In 1999, if you'd told me album sales would be down 17 percent a third of the way into the year, I'd have declared it a crisis and called every record executive to ask why the sky was falling. Today, it's just another tiny dot on the graph marked "Death of the Traditional Record Business." Tracks, too, are down 12 percent, and there's no Adele or Taylor Swift release in the next few months to make everything better. Let's hope, for the executives' sake, that the streaming boom is not just a myth.
WHAT HAPPENS TO SALES IN POST-POST-POST-POST-GRAMMY WEEK: Frozen hits Number One for an eighth week, selling 161,000 copies, but take a deeper look at those sales numbers. The soundtrack is down 20 percent, and every other non-debut in the Top 10 has taken a similar hit — Pharrell's Girl, at Number Five, sold 25,000 but dropped 26 percent; YG's My Krazy Life sold 23,000 but slipped 62 percent, from Number Two to Number Seven; and Lorde's Pure Heroine sold 20,000 but was down 15 percent, from Number Nine to Number 10. The rest of the Top 10 makes for sunnier news — they're all new releases, including Shakira's self-titled album, at Number Two, and Johnny Cash's posthumous Out Among the Stars, at Number Three. But Shakira sold just 84,000 copies and Cash 54,000, suggesting they won't stick on the charts long.
SINGLES SLIP TOO (YES, THAT MEANS YOU, PHARRELL): The latest slow-sales week is in the center of record-sales No Man's Land, the weeks between Grammys and summer tours. It's a problem not just for albums but tracks — Pharrell's "Happy" continues to dominate, hitting Number One for its seventh straight week, but its 321,000 sales are down 14 percent. Although John Legend's "All of Me" (226,000) and Idina Menzel's Frozen hit "Let It Go" (164,000) are essentially flat, everything else on Billboard's Top 10 Digital Songs chart dropped significantly, including Jason Derulo's "Talk Dirty" (161,000, down 14 percent, from Number Three to Number Four) and Katy Perry's "Dark Horse" (138,000, Number Five, down 8 percent).
SKRILLEX — FREE STREAM + OK SALES = BIG-TIME CONCERT PLANS: Looking at the official pop charts, you might think Skrillex' Recess was a flop, even though he pulled a Beyonce and put it out as a surprise in mid-March, following the paths of Eminem, Jack Johnson and others who streamed their albums in advance via iTunes. But Recess has clung to the iTunes album charts for the past three weeks, hitting Number Eight despite new releases by Shakira and Cash. Can it stick around? Its single "Recess" made its debut at a mere Number 73 on BigChampagne's Ultimate Chart, and its audio track (no official video yet) is at less than 1.3 million YouTube views. These numbers might not be impressive, but his timing is perfect — he'll be one of Coachella's headliners in a week and a half, and streaming success often begets ticket sales.