Xmas surge sweet music

A massive surge at Christmas has lifted music industry sales for 1992 an estimated 10.9% over all of 1991, according to a survey released last week by Macey Lipman Marketing.

The Los Angeles firm’s 10th annual “State of the Business” report is based on phone calls placed on Dec. 28 to chain store main offices and branches, independent retailers, rackjobbers and one-stops representing more than 8,000 accounts, according to MLM.

The survey does not offer hard statistics and backs away from any claims of scientific validity, preferring to be known as “a collective voice from retail-land.”

But in years past the survey has served as an accurate bellwether of industry activity months before the official Recording Industry Assn. of America certification of yearly sales is issued in April.

Approximately 77% of MLM’s surveyed accounts said business was up from last year, with 60% claiming multiple purchases by customers increased in the last year.

Alternative, pop and country music were cited as the big sellers during the Christmas season, thanks to the continued chart strength of Pearl Jam, Nirvana and Soundgarden in alternative music and country’s Garth Brooks and Billy Ray Cyrus. Holiday-themed albums by Amy Grant and Neil Diamond and the charity compilation “A Very Special Christmas II” were the leaders in that category of music.

Boxed sets of works by Bob Marley, Journey, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd also did well, the last being especially notable due to its hefty $ 151.98 list price. The survey estimated 26 new boxed sets joined the market this year.

Donnie Coleman, VP of marketing/research at Macey Lipman Marketing, said, “Most respondents noticed a general optimism among consumers concerning the economy, even though 60% of retailers surveyed feel the recession did adversely impact sales this year.

“Retailers also noticed increased competition in general, particularly from major national chains.”

The survey also touched on several music industry hot buttons of the moment in its calls to retailers.

MLM found that stores selling used compact discs did well, but those retailers that did not carry used product reported no siphoning of customers from those that did, citing perceptions that stores carrying used product cater to a different breed of customer.

However, the survey noted, “Many stores are contemplating entering the used CD arena, and several are waiting to see if the labels will retaliate against those who have started to sell them.”

Music video sales did well in the fourth quarter, spurred by Metallica’s “A Year and a Half in the Life of Metallica” (Vols. I & II) and new video from Guns N’ Roses.

A total of 89% of surveyed stores carried video product, with 615 of that total reporting sales were up.

The survey also noted that 39% of stores were carrying laser discs, with many expressing optimism for the future of that format.

Also available at 40% of the surveyed outlets were either one or both of the new digital compact cassettes or minidiscs, with the latter having greater penetration so far.

However, 27% of the surveyed accounts were not planning on carrying the formats until consumer demand warrants.

MLM also asked accounts which television outlets seem to spur sales when an artist makes a guest appearance.

As expected, MTV and VH-1 topped the list, followed by “The Arsenio Hall Show ,””Saturday Night Live,””The Tonight Show,””Late Night With David Letterman,” BET, CMT, TNN, local cable shows and independent broadcasts and the Box.

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