Music business ends year on another weak note

Fri Dec 28, 2007 9:34pm EST
 
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By Ed Christman

NEW YORK (Billboard) - Just when it seemed erosion of music sales during the holiday season couldn't get worse, December snowstorms compounded the retail industry's misery.

Album sales for 2007 are now down 15.3% for the year, compared with 2006. But for the four weeks beginning with Thanksgiving week and ending December 26, U.S. album sales were down 20% to 84.2 million units from 105.3 million a year ago, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

The last week before Christmas didn't help matters much, with sales totaling 25.6 million vs. 31.3 million units in the same period last year.

The season got off on the wrong foot when Thanksgiving sales failed to ignite due to a lack of new hit titles, with retailers reporting anywhere from 5% to 15% comparable-store declines. And then Mother Nature blew in.

"It just makes things worse in one of those already bad holiday selling seasons," says Rob Perkins, president of Marietta, Ga., chain Value Music.

Snowstorms are to be expected at this time of the year, but a December 5 shooting in an Omaha mall "led everybody into a malaise for about a week," says Mike Fratt, who heads up the six-unit, Omaha, Neb.-based Homers chain.

In Brighton, Mass., Newbury Comics CEO Mike Dreese says sales were down 80% on December 16 -- a decline he attributes to snow and a New England Patriots game keeping people home.

Beyond the weather, a lack of big hits is grated on retailers' nerves. "I was astounded: There was no CD to give as a gift," Dreese says. "I have never seen that before."   Continued...

 
<p>A man looks at music CDs inside the Virgin Megastore in New York November 26, 2007. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton</p>