Album sales continue to fall off the cliff
Credit: AP Photo

Album sales continue to fall off the cliff

Weekly tally reaches an all-time low

Hear that sound? It’s the dying gasps of the album. This week, overall album sales reached their lowest weekly tally in nearly 20 years.

Album sales for the week ending Aug. 15 totaled  4.98 million units, according to Nielsen SoundScan (via Billboard). That marks only the second time—but certainly not the last—that the weekly sum has dropped below 5 million since SoundScan started monitoring sales in 1991. The first time was a mere  three months ago, when they were 4.98 million.

We’re not going to chronicle every new low because we have a feeling they’ll come fast and furiously from here on out, but there are a few things worth noting. This tally includes digital sales of albums and album equivalents (which SoundScan counts as 10 tracks from a CD), so if there’s anyone alive out there who thinks digital is going to save the music industry in its current form, wake up. Actually, this should come as no surprise since digital sales have been plateauing. 

The real problem is that major labels, who were too arrogant and too slow to turn their ship in the new direction when downloading began, aren’t making up the money they’ve lost in album sales through other business means, such as licensing or 360 deals (where they share in publishing and touring profits).  And for all of you who are screaming “death to the majors,” do you really think it’s a good idea? They are still investing millions in new acts and I bet you can find at least one act on a major label that you really like if you try. Majors are certainly an increasingly less vital part of the picture and, much to the good of the industry, far from the only way to break great artists, but even indies are struggling with these numbers.
More about all in a commentary coming later today.

When do you think we'll drop below 4 million?


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<p>Katy Perry</p>

Katy Perry

Credit: Capitol

Listen: Does Katy Perry's 'Firework' sparkle or fizz?

Latest track surfaces from Aug. 24's 'Teenage Dream'

With the countdown to the release of Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” down to less than a week, songs from the album are surfacing left and right.

Today, one of our favorites, “Firework” is lighting up the internet. Whereas “California Gurls” brought the sassy and the sexy and “Teenage Dream” brought the romance, “Firework” brings the sweet. Listen here and let us know what you think.

It’s a great girl empowerment song about how anyone can shine. All of us can burn brightly and be a firework.  And the message is wrapped in a bright, shiny beat. Will it become her third Top 10 hit from “Teenage Dream?” I don’t know if it has the mass appeal that the previous two singles had (or if this will even be a single). One thing is clear: it is ripe for club remixes and we predict it will be a No. 1 dance hit if nothing else.

Perry has a huge following among little girls—go to one of her shows and there are seven year olds running around dressed like Perry singing along to every word. This song should come with the lyrics printed in large type so girls can really embrace the uplifting message (And no, it’s not just for girls, but, call me crazy, I’m not thinking this is the message that her straight male fans are looking for from her).


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<p>Kris Allen</p>

Kris Allen

Credit: AP Photo

Watch: Kris Allen does his best Fleetwood Mac impression in 'The Truth' video

And rolls out other typical video cliches

Kris Allen tries to pull off the next to impossible in his video for “The Truth.” No, he doesn’t attempt to wear Adam Lambert’s studded jacket and eyeliner, he tries to blend what is primarily a performance clip with a concept.

Here’s how you do that:

Rule 1: Shoot in the desert. I don’t know why, but there seems to be some unwritten law about that.  Just ask Rihanna or Sade or Gorillaz or [your band's name here].

Rule 2: Sing into a old-fashioned ‘50s mike, even though there’s clearly no electricity or outlets for miles.

Rule 3: incorporate some cool tricks from past videos—in this case, the mirror in the desert from Fleetwood Mac’s “Hold Me” clip.

Rule 4: Throw in one “Hold did they do that?” eye-popping stunt, like Allen falling backwards off his piano.

Rule 5: Shoot sunsets and a girl dressed in flowing gauze in profile to create an air of both mystery and longing.

None of the above rules help "American Idol" winner Allen through the awkward bridge that Train’s Patrick Monahan sings (Monahan co-wrote the song). He’s MIA from the clip, leaving Allen with nothing to do but back away from the mike and shuffle and sing along. UPDATE:  As some of you pointed out, THAT is Monahan!  I watched this so many times, but must have been looking away at that first shot that makes it clear.  Damn those sunglasses and desert lighting. I really do need a new computer... or glasses!

It’s a fine song that sounds like anything you’ve heard over the past 20 years from the Gin Blossoms up to Lifehouse, but that’s Allen’s skill: he creates songs that have mass appeal, but no edges and delivers them in a strong voice (we like his voice quite a lot, actually) that is indistinguishable from many others.



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<p>Kristen Bell in &quot;Madder Red&quot;</p>

Kristen Bell in "Madder Red"

Watch: Kristen Bell and her curious companion in Yeasayer's 'Madder Red' clip

Watch for some WTF moments

It’s not as if Yeasayer hasn’t brought the weird before, but the Brooklyn-based experimental rock group left us scratching our head, in a delightful way, in the new video for “Madder Red.”

The clip for the moody track from “Odd Blood” stars Kristen Bell and, well, some one-eyed, one-armed singing mutant that’s a cross between a raw, plucked turkey, a fish and E.T. And it’s a sick one at that. We’re not really sure of the ambiguous relationship between Bell and her buddy—but we think she’s just really close to her pet—so close that she keeps a loving picture of the two together in her car. Let's just say this is something she never faced on "Veronica Mars."

Anyway, as she’s off at an audition, the creature, who was already feeling sick (or so we gather from a nosebleed he had earlier in the day), starts to ooze green goo. Bell rushes home from her audition, she and her mom take said creature to the vet, who does not seem startled at all by whatever sort of being this is, but it’s too late. We’ll leave the final scene for you to discover on your own, but let’s just say it’s very Dali-esque, and, quite frankly, is just another big “WTF” moment in a video full of them. 

Andreas Nilsson directed the clip for “Madder Red.” He’s best known for his work with Fever Ray, Moby and MGMT, with whom Yeasayer has toured.

See the video below the tour dates. What do you think this creature is?

Fall Yeasayer dates:

09/25/10 Columbia, MD – Virgin FreeFest at Merriweather Post Pavillion 
09/28/10 Millvale, PA - Mr Smalls Theatre   w/ Washed Out
09/29/10 Columbus, OH - Newport Music Hall   w/ Washed Out
09/30/10 Bloomington, IN - Bluebird Nightclub   w/ Washed Out
10/01/10 Nashville, TN - Cannery Ballroom   w/ Washed Out
10/02/10 Atlanta, GA - Masquerade   w/ Washed Out
10/03/10 Savannah, GA - Trustee Theatre   w/ Washed Out
10/04/10 St Petersburg, FL - State Theatre   w/ Washed Out
10/05/10 Miami, FL - Fillmore   w/ Washed Out
10/07/10 Orlando, FL - Club Firestone   w/ Washed Out
10/08/10 Tallahassee, FL - Union Green   w/ Washed Out
10/09/10 New Orleans, LA - House of Blues   w/ Washed Out
10/10/10 Austin, TX - Austin City Limits


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<p>Will Lady Antebellum score a Grammy?</p>

Will Lady Antebellum score a Grammy?

Grammy Award nominations to be announced during Dec. 1 primetime special

Who do you think should get a nod for album of the year?

For the third consecutive year, the Grammy nominations will be announced via a primetime CBS special. On Dec. 1 at 10 p.m. ET,  CBS will air “The Grammy Nominations Concert Live—Countdown to Music’s Biggest Night” as nominations in several key categories, including album, record, song and best new artist of the years, will be announced. There will also be appearances by past winners and potential nominees. Previous performers have included John Mayer, Mariah Carey and Taylor Swift.

The Grammys’ governing body, The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, started the primetime special in 2008 as a way to build excitement for the Grammy ceremony, which follows a few months later. Ratings for the nominations show haven’t been through the roof, but have been enough for CBS and NARAS to continue the effort. Additionally, artists are happy to get one more chance in front of the record-buying public (all five of them) during the holiday season. Word on who is performing will come shortly. It also must have worked as this year's Grammy Awards had the best ratings in years.

The 53rd annual Grammy Award will air live from Los Angeles’ Staples Center on Feb. 13, 2011.

In the meantime, it's not too early to start thinking about whom you believe should be nominated for album of the year: I'd stay early favorites include Arcade Fire's "The Suburbs," Lady Antebellum's "Need You Now," and Eminem's "Recovery." Who would you like to see nominated? 

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<p>Dennis Wilson</p>

Dennis Wilson

Surf's Up on biopic on Beach Boy Dennis Wilson

Production slated to start soon for 2011 release

As his brother Brian Wilson celebrates the release of his new album, “Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin,” this week, comes word that Dennis Wilson will be the subject of a biopic, supposedly out next year to coincide with the group's 50th anniversary.

The Beach Boys drummer was the most charismatic of the three brothers (Brian, Dennis and Carl) and definitely has the most interesting back story (especially given his involvement with the Manson Family, who lived in his house for a short time). Plus, there’s always been a weird shroud of mystery around his drowning in 1983 at the age of 39. He also managed to marry five times in his short life, including twice to Karen Lamm, the ex-wife of Chicago’s Robert Lamm. Let’s just say there’s a lot of grist for the mill.

Filmmaking partners Randall Miller and Jody Savin (“Bottle Shock,” “Marilyn Hotchkiss’ Ballroom Dancing & Charm School”) are behind the movie, according to WENN.

No casting details have been announced, but the lead will definitely have to know how to surf.  Savin is writing the screen play and will produce in conjunction with Wilson’s family.

As always, these movies are always notoriously tricky when it comes to securing music rights, family approval, etc. (Bob Marley biopic, anyone?), but WENN reports that Miller and Savin already have rights to Wilson’s solo material (what little there is) and Beach Boys music.



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<p>Kid Rock</p>

Kid Rock

Kid Rock lets new album 'Born Free' gestate a little longer

He moves new set but still debuts six new tracks in Detroit this weekend

Kid Rock’s “Born Free” album will have to wait a little longer to come to life:  the artist announced at his sold-out Aug. 14 show in his Detroit home town that the set had been shifted from Sept. 7 to Nov. 16. No reason for the delay was given.

However, the move didn’t stop him from giving the fans a taste of the new music during his three shows at the DTE Energy Music Theater over the weekend. Most popular was the Bob Seger-styled title track, according to Billboard. (Seger also joined him at Sunday night’s show for “Turn the Page.”) The patriotic anthem celebrates, Rock told the audience, “how lucky each and every one of us are…to be born in a country that’s free.” Given that Rock’s audience comes just as much from country fans as rock fans (a transition that started with “Picture” and was fully realized with “All Summer Long”), that’s a sentiment that should go over well.

Speaking of country, Rock also played the up-tempo “Feels Good to Me,” which features Trace Adkins on the album. (Adkins has his own new album out this week). “Born Free” also includes a tune with Martina McBride and T.I.

Rock also previewed “Slow My Roll,” which Billboard described as a “Rolling Stones-flavored rocker,” as well as a “somber” “Rock On,” about a relationship’s end; rave-up “God Bless Saturday,” and topical ballad, “Times like These,” a song he first previewed at shows last summer.

The new material seemed to herald a perhaps more reflective Kid Rock, wrote a reviewer for the Detroit Free Press. One who is staring down 40. “You could call this the start of a new era,” Rock told the audience before “Times like These.”



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<p>Nicki Minaj </p>

Nicki Minaj

Watch: Jay Sean and Nicki Minaj party like its 1999 in '2012'

Just because the world is ending is no reason to wear a frown

Jay Sean and Nicki Minaj are going to party like it’s 1999 in his video for “2012.” Sure, if apocalypse theorists are to be believed, we’re all due for a hell of a big bang in two years, but, hey, there’s no reason not to have a good time while we’re at it.

This is one of those lightweight songs that’s both instantly catchy and also immediately forgettable and isaided greatly by Sean’s pleasing, yet non-descript vocals. There’s no plot to the video whatsoever, except it’s the last 24 hours on earth. There’s no sense whining about it. Let’s throw down because, guess what, we don’t have to clean up. See there’s a bright spot to the world ending.

Minaj, looking fierce as always, sparkles in her nonsensical, free-style rap in the middle, name dropping Weezy and Cash Money. Is she trying to top Weezy’s personal best when it comes to appearing on every possible single on the chart?  It’s not like she’s the only female rapper around. Oh, wait a minute, yes she is. Her debut, "Pink Friday," drops Nov. 23.

At the end, Sean, just like any other dude, uses the fact that it may be his last night on earth to get a little action. Can you blame him?

The single has stalled at radio, but we’ll see if the party-lite video kick starts it up a notch before BAM!

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Steve Harris of Iron Maiden

Bass guitarist Steve Harris of Iron Maiden.

Credit: AP Photo/MTI, Balazs Mohai

Ray LaMontagne, John Mellencamp, Brian Wilson lead Aug. 17 release slate

Iron Maiden and Trace Adkins also ride into town with new sets

The dog days of summer may be coming to an end, but the release slate is heating up with past gold and platinum performers such as Trace Adkins, David Gray, Andrea Bocelli, Iron Maiden, Brian Wilson and John Mellencamp turn loose new sets on Tuesday, Aug. 17. Watch the heat index rise even higher next week when Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” arrives.

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Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin

The album art for "Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin."

Review: Two American classics meet on 'Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin'

Does the much-anticipated album really create 'best of the year' rhapsody?

Some albums arrive with such anticipation and weight that they crumble under their own expectations. There is no way that the whole of “Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin,” out Tuesday, can be greater than the sum of its parts. The fact that some of it succeeds as well as it does given the breathy headiness surrounding the project (the Grammy word is already being tossed about), is an accomplishment of its own, but is it enough?

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