The Billboard 200 Album Chart

No Longer As Relevant
“Compared to years past, the ripple effect of the Grammys was a pimple”, said Alliance Entertainment Corp. (AEC) senior VP Robert De Freitas, as quoted by retail specialist Ed Christman in last week’s Billboard. Although Amy Winehouse and Herbie Hancock are poised to crack the top ten of the Billboard 200 chart following their awards for best new artist and best new album, the rest of the award-winning crowd has not made much of a dent on sales so far.
What does it take nowadays, therefore, to move albums of recorded music? Digital single-track sales are, of course, the growth area of the business, but if album sales continue to drop overall after the Grammies, even the validity of the Billboard 200 chart may come into question. There was a time when recorded music’s growth sequel was predictable. It started with the Hot 100 chart, where grew your customer base. Later you migrated with an album to the Top 200 chart, where you stayed for quite a while.
A couple of months or so ago, Billboard’s Director of Charts, Geoff Mayfield, wrote about what in effect has become the new challenge for him: justifiying the Billboard 200 as an indicator of the industry’s health. Album sales were down in the Holiday Season period compared to last year, and the six weeks from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day showed poorer growth than the entire 2007, which is unusual to say the least.
Moreover, as recorded music interest has centered on purchases of digital tracks, labels don’t wait to place individual songs in the Hot 100 chart if they have an album for release. They bet the house on the Top 200. However, as they bypass the Hot 100, they do not have feedback about the existence of a winning song in the mix. The result is that the trajectory of these albums is unproven, and consequently they tend to enjoy a much shorter life span in the Top 200 than in the past.
The purpose of the charts, naturally, is to pick winners, but if the existing data does not show consistency from week to week, the fickleness of the recorded market may further confuse the buyer and detract from potential sales.
By Peter Alhadeff



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