Meeting the Market

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This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.

America's economic belt tightening is nothing new to the record industry. We've seen revenues consistently recede for the last ten years.

So, it was a little stunning to read that the Chairman of Atlantic Records announced they'd sold more digital downloads than physical CD's, a first for any major label.

It would be an important milestone to celebrate, if it were relevant. Atlantic Records downloading sales may be growing in numbers, but the overall money generated is a mere fraction of CD sales. A CD generates about $10 in income for a label and a download sale generates 70¢. Do the math and then ask yourself why Atlantic is issuing press releases.

The record industry won't be pounding the doors of Congress for their bail out, so artists will have to adapt to meet consumers, wherever they may be.

A shinning example of meeting the market is Beyonce's latest ad for DirecTV. She basically sells the TV system with her body. Beyonce is no stranger to product endorsements, having made commercials for L'Oreal, Pepsi, Giorgio Armani, Got Milk, American Express and others. Who needs radio airplay when you've got millions of viewers on national television everyday? How well is the strategy working? Her new album, I Am Sasha Fierce went Number One last week on the Billboard charts. It's her third Number-One debut.

And speaking of chart debuts, Geffen Records can't be happy about the sales of the new Guns N' Roses album. The long awaited album, titled Chinese Democracy placed Number Three on the Billboard charts with only 261,000 records sold. Imagine this math: If you spent $13 million making a record, and it took 14 years to release it, with inflation, maybe Geffen will recoup in another decade or so.

Meanwhile, Kanye West debuted at Number One with his new album. The record sold 450,000 copies in the first week, and it was his fourth album in four years. His recent visibility includes performances on the MTV Awards and the American Music Awards.

And debuting on the Billboard charts at Number Six is The Killers, whose new album, titled Day & Age is garnering rave reviews from the UK.

Blockbusters always flood the market during the Holiday season. Next week, look for the new Britney Spears album, Circus to hit the charts at Number One. It's the sixth album for the 27-year old. Britney has sold an estimated 83 million records around the world.

And finally, if you haven't seen the film Slumdog Millionaire yet, I highly recommend it. In addition to being a wonderful movie, the music is by Indian composer A.R. Rahman, who Time Magazine calls the "Mozart of Madras." Mr. Rahman has sold over 100 million records of his film scores and soundtracks. He collaborated with recording artist M.I.A. on much of the album and the music will have you dancing in your seats. The soundtrack releases December 23.

This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.