Jun 07, 2010, 08:06AM

Can Miley Cyrus save the music industry?

Billy Ray's daughter to the rescue.

Its always been Billboard magazines job to cheerlead for the recording industry, so you know things are getting really tough when a June 4 story began, Bad times just got worse. 

The hook was that, for the week ending May 30, U.S. music sales figures for both new and catalog releases totaled just under five million albums, the lowest figure since Nielsen Soundscan started tracking sales in 1994 and, the magazine estimates, possibly the lowest since the Recording Industry Association of America started tracking shipmentswhich, of course, dont equal salesin 1973.  
(The article quotes one long-retired Warner Bros. exec as saying, Who the hell knows what weekly sales were back then?)  

Digital track sales arent included in the figures, and needless to say neither are illegal downloads, which industry executives reliably continue to blame for most of their problems. Jim Urie, who as president of Universal Music Group Distribution is one of the increasingly rare top record executives whos been around since before last month, is quoted as saying the figures provide all the more reason why everyone in the industry should be focused on getting the U.S. Congress to introduce legislation that makes the Internet service providers our allies in fighting piracy. Piracy is getting worse and worse and the government needs to focus on that.” 

The truth is, as usual, a little more complicated than that. Im not breaking any news by noting that even for music fans who havent turned to illegal downloadsand surely there must be some of you out thereinterest in purchasing full albums by unproven, and sometimes even proven, acts for an average price of $15 is no longer an attractive proposition; a more efficient use of money and time is to cherry-pick the tracks you like off of iTunes and move along. 

Not only are the days of Thriller selling a million copies a week gone, but so too is the very concept of an album selling over five million copies total in the U.S. To paraphrase Bruce Springsteen: Those sales are going, boys, and they aint coming back. 

But theres hope on the horizon, or so Billboard would have us believe. One of the industrys other long-lived favorite culprits, the weak release schedule bogeyman, has also been blamed for the current downturn. June will be big, Urie says. Look at all the big records coming out, including Sara [sic] McLachlan, Drake, Miley Cyrus, Eminem and Jack Johnson.” 

Yes, those are the big records that are going to push hordes back into buying albums again. The Drake album famously leaked on the Net last week, while Cyrus, coming off a movie bomb and the failure of her calculated onstage lesbian kiss to ignite hoped-for controversy appears to be teetering dangerously close to the flailing territory of post-2007 Lindsay/Britney. Johnson and, possibly, Eminem are likely past their respective sell-by dates. 

As for McLachlanwhat does it say when the self-proclaimed bible of the music industry cant even spell her first name correctly? 

Bad times may indeed have gotten worse. But they havent hit rock bottom yet. If I may quote another favorite tune, the record industrygrasping at Congressional and Cyrusian strawsis living what John Cale described in his formidable classic Fear Is a Mans Best Friend: We're already dead, just not yet in the ground.”  

  • Who even buys CD's anymore? The market IS digital at this point, there's not going back. Most people buy/steal MP3's exclusively. The people that want physical copies of their music buy vinyl. I'm not unhappy with that situation: vinyl sounds better, looks better, it reals like the real thing. And I love digital files, they bring the portability and vast storage potential that vinyl doesn't. CD's don't do anything better than vinyl or digital files. Screw 'em.

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