Rock rules, but pop looks pooped

Genre's album sales rep nearly a quarter of U.S. music

NEW YORK — Rock ‘n’ roll continued to rule music fans’ hearts — and wallets — last year, but rap and hip-hop pushed out pop music as record buyers’ second-favorite genre, according to a consumer profile release Thursday by the Recording Industry Assn. of America.

Sales of rock records repped nearly a quarter of the entire music market in the U.S. last year — that’s more than double the share claimed by the nearest competitor, but still down from the genre’s apex in 1994, when it owned more than 35% of all domestic sales.

Critics and industry insiders have been hailing the renaissance of the genre for more than a year now, pointing to such multiplatinum mainstream rock acts as Creed and Linkin Park, as well as up-and-coming bands like the Strokes and the White Stripes.

Rap and hip-hop releases grabbed almost 14% of the market in 2002, up from around 11% the year before. And coming up just behind in third was its sister genre, R&B/urban, which tempted about 11% of last year’s record buyers.

Country music edged a place higher to fourth, with 10.7%, while pop — the former silver medallist — sank back to fifth with just a 9% share. Sales of many of the genre’s biggest superstars failed to pan out as they had in prior years.

Older auds tune in

In other data, kids and young adults aged 15 to 24 continued to be among the industry’s most important clients, repping almost 25% of all record sales in 2002. But in a nod to surprise blockbusters like Norah Jones’ jazzy debut “Come Away With Me,” record buyers aged 45 and older expanded their influence, rising from 23.7% to 25.5% of all buyers.

And so-called mass-merchant retailers continued to steal share from specialty music sellers in 2002. The mass merchants repped more than half of all sales for the year — up from 42.4% — while music stores sank by almost six percentage points to 36.8%.

Survey was commissioned by the RIAA from data-analysis firm Peter Hart Research.