That's it. The blockbusters are over – One Direction and Eminem boomed and Britney Spears and Lady Gaga, not so much. Surprises could still pop up, but for now, it looks like the year-long sales coma, including overall trends of minus five percent for track sales and minus eight percent for album sales, are likely to be locked in. That's bad news for the record business, unless you predict streaming and subscriptions are the future. We'll see.
REMEMBER WHEN GARTH AND BRITNEY SOLD TENS OF MILLIONS? Old-school pop superstars dominate the top of the album charts this week: Garth Brooks and Britney. In a sense, it seems like all is right with the world: Garth Brooks should be Number One and Britney Spears should be all over the place and selling tons of albums. But this slow-selling post-Black Friday week is more depressing than triumphant, as Brooks' Blame It All on My Roots: Five Decades of Influence jumps from Number Three to Number One but actually drops in sales, managing just 146,000 copies. Meanwhile, Spears' Britney Jean is Number Four, making its debut with 107,000 copies, not even as much as retailers' predictions of 115,000 to 120,000. Also dropping were One Direction and Kelly Clarkson, who hit Number Two and Number Three, respectively, with unimpressive sales numbers: 117,000 and 112,000.
IT ISN'T CHRISTMAS UNTIL SOME UNKNOWN BAND HAS A HOLIDAY HIT: Pentatonix – the a cappella band starring the kid who looks like Todd from Breaking Bad, the dude who looks like that one Backstreet Boy with the weird facial hair, the beat-boxer in the scarf, the lady who looks like a young Cher and that one other guy – is the newest holiday-hit specialist. The band's version of "Little Drummer Boy" is the viral hit of the week, scoring almost 17 million YouTube views since Thanksgiving week, and the band's EP, PTXmas, sold 60,000 copies, an increase of 119 percent and a jump from Number 29 to Number Seven. I've been waiting for a sleeper holiday hit to battle with the Robertsons and Clarkson for chart supremacy through the end of the year, and this could be it.
IT'S THE TIME OF YEAR WHEN PEOPLE ACTUALLY BUY CDS (SORT OF): Usually, iTunes' charts roughly match the pop charts, but this week, Brooks' box set is a Walmart exclusive, so it doesn't appear, and One Direction's Midnight Memories must be a Christmas-gift CD phenomenon, because it's just Number Seven on iTunes compared to Number Two on Billboard's album chart. So what's at the top of iTunes' list? First is the aforementioned Pentatonix' PTXmas EP, which seems to be the week's impulse buy for iTunes holiday shoppers, and second is Britney Jean, which streamed exclusively on iTunes before it came out in stores last week. Another surprise: Childish Gambino's Because the Internet album doesn't appear on Billboard's Top 10, but it's Number Nine on iTunes, suggesting actor Donald Glover's accompanying screenplay and prelude video encouraged fans to download the music.