Why is No One Buying Music? It's The Music Itself, Stupid!

Barry picked up on a New York Times article last night about how CD sales were down for the 8th time out of the past 9 years and album sales overall have declined by over 50% since the year 2000.  You can believe that this is because of downloads, but the reality, based on the article, is that even the growth of digital downloads is slowing precipitously.

I’m gonna do everyone in the record business a favor and explain why this is happening – your music sucks.

Let me qualify that…the music that record companies are the most heavily invested in promotionally does not lend itself to repeat listens, only ringtones.  That’s why no one needs to buy the albums.

2009 may have been the end of the worst decade for popular music ever.  A glance at the top five album sellers will prove my point:

• The best-selling artist of the 2000s was Eminem, selling 32.2 million albums;
• The Beatles’ were a close second, selling 30.2 million albums;
• Tim McGraw was the third-best-selling artist of the 2000s, with a total of 24.8 million; Toby Keith was 4th at ~24 million; and Britney Spears was No. 5, at just under 23 million.

Let’s recap:  Eminem, who is undeniably talented but hit-or-miss when not working with Dr Dre, deserves his slot, fine.  Britney?  Not an artist, more like a product of Hollywood management combined with Swedish pop songwriting and strategically-placed conversation-starter photos in Us Weekly.  Toby Keith merely captured a jingoistic zeitgeist because of the two wars we have been fighting, he is not half the artist (especially album-wise) that many of his country music peers are.  The Beatles disbanded in 1970, their appearance in the top 5 of the 00’s decade speaks volumes in terms of the lack of creativity and imagination in the modern music industry.  As for Tim McGraw, I don’t believe I can name a single song of his, chalk it up to my Yankeeness, so I have no comment (but his wife is really hot).

REPEAT: Britney sold 23 million albums this past decade.  You are all morons.

I would love to see someone do a chart of album sales versus the consolidation of the radio station business.  The correlation would probably show that as stations are assimilated by the Borg, the quality and diversity of music gets squished into a single, homogenized, mom-approved playlist which ends up hurting sales for virtually everyone.  The “iPod Shuffle” radio format may have saved Clear Channel a lot of money but it sucked the life out of the music world.

Were there good albums produced during the 00’s decade?  Of course, but you had to seek them out because they didn’t get the push that they should have gotten. 

It is a tragedy that more people didn’t buy Funeral by the Arcade Fire, or Yankee Hotel Foxtrot by Wilco, or Cease to Begin by Band of Horses, or Evil Urges by My Morning Jacket, or Fishscale by Ghostface Killah, or Transatlanticism by Deathcab for Cutie, or Guero by Beck, or Songs for Silverman by Ben Folds or Hip Hop is Dead by Nas, or Day I Forgot by Pete Yorn, or Welcome Interstate Managers by Fountains of Wayne, or Eye to the Telescope by KT Tunstall, or Electric Version by The New Pornographers, or Elephant by the White Stripes, or Chutes Too Narrow by The Shins, or Be by Common, or American Idiot by Green Day, or Employment by the Kaiser Chiefs, or Sumday by Grandaddy or Veni Vidi Vicious by The Hives, or …. (these are off the top of my head, there are many other albums from the decade that were masterpieces).

Instead, most of you bought Kelly Clarkson and Clay Aiken and the skinny blonde singer and that girl who wore a necktie and claimed to be a punk but performed in shopping malls and the fat dude with that lameass “Follow Me” song and the creepy Disney values-friendly boy band that probably gets with chicks 3 at a time behind the scenes and the skinny blonde singer that isn’t that skinny anymore and that ridiculous album where Kanye West becomes a singer and that even more ridiculous Eddie Murphy-esque album where Jamie Foxx thinks he’s a singer and that freaky chick with all the piercings and tattoos who ended up marrying her Jewish agent or attorney or something and that pig whose name is a color and that 3rd-string member of 50 Cent’s entourage and the rapper from St Louis who can be found in the dictionary under the word “Corny” and that dude who sings about surfing and doesn’t wear shoes and that kid who beat up Rihanna and the Songs from The OC soundtrack and that Fallout Boy atrocity and the skinny blonde singer who is not so skinny anymore’s little sister who was caught lipsynching on SNL and had all kinds of plastic surgery in the hopes that you would buy more of her albums (and it worked because omfg, you DID by more of her albums!) and …. you get the point.

That’s why the top album sellers of the decade were a fake pop product/trainwreck, a 60’s group with only two of four members still alive and a couple of cowboys.  Congratulations American Idol (and everyone who watches it), you succeeded in making everything suck.

Here are the gory details of the record industry, circa 2009:

CD Sales Continue Free Fall in 2009 (The Big Picture)

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