This summer, prices as low as $8.98 for CDs by Avril Lavigne, Ashanti and John Mayer helped rocket those albums to the top of the charts. But don't expect to see the discounts on fall blockbusters: New discs by Santana, Foo Fighters, Shaggy and others will set you back almost twenty dollars.
Label sources say that because of the industry's slump -- 2002 sales are off almost ten percent -- they can't afford to lower prices. "We're not going to put something out at a price where we think we'll lose money," says Jordan Katz, senior vice president of sales at Arista, which releases Santana's Shaman for $18.98 on October 22nd.
Though prices aren't coming down, labels are trying to give consumers more for their buck. In September, retailers gathered at the National Association of Recording Merchandisers convention to suggest new selling strategies. "We told [labels], 'Include a DVD that shows the band backstage and on the tour bus talking about nothing,'" says Don Van Cleave, president of the Coalition of Independent Music Stores. "Consumers love that stuff."
Most of the majors are doing just that. New albums by Shania Twain, Foo Fighters and Tori Amos will come with limited edition DVDs. Another tactic will be the reintroduction of singles and other short-form releases. Adema's next disc, due out October 22nd, is a seven-song EP that will sell for $8.98. Stores are also selling singles by Nelly, Pink and Eminem for four dollars each. "If you want to get a kid roped into buying music, give him a five-dollar entry point," says Van Cleave. "Right now, we're telling kids, 'Either spend eighteen dollars or go get it online for free.'"