I grew up on an unhealthy diet of domestic music magazines and papers all geared towards fueling my consumption of music in one form or another. They usually featured some gigantic foldout poster of David Lee Roth and advertised the latest double live albums recorded in some Japanese city I had never heard of. They also featured record sales charts. Something, for some reason I could never get enough of. It was not uncommon that records would sell millions of copies and platinum and double platinum RIAA awards were the norm. This was thrilling stuff knowing that six million others were listening to the same things I was. (Thankfully I got over my Elton John obsession and my listening habits changed entirely.)
Flash forward a few years later* and sales charts are quite another beast but still garner great interest for me; the numbers reflective of a time where no one really buys music in a tangible form anymore. Music is now only a downloadable temporary digital commodity. Gatefold sleeves and artist cocaine dependencies are now quaint relics of the past.
Nonetheless, the numbers are still interesting to me and more than a little surprising. From Billboard Magazine this week - Coldplay are still at the top of the heap but this week's big winner was M.I.A. who saw an 88% bump in sales this week for Kala, likely thanks to the prominent placement of "Paper Planes" in Seth Rogen’s Pineapple Express trailer. Ubiquitous Summer Music Festival performers also saw nice sales bumps with MGMT, Radiohead and The Ting Tings all on the upswing. Current favourites Fleet Foxes have now crossed 50K in sales and R.E.M. have still to hit the 500,000 mark with their latest Accelerate.
Highlights from the Billboard 200:
#7 Coldplay - Viva La Vida [69,665 this week, down 7%, 1,467,660 to date]
#27 Beck - Modern Guilt [15,676 this week, down 20%, 148,834 to date]
#50 Weezer - Weezer (Red Album) [10,202 this week, down 6%, 292,984 to date]
#58 Death Cab For Cutie - Narrow Stairs [8,905 this week, no change, 361,353 to date]
#62 M.I.A. - Kala [8,582 this week, up 88%, 250,555 to date]
#112 The Hold Steady - Stay Positive [5,657 this week, down 31%, 38,047 to date]
#116 MGMT - Oracular Spectacular [5,409 this week, up 20%, 127,511 to date]
#126 Radiohead - In Rainbows [5,193 this week, up 9%, 590,129 to date]
#132 Jakob Dylan - Seeing Things [4,852 this week, down 21%, 79,026 to date]
#133 Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend [4,804 this week, down 7%, 281,317 to date]
#134 The Ting Tings - We Started Nothing [4,754 this week, up 11%, 59,353 to date]
#139 Sigur Ros - Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust [4,719 this week, down 21%, 73,994 to date]
#140 My Morning Jacket - Evil Urges [4,708 this week, down 13%, 118,072 to date]
#141 Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes [4,701 this week, down 14%, 53,941 to date]
#146 Flight Of The Conchords - Flight Of The Conchords [4,550 this week, down 7%, 175,177 to date]
#154 Dr. Dog - Fate [4,343 this week, down 40%, 11,630 to date]
#178 R.E.M. - Accelerate [3,420 this week, down 18%, 312,858 to date]
#179 Black Kids - Partie Traumatic [3,407 this week, down 38%, 8,963 to date]
#200 The Raconteurs - Consolers of the Lonely [3,228 this week, down 1%, 215,196 to date]
I am curious though… These numbers are low. R.E.M. not selling a million copies in the US? Do you still buy music anymore or is it easier just to find it online in one form or another? Is the concept of the album now dead? Sign of the times?
Do you even care?
*Does 25 still mean "a few"?