Elvis never sold as many records during his life as he has since his death.
Saleswise, the death of Jim Morrison may have been the best thing that ever happened to the Doors. Year after year, grieving fans have helped catalog sales skyrocket for their dearly departed rock stars. Jerry Garcia, Kurt Cobain, John Lennon, Otis Redding, even the recently deceased country star John Denver -- they all died and had their album sales boom worldwide.
So far, INXS, whose lead singer Michael Hutchence was found dead in his hotel room in Australia a week ago Saturday (Nov. 22), cannot say the same.
While SoundScan reports that the band's catalog has seen an increase in sales since the beginning of this week, record stores from coast to coast report that there has not been the anticipated high demand for INXS CDs in the wake of that group's leader's death. "It's not like John Denver's death or anything," said Tim Murray, 42, a sales associate at the Virgin Megastore's Times Square, New York, store. "I was ringing when that happened. And the reaction to this is nothing at all like that."
At Tower Records in Philadelphia, 34-year-old sales associate Donna Marchetti said last Wednesday that in her store "there has been no change in INXS sales since the beginning of the week."
Mark Grard, a 30-year-old clerk at Boston's Borders Books & Music reported that he had stocked the INXS section just before Hutchence's death, and, when he heard about it the weekend before last, expected to see the section depleted. "When I came back into work," Grard said, "They were all right were I left them. Maybe one or two were gone, but not many."
This trend is not limited to the East Coast. Calls placed to record stores in Cincinnati, Atlanta, Des Moines, Iowa, Houston, Seattle, Los Angeles and San Francisco all brought the same response: As of November 26, sales of INXS CDs remained pretty much the same as before Hutchence's death.
"I haven't seen any significant movement in the INXS catalog since the beginning of this week," Robin Morales, a music buyer at Virgin's San Francisco store said.
In Seattle, Tower Records sales associate Alex Espinosa, 28, reported that they've "sold some, but not many. I think we'll probably sell some this weekend."
SoundScan, the company that tracks sales of CDs, cassettes and vinyl, backs up the sales clerks reports. INXS' most recent album, Elegantly Wasted, sold 407 copies in the week prior to Hutchence's death. In the first four days following his death, it moved 1,000 copies nationally -- an insignifigant change (a #1 album sells between 100,000 and 500,000 copies in a week). Kick, by far the band's biggest-selling album, moved 250 copies the week before his death and 701 copies after his death was announced. Meanwhile, INXS' Greatest Hits collection only moved 107 copies last week, not much more than before Hutchence's death.
"I don' t think [INXS] ever connected in America as well as an artist like John Denver," Gary Bongiovanni, editor of the concert industry trade magazine Pollstar, said regarding the lower than expected INXS album sales. "There are a lot of people out there who got married to a John Denver song. INXS is a band that had their heyday, but they just never made the same connection."
In Australia, though, things are different. The November 25 edition of The Age reports that record shops in Melbourne, Australia, had sold out of the group's Greatest Hits collection. Brashs, a chain of record stores in Australia, told the newspaper that a 15-year-old boy had come into their Melbourne Center store and bought the group's entire 12-album back catalog.
David Hall, national music sales manager for the Australian chain Myer, told the publication that he had completely sold out of INXS' Greatest Hits CD and that his stores were experiencing a run on the group's other 11 albums. "Fans have been saying they are in shock at it all," he said. "The sales reaction here has been similar to when John Denver passed away."
But why not the worldwide reaction afforded other rock acts who have passed on? San Francisco resident and INXS fan Margaret Kranyak, 36, thinks the answer lies in the group's waning popularity and the public's overdose on the cult of celebrity. "It's indicative of [INXS'] stature as has-beens," she said, "And a direct commentary on how shell-shocked the public has become to reports of the decadent rock 'n' roll lifestyle."
When asked about how this fits into the post-mortem sales boom of other dearly departed rock stars, Kranyak was quick to point out, "Cobain was the first celebrity in a long time to kill himself. John Denver had that boomer-nostalgia thing going for him and Sublime marketed the death," she added, referring to the death last year of that band's lead singer Brad Nowell.
"We're numb to it now," she continued. "We've lost so many heroes that it hardly fazes us anymore."
Other grieving INXS fans shared some of Kranyak's opinions. "All the die-hard fans already own everything they've put out," Robert Clay, a 28-year-old fan, wrote in an e-mail. "Everybody who wants Kick probably already has it. I think you'll probably see an increase for their Greatest Hits album, but that's about it."