The bloated Grammy Awards show Sunday night did not reflect the many changes happening in the music business now. In the UK, the BBC reports that the main sales charts will now include digital sales. As more legitimate sales move online, this will mean that groups like Snow Patrol, which the BBC notes receive a disproportionate amount of their sales online, will now have their sales accurately reflected. As digital grows, this could be the most wide-ranging change in counting music sales since the early 1990s, when a change in how record sales in the U.S. were counted led to a realization that country, hip hop, and reissues were more popular than previously noted. Accurate numbers? That’s a relative rarity for an industry that still thinks its future is somehow dependent on suing innovators and customers.
Last week, before we learned that EMI had brought its own sense of reality to the fore by negotiating the potential distribution of its catalog without DRM, we speculated that its big album for the quarter, the new one by Nora Jones, might not fare well in the marketplace. Turns out Jones is doing just fine. Her first week U.S. sales topped 405,000. Thirteen percent of those sales, roughly 50,000 units were in digital form, and she sold more than 28,000 individual tracks from the album in the first week. The record topped iTunes sales in 20 countries.
Jones wasn’t at the Grammys Sunday night, where the Dixie Chicks were the big winners. Early reports suggest only a slight bump in their sales at retail. Online, where most of the music being downloaded is still illicit, they haven’t made an impact at all: the top tracks at the major peer-to-peer services were, as usual, all hip hop.
Despite charts getting more realistic and Jones, a performer whose audience skews older, having an OK first week online, the record industry is still run by people still trying to sell older music to older people. The big news in digital catalogs still revolves around The Beatles, and this year’s Grammy Awards show — frequently hyped as a showcase for new performers — kicked off with the reunited Police playing “Roxanne,” a song they first recorded when Jimmy Carter was president. That’s before the core pop-music audience was even born.
— EMI’s Apparent Business Model: Slower Deals, More Returns
— EMI Said To Be in Talks to Sell Music Online Sans DRM