Uh-oh, a blip! And not in the right direction. Track download sales have been down three percent for much of this year compared to 2012, but this week the sad number grew to four percent. Album-download sales are the same – down six percent. It's debatable whether old-school unit sales are even relevant in a Spotify-Pandora-YouTube world in which artists and labels receive revenue for streams, but these numbers are no fun to watch. Can Justin Timberlake and the rest of the probable holiday-season blockbusters, from Miley Cyrus to Lady Gaga to Katy Perry, lead the record business out of this drought? We'll see.
NICE PAIR: Justin Timberlake's strategy of releasing two blockbuster albums in the same year seems extraordinary. Luke Bryan put out two smaller hits in 2013, and Guns N' Roses and Bruce Springsteen each put out two albums on the same day in the early Nineties, but somehow The 20/20 Experience parts one and two are reminiscent of the late Sixties, when the Beatles released roughly 473 albums per year. Or perhaps that's just my good-old-days-of-the-record-business fantasy – how come nobody does that anymore? Anyway, Timberlake's 2 of 2 album sold 350,000 copies in its first week, which supplements the first album's first-week sales of 968,000. That's more than 1.3 million copies, not bad in a record business where Adele, Taylor Swift and Jay Z (sort of) are the only ones who can even come close to those kinds of numbers. It's especially impressive considering the sales for Number Two (Drake's Nothing Was the Same, at 148,000, a drop of 78 percent) and Number Three (Lorde's debut Pure Heroine, at 129,000).
ALL THE ROCKERS ARE MAKING DANCE MUSIC NOW: Kings of Leon grandfathered themselves into the old record business just in time. The band's 2008 album, Only By the Night, went double platinum, which led to a graduation from playing clubs and theaters to headlining arenas and major rock festivals, and what would appear to be a long-term career on that level. Sales-wise, Kings of Leon today is like any other rock band, with an album that can't stick long to the Top 10 – Mechanical Bull's sales dropped 76 percent, from Number Two to Number Seven, selling just 26,000 copies. That despite appearances on Fallon and Letterman in recent weeks. Yet the band spent this month performing what appear to be warm-up shows for a larger tour – Chicago's House of Blues, then Austin City Limits. The Kings won't be commoners anytime
HE'S . . . MADE IT: Atlanta hip-hop producer Mike Will Made It, who has worked with Rihanna and Kanye West, has a good Miley Cyrus story. The 24-year-old told USA Today he sent his song "We Can't Stop" to Cyrus' record label hoping she'd like it – and she did. "The song reminded her of different parties she had been to," he said. "It just ended up connecting with her." After recording the hit, Miley and Mike then banged out his own song, "23," for which he also got help from rappers Juicy J and Wiz Khalifa – and the thing racked up 36 million YouTube views over the last two weeks. (The presence of Cyrus, twerking in skimpy Chicago Bullswear, didn't hurt.) The song jumped 103 slots, to Number Eight, on the latest Ultimate Chart, which measures Internet criteria.