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More than ever, album and ticket sales don’t mix

September 16, 2005

By Geoff Mayfield

LOS ANGELES (Billboard) – Despite a handsome media
campaign, the Rolling Stones’ opening week for “A Bigger Bang”
is lighter than its last two studio albums, while Paul
McCartney seems destined for an even slimmer start when he bows
next week on the Billboard 200. Yet both acts will be among the
most sought-after draws on the concert circuit for the next
several months, with prime Stones tickets going for more than
$400 a pop.

Welcome to the latest reminder that the folks who buy
concert tickets are not prime album consumers and vice versa.

Of the 10 acts who led Billboard’s year-end Boxscore list
in 2004, Kenny Chesney (who was eighth in concert revenue) was
the only one with a top 10 album in Nielsen SoundScan’s annual
tally, when 3.1 million units made “When the Sun Goes Down” the
fourth-best seller.

Madonna, queen of the box office in 2004, did not even
place among that year’s top 200 SoundScan albums. No shame
there, as five other top 10 concert acts — Simon & Garfunkel,
Metallica, Bette Midler, Sting and David Bowie — were also
absent from the list of the year’s 200 best-selling sets.

Chesney’s dual placement among top 10 tours and top 10
albums is one better than we saw in the two prior years: None
of either year’s 10 best-grossing concert acts managed a top 10
album in 2002 or 2003. As they did in 1995, the Stones also led
the Boxscore list in 2003, a year after McCartney stood atop
the concert list, with each managing strong but not
year-topping results for related albums.

The Stones have rung up 2.4 million copies of the 2002 hits
anthology “Forty Licks,” which was the catalyst for the tour
that started that year. That two-CD set is the band’s
best-selling album since SoundScan opened its doors in 1991.

Likewise, in the SoundScan era, McCartney’s best-selling
solo album and his biggest sales week are distinctions owned by
“Back in the U.S. Live 2002″ (974,000 copies to date; 224,000
when it bowed at No. 8), the audio souvenir of that year’s
tour.

“Back” was the No. 96 album on SoundScan’s 2002 list, while
“Forty” ranked No. 36 in 2002 and No. 116 the following year.

Chesney is in good company. There were three other years
among that last 10 when only one act had one of the 10
best-selling albums in the same year as a top 10 tour. ‘N Sync
was No. 1 on the former list and No. 2 on the latter in 2000,
Garth Brooks owned the No. 4 album and No. 6 tour of 1997, and
Alanis Morissette had the top album and No. 8 tour of 1996.

Concert promoters likely will not be surprised to learn
there was only one year since 1995 when more than two acts
ranked top 10 in both tours and album sales. In 1998, Celine
Dion had the No. 9 tour and a stake in each of the top two
albums (the “Titanic” soundtrack and her “Let’s Talk About
Love” CD), while Brooks and Shania Twain also made both lists.

Simple conclusions? The kids who buy (or copy) music are
less likely to afford $100-plus concert tickets. And, with the
exception of country fans and Norah Jones’ following, the
adults who can afford pricey tickets are less likely to shape a
year’s best-selling albums.

THREE AND OUT

The Rolling Stones shared two TV shots with Kanye West
during the tracking week, as both were featured on ABC’s
opening NFL game and the MTV/VH1/CMT “ReAct Now: Music &
Relief” benefit concert for Hurricane Katrina victims. But,
while the Stones also made “Today” and “Dateline,” West had a
busier publicity schedule in his album’s second week than most
acts rally in an opening frame.

The rapper’s rounds included visits to Oprah Winfrey’s and
Ellen DeGeneres’ talk shows, BET’s “106 & Park” and two more
Katrina telethons: the multi-network “Shelter From the Storm”
and BET’s “S.O.S. (Saving Ourselves).”

Despite a 67 percent second-week drop, West’s “Late
Registration” easily withstands the DVD-enhanced special
edition of 50 Cent’s “The Massacre” (154,000, up 519 percent)
and the Stones’ arrival (129,000).

Sales starts for the Stones’ last two studio sets: “Bridges
to Babylon,” 160,000 in 1997; “Voodoo Lounge,” 154,000 in 1994.

Reuters/Billboard




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