Let the People Decide

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This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.

Last week two kingpins of the record industry left their longtime gigs and an era definitely ended for Sony Music. The Chairman Donnie Ienner and Chief Operating Officer Michelle Anthony had been the day-to-day leaders of the operation for many years. Last week, both abruptly resigned and it was announced that Rob Stringer would step in to pick up the slack. Mr. Stringer currently runs Sony's UK record label, and though he's the brother of Sony Electronics Chairman Sir Howard Stringer, Rob joined the organization years before his brother did.

The announcement came right on the heels of Sony's next big win, with the Dixie Chicks selling over half a million albums in the first week of their release. Out of the box, Taking The Long Way was not expected to sell so well at release. Following their high profile criticism of President Bush's involvement in Iraq back in 2003, The Dixie Chicks were virtually excommunicated from the church of country music. Many red state radio stations refused to play any songs by the group.

When the first two singles of Taking The Long Way were released this year, country radio had still not forgiven them and neither single broke the Top 30 in country airplay. So it's very impressive that the album debuted at # 1 on the Billboard Charts. To put it in perspective, The Dixie Chicks' new album sold 526,000 copies in a week. The #2 album sold 175,000. That's almost 3 times as much.

In other news, it turns out that sometimes radio listeners do get to choose what they want to hear. James Blunt's mega hit, You're Beautiful was recently banned by a UK radio station, due to overexposure. The Essex station asked listeners if they wanted the song off the air, and listeners responded overwhelmingly. And how did the artist feel about this? Mr. Blunt was not pleased.. At a recent awards show, he fired back, To the bastards who don't like my music, you're all adults. You can switch your radio off. Your Beautiful topped the charts in 25 countries and the respective album sold over 7 million copies.

And sometimes, a little self editing can be a beautiful thing. After nine weeks at #1 on the UK single sales chart, Gnarls Barkley single, Crazy, has finally moved to the #2 position, after it was announced that the single was being deleted, by none other than the duo themselves. By deleting the single, the song will no longer be available for sale as an individual track or CD. Crazy has been a massive hit there, and the band has enjoyed the very rare honor of having the top selling single, along with the top selling ringtone, and radio track.

Taking their place at the #1 slot this week is the do it yourself darling Sandi Thom. Ms. Thom made a name for herself streaming live webcasts from her apartment in South London. Supposedly, her online performances were generating over 100,000 viewers at a time. Based on the reports of those numbers and the strength of her music, BMG offered her a record deal. The ink was hardly dry when the amazing webcast numbers began to raise eyebrows. How could this unknown singer songwriter generate so much attention without anyone in the trade having heard her before? Though those audience numbers have now been challenged in the press, England clearly could care less. Sandi Thom's single, I Wish I Was a Punk Rocker is now at #1 on the singles sales chart there. So it turns out, any press is good press because the public really does decide what a hit single sounds like.

This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat on KCRW.