Eminem, Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus have released their albums. Blockbuster-wise, only Britney Spears, One Direction and any last-minute surprises are left for the holiday shopping season. Sales remain down four percent (for tracks) and seven percent (for albums), according to Nielsen SoundScan. I'm starting to believe 2013 will not be the happiest year for the record business. But look at it this way – Artpop is finally here, and it's funny and weird.
TOP DOLLAR: I wonder if Lady Gaga is thinking about 99 cents this week. Artpop is her second straight album to make a Number One debut, but it sold just 258,000 copies. That's a decent number in today's post-Napster and sort-of-pre-streaming world, but it's pretty low for one of the world's biggest pop stars. In 2011, Amazon MP3 priced Gaga's Born This Way album at 99 cents, which prompted first-week sales of 1.1 million. At full price, and when listeners can experience Artpop for free on Spotify or any number of legal streaming services, the album hasn't had quite the same sales appeal.
Lady Gaga and More 'New Immortals'
THIS SPACE RESERVED FOR BAD NEWS: All year, promising albums have dropped dramatically in their second weeks on the charts. Eminem's The Marshall Mathers LP 2 is the latest example. Sales fell 73 percent, so after last week's robust 792,000 debut, it's down to Number Two, with just 210,000. Will MMLP2 hang around, accumulating a decent sales record through Christmas, like Taylor Swift last year or Justin Timberlake (well, without the Christmas) earlier this year? There are positive signs. Eminem's latest single, "The Monster," co-starring Rihanna, racked up almost 34 million YouTube views on just the audio track over the past three weeks, and it hit Number One on iTunes' singles chart this week, selling 243,000 digital singles overall. More hit singles appear likely, and if Eminem tours, the album could stick around.
AND FOR GLASS-HALF-FULL TYPES: The fourth-quarter staying-power artists and albums, so far, include: the Robertsons' Duck the Halls: A Robertson Family Christmas, the Duck Dynasty cash-in that dropped just nine percent, with 66,000 sales, from Number Two to Number Three; Kelly Clarkson's Wrapped in Red, another holiday album, which declined a barely-noticeable two percent, selling 42,000 and holding at Number Six; Imagine Dragons, who spun off yet another single, "Demons," which sold 129,000 and jumped from Number 10 to Number Five on Billboard's Digital Singles chart; and, my pick for steady-growing album through the end of 2013, the Beatles' new On Air: Live at the BBC Volume 2, which sold 37,000 in its debut week. To sum up: Christmas, Dragons, Beatles. And only nine more shopping days til Black Friday! What could be better news than that? Happy early holidays.