Music biz out of sync

Album and concert sales no longer in harmony

The old rule of the music biz used to be that record sales drive concert sales, and vice versa.

But its tough these days to find an act that can deliver robust album sales and move concert tickets.

Apart from Justin Timberlake — whose “Futuresex/LoveSounds” is the seventh highest selling album of the year (998,000 copies) and whose tour is No. 2 on the concert chart ($42.3 million gross) — few acts placed prominently on both mid-year tallies.

Concert promoters will say its nothing new, but for more than a decade they’ve fretted about the paucity of artists with staying power as arena or even stadium acts.

The concert biz has been suffering since the 1990s, when hip-hop acts that didn’t tour displaced rock acts on the music sales charts. With each wave of a rock re-emergence, concert promoters cross their fingers that it will mean a return to the days of bands working the road as part of an effort to sell records.

Besides Timberlake, only 12 acts appear on Nielsen SoundScan’s year-to-date top 50 in album sales and on Pollstar’s top 50 in concert ticket sales. There is not a single hip-hop act or R&B performer on Pollstar’s top-selling concerts list; in the Nielsen Soundscan top 50 of single-artist albums, 13 are in those two genres.

Differences between the two January-July tallies also make clear that acts that do tour are not doing so in conjunction with the release of an album. And the ones that are may only be able to fill moderate-sized venues.

Maroon 5, which could sell 2 million copies of late-May release “It Won’t Be Soon Before Long,” won’t tour the States until the end of September. If the band doesn’t register a second hit from the album by then, it’s likely the album will stall at about 15,000 disc sales per week, hit a cume of 1.5 million and promoter Live Nation may have considerable ticket inventory on its hands.

On the other side of the equation, Toby Keith is booked solid through Sept. 29 and should make the year-end list of top-grossing concert tours. But his album “Big Dog Daddy” will need to keep showing legs to get into the upper reaches of the year-end SoundScan chart. Disc opened at No. 1, selling 204,000 copies, and in the three weeks that followed sold another 155,000. A good rule for most albums is that they should be able to sell in four weeks the same number of albums sold in their debut session. Kelly Clarkson had planned to promote her album “My December” with an arena tour that would begin a month after the album’s release. But ticket sales started out slow, she fired her manager and the tour was canceled — all prior to the June release of “My December.”

One former member of Clarkson’s camp says she would have needed a hit single or two to sell out arenas and that too many of her advisers were ignoring the fact that she had only sold 60%-70% capacity on her previous tour, one that accompanied her multimillion-selling second album.

On paper at least, Tim McGraw, Nickelback, Gwen Stefani, John Mayer, Josh Groban and Red Hot Chili Peppers appear to be striking a better balance in terms of drawing income from both ticket and music sales. McGraw, for example, has sold 883,000 copies of “Let It Go” and pulled in $23 million on the road doing shows with wife Faith Hill. Stefani’s “Sweet Escape” has sold 734,000 copies and her concert gross has hit $24 million.

It is highly likely that seven of the first half of the year’s top 10 concert attractions — Rod Stewart, the Police, Celine Dion, Roger Waters, Christina Aguilera, Eric Clapton and Groban — won’t crack the year-end top 10 in album sales.

Similarly, prospects are not good for the top mid-year music sellers to catch up on the concert sales roster. The year’s music top seller, Daughtry, is opening shows for Nickelback and playing state fairgrounds through early November. No. 2 CD seller Norah Jones was looking at empty seats when she played the 5,700-capacity Greek in L.A. earlier this summer and is spending the next month and half in Europe.

Linkin Park could work its way onto the concert list — the group is at No. 4 in music sales — with its July 25-Sept. 3 North American tour of large venues.

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