Last week's announcement that Apple bought Beats Electronics, streaming service and all, for $3 billion, symbolized the shift among consumers from buying music to renting it. That's what executives at the biggest record labels are hoping for, anyhow. "To move from a business model based on one-off transactions to a recurring revenue model is potentially very, very powerful," says a source at a major label. We'll see if that power happens on the streaming side. In the meantime, the decline of the "model based on one-off transactions" continues to go swimmingly — track sales are down 12 percent this year, while album sales are down 15 percent, according to Nielsen Soundscan.
COLDPLAY DROPS; MARIAH HITS NUMBER THREE BUT BARELY SELLS: Pretend for a second that you're in 2004, not 2014, scanning the pop charts — let's see, Coldplay's Ghost Stories, Number One; Mariah Carey's Me. I Am Mariah . . . The Elusive Chanteuse, Number Three; a NOW compilation, Number Six; Michael Jackson's XSCape, Number Seven. Ah, you might think, all is as it should be! But then you might look at the sales numbers: Coldplay's album lost 78 percent of its sales, hitting an anemic 83,000 copies, while Mariah's debut sold an almost unbelievably dinky 58,000, while NOW dropped 20 percent, with 41,000, and Jackson's heavily hyped posthumous release lost 48 percent and sold just 35,000. And you might think: WTF? I would advise you, however, not to try to go to the Tower Records to correct this craziness via CD-shopping.
IGGY AZALEA — YOUR NEWEST SINGLES-NOT-ALBUMS SUPERSTAR: To the extent that actual music sales are still happening — as opposed to streaming — Iggy Azalea is symbolic of how they work in 2014. The Australian singer-rapper has the two best-selling digital songs in the U.S., her own "Fancy" (although it dropped 14 percent, selling 283,000 downloads) and her memorable guest appearance on Ariana Grande's "Problem" (which sold 243,000 downloads, a drop of 15 percent). Yet Azalea's album, The New Classic, sold 18,000, less than a third of even Mariah Carey's meager weekly total, dropping 16 percent, and falling from Number Nine to Number 10.
SUMMER OF BOY BANDS: 5 Seconds of Summer, which shares a management company with One Direction and is poised to become the next big boy band, sold 121,000 copies of "Good Girls" and makes its debut at Number Eight. One Direction is playing stadiums all summer. And while MAGIC! is a boyish Canadian band that mixes reggae, pop, soul and rock, its members look sufficiently hunky in the promo photos — "Rude" sold 141,000 copies this week, a sales increase of 25 percent, enough for a rise from Number Nine to Number Four on Billboard's Digital Songs chart.