The major chart story this week, of course, is Eminem, who came in with the second-biggest debut week of the year. Cheers, Marshall! But even that giant sales week couldn't move the needle on overall music sales, which remain down four percent (tracks) and seven percent (albums). The good news? Streaming is huge and getting huger, and, at least in this case, for this week, are enhancing sales rather than cutting into them. The Marshall Mathers LP 2 was streamed 10 million times on Spotify in its debut week.
BIG SHADY: Finally, the holiday blockbuster season truly begins. Miley Cyrus – big hits, medium album sales – turned out to be a bit of a mirage. So did Katy Perry – she sells singles, not albums. But Eminem, with The Marshall Mathers LP 2, hits Number One with a robust 792,000 sales, coming in second only to Justin Timberlake's 968,000 back in March. I'm a bit surprised. All year, the story in the music business has been "streaming is cannibalizing sales," but Eminem streamed MMLP2 on iTunes for a week before the album came out, and sold tons anyway. Rather than preventing people from buying the album, all that streaming apparently encouraged them; last week, preorders for the album pushed it to Number One on iTunes' albums chart. Eminem's singles strategy was similarly smart, beginning with the throwback "Berzerk" and moving onto YouTube bait such as the controversial "Rap God." Can Eminem carry this sales momentum through the rest of the year? Depends on the singles, but probably so.
GOODBYE TO CELINE?: Eminem's strong debut demonstrates the bizarre lack of big-selling artists in today's music business. Here's my list of other artists who can reliably sell more than 500,000 copies in a week – Adele, Taylor Swift, Timberlake, maybe Lady Gaga and maybe Lil Wayne. Aside from Eminem, megastars of the relatively recent past have descended into pop-chart no-man's-land. Celine Dion's Loved Me Back to Life is Number Two this week with an absurdly low (for her) 77,000 copies, and Avril Lavigne's new album is Number Five with 44,000. In other depressing chart news, Arcade Fire's Reflektor, Number One last week, drops eight places, losing 77 percent of sales, with 31,000.
TV NATION RETURNS: Remember that moment a few years ago when TV talent shows were all-powerful, breaking artists from Kelly Clarkson to Daughtry and boosting the careers of Christina Aguilera and Maroon 5? NBC's The Voice continues to have that kind of impact, at least in terms of singles sales – A Great Big World opened the show last week with a performance of the soaring ballad "Say Something," in a shockingly subtle duet with judge-mentor Aguilera. The track immediately surged to Number One on iTunes and followed this week by selling 189,000 copies, leapfrogging Lorde's "Royals" (186,000), OneRepublic's "Counting Stars" (152,000, a jump from Number Nine to Number Three) and Eminem's "The Monster" (which, curiously, dropped 60 percent in sales as his album was taking off). In addition to the Voice connection, my guess is "Say Something" continues to sell throughout the fourth quarter, as it has a certain Christmas-hymn-without-the-Christmas grandiosity.
Last week: Arcade Fire Debut on Top