Monday, December 14, 2009

The Curious Case Of SuBo

Earlier in the month we had a post about how the CD was still a major part of the music business, despite all the gloom and doom that you read. Now we have the curious case of Susan Boyle to add to the mix.

If you've been living in a cave, Susan Boyle came to fame by turning an appearance on the the British version of American Idol into a viral video sensation, and that eventually turned into a major label record deal with Columbia. While not many in the industry gave her much of a chance for selling big numbers, here she is, selling CDs like it was 1999 again.

SuBo has defied the odds and sold a astounding (for 2009) 1.5 million of "I Dreamed A Dream" in 3 weeks since the CD's release in the US, and another 1 million in the UK. Sales forecasts predict it should hit at least two million in the US by the end of the year, and will probably be the biggest selling hit by a female artist this year. All in a little over a month!

SuBo wasn't the only one selling, with Andrea Bocelli's "My Christmas" nearing a million in sales after 3 weeks, as well as a host of more contemporary artists like Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood all selling more than a hundred thousand a week. Just to show you how significant these figures are, there were weeks during the year when the number one record sold around 50 to 60,000 units, so when multiple artists break 100k for several weeks in row, that's significant.

Does this mean that the CD business is coming back? No way, it's declining and will continue to do so, but perhaps at a slower rate than predicted. Sure, a lot of the sales (especially for SuBo) has to due with curiosity and seasonal buying patterns, but he takeaway here is not to take the CD lightly as a product just yet. Fans buy it for the same reason they ever did - as a souvenir, a measure of their fandom, or just a way to be cool. It doesn't matter what the reason, they still buy. And it's a fact that some demographics (like hip hop, metal, country and christian) buy a lot more than others since they're still somewhat adverse to digital music.

What this means is that in Music 3.0, artists at any success level have to be distribution agnostic and treat all music containers (either digital or a plastic shiny disc) as simply vessels that get their music out to the fans. You can't become attached to only one. They're all important.


Willem said...


Just a general thanks for the cool blog, and especially for your superb book i received in the mail today.

Bobby Owsinski said...

Thanks for the kind words, Willem.


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