Three Other Reasons Why Sales Of Old Records Are Outpacing Sales Of New Ones

The top three catalog albums of 2012 so far. (Whitney Houston's Whitney The Greatest Hits is No. 1.)
This week the news came out that sales of catalog albums outpaced those of new records during the first six months of 2012. Current (less than 18 months old) albums sold 73.9 million copies between January 2 and June 1, down from 82.8 million in the first six months of 2011; catalog albums sold 76.6 million copies, up from 72.6 million over last year's first half. My Seattle Weekly colleague Chris Kornelis went in-depth about how pricing of new releases vs. catalog titles helped create this scenario; deep discounting of certain older albums, in both physical and digital form, certainly makes the prospect of buying them more alluring to those people who simply want to add something, anything to their libraries. There's also the simple fact that there are simply more albums by well-known artists in the "catalog" side of things, not to mention the corollary that labels are getting more savvy about exploiting their vaults. (Hey, it saves money on recording!) But there are a few other factors at play that involve how people discover music in 2012, and they run the gamut from radio to the iTunes Store to the shelves at Target.

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100 & Single: Remembering Whitney Houston's Reign As Queen Of The Pop Charts

Let's ignore the uncanny timing of Whitney Houston passing the night before the Grammys, a showcase for music royalty conceived to honor pop queens like her. A better measure of Houston's legacy is sitting right on top of Billboard's two flagship charts the very week of her untimely death.

Taking over No. 1 on the Hot 100, with her latest hit "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)," is Kelly Clarkson, a singer who has not only covered songs made famous by Houston—Clarkson's very career, launched a decade ago on American Idol, is the product of a big-voiced-diva culture Houston essentially codified.

Clarkson's single steals the penthouse from "Set Fire to the Rain," the latest hit by Adele. But the latter, no slouch in the big-voices department herself, held the top of the Billboard 200 album chart with 21 even before her six-award Grammy sweep last night. This is Adele's 19th week atop the U.S. album list, which, in the 21 years that Soundscan data has governed the Billboard charts, is the second-longest run on top by any title. The album 21 still falls shy of, however, is the Whitney-led The Bodyguard soundtrack, which held the top of the chart for 20 weeks in 1992 and 1993, powered by Houston's cover of Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You."

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Radio Hits One: The Elusive Superstar Duet (Or Three-Way)


In last week's breakdown of Lil Wayne's chart ubiquity, I noted that while Lady Gaga's Born This Way and its singles seemed to be everywhere, she hasn't staked out much additional Billboard territory with collaborations. Her only charting collab of late is "3-Way (The Golden Rule)," a little orgy-themed ditty with The Lonely Island and Justin TImberlake that debuted on Saturday Night Live's season finale last month. The episode aired after the release of the Lonely Island's latest album, so the song was thrown out as an iTunes single and spent a week at No. 3 on the Bubbling Under Hot 100 chart (which charts songs that haven't yet made the big singles chart, but are just scraping its bottom). "3-Way," like previous Lonely Island/Timberlake viral hits "Dick In A Box" and "Motherlover," is a catchy R&B tune full of dirty jokes. But it's also an opportunity for two of the world's biggest pop stars to make a song together while shrugging off the kind of expectations that would ordinarily accompany such a high-profile duet.

Pop music may be more collaborative than ever, but that's almost entirely due to hip-hop. The nature of its loop-driven production style and the traditions of posse cuts and guest verses have made it all too easy to cut and paste 16 bars of one rapper into another MC's song, or use a rapper's verse as a bridge in a pop song, or let a pop singer belt out the hook for the rapper's radio-friendly single. As hip hop's influence has seeped into almost every corner of the pop charts, it's become increasingly rare to find two pop stars simply singing a song together.

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Jay-Z Is Still Very Much #1; Whitney Takes #2; Kid Cudi Breaks 100K

Still news in 2009, even when we're talking about a Jay-Z record: The Blueprint 3 is almost definitely going platinum. After selling close to 500K his first week out, Jay-Z sold something in the ballpark of 300K this week, good for an easy encore at the top of the charts. That means Blueprint 3 is gold now and will likely be platinum by this time next week. He's made himself so easy to love! In other chart news, Whitney Houston held onto the #2 spot, selling around 160K copies of I Look To You, just good enough to knock off Muse and Kid Cudi, whose charmless Man on the Moon debuted at 4,000 records above the 100K mark. Now if only someone could explain to us what this whole "rap music" thing is about. [Singers Room]

Whitney Houston's I Look to You Cruises to #1

Whitney Houston, the wayward songstress whose I Look To You-fueled comeback is chronicled this in this week's Voice, just sold a tremendous amount of records. Her 304,801 opening week is her best ever and easily good enough for a Number One chart spot this week, where it will present a ripe target for The Blueprint 3 to annihilate by this time next week. Still, take that GMA haters! Darkness into light!

Whitney Houston Can Still Dominate Central Park, If Not the Charts

I Look To You, the post-crack-allegations, post-Bobby, post-reality-TV "comeback album" by Whitney Houston, is out today, and she's in Central Park at the moment, packing em in for Good Morning America. The crowd there seems split between surprise at the crowd Whitney still draws ("On line for Whitney Houston at Central Park...and it's like 2 miles strong!!"; "Don't these people have jobs?") and pure uncritical ecstasy ("At GMA Whitney Houston concert in Central Park. Crowd is going crazy and she is not even on stage"). The fact that her voice now sounds like that of one of Marge Simpson's sisters is evidently not a problem. How are things going, mid-performance? "So far whitney houston is perfoprming like I never left I look 2 u and my love is ur luv!!" Get em Whitney!