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Apples iTunes is still the #1 go to place for music buyers according to NPD. Below are the five leading music retailers in the U.S. for the first half of 2008.

1. iTunes
2. Wal-Mart
3. Best Buy
4. Amazon
5. Target

New Music/ Artist Happenings: KOAR favorite’s Lovers and Liars will be performing at Buzzfest 08 and will be preparing an announcement for release of a dual EP. Unsigned band Emphatic has been charting in the top 10 for the last 4 weeks on the Billboard West North Central Heatseekers chart.
The Arrival has new music on their myspace and will be heading out with Millionares, Brokencyde, and Hypercrush, check out the tracks Locked and Loaded and Is This What You Call Love.

Promotion Better Than Prevention? The debate of online piracy still continues to fuel music critics. Mark Cuban has an interesting piece called ‘Promotion works better than prevention‘. Cuban says the RIAA actually encouraged illegal downloading by explaining to everyone exactly where and how to steal music. He also says, “People with more time than money will steal content. They weren’t going to pay for it otherwise. People with a conscious will pay for the content. Fortunately that is most people.”

Disc Makers Buys CD Baby: Disc Makers buys CD Baby for $900 million. CD Baby will continue to operate as a separate company and founder Derek Sivers will act as a consultant.

A Message To Producers: Why are you producing new rock artists as if you were recording Neil Diamond? Soul and passion is missing in a lot of today’s music because of the homogenized sounds that are being recorded. Don’t believe me? Scroll down the pages on Smartpunk and Purevolume and you will experience wimpy guitars tones along with a whiny emo voice. Matchbox 20 and Jason Mraz offers a stronger sucker punch and that’s ashame.

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Embrace illegal Websites? Andrew Edgecliffe of the Financial Times says music industry ‘should embrace illegal websites’ because huge numbers of people downloaded it illegally even though the band allowed fans to pay little or nothing for it. Remember, purchasing the album on Radiohead’s was not easy which easily skewed the numbers. Economist Will Page says, “Human nature explains a good bit of the lead that Limewire has over iTunes.” “Piracy is popular because it’s popular and its easy to explain why one would choose free goods over expensive goods.”

The fact is Radiohead is one of the biggest bands in the world and to draw a conclusion based on a press stunt is irrational. Why are we talking about this still? Please, read this economic analysis (pdf) of Radiohead ‘In Rainbows’ prepared by Will Page, Chief Economist MCPS-PRS Alliance.

Metallica Releases New Record on Friday: The new Metallica album, “Death Magnetic,” will be released Friday Sept. 12 via Warner Bros. Traditionally, most records are released on Tuesday, but the group’s label claimed Friday was chosen to prevent pirated copies of “St. Anger” from entering the marketplace.

Warner Stock Crumbles: Warner Music fell the most in six months after the financial firm Goldman Sachs lowered third- quarter revenue and profit estimates for the music label and said the company will have a hard time increasing market share. Warner Music dropped 80 cents, or 9.7 percent, to $7.46.

Amazon To Take on iTunes: Amazon has overtaken competitors like Wal-Mart and Rhapsody to become the second biggest online store after iTunes, according to market research firm NPD. Sources tell Fortune that Amazon is in talks with MySpace to become the official download store when it rolls out its joint venture with Universal, Warner Music and SonyBMG in September. Sources say Amazon has a good chance of taking a decent size bit out of Apple’s iTunes.

Sony Takes Control of Bertelsmann: Sony bought Bertelsmann (Elvis, Oasis) in a deal valuing $2.4 billion.

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Reaching into their back catalog, new Universal signees Anberlin have re-recorded and will be releasing “The Feel Good Drag” as the first single from their major label debut, due out September 30. The track originally appeared on their 2005 album “Never Take Friendship Personal” (which has sold 150k albums to date). This decision is one that has been questioned by some fans who wonder why the band couldn’t just record a new song that is just as good, or better than this older track. We’ve seen this plan of action work most successfully with the Plain White T’s release of “Hey There Delilah”. Stephen Christian (Anberlin’s frontman) claims the band chose to re-record the song because they didn’t feel it received enough attention on their 2005 album. The question is, is this a good marketing decision? Does it merely come down to the strength of the song, or should questions of the label not having faith in a new song as a lead single be raised? Will it spark more interest in their older albums than the new one? Will Anberlin be the next Mae and see little success on a major?

Personally, I stand by the band and label’s decision to re-release this song as the first single because, in my opinion, it is the best song they’ve ever made and deserves a shot at mainstream radio. “The Feel Good Drag” impacts alternative radio on 8/19. Check out the clip here.

One-Hit Wonders: Maybe the aforementioned Plain White T’s should continue to reach back and grab some older tracks, because it does not sound like the new single will touch the success of ‘Delilah’, listen to “Natural Disaster” on their Myspace.

Young Buzz: With an appearance on TRL this past week, and the release of his new Yippee EP, the young Joplin, MO one-man-band Nevershoutnever! Is getting a lot of attention, and surely a good deal of friend requests. Makes me think of a younger version of Bryce Avery of the Rocket Summer.

Virginia emo pop/rock band My Favorite Highway should not remain unsigned for much longer after the release of the very strong “How To Call a Bluff”. This release puts recent major label releases from Forever The Sickest Kids, Metro Station & Cobra Starship to shame (which wasn’t too tough in the first place). Good songwriting, and plenty of radio ready tracks.

Tracks worth checking out:

People in Planes – “Mayday (M’aidez)”

The Morning Of – “Reverie” (here’s one the kids will love)

Innerpartysystem – “Don’t Stop” (There’s no excuse for this to not be a hit at alternative radio)

Shawn Fisher – Listen to original songs @ and watch an great cover of Augustana’s “Sweet and Low” here.

Soundcheck is written by Dallas who currently attends San Francisco State University and works on the Live 105 (KITS) Action Team.

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Live Nation To Rely On Major Music Labels? Live Nation is considering relying on record labels to promote their newly signed artists after paying mega-millions to Madonna, Jay-Z, Shakira and Nickelback. According to the New York Post, ‘Warner Music Group could end up handling the marketing, promotion and distribution of albums by the very acts that defected from it to join Live Nation: Nickelback and Madonna.’ Industry music veterans including Bob Ezrin, Bob Cahill and Bill Hein who were hired by Live Nation to work with the newly signed acts were all recently fired.

Bleeding To Death: Read the article published in Bloomberg titled ‘Guy Hands May Get No Satisfaction as Web Pirates Let EMI Bleed‘. The challenge is to overhaul the unit responsible for finding and hiring new talent and releasing their albums, because too many EMI artists never earn back their advances, says Guy Hands.

New Music: Briana Taylor recently landed on the Billboard Heatseekers chart. She appeared on the Real World and released her self-titled EP on Chamberlain Records. Check out the track Summertime and Tragic.

Sales: Kid Rock sold 92,000 copies this week of ‘Rock n Roll Jesus’ thanks to his megahit ‘All Summer Long’. This is the story of the year.

Although The Dark Knight movie is set to break records, no one seems to care about the soundtrack. The soundtrack sold 20k copies this week with a tally of 45k.

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Clear Channel Unveils Radio Network: Clear Channel will launch 900 online radio stations. The network will have the widest marketing reach in online radio which reaches an audience of 4.7 million.

Recommended Listening: Dear Child by Anthony Green. The record titled ‘Avalon’ will be released August 5th via Photo Finish Records.

New Music: Wherever I Stand by Taproot. This four-piece alternative metal group released 3 records via Atlantic Records. The new record titled ‘Our Long Road Home’ which was produced by Tim Patalan will be released independently through their management firm Velvet Hammer Music in a partnership with Sony -owned RED Distribution.

Best Buy to open in-store music centers: Best Buy will begin to sell musical instruments hoping to offset the lackluster sales of CDs and DVDs. Each site will use about 2,500 square feet of retail space and include roughly 1,000 different products with well-known brand names such as Fender, Gibson, Drum Workshop and Roland.

Warped Review: Check out the review of Vans Warped Tour published by The New York Times

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