Bette and Boomers Buoy Struggling Record Industry

Boomers Buoy Struggling Record Industry
Published: November 2, 2003

Thank you Cris!!!:-)

Beyoncé Knowles and 50 Cent have two of the best-selling albums so far this
year. Nonetheless, when Borders Books & Music recently redesigned the
layouts of the music sections in its more than 420 superstores, the CD’s
from these and other young hit-makers were booted from prime browsing
display space in favor of albums from the likes of Rod Stewart, Sting and
Barbra Streisand.

The rearranging proved prescient, as the release of the latest Billboard top

200 albums chart demonstrated. While Clay Aiken, runner-up in the most
recent “American Idol” contest and no hipster himself, took the top spot
with his debut album, “Measure of a Man,” Mr. Stewart finished second with
“As Time Goes By: The Great American Songbook Vol. II.”

New releases from Ms. Streisand and the Eagles also landed in the Top 10.
All told, artists over the age of 40, like Bette Midler, Van Morrison,
Michael McDonald and Simon and Garfunkel, held 11 of the top 50 spots in the

Billboard chart. In the same week last year, 7 baby boomers finished in the
Top 50.
The growing success of albums by older artists — and of singers like Norah
Jones, who appeal to less cutting-edge tastes — offers some solace to an
industry mired in a three-year sales slump. Record executives are desperate
for any hopeful sign, even if it comes from people with more wrinkles than

The record labels have placed most of the blame for the decline on the
file-sharing networks on the Internet, and have sued or threatened to sue
hundreds of people for illegally distributing free music online.

But the older audience, typically more affluent consumers who grew up buying

their music on vinyl LP’s, seldom uses the free file-sharing sites,
according to Forrester Research. And because they account for a growing
segment of the record-buying public, labels are increasingly tailoring their

releases and their marketing, particularly on television, to reach them.

“Adults like music, too, and they’re underserved,” said Will Botwin, the
president of Sony Music Entertainment’s Columbia Records, which released the

albums by Ms. Streisand and Ms. Midler. “And they’re starting to get

It’s not as if the historically strong youth market is melting away. The
biggest-selling album of the year is expected to be the rapper 50 Cent’s
“Get Rich or Die Tryin’,” according to Geoff Mayfield, Billboard’s director
of charts.

But adult buyers are increasingly making their presence known in the
industry. Last year, shoppers over the age of 40, who tend to gravitate to
graying artists, bought more than 35 percent of all units sold, according to

the Recording Industry Association of America. Ten years ago, they accounted

for 22.6 percent of all sales.

Some of the sales spurt can be attributed to a staple of the music industry:

the never-ending repackaging of golden oldies. The Eagles have already
released two volumes of greatest hits, not to mention a boxed set. But that
did not stop Time Warner’s Warner Strategic Marketing label from releasing a

double CD of “The Very Best Of” on Oct. 23. The album sold 162,000 copies,
and finished third in its first week on the charts.

Elvis Presley’s “Elvis: 2nd to None” and “The Essential Simon & Garfunkel”
also made strong showings on the chart. But shoppers are also buying albums
of vintage stars recording tried-and-true songs. Mr. Stewart, a long way
from his “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy” days, now croons classics like “As Time Goes

By” and “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” (a duet with Cher), and sold
212,000 copies of his new album in the first week. (His 2002 volume of
standards leapt from 95 to 46 on this week’s chart and has sold 1.8 million
copies so far.) Ms. Streisand’s “The Movie Album,” Mr. McDonald’s “Motown”
and “Bette Midler Sings the Rosemary Clooney Songbook” also follow the

“It is a voice matched with material where they know every song on the
album, they are well-chosen, and there is a chemistry and magic that is
appealing to the public,” said Clive Davis, chairman of BMG’s RCA Music
Group, whose J Records label produced both of Mr. Stewart’s collections.

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