Boss Bowls For Dollars
Bruce Springsteen’s contract with Columbia is up and word in the media (mainly the
New York Post
) is that his agents are shopping around for a payday of $50 million for five albums. Sony head Andrew Lack doesn’t look to be rushing for a pen. Springsteen’s recent albums have sold well—his last,
Devils & Dust
, debuted atop the album chart—but haven’t lived up to Lack’s expectations.
Just days after The Post broke this story the
Los Angeles Times
ran a story by its music critic, Robert Hillburn, that fit very well into this debate.
“Pop’s Power List”
was the result of anonymous conversations Hillburn had with some of the most important figures in the music industry. Hillburn asked them, as he does every year, to rank the artists they see as being the most valuable to the future of music, those artists they’d want on their rosters. Not surprisingly Springsteen’s name didn’t come up. What may surprise some is how few rock bands had the faith and trust of the respondents. Hip hop and R&B figures most into predictions of the future. Only one rock band was in the top ten.
One point in Hillburn’s article that jumped off the page—at least to my eyes—was the quote about the difficulty and cost of marketing a new album. It’s a massive undertaking and investment. “The cost of signing and promoting artists is so high labels can no longer afford the luxury of spending years nurturing acts who need three or four albums to develop their craft and to build their audience.” Sometimes it backfires, and there is usually some fallout when it does. New artists are often treated to a one-and-done relationship with a label because the album didn’t perform to the level needed. What does this say about bloated superstar contracts? With the cost of putting out a star’s record reaching into the high heavens and with labels doing what they can to answer the public’s cries for cheaper albums, paying $10 million per album to any artist not named Usher or Gwen should look suspect. It goes without saying that artists and managers are hoping for the music industry to get back on its feet, develop new talent and win back its customers from movie studios and video game companies. $50 million-dollar contracts are not going to help.
Someone will probably pay Springsteen’s price. Some label, whether it’s Columbia or Interscope or whatever, will want the legend on its artist roster. Somebody will believe Springsteen has more sales in him and his new label will revive his career. Or maybe they just plan on getting millions of forty-somethings to buy Bruce Springstreen ringtones at $2.99 a pop.
Morissette’s Starbucks Exclusive No Longer Exclusive
Retailers left and right complained when Alanis Morissette gave Starbucks, the coffee chain with an increasing interest in music, a four-week exclusive on her new Jagged Little Pill Acoustic. HMV in Canada pulled Morissette’s albums from its shelves in protest.
The album, now available to all retailers, is an acoustic version of her breakthrough debut. Though sold only in Starbucks it moved over 50,000 units in the first week of release. That turned more than a few heads around the industry.
Why do labels and artist seek deals with Starbucks at the risk of annoying other retailers? There’s an incredible relationship between store and customer. Morissette said of the stores, “When people walk into Starbucks, there’s a real openness and a focus to behold and take in whatever may be on that counter.”
Sales Still Down. What’s On Tap?
Album sales continue to lag behind last year’s pace. The industry, from retailers to labels to distributors, are jittery. Is there anything bright on the horizon? What’s coming up in the second half of the year?
Barbra Streisand has
coming on August 23rd. Country duo Brooks & Dunn will release
on August 30th. On the same day Eric Clapton will release CD and DualDisc versions of his new album,
, and Death Cab For Cutie will release its Atlantic Records debut,
Tony Yayo’s anticipated
Thoughts of a Predicate Felon
drops on August 30th. That will be big in the hip hop community and, most likely, beyond. September will see albums by Jewel, Ryan Cabrera, Sean Paul, The Dandy Warhols and The Rolling Stones. And the fourth quarter? The typical parade of superstars and Christmas albums.