bestnom1000x50

By the numbers



LISTEN: Nickelback, "How You Remind Me of Somebody" (mp3, via Nintendorks)

Every now and again, like after we re-read Hit Men for the umpteenth-millionth time -- because it's The Godfather of music-biz books -- we wonder if there are really people who talk like Walter Yetnikoff anymore. Like, aren't all the new guys just a bunch of numbers-crunching, pencil-pushing hacks? Invariably, this train of thought leads us to find out if guys like Bob Lefsetz are still publishing their industry-insider newsletters, those remnants of the pre-fax era poured over by radio programmers and aging maje-label marketing chiefs. These are people who argue, in all seriousness, about whether Nickelback are the next the Guess Who . . . where "being the next the Guess Who" is supposed to be a good thing. Not long ago, Lefsetz set off a shitstorm by -- hold on to your hats -- taking a potshot at Nickelback's sales figures. And when the label fired back, he called them (Ooh!Ooh!) a "joke". (Then he really hit below the belt by making reference to the mp3 listed above, a left-channel/right-channel marriage of Nickelback's two hits. It isn't even really a mashup, it's just irrefutable proof that they wrote the same song twice.) In an excerpt from a larger deluge, here's what one Roadrunner bigwig emailed back. It's presented as an anthropological exhibit, a rare glimpse of Recordus Executivus caught in his natural habitat:

Bob,

In answer to your lazy pun and flawed analysis regarding Nickelback's current sales trajectory, I'm surprised that I am the one to inform you of the following: Superstar releases street big, and generally decrease from there. Of these releases, the records that find traction fall more slowly and eventually find a level. While I thought this was common knowledge in the industry (especially within the self-styled industry pundit/journalist contingent), it's clear from this email that you've confused Nickelback with any number of less-buzzing artists. Let's look at the numbers:

Week one:Nickelback's "All the Right Reasons" was the #1 album when it debuted, selling 325,000 units. That's more copies sold in a debut week than the vast majority of #1 artists in 2005 - only 50 Cent, The Game, Kanye, Coldplay, DMB, Mariah, System, R Kelly, and Faith Hill sold more in their debut week. Nickelback's debut outsold Green Day ('04 debut), Foo Fighters, Audioslave, Rob Thomas, Springsteen, Hillary Duff, and every other record of 2005. The debut number is also 125,000 more units than their previous album's first week.

Week two: The album drops from #1 to #2 with a 48% decrease in sales, selling 170,000. The only artists who saw better percentage drops in their second week were 50 Cent at 32% and Mariah Carey at 44%. Of the artists listed in week one that had bigger first weeks than Nickelback, all others saw their sales drop more sharply than Nickelback in week two.

Week three:Nickelback had a 23% drop to #4 on the chart with 131,000 units. The 2005 average drop for #1 album in it's third week is 35%, and Nickelback had the fourth lightest third week drop of all the #1 artists of the year. The titles with lighter drops in their third weeks were Kenny Chesney at 18%, Mariah Carey at 13%, Rob Thomas at 14%, and Nickelback's figure tied with Hilary Duff. Out of these artists, raw-numbers wise, Nickelback still outscanned Thomas and Duff in their third week.

Week four (this week):Nickelback's percentage drop is 21%, to 101,000 units, which drives the! m back up to #2 on the chart. Average fourth week drop among all #1 debuts was 23%, and in their fourth week Nickelback scanned 72% more than R Kelly, 17% more than System of a Down, and 34% more than DMB did in their fourth week. Significantly, Nickelback stays in the Top 5 for their fourth consecutive week, which makes them one of only 5 artists to achieve this in 2005. The other artists in that superstar group are 50 Cent, The Game, Mariah Carey, Coldplay, & Kanye West.

Nickelback's new record has already passed some of the biggest records of the year in four week cumulative sales, and based on it's continued climb on the radio charts (currently the Track America chart #3 song in the country) and corresponding sales, it will pass a good many more in week-to-week comparisons in the coming months, and in total end-of-the-day sales.

If you're looking for evidence of superstar artists that street strong and fall off quickly, take your pick from many of the names listed above. If the subtext of your comment is "record labels are churning out one-hit wonders and not developing artists!", again look elsewhere. Over six years, Nickelback has developed from an indie rock band in a van touring through the Canadian winter, to one of the biggest rock bands in the world, through repeated and consistent success. Ill-informed cheap shots aside, you might find something to respect in that.

Sincerely,
Bob Johnsen
Senior Director of Marketing
Roadrunner Records
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