The Norah Jones Phenomenon

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This is Celia Hirschman with On The Beat for KCRW.

The record business is breathing a huge sigh of relief this month. Valentines Day has always been a very important sales period; in fact, it's considered the second most significant holiday for music sales following Christmas. But this year, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences held their Grammy award show 6 days before Valentines Day, and the one-two punch of events sent music sales off the charts. It's been a long time since we've seen this kind of return to business!

The big news is that Norah Jones released her second CD, &quotFeels; Like Home" during that week. The album generated over a million sales around the country. It sold more records in a week, than any other artists since NSYNC's &quotCelebrity;" in June 2001.

And it was a big win for the industry. Have a massive hit in stores created a ripple effect throughout retail.

While picking up the new Norah Jones, hundreds of thousands of consumers picked up new albums from Kenny Chesney, Harry Connick Jr, Josh Groban, Beyonce, Sheryl Crow and Melissa Etheridge among others. For the first time in a very long time, the Top 10 selling records all sold over 100,000 copies each during that week.

The hit was also felt around the world. Norah Jones is on Blue Note records which is owned by EMI. When her first album, &quotCome; Away With Me", began to show enormous potential, Chairman Alain Levy announced EMI would make her a worldwide priority for their staff. The record went on to sell 17 million copies, with 8 million sold just in the US. And now, with record 2, there looks to be a continuation of that extraordinary trend. Not only did the US chart her second album at #1 out of the box, but the UK, France, Norway, Denmark, Austria, Canada, Italy and many other territories also reported #1 chart positions for the singers' second album in the last week.

And it was a very big marketing win for new artists everywhere. Norah Jones is only releasing her second album. Selling big on record 1 and having an out of the box success on record 2 is extremely rare, particularly for a singer songwriter. In fact, record 2 is so often cursed in the business, that when it doesn't sell, the industry has a term for it - it's called the &quotsophomore; slump&quot.; But there's no sophomore slump for Norah Jones, proving that anything is possible in today's market.

The public clearly connects with Norah Jones, and there's no question that she's talented, hardworking and lucky. But that's not all. She's also fortunate to be signed to a sophisticated label like Blue Note. You see, her last record barely received attention from Top 40 radio, and there are no plans to release a single from the new album at that format.

Now at this point in the strategy, most record labels would have contrived ways to help her top sales on the new record, with overblown imaging, over exposure and over hype. Instead, Blue Note has wisely chosen to keep her imaging and marketing in perspective, focusing on the singer and her voice.

It's a very real and down to earth approach for a multi platinum selling artist and one that other labels might take note of. Norah Jones is a treasure and the labels' instinct to protect her, will no doubt keep her in the good graces of the American public for years to come.

This is Celia Hirschman with On The Beat for KCRW.