Rock troubadour John Hiatt welcomes music biz woes

Wed Jun 11, 2008 2:44pm EDT
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By Dean Goodman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - As the recorded music business seemingly careens toward oblivion, John Hiatt is standing on the sidelines having a good laugh.

It's not as if the singer-songwriter has been unscathed by the industry's decade-long capitulation to piracy. Each of his last three albums sold 30,000 copies less than the one before. His last release, 2005's "Master of Disaster," moved 78,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

But as he sagely pointed out during a recent breakfast, "I think I'm not the only one. I think we're doing OK."

That very day his 18th album, "Same Old Man" (New West Records), debuted at No. 84 on the U.S. pop chart after selling 8,100 copies, a modest drop of 6 percent from the opening round for "Master of Disaster."

The top slot went to R&B singer Usher, whose new album sold more copies in its first week than Hiatt's biggest album has sold in its lifetime. But Usher's sales were off 60 percent.

"An artist like myself, us old dogs who have an audience kinda feel like we're in the catbird seat because it's about the music again," said Hiatt, not exactly old at 55.

That's because the demise of the major labels allows independent record companies -- such as Los Angeles-based New West, Hiatt's home since 2003 -- to fill the breach. These nimble operations sometimes have longer attention spans than their lumbering, larger brethren.


<p>Musician John Hiatt is shown in this undated publicity photo released to Reuters June 9, 2008. Hiatt's18th album, "Same Old Man" debuted at No. 84 on the U.S. pop chart after selling 8,100 copies. REUTERES/New West Records/Handout</p>