Good news: according to new record-industry figures, streaming revenues in 2013 were more than $1.4 billion. Bad news: streaming revenue doesn’t seem to be making up for lost download and CD sales. Track sales are down 11 percent for the year, according to Billboard, and albums are down 15 percent. Where’s Adele when you need her?
ANOTHER SAD SALES WEEK REDEEMED ONLY BY FROZEN: The Frozen soundtrack returns to Number One this week, becoming the first 2014 album to sell 1 million copies, but the big story is the week itself. Frozen’s weekly sales total was a mere 99,000, and the rest of the chart sales are so pathetic that a digital-only Luke Bryan EP (not even a full album), Spring Break 6 . . . Like We Ain’t Ever hit Number Two with just 74,000. I was hopeful about last week’s Number One — Rick Ross’ Mastermind — but its sales dropped 73 percent, hitting a minuscule 49,000 copies and landing at Number Three. Even Pharrell Williams seems to be slipping from his Academy Awards-fueled peak, as Girl drops 60 percent in sales, with just 45,000, from Number Two to Number Five.
‘HAPPY’ STREAMING NUMBERS; EVERYTHING ELSE IS SAD: Speaking of Pharrell, while his single “Happy” dropped 26 percent in digital sales, with 364,000 this week, it holds at Number One on Billboard‘s Digital Songs chart, and has streamed more than 79 million times via Spotify. This gives me an excuse to discuss the Recording Industry Association of America’s new music-streaming numbers: In 2013, streaming accounted for 21 percent of labels’ overall revenues, an increase from 15 percent the previous year and 9 percent the year before that. So is it celebration time? I don’t think so. The RIAA’s other numbers clearly show overall industry revenues have dropped considerably over the last five years and have been flat since 2010.
WHAT HAS DRAKE, NICKI AND WAYNE AND CAN’T BREAK 50,000 SALES?: I can’t tell yet whether Rise of an Empire, the star-studded, but flat, hip-hop compilation by Lil Wayne’s Young Money label, is a potentially slow-building smash or a flop. Its sales debut was nothing special — 31,000 copies, enough for Number Seven, but far from the 142,000 first-week sales of 2009’s We Are Young Money. But it did far better on iTunes, hitting Number Five on the Top Albums list, after Bryan, Frozen, Ross and Pharrell. Most of the songs are familiar, like Drake’s “Trophies” and Nicki Minaj’s “Lookin Ass,” and megastars such as Wayne and Tyga show up all over the place. It’s possible some single will catch on and rescue the album’s sales, but I don’t hear it.