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Saturday, April 14, 2007

The Sad State of Jazz Album Sales

An article in the Wall Street Journal today speaks about the slump in Jazz sales in 2006. While classical and country music have increased, Jazz sales are slipping away, down from the paltry 3% of all album sales that it used to achieve. Once again, as they say every 5-10 years, "there are signs of rebirth" in the jazz music arena.
But let's take a look at the three albums that the WSJ says are notable new albums:
WYNTON MARSALIS: From the Plantation to the Penitentiary
Well, after a month of release, the newest album from the "King" of retro jazz cannot even muster 10,000 units sold. It used to be a jazz album that sold 50,000 was considered a "hit". Of course, the low sales might stem from the fact that Mr. Marsalis decided to "rap" on one of the cuts, or it could be that people are just tired of his pontificating.
MATHENY/MELDAU: Quartet
A jazz marketing dream, combining the new-aged ramblings of Pat Metheny with the just plain ramblings of Brad Meldau is bound to trigger album sales, enough that the record company has released this, their second collection. Don Heckman in his recent review of the concert here in LA by the quartet said: "it was easier to admire the virtuosity and inventiveness of both players than it was to feel any sense of involvement. Despite the firepower, the talent and the marquee names on the bill, this was a program in which — unlike Simon's "The Odd Couple" — the two disparate elements never found a fully engaging (and engaged) way to interact with each other."
See the complete review

KIM WATERS: You are My lady
Well, I dunno this guy, but he has put out 9 albums over the last 9 years, FOUR of which include the word "love" in the title (this falls into the "know your market" category of successful marketing). Sad to say, even here in the "smooth jazz" world the heat is off- after three weeks on the market Kim has sold 6,100 copies.

Now, I am not casting aspersions on anyone that can sell over 5000 albums in less than a month. But I do think that the sales of jazz music will continue to slip, as long as people continue to turn out formula-based albums. It is time to break out of the mold. Play the Coachella Music Festival, anyone?

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