It’s well established that the music industry is in grave danger, what with album sales declining in recent years, thanks in large part to online piracy. But sometimes it’s easy to forget just how dire the situation has become.
Then a day like Wednesday (January 16) rolls around. SoundScan released national sales figures for the country’s 200 best-selling releases, and it wasn’t pretty. With just 70,300 copies sold, Alicia Keys’ As I Am returns to Billboard’s peak position on next week’s chart, according to the latest figures.
Perhaps more disturbing is the fact that, of the albums that comprise next week’s top 200, just 11 had experienced sales increases, including four new releases: Australian pop singer Sia’s Some People Have Real Problems, which enters at #26 with 20,000 sold; English singer/songwriter Kate Nash’s Made of Bricks, which follows at #36 with 16,400 scanned; Total Dance 2008, a compilation featuring tracks from Mims, Fergie, Ne-Yo and Fall Out Boy, which enters at #102 with 6,800 sold; and the cast recording from Broadway’s “Xanadu,” which opens at #197 with sales reported at 3,200.
Around this same time last year, the soundtrack to the film “Dreamgirls” shattered a long-held SoundScan record, becoming Billboard’s poorest-selling #1 album since Nielsen began tracking record sales back in 1991. After scanning just 66,000 copies, “Dreamgirls” broke the 3-year-old record previously held by Outkast’s 2003 LP Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, which sold 86,000 copies to top the chart the week of January 25, 2004.
The following week, “Dreamgirls” broke the record once again, generating sales of just 60,000 and remaining at #1.
While Keys’ latest victory didn’t set any new records, it’s certainly a strong indication of just how bad things have gotten. As I Am first debuted on the top 200 in mid-November, opening at #1 with 742,500 scans, and ever since, the album has hovered around the top three, in either the #2 or #3 position.
The rest of the top 10 is filled out by the usual suspects. Radiohead’s In Rainbows slips one spot to #2 with 68,800 sold, followed at #3 by the soundtrack to “Juno,” which climbs five positions and posted sales of 67,500. Mary J. Blige’s Growing Pains finished at #4 with 63,900 scans, while Taylor Swift’s self-titled debut claims the chart’s #5 position with 34,500-plus sold. The 26th edition of the Now That’s What I Call Music! compilation series drops two spots to #6 with 33,000 sold, followed by Chris Brown’s Exclusive at #7 with 29,800 scans. The Eagles’ Long Road Out of Eden sits in the #8 slot with 28,700 sold, while Garth Brooks’ Ultimate Hits finishes at #9, selling another 28,300 copies. And finally, returning to the top 10 at #10, it’s Fergie’s The Dutchess, which generated sales of 27,600.