This week's signs of the music industry's apocalypse: 1. The National had the highest selling debut album in the country this week, good for number three overall (behind Justin Beiber and Lady Antebellum). 2. This was the worst week for album sales since SoundScan started keeping track in 1991.
Q: Who is sadder than Matt Berniger, shown above being grave in the "Bloodbuzz Ohio" video? A: Record label executives.
For the record, 2010 has seen a number one album from Vampire Weekend, a number two album from MGMT, and now this. There's a sort of leveling of the playing field effect going on here -- big ticket albums from major labels are selling less and "indie" albums are selling more. Very simply, call it the equalizing power of the internet.
It's important to remember that, while the cracks in the system are now plainly visible, it's still standing. Those two albums ahead of High Violet? Those are the exact kind of album that should be performing well on the charts. Both Justin Bieber and Lady Antebellum are predictable major products, and both have been atop the chart on multiple occasions this year.
Sleigh Bells' Treats, which came out last week in digital form only, debuted at an impressive 39 on the chart. Of course, it sold 12,000 copies, which is basically one copy sold for every blog post written about the band.
To give you some perspective on what it means to be the 39th best-selling album on the worst week in SoundScan history, here's a few artists that charted ahead of Treats: Meat Loaf, MercyMe, Lady Gaga (twice), and something called 4TROOPS, which appears to be some sort of military-patriotism thing, but we can't tell for sure because there's no Wikipedia entry on the subject.
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The singles chart is less depressing thanks to Katy Perry, who released "California Gurls" last week, a song engineered specifically by people who can do this sort of thing to be a massive hit. It debuted at number two on the Hot 100 (which, remember, is a much better indication of what people are actually listening to than the album chart). And it would have been number one except that radio airplay is a pretty slow-moving mechanism. "California Gurls" is already the top-selling digital download in the country. Expect it to usurp Usher's forgettable "OMG" by next week and stay on top for a while.
B.o.B. is holding down the two spots behind "California Gurls," and that stupid unkillable Train song is all down to ten, so maybe that will finally be off the Top 10 next week.
In case you were curious, by the way, "California Gurls" is going to be stuck in your head for the next four months.