Politics, Technology, and Language

If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought — George Orwell

You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing

Posted by metaphorical on 27 December 2007

Apparently, Dreamgirls started a nightmare year for the music industry. MTV has done a good job cataloguing, among other things, how much music distribution changed in 2007.

The industry seems completely off the rails. My own prediction is that the major labels will lose control of distribution entirely within the next two years and shrink to almost nothing. Here are some of the highlights—that is, lowlights—of this train-wreck of a year.

In January,

The “Dreamgirls” soundtrack tops the Billboard albums chart with sales of just over 60,000 copies. It’s the lowest sales total for a #1 album in SoundScan’s 16-year run.

In March

Paul McCartney leaves longtime label EMI to sign with Starbucks’ new record label, Hear Music. His album, Memory Almost Full, is released in June through both traditional retailers and more than 6,000 Starbucks locations in the U.S., and sells more than 160,000 copies in its first week.

In July, Prince released a new album for

for free with the Sunday edition of the British newspaper The Mail. It’s estimated that 2.27 million people receive the album, which helps boost sales of tickets for his 21-night stand at London’s O2 arena.

October saw the well-publicized Radiohead album release.

The bandmembers, who have been free agents since the release of 2003’s Hail to the Thief, decide to release the album by themselves in two formats: download-only, which allows fans to name their price for the album, and as a deluxe “discbox” version (priced at approximately $80).

October also saw Trent Reznor ending a “13-year relationship with Interscope Records” and Madonna finalizing “a massive 10-year deal with Live Nation, believed to be worth $120 million.”

A month later, the Eagles released an album exclusively at Wal-Mart. It debuted

at #1 on the Billboard albums chart with sales of more than 711,000 copies. The total nearly triples that of the country’s #2 album, Britney Spears’ Blackout, and gives the group — which hadn’t released an album of new studio material in 28 years — the second-highest debut of 2007.

Meanwhile,

Reigning “American Idol” champ Jordin Sparks’ self-titled debut lands at #10 on the Billboard chart with sales of 119,000 copies. It’s the lowest first-week sales total for any “Idol” winner — by more than 180,000 copies.

In December, Island Def Jam laid off “nearly 6 percent of its staff” despite the fact that a hip-hop album, Kanye West’s Graduation was the best-selling #1 album of the year and it and 50 Cent’s new album, Curtis, made September the industry’s best, or at least least-worst, month of a disastrous and confusing year.

The smart record labels will become pure producers and marketers in a way that I described a bit earlier this month. As these lowlights show, there’s just no need for the labels to manage the distribution of music anymore; they’re just standing between artists and fans.

Madonna apparently said of her new deal, which ended a 25-year relationship with Warner Music,
“For the first time in my career, the way that my music can reach my fans is unlimited. The possibilities are endless. Who knows how my albums will be distributed in the future?”

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One Response to “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing”

  1. [...] You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing [...]

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