The country album sales year-over-year percentage benchmark has now dropped for 10 consecutive weeks. On 6/2/13 country albums were up 2.8%. Today, 8/11/13 the format has dropped almost 6 percentage points to -3.1%. Some comparative relief can be squeezed from the fact that all-genre sales are down even more: -6.2% Y/Y. However, if people bought and sold shares of the country music market as easily as they do companies on the New York Stock Exchange then we’d probably see headlines “country music hits severe depression.”
Sales execs would deftly note that Q4 is the biggest sales period of the year. Therefore, assessing the gravity of the present numbers is really just a function of parsing the tonnage to be harvested from the upcoming Q4 release schedule.
But while there undoubtedly are Q4 surprises yet to be announced, comparing last year’s sales with this year’s projected products paints a year-end outlook that will need some upside to hit positive territory.
Last year’s highlights included three holiday releases which each averaged over 400k units during the Q4 period, plus Taylor Swift’s whopping Red which scanned 3.1 million. Jason Aldean also scanned over one million units with his Q4-12 release. So what’s ahead to balance that?
Luke Bryan (8/13) and Keith Urban (9/10) are bringing the next deep debuts. Later we’ll see offerings from Sheryl Crow, Billy Currington, Charlie Worsham, Chris Young, Justin Moore and Scotty McCreery. Is that schedule strong enough to offset last year’s tally? [Probably not without adding additional firepower…]
The good news is that next week’s Luke Bryan’s release numbers are shaping up to land in the 450k range! That SoundScan landslide is sufficient to snap country’s 10-week losses and provide much needed upward momentum!
Brett Elredge, riding his monster smash “Don’t Ya” gets up to No. 2 this week with his debut album Bring You Back (21k). Atlantic’s marketers orchestrated the project like top draw baton wielders.
The 32-week chart single (626k) was at No. 1 the very week of album launch and the artist performed on high profile tour dates including with Taylor Swift. Billboard’s Wade Jessen said, “Eldrege posts the best start by a new male artist on Top Country Albums in nearly a year.” But he also notes that newcomer Kacey Musgraves debuted earlier this year with 44k units. And I would add, Kip Moore debuted 4/29/12 with 37k. Yes this time of the year is slow and just last week we had tax free weekends in many states, but none of those factors seem to be slowing down Mr. Bryan. So hopefully Brett’s debut will continue to build in the coming weeks.
The rest of the album chart was also sluggish. Only the Top four titles were able to pass the 10k mark for the week—FGL (No. 1; 26k), Elredge (No. 2; 21k), Blake Shelton (No. 3; 14.5k) and Hunter Hayes (No. 4; 11k).
Tracks continue to be country music’s sweet spot, up 8.3% Y/Y with sales of 112 million units. Fans are clearly embracing their new found freedom to buy exactly the songs they want to own. Florida Georgia Line continues to overheat the digital track counters— its RTD total now shows over 5.5 million downloads. That’s a lot of clicks and taps…
Luke Bryan’s album is in stores this week (see above) and his “Crash My Party” track ended last week at No. 2 with a hefty 72k in sales and over 1.2 million showing strong momentum.
The chart also shows track debuts from Jake Owen (No. 23; 22k) “Days Of Gold” and from Curb duo American Young (No. 63; 7k) “Love Is War.”