Friday, June 15, 2007

Declining Rap Music Sales Point to Disaster For Music Industry

USA Today reports:
Not long ago, rap dominated album sales charts. Now, the music that has been a driving creative and commercial force in American culture is struggling to get its swagger back.

The music industry is suffering across-the-board drops in CD sales, but rap is in a steeper slide: This year, rap sales are down 33% from 2006, twice the decline for the industry overall, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Five years ago, Eminem's album The Eminem Show was atop the Billboard chart, on its way to becoming the runaway best-selling album that year, with 7.6 million copies. Since then, no rap album has sold as well.

Established rap stars no longer are sure things in sales. During the past nine months, Jay-Z, Ludacris, Snoop Dogg, Diddy and Nas released albums, but only those by Jay-Z and Ludacris have sold at least 1 million copies in the USA, and only Diddy is still on the charts.

Rap's decline can be traced to a range of factors, including marketing strategies that have de-emphasized album sales in favor of selling less-lucrative single songs and short versions of those singles as ring tones for cellphones. But more important to the industry, there are signs that many music-buying Americans — particularly the young, largely white audience that can make a difference between modest and blockbuster sales — are tiring of rappers' emphasis on "gangsta" attitudes, explicit lyrics and tales of street life and conspicuous consumption.

Within the rap industry, there's a growing debate about whether years of rampant commercialism — Snoop Dogg now endorses Pony sneakers; 50 Cent peddles grape-flavored vitamin water — have drained credibility and creativity out of a once-vibrant genre of music. And there's concern that rap, also known as hip-hop, has reached an evolutionary plateau: After more than a quarter-century on the charts, it's no longer the radical newcomer.
Good luck to the music industry.