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Majors can outsell indies, but indies can turn a bigger profit!Here are some interesting facts and figures from digitalnews.com:

“According to the RIAA earlier this month, shipments of physical configurations to US retailers topped 705 million units in 2005, an 8.0 percent drop from the year earlier. And since peak year 2000, overall shipments have dipped a substantial 25.2 percent. Meanwhile, the digital story helped to soften the blow in 2005, contributing $1.074 billion to an overall $12.270 billion purse, creating a dip of just 0.6 percent year-over-year.�

“A total of 11,070 new releases from major labels during 2005, and 49,261 from independents. Of that combined total, just 32 new releases crossed the one million (platinum) mark, averaging 1.79 million units each. Furthermore, an additional 62 titles crossed the 500,000 (gold) mark, often a minimum break-even level for many releases.�

Why did independents release over 38,000 more records than major labels? Perhaps because they are only spending a fraction of the money. For an independently released album to compete on a major level it takes at least a $100k investment by the label. Majors will spend that much on shrimp cocktail at a signing party. Most indies, however, have little interest in competing in the mainstream and invest more along the lines of $50-75k. With an absolute minimum investment from a major label for an album being in the ballpark of $750k (not including salaries), it’s no wonder they are having such a difficult time breaking even. Indies can sell around 30k records and turn a profit, but if majors don’t hit the Gold or Platinum mark, it’s considered a failure due to the financial loss. With a major label staff making in a year roughly what an indie label would spend on putting out records through its entire existence, it really is no surprise that major labels are trimming down while indies are staffing up.

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The Idol EffectAmerican Idol has done more than subconsciously force the unwitting public to drink more Coke and buy Fords. The Idol phenomena has turned well over 30 million average citizens into somewhat informed music critics. Despite the boos and hisses at the notorious Simon Cowell’s comments, the public votes generally seem to echo his opinions, thankfully because if Paula Abdul were the barometer, American Idol would be similar to the Special Olympics where everyone gets a gold just for trying. Ignoring the irrelevant judge banter and disagreements, America has done a surprisingly good job of recognizing not only who can sing, but who has talent worthy of a career. By far one of the highest rated shows on television, American Idol has involved the public in the music business more intently than just purchasing albums. What probably started out as a ploy to push more records has somehow changed the public perception of singers and how we hear their music, introducing words like ‘pitchy,’ ‘off-key,’ ‘vocal tone’ and ‘performance quality’ into American vernacular alongside clear definitions and examples.

Kelly ClarksonThe most unexpected thing about American Idol is that the public selection tends to shy away from run-of-the-mill Barbie doll pop-tarts. Since it is genuinely a singing contest, lacking autotune and airbrushing, a contestant stands out purely on ability and personality. Season 1 winner, Kelly Clarkson, a chubby 20-something waitress from Texas took home 2 Grammy’s this year in the broadcast that had about half the viewership of the show that launched her career, proving that while they support their selections by buying the albums, the public interests are in selecting new talent. 2003 proved to be a good season for American Idol with heavy-set winner Ruben Studdard and effeminate country boy runner-up Clay Aiken, selling well over 5 million albums combined. 2004’s soulful songstress and single mother Fantasia Barrino has filled the gap in R&B, pun intended. Last year’s winner, Carrie Underwood, probably the most ‘Barbie’ finalist yet, took home a number of country music awards recently showing that she’s not just fittin’ in, but being respected in her chosen genre, although put there by a completely different demographic.

This year’s Idol is probably the most fascinating yet, with the finalists sharing little in common outside of a brilliant talent from a niche background. The average age of the remaining contestants is 24, with all of the remaining male contestants over the age of 25. The finalists are certainly unique, ranging from the classically trained beauty Katharine McPhee to the snaggle-toothed, diabetic, car mechanic with an inspired voice, Elliot Yamin. This year is also a first for rock music. Last year’s soft rockers, Bo Bice and Constantine Whateverhisnameis were embarrassing to rock fans, however this year Idol has struck gold with Chris Daughtry, who could have easily reached fame without the help of this show. Bumpkin Kellie Pickler, prodigy Paris Bennett, soulman Taylor Hicks and disturbingly pretty Ace Young round out the remainder, each putting their talents on display each week, despite the ‘theme’ curveballs that are thrown at them.

Elliott YaminIdol’s effect on the American music consumer is a significant one and one that should be paid attention to by anyone working within the industry. The public is learning how to hear music. They are being taught what is good and what is bad. They are figuring out who is worthy of their respect, and more importantly their money. To the surprise of many, age, background and physical attributes are playing little part in selection and support. Elliott, with his jacked up grill actually stands a better chance of winning than pretty-boy Ace Young for the simple fact that Elliott has an incredible voice and a ‘realness’ that Ace can’t touch. Husband and father, Chris Daughtry has been a fan favorite, simply because he is a better rock singer than half the artists currently on the rock charts. For A&Rs, I think this is interesting. Perhaps the public isn’t putting the same level of importance on the superficial attributes record labels have come to hold so dear. Idol gives the public the opportunity to see aspiring artists exactly as they are, flaws and all, and the public has been overwhelming in their support, pulling in around 35 million votes every week.

AJ, KOAR

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Both 80’s influenced pop acts Liam and Me and The Anix are creating some A&R curiosity. Three labels are flying to check out the hardcore supergroup The New Tragic. Lastly, much talked about Dan Friedman’s act Ludo should be closing on a deal soon as they will be performing at Don Hills (NYC) Monday, April 17th for Epic, Octone, Atlantic, and Jive. After breaking a 17 year Billboard record with their #1 modern rock song, 10 Years signs a worldwide publishing deal with Warner Chappell.

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KOAR higher learning artist Fair to Midland has signed with Serjical Strike records owned by Serj Tankian from System Of A Down. Meetings are currently happening with potential partners including Universal and Atlantic as both labels want to do business with the Serjical Strike and the band. Fair to Midland has been performing in the Dallas scene and built a solid fan base because they seperated themselves from the emo pop punk bands and carved their own path. For more information email Lawyer Ben Mclane.

Check out the track Dance of the Manatee (mp3) and The Walls of Jericho (mp3)

 

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James Blunt1,309,790 – Why? Wrote a big hit “Beautiful”, strong video rotation, embraced by press.

Nickelback2,595,415 – Everyone thought they were a one hit wonder. This also proves you don’t need to be friends with a hip crowd to sell a bucket - load of records.

Blue October33,991 – Good first week, story developing….

All American Rejects970,033 – Has the top 40 crowd. Good for the moment, but hard to follow up.

Hawthorne Heights267,722 – Why? paid TV spots rotating 24/7 on MTV and Fuse. Ab Roller TV spots that have similiar rotation have proven to sell as well. Brainwashing does sell records.

Yeah Yeah Yeah’s81,181 – Mainstream press gave the record a thumbs down, but critics don’t care about the quality of the product. If you submit to the too cool for school culture, they will peddle the product.

Avenged Sevenfold567,287 – Why? Strong video rotation and TRL. Press and MTV2 bought into the rock, the bling and grills. Since Rap and Hip Hop is driving cultural force, I guess the next obvious step is for rock bands to act like rappers. Like other bands, Avenged Sevenfold claim to be the next Metallica and Guns N Roses.  Gotta love the no shame approach!

Fallout Boy2,151,179 – Why? big budget and well directed video’s broke the band.

10 Years268,307 – Why? Strong radio airplay, word of mouth, relentless touring, mentions in celeb magazine US Weekly, and a controversial video that MTV was reluctant to play that contained real footage from amnesty international that included rape victims and sex slaves. You can watch the video here.

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