods/iPhones, equate Apple with more than just computers, and make people buy the wrong versions of songs. Today, that small chunk of income for Apple may become even smalller, as a panel of appointed judges called the Copyright Royalty Board (snooze alert of a name, guys!) will rule as to whether digital music retailers like iTunes, Amazon, and Rhapsody will have to pay larger royalties to music publishers.
Congratulations, world! You somehow made it all the way to Oct. 1, 2008, which means one thing: It’s time for Rocktober to start. How will you celebrate? Some people are linking to YouTubes of Who songs. Others are hoping that you’ll have a hankering to hear the Divinyls and Foreigner within the same span of time. One guy who got the coveted domain name “rocktober.com” is even saying that we should bring back Metallica Monday, although I know of a few people who might disagree with that idea. Which is why I have five Rocktober-celebration suggestions of my own, all of which are located after the jump.
In this week of financial horrors, created largely by formerly cocksure men, it’s perhaps apropos that a couple of ladies post the most gloat-worthy performances in the upper reaches of Billboard‘s Hot 100.
That starts at the top, where Pink, a nearly decade-long veteran of the chart wars, scores her first solo No. 1 (and second overall), “So What.” And she does it with the largest one-week digital sales total we’ve seen since the beginning of summer.
A few rungs down, U.K. chanteuse and Atlantic Records guinea pig Estelle stages a massive comeback. Her return to iTunes fuels a 44-space move by her Kanye West–supported single “American Boy,” to a new peak of No. 9. Not a moment too soon: one week before the official start of fall in the United States, and a month after it appeared to have peaked at No. 11, our runner-up in the Idolator 2008 Summer Jam competition is finally an official U.S. Top 10 hit. Revenge is sweet.
Like every other 30-ish townie I know, I’m a sometime DJ. I’m not a DJ of the scratchascratcha variety, of course; I’m strictly from the “stand there and play songs I like” school, which usually means that I get to watch the songs that you like totally bomb in front of many people. (A few months ago, Sly and the Family Stone’s “Love City” straight-up cleared the dance floor. So I had to play one of my legion Prince requests to get everybody back out there. Sigh.) Anyway, the other day I decided to give Frankie Smith’s izzle progenitor “Double Dutch Bus” a shot. So I jumped on iTunes and bought the first version that came up, which was curiously spelled “Double Duth Bus”. I didn’t listen to it because I didn’t have time. I just burned her to a CD and jetted over to the bar.