Remember back in the 1980s when musicians could break huge records with album sales? Some of the sales records set by Michael Jackson and Def Leppard still hold up today.
An article in yesterday's online edition of the Wall Street Journal depicts the bleak outlook of modern day record sales.
According to journalist Ethan Smith, compact disc sales for the first three months of this year plunged 20% from the same period a year ago. Of course, analysts blame the decline of CD sales on the popularity of the iPod and downloadable music.
In the late seventies, Metal was still an underground phenomenon. Enthusiasts would create fanzines and dub cassette tapes with the latest music by their heroes. These tapes would travel around the world, effectively "pirating" music while creating a mainstream movement.
Of course, dyed in the wool music fans know that most causal listeners don't pay for their music by legal downloads, either. Many younger fans download pirated music without regard for an artists sales rank or royalty checks.
I don't pirate music, but I am guilty of downloading an odd song or two if I don't want to purchase an entire album.
According to the Wall Street Journal article, music moguls now consider CDs as a marketing tool to push sales of more lucrative items like concert tickets and band merchandise.
Sadly it seems there's just no money to be made from huge album sales these days. But is this really different than years past?
In the glam rock hey day of the 1980s, bands tramped up and down the Sunset Strip, posting flyers, selling tickets and begging people to watch their shows.
They made a living off touring, and the same is true today.
There's a reason why the Rolling Stones and Aerosmith tour constantly. World tours mean big money, and big money means less pressure to sell millions and millions of albums.
Back in 1987, Def Leppard released Hysteria . To date, that album has sold more than 18 million copies worldwide. Let's say the Leps had a pretty good deal from Polygram that earned them a quarter for every album sold. This means the Brits earned four million, five hundred thousand dollars for their efforts. Def Leppard still earned several times more than this amount from their massively successfully "In the Round, In Your Face" world tour.
Nielsen SoundScan just posted some of the weakest sales ever recorded. In fact, this year has already seen the two lowest-selling No. 1 albums since SoundScan started back in 1991. Incidentally, Skid Row's Slave to the Grind was the first heavy metal album to debut at the top of the Billboard charts. Slave to the Grind was released the first week Nielsen adopted the SoundScan sales tracking method.
So is all this talk about sluggish album sales much ado about nothing, or do we have a real music crisis on our hands? Like most things, I think most people have become complacent. Yesterday's rabid fans are today's stock traders, doctors, and lawyers. Sadly it seems these careers just don't leave enough time for Metal.