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How many album sales does it take to hit Number 1?

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454511-bring-me-the-horizon.jpg

The answer? In Australia right now, just a measly 3600.

"...British hardcore metal band Bring Me the Horizon made a surprising debut at No. 1 on the ARIA album charts yesterday, with just 3600 copies sold nationally."

"...This is the lowest sales to achieve a No. 1 album in Australia."

http://www.perthnow.com.au/entertainment/perth-confidential/you-only-need-to-sell-3600-albums-to-be-no-1/story-e6frg30l-1225940547739

And it used to be that 'sales' actually meant shipped units, hence why some releases (*cough* Australian Idol *cough*) hit #1 on first day of release whether anyone cares or not.

"The figure highlights the impact illegal downloading has had on record sales."

How much do you suppose it costs to professionally produce an album? And then if even the best of the best (um yeah, subjective, I know! :) ) of any given week is busting to push 3600 units, where do you see the future in the studio album to lie?

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I think there'll be an implosion. Either the big companies will make a more drastic shift to online sales or things will just dwindle and die leaving small studios to revel in the wreckage. I think an implosion on the big companies could also result in a shift away from the mass produced pop rubbish they're subjecting the population to. People who follow charts and music shows will suddenly get exposed to new types of music and artists as they're equally capable of busting into the charts.

IMO, illegal downloading is probably the best thing to happen to 'the music industry' since the cassette tape. It's going to hurt some very talented people for a while - but those same people have the passion for what they do to keep going regardless of sales. It could also present a positive effect on live shows where people are still willing to pay to see an act perform even if not purchasing their music. So, in the end, i think illegal downloading is going to have a positive effect by forcing the monopolies and pop diva's out and going back to roots from years ago where music was driven by talent and passion not marketing and profits.

Death of the big studio album is going to be the best thing to happen to music for years. It'll return - but it'll be under a different guise as people start lamenting production quality and the musicality a good recording can add.

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Amazing, infuriating, terrifying, vindicating stuff.

I guess the question is, does this expose the corruption and irrelevance embodied in the Aria charting cartel? Or does it charge full steam ahead, business-as-usual?

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The more I look into this, the more I'm seeing that the death of the studio album is simply a result of the media that music is distributed on and the pricing of said media. mp3/aac is great for singles, less so for albums.

The LP record and subsequent CD have only been dominant for a specific time in the history of music publishing, approx 1950's to 1990's. Before the LP songs were sold as sheet music, and then for gramophone as singles. Now in the days post-LP we are back to buying singles. It's nothing new. If you bought music in the 1900's to 1940's you didn't buy albums, just as it is in the 2000's to 2040's perhaps.

The extended play time of LP and CD created a situation where artists and labels were pretty much obliged to fill up the whole duration as it represented value for money. Some artists used the time well, and created some truly 'classic' albums you would listen to from start to end. But we are all too familiar with the notion of 'filler' tracks on albums - not that great, but better than nothing - and most full-length albums contain filler.

The clever thing about online music sales as they are now is that they discourage buying or downloading filler - you can go straight for the songs you actually like, and the cost per unit is the same as buying the album. Back when a 10-song album cost $30 and a one-song single cost $5-8, the album represented better value for money. Now a 10-song album on itunes is basically equal to 10 x single units and the cover art is still a crap 1600x1600 pixel jpeg. There is no added value in buying an album.

Regards illegal downloading, maybe I'll reserve for another topic. But an interesting article in this month's Rolling Stone puts the blame squarely in the laps of the ISP's - the one sector of the industry making a shitload of money off all of us. Funny how we recoil at the notion of paying to download a song, but we're quite happy to pay a Telco each month for access to download those songs... and note that currently the price per month is not really going down, just the monthly download limit is going up. So the Telco's give us more download capacity for the same money, thus encouraging more downloads - legal or not. While we steal our songs and the music industry implodes, Telstra, Optus and the rest are making a fucking killing.

Now is that right?

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But do the telcos develop the file sharing apps? Did they develop the portable mp3 players? Did they produce the technology to allow provision of illegal music sharing?

Means to an end. I recall when bootleg cd's and cassette tapes were the rage. No one seemed to blame the cd manufacturers or tape companies, though. The technology lends itself to the kind of misuse we're currently seeing.

Does higher bandwidth mean encouragement of illegal activity or is it a sign of market demand? I agree it's just another group of big greedy companies... But as has been said many times over - the clever people will find a way to capitalize on the technology. To add some value to what they're offering you can't get for free.

Maybe it's more a sign of the moral decline of society. People don't seem to understand the ethic behind stealing work the way they can over a broadband connection. But then, record companies have never had issues with stealing face to face. I still think the end result of p2p sharing will be beneficial for all artists long term. Short term it's painful and will be for some years, but the shift this is putting town industry built around the talent of a few is, IMO, going to lead to positive results. I know I'm a minority, but I like getting music for free legally via podcasts etc. Ironically enough, these push me to buy releases from the artists featured or making the podcasts. Heck, I even venture out from time to time and check the bands/djs etc out. I get this feeling that after so much enjoyment for free, i need to give something back and the actively seek out their releases and gigs to show some support. I ink p2p will lead to a reduction in the ability of an artist to make money from music in the short term - at least via releases. It's more importantly going to kill some of the snakes in the industry off and i think it'll open up new opportunities for talented individuals in the near future as the consumers become starved for quality and are forced to acknowledge the new methods of getting the material and, ultimately, direct their money to the right people to support them and ensure they're able to keep doing good work.

Or maybe I'm deluded.

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But an interesting article in this month's Rolling Stone puts the blame squarely in the laps of the ISP's - the one sector of the industry making a shitload of money off all of us.

Like Jester says, is it a fair deduction to draw? Like with his tape analogy, or that despite the Ford Transit being vastly preferred as the bank robber's getaway tool, Van salesmen and manufacturer's were clear of responsibility. Advancements in IP protection wallow behind the means of violating them.

Interesting times indeed...

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^^ Fair points guys.

The author of said article (can't find his name not at home) was - surprise surprise - an exec from a major record label :)

Of course it's everybody else's fault but their own that their industry is dying as we know it :) . Not dying full stop, the music will always play, but the old models must end. But they will go kicking and screaming...

Yeah blaming the Telco is like blaming the freeway designer who makes a road that allows cars to go 180kmh+ safely for the actions of a speeding motorist who slams into a pole.

Jester, with the decline of morals in society comes a decline in a sense of personal responsibility. People don't seem to own their bad behaviour. In my tech support days I remember having some full-on arguments with guys who would crack the sads because I refused to support their cracked apps. Couldn't even see the moral (and legal) boundary, let alone admit they'd crossed over it. Same with downloads.

But rather than stand with hand on hip lecturing on the morals of it all - which is a lost cause really - the labels and artist need to find ways to make good consumer behaviour just as easy, pleasant and valuable as bad consumer behaviour. Use positive tools to swing the moral compass around rather than use a big stick and moralize (yeah an awesome way to get through to a teenager).

The interesting thing is how to to do that? People with imagination are and will succeed...

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The interesting thing is how to do that? People with imagination are and will succeed...

I think that's what the 'big labels' are really scared of. Marketing - which is basically all they're good for - doesn't create the new idea's required. The people creating the idea's have had enough of big labels... and so a new guard moves in.

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Maybe it's more a sign of the moral decline of society. People don't seem to understand the ethic behind stealing work the way they can over a broadband connection. But then, record companies have never had issues with stealing face to face. I still think the end result of p2p sharing will be beneficial for all artists long term. Short term it's painful and will be for some years, but the shift this is putting town industry built around the talent of a few is, IMO, going to lead to positive results. I know I'm a minority, but I like getting music for free legally via podcasts etc. Ironically enough, these push me to buy releases from the artists featured or making the podcasts. Heck, I even venture out from time to time and check the bands/djs etc out. I get this feeling that after so much enjoyment for free, i need to give something back and the actively seek out their releases and gigs to show some support. I ink p2p will lead to a reduction in the ability of an artist to make money from music in the short term - at least via releases. It's more importantly going to kill some of the snakes in the industry off and i think it'll open up new opportunities for talented individuals in the near future as the consumers become starved for quality and are forced to acknowledge the new methods of getting the material and, ultimately, direct their money to the right people to support them and ensure they're able to keep doing good work.

Or maybe I'm deluded.

I've just been thinking also that there is fundamental problem with the perception of 'artist' as a valid occupation deserving of an income.

More and more I hear even the artists themselves giving up the fight and grudgingly accept that their creations have no monetary value, therefore by extension their work and effort has no value. It's one thing for ignorant punters to believe it, but when artists start believing it we're in dire times indeed.

However I doubt anyone would question the value placed on ancillary occupations and that those people should of course be paid. No way I would teach music for free, nor would I do tech support, or do post-production for corporate training videos, or sell gear in a store, or any of the other music-industry jobs I've done. But I am expected to give away my musical creations for free - and therefore work for free. The very product and occupation that precedes all the other jobs. Ancillary jobs would not exist without the core artistic activity and production.

There's even a subtle shift currently where by accepting that income comes from gigs instead of song sales, we are actually saying the working as a performer entitles you to an income. But working as a composer/producer does not. But again, without the compositions, there is no music to play at the gig. Performers need composers, crew need performers, tour operators need crew, and so down the chain it goes.

I just think it's morally wrong that the very people who feed everyone else in the industry are the ones who have to accept the worst deal right now.

How do we convince punters (and ourselves even) that composers and producers have just as much, if not more, value than anyone else who works in music?

Or am I just off on a tangent? :)

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I agree - it's going to be painful. But mate - how did people make a living from music before record labels?

In the last 100 years there's been a massive shift in the way music is consumed and distributed. It's gone, IMO, from an acceptable and appreciable distribution model to a mass consumption marketing model.

We've had professional musicians for thousands of years in one form or another - long before CD sales and bit torrent. I see that talented people giving up is a two edged sword. Yeah, it's a stupid loss caused by a minority of greedy fat cats and an ignorant public, but it's also a positive in that it'll lead to the destruction of those fat cats and possibly some enlightenment for the public. The talented and passionate people wont give up, they'll just give up trying to make a living solely from the talents they should rightly be able to make a living from.

That's shit, but i see a shift then toward people paying for performance as they're starved for good music. There's plenty of people who are happy to listen to music that's been made decades ago... but there's plenty who are not and these people will be looking for a way to get their musical fix. Composers of many hundreds of years ago made their living based on performance of their compositions. And musicians made money playing them. And venue owners made money off people coming to see performances. And restaurants made money from people wanting to eat before and after the performance... and then there's all the techo's that made the ins and outs possible.

I agree that if you're using your knowledge and talent for education or for performance or for composing that you should be able to gain compensation and reward in line with your talents. I don;t think preserving the current 'industry' around music is going to help this in the long term. I guess this is easy for me to say because i'm not a hugely talented composer/musician and not trying to make a living from it. But i have plenty of friends who fitted into that talented category who have enough passion to keep making music no matter what they're doing. In that way, i don't see an extinction of talent - just the starvation of it for a while and, IMO, a return to an appropriate balance where the people with the talent control their destiny and income, not some coke snorting marketing nonce.

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I agree - it's going to be painful. But mate - how did people make a living from music before record labels?

Speaking for composers specifically, via numerous means, and perhaps they/we need to start looking along both new and traditional means of earning a crust.

Private patronage, government/taxpayer subsidy, live performances, publishing, direct sales, synchronization royalties... there are ways and means. We should also consider that composers have never been wealthy overall, in fact some composers in the last 50 years are wealthier than in any time in history. Just think of Andrew Lloyd Webber, Desmond Child, Dianne Warren, Benny and Bjorn, Philip Glass, Quincy Jones, Paul McCartney... multimillionaires extraordinaire. And most of these people are quite diverse about how they earn money, it's not on album sales alone.

Perhaps it's just a simple form of evolution. Record companies sprung up only when there were records to sell, with CD's just being a revamped version of the LP that could still exploit existing sales and distribution models. If consumers give up the desire for disc-based media, then the disc providers go out of business. Just like blacksmiths and ice-carriers, they're just not needed (so much) any more.

The thing is the old moguls of the industry could have been retrained to deal with new models over 10 years ago but they flat out refused to accept that mp3 downloads would ever take off and be a legit media. One of the biggest stuff-ups in strategic planning the entertainment industry has ever seen probably.

I can't help thinking of the coal miner who one day soon may refuse to retrain as a solar harvester. Their failure to adapt to new technologies and systems will spell the death of their career. Same for composers - adapt and survive. Do it well and you can still make a million - people already do :)

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This is crazy news, do we have any figures with regards to the US and maybe UK album chart figures? I knew that figures were dropping substantially, but this is unbelievable. Could be a good time to release that home studio released album.

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I've just been thinking also that there is fundamental problem with the perception of 'artist' as a valid occupation deserving of an income.

More and more I hear even the artists themselves giving up the fight and grudgingly accept that their creations have no monetary value, therefore by extension their work and effort has no value. It's one thing for ignorant punters to believe it, but when artists start believing it we're in dire times indeed.

However I doubt anyone would question the value placed on ancillary occupations and that those people should of course be paid. No way I would teach music for free, nor would I do tech support, or do post-production for corporate training videos, or sell gear in a store, or any of the other music-industry jobs I've done. But I am expected to give away my musical creations for free - and therefore work for free. The very product and occupation that precedes all the other jobs. Ancillary jobs would not exist without the core artistic activity and production.

There's even a subtle shift currently where by accepting that income comes from gigs instead of song sales, we are actually saying the working as a performer entitles you to an income. But working as a composer/producer does not. But again, without the compositions, there is no music to play at the gig. Performers need composers, crew need performers, tour operators need crew, and so down the chain it goes.

I just think it's morally wrong that the very people who feed everyone else in the industry are the ones who have to accept the worst deal right now.

How do we convince punters (and ourselves even) that composers and producers have just as much, if not more, value than anyone else who works in music?

Or am I just off on a tangent? :mellow:

This all seems so true, painfully true I'm afraid.

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Out of interest RB what is the population of your great country? Seems crazy that an album can sell only 3600 units yet still make #1

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Out of interest RB what is the population of your great country? Seems crazy that an album can sell only 3600 units yet still make #1

At last count about 22-23 million, so 3600 sales = 0.00016% or 1 for every 6100 people...

What's the average sales figures for a Billboard no.1 in the States? Or even your last one?

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At last count about 22-23 million, so 3600 sales = 0.00016% or 1 for every 6100 people...

Interesting review of the statistics, and I'd be rounding off after a couple of decimal points, so in other words a care factor of pretty much zero.

But would be interesting to discover what the take-up of #1 hits are in other countries.

Could be a good time to release that home studio released album.

3600 units does seem like an achievable benchmark...

...but who's buying albums these days?

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Interesting review of the statistics, and I'd be rounding off after a couple of decimal points, so in other words a care factor of pretty much zero.

But would be interesting to discover what the take-up of #1 hits are in other countries.

This is one comparison that's easy to monitor (updated every 5 minutes):

http://www.akamai.com/html/technology/nui/music/index.html

According to Akamai, on their servers in the last 5 minutes from posting this...

- Australia had 360 visits per minute to music-related sites

- North America had 16,560 visits per minute to music-related sites

So we're looking at 46 times the volume of traffic - interesting to see if that translates to sales (I doubt it)

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I would be very much interested in knowing the figures for The United States and The United Kingdom. Can anyone here furnish those figures?

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All I know is that the BPI (British Phonographic Industry) are forever stating that single and albums sales are dropping quite drastically. Due in part to illegal downloads.

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Its strange that sales of movie media are rising quite drastically, yet sales of music media are dropping equally drastically.

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^^^ DVDs are cheaper than CDs (god knows why, but makes music DVDs an absolute BARGAIN!!!) and I dare say they did the smart thing here and got with realistic prices before every man and the neighbour's dog is running 1000 megabit pipes of torrented filmage into the back of the standard family PC.

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It does seem that the only form of "physical media" that has increasing sales is Blu-ray. Singles are down, albums are down as are DVD sales. I wonder if torrent sites are to blame.

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Can anyone offer an explanation why Blu-ray sales continue to climb, despite digital downloads while music physical media sales are plummeting in favor of DD? What makes them so different?

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Blue Ray - my take:

- it's a relatively new product, with no comparative sale figures for any significant period of time, meaning that on launch day, if they'd only sold a single disc, it'd have been the highest, greatest days for Blue Ray sales(s) in history? How many units are they selling? Are they any significant quantity?

- The cashed up bogans (um, might be an Aussie phrase, um, can someone define it for the international audience?! :D ) are still blowing stupid money on big screen TVs which are bundled with Blue Ray DVD players for the 3D aspect, and the next step is to build up a small collection to make the entire package work?

- Blue Ray content hasn't massively hit the torrentz crewz as the file sizes are still too big for mass distribution on illegal file sharing markets?

- It has a catchy name and priced right so people flock to it?

Dunno really.

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