How 2008 May or May Not Have Contributed to the Slow Death of the Music Industry

Figures on 2008's music sales show both predictable trends and some surprises, according to the stats posted on music industry blog Coolfer. While album sales declined overall, dropping 15% to 430 million units, certain formats saw spikes both expected — digital album sales up 32%, with track sales up 27% — and surprising — vinyl LP sales nearly doubling, with a 92% jump. Vinyl's resurgance in popularity was forecast by statistics released earlier this year (TMT News), but this increase in sales is even more substantial than would be expected from the spring and summer figures. Coupled with a 20% decline in CD sales and the aforementioned spike in digital album sales, it seems vinyl may be acting as a minuscule buffer in the decline of physical album sales.

Meanwhile, the increase in digital sales — with 1.07 billion tracks and 62.8 million albums shifted digitally in the last 12 months — may not be quite as impressive a statement about the shifting dynamics of the music industry as it initially seems to be. A study from the tail end of ’08 shows that, of the 13 million tracks available for sale online, 10 million went completely unsold in 2008. Even more shockingly, the study found that 80% of digital sales revenue came from repeated purchases of the same approximately 52,000 tracks. Presumably, this leaves many independent artists, or even major-label artists without hit singles, gasping for air in the digital music market.

How this bodes for 2009 is anyone's guess, but my advice would be to keep your eye on two trends: the surge in vinyl sales and the concentration of digital sales increases around a comparatively small cloud of artists and songs.

Recap (via Coolfer):

- Album sales: down 15% to 430 million units
- CD sales: down 20% to 362 units
- Digital album sales: up 32% to 62.8 units
- Track sales: up 27% to 1.07 billion units
- LP sales: up 92% to 1.9 million units

RIP: Delaney Bramlett, Guitarist

From YouTube:

From Billboard:

Rock guitarist Delaney Bramlett, who collaborated with such artists as George Harrison and Eric Clapton, died in a Los Angeles hospital following gallbladder surgery. He was 69.

His wife, Susan Lanier-Bramlett, said he died on Saturday after "seven hard months" of ill health.

"I held him and he held on up until the last breath with which he went in peace to the light and on into eternity," she said in a statement.

- Delaney Bramlett official website
- Delaney Bramlett MySpace
- Delaney Bramlett Wikipedia entry

BMG Music Service’s “12 for the price of one” Club Says “No” (To New Members)

Remember BMG Music Service's "12 CDs for the price of 1" deal (with "nothing more to buy ever!")? Sure you do. It was everywhere in the ’90s. I myself, Mango Starr, took advantage of this mail-order club at least a few times, even using my brother and sister's names to amass a decent collection of classic rock, jazz, and more classic rock. I think I got my first Nas CD there.

Well, late last year, it was announced that BMG Music Service has decided to stop taking new members. A spokesperson declined to comment on whether or not the service will be shut down entirely and said that BMG is "still very actively engaged with our existing member base and will be making more changes to serve them...more effectively later in 2009." Though, the company has already announced that its Music Points Program will cease to exist by February and there has been word that all BMG music clubs will be discontinued in 2010, according to Billboard. Not good signs.

Meanwhile, the official BMG Music Service website invites music lovers to join instead. Guess it's hard to beat "Unlimited for the price of nothing," you fucking pirates. When are you going to participate in capitalism??

Björk Becomes Iceland’s Knight in Swan-Feathered Armor with Earth-Friendly Venture Capital Firm

Finally, a good reason for Björk to make the headlines! No airport brutality or fits of rage here; instead, reports of Björk being a damn fine businesswoman AND model citizen of her home country, Iceland. The songstress has teamed up Audur Capital in Reykjavik to begin the BJORK venture capital firm, an outfit keen on throwing its dough at certain companies in order to kickstart Iceland's bummed-out economy. Here comes the awesome (from Audur Capital's website): "The fund will invest in sustainable businesses that create value through the country's unique resources, spectacular nature, vibrant culture and green energy."

It is the hope that BJORK's standards and aid will encourage diversity and sustainability in Iceland's national economy. Audur Capital has already dropped 100 million Iceland kronur (about $826,000) and is looking for other investors to fill the pool by March 2009. And of course, Björk is the official cover girl for her firm, which is sure to set those rich dudes' hearts a-flutter. Wish them luck! Team BJORK!

Mirah Will Finally Let Us Know What A Four-Year Album Sounds Like

Mirah has never been a lover of the limelight. She doesn't do a ton of interviews. She takes her time. And, in this instance, she's taken over four years to get us her fourth full-length solo album, a (spera). The long-awaited follow up to 2004's C'mon Miracle (TMT Review) comes after a lot of time spent touring small clubs and participating in quirky collaboration efforts. Joyride: Remixes, for example, found her first three albums remixed by friends like Bryce Panic and YACHT, while 2007 brought Share This Place: Stories and Observations, a collaboration with Spectratone International (read: Lori Goldston and Kyle Hanson writing songs about insects).

Lori Goldston is just one of many friends appearing on a (spera). Mirah also brings along Chris Funk, Tara Jane O'Neilm and Phil Elverum -- all of whom she's worked or toured with in the past.

(a)spera still won't be here until March 10, but what's a few months in the scope of four years?

(a)spera tracklist:

Live Wilco DVD to Precede New Album, Proceeds to Benefit Tweedy Family College Fund

In these tough economic times, you’ve got to look for those ever-elusive alternate streams of income. Especially when you’ve got a family to support. Just ask the coolest Dads on the planet: Jeff Tweedy and co. Do you think that they’re just sitting around and resigning themselves to the fact that, you know, Spencer Tweedy isn’t going to be able to go to a good University?

Hell no. Instead they’re just cranking out some more merchandise.

First on the docket is a lovely and long-due Wilco concert DVD, titled Ashes of American Flags, which chronicles a couple of February 2008 visits to Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium and Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Cain Ballroom. (Auditorium?? Ballroom?!? Classy!) The footage was assembled by longtime collaborators Brendan Canty (of Fugazi fame) and Christoph Green of Trixie Films, who previously worked on Tweedy’s solo DVD Sunken Treasure and the behind-the-scenes film that accompanied certain editions of Wilco's 2007 dad-rock opus Sky Blue Sky (TMT Review).

The whole shebang is due in February or March from Nonesuch, cleverly in advance of another fine consumer product: namely, the next Wilco studio album, which currently boasts little more detail than the band’s assurance that they are hitting it hard in the studio at the moment. Still, it never hurts to start the hype early. Will the synths and laptops return? Will Glenn Kotche do that thing where he blows into his drums? Stay tuned!

According to a recent fan newsletter, Wilco will play "a handful of gigs" in the southern U.S. in April, to be followed by an extensive tour of Spain in May and then "the usual summer hijinks with a new record and gigs everywhere imaginable." Meanwhile, Tweedy also has three solo shows on tap in Michigan and Illinois later this month. And while he’s there, you can be sure that he’ll be checking out those Colleges.

Jeff Tweedy:
01.29.09 - Kalamazoo, MI - State Theatre
01.30.09 - Ann Arbor, MI - Hill Auditorium
01.31.09 - Champaign, IL - Foellinger Auditorium

04.25.09 – New Orleans, LA – New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival

RIP: Ron Asheton, Guitarist/Bassist of The Stooges

From YouTube


From NME:

Ron Asheton, the guitarist and bassist with The Stooges, has been found dead today (January 6). He was 60. Asheton was found at his home in Ann Arbor this morning, according to police. A cause of death is yet to be confirmed, although initial reports suggest that Asheton died of a heart attack.

- Ron Asheton MySpace
- Ron Asheton Wikipedia entry

The Darkness Are Buying a One-Way Ticket to Reunite… And Back

You guys remember The Darkness, right? Well, according to the same hype machine that caught wind of their meager talent and ridiculous personalities and blew them way out of proportion before their first album dropped (NME), there has been talk of a Darkness reunion. However, relationships within the band have never recovered since Justin's retreat into Betty Ford: Justin and brother/guitarist Dan Hawkins are not in good standing with each other, and the fact that Dan and drummer Ed Graham are suing the band's management over missing cash makes this all the more crippling. There are also no known attempts to contact Frankie Poullain, their original bassist, who walked away during the recording of One Way Ticket To Hell... And Back. In fact, the only reason it's even being mentioned is because some rich festival guy has an offer on the table.

Regardless of how flimsy this "news" is, allow me to go ahead and join the massive preemptive wave of "please gawd, no." Don't even think about it, guys. Cheeseball cock rock with Quiet Riot guitars, inappropriate hair, and a nasally douchebag lead singer is on the outs, and the irony that fueled the adoration of gold-crusted one-pieces and piercing falsettos is nowhere near recharged. Even the Kings Of Leon got haircuts, followed by their first record in the Billboard Top 10, and their music isn't even accidentally humorous (or amusing at all, for that matter). Give it at least another lifetime. Besides, the remains of The Darkness already reformed as Stone Gods, and Justin is currently pimping a comical new band called Hot Leg. It's best for everyone if you just admit your five minutes is up.

RIP: Eartha Kitt

From YouTube:

From the New York Times:

Eartha Kitt, who purred and pounced her way across Broadway stages, recording studios and movie and television screens in a show-business career that lasted more than six decades, died on Thursday. She was 81 and lived in Connecticut.

The cause was colon cancer, said her longtime publicist, Andrew E. Freedman.

- Eartha Kitt official website
- Eartha Kitt Wikipedia entry
- Eartha Kitt IMDB entry

RIP: Davy Graham, Folk Musician

From YouTube:

From Davy Graham's official website:

It is with great sadness that we have to announce that Davy passed away on the 15 December 2008 from a seizure at home after a short battle with lung cancer. Davy will be missed by those of us who loved him. The many fans who came to see his last concerts gave him much joy and satisfaction and was something he drew great strength from.

- Davy Graham official website
- Davy Graham Wikipedia entry