April 28, 2006

Music biz feeling post-Easter blues

By Geoff Mayfield

LOS ANGELES (Billboard) - Perhaps retailers could refit a
popular Christmas carol and instigate the 12 days of Easter?
That would soften the holiday's annual post-basket thud.

In 2006, the inevitable post-Easter slump leaves a
particularly bitter taste, as numbers for the stanza that ended
April 23 halt a three-week streak in which album sales beat the
comparable 2005 frame. It was fun while it lasted.

In fact, album volume falls to the lowest we have seen in
more than a decade, since 8.9 million copies were clocked in
the sales week that ended February 4, 1996.

A quiet April 18 release schedule makes the slide feel
particularly steep. One must traipse all the way down to No. 42
to find this week's Billboard 200 Hot Shot Debut, stealthily
copped by cabaret/rock opera duo the Dresden Dolls' "Yes,
Virginia ... "

The Tuesday after Easter does not always provide such a
wide-open field.

Four of the past eight post-Easter frames saw major
arrivals, the biggest of those belonging to the 2002 debut
album by Ashanti, which drew a start of 503,000 copies.

Nas, in 1999 ("I Am," 471,000), and Madonna, in 2003
("American Life," 241,000) also chased off apres-Easter blues
with chart-topping bows, while Toni Braxton used the
post-holiday week of 2000 to cash in a No. 2 start for "The
Heat" (199,000).

But the prevailing trend in seven of the past 10 years has
been that whichever album is No. 1 at Easter will hold the
crown again the following week, a tradition Rascal Flatts
upholds this week. Even with a third-week decline of 58
percent, the country trio's "Me and My Gang" leads the field by
14,000 (143,000, 1.2 million since its release).


The departure of the Easter Bunny is what it takes to slow
the juggernaut that is "High School Musical."

At No. 3, the soundtrack to the Disney Channel movie sees a
55 percent decline, which would hardly be noteworthy in this
week's climate were it not for the fact that this marks the
first time in its 15 chart weeks that the Walt Disney album has
failed to post a gain.

With another 116,000 copies in the till, "Musical" has rung
1.7 million to date, which makes it the best-selling album so
far in 2006 and the leading contender to hold that title when
the year comes to a close.


A passel of new releases April 25 should shake next week's
sales charts into a happier mood.

Among the incoming: Rihanna, Godsmack, Taking Back Sunday
and -- a year after his "Devils & Dust" led the Billboard 200
with an opener of 222,000 -- Bruce Springsteen.

The blockbusters are well timed, as the sales week competes
with a 2005 frame when each of the top six, including chart
bows by Bobby Valentino (No. 3, 180,000) and Amerie (No. 5,
124,000), surpassed 100,000.

Only four titles reach 100,000 this week. Rock will be next
week's hero, as first-day numbers cited by chains project
Godsmack's "IV" at around 230,000, Taking Back Sunday's "Louder
Now" at 185,000 and Springsteen's "We Shall Overcome: The
Seeger Sessions" in the range of 140,000-150,000. That would
likely mean rock will rule the top three slots. Rihanna's "A
Girl Like Me" looks good for 125,000.