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Mika's stellar CD, Life In Cartoon Motion, had a solid first week...


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New CD releases dominate chart

But sales still feeling the pinch

By PHIL GALLO

 

The music industry used the tail end of the spring-break period to unleash a slew of releases, but it did little to reduce the 17% drop in album sales in the first quarter vs. a year earlier.

 

The top 10 for the week ended Sunday featured seven album debuts and 16 new titles in the top 50. And while the week-to-week result was an impressive 46% spike, the sales of new albums by veteran performers paled when compared with their previous efforts: Tim McGraw did half the business of his last studio effort; the latest "Now" compilation performed less well than the previous 11 editions of the series; and rock act Good Charlotte pulled in only about 30% of the audience it had the last time out.

 

Album sales for the first three months of 2007 were 117.1 million units, down from 140.4 million a year earlier.

 

Like so many of the numbers in the music business, for every negative there's a positive spin. The top 50 this week, for example, was up 35% from last week; compared with the same week last year, sales were down 15.4%. Overall album sales -- 9.1 million units -- were up only 4.7% from last week.

 

Digital continues to grow dramatically as a method of delivery. Some 218.6 million digital tracks have been sold so far this year, up 52% from the 144 million in the same period last year.

 

This year, Universal Music continues to dominate in music sales market share with 33.8%, while Sony BMG is just edging Warner Music Group 22.5% to 21.4%. (Warner's market share is its best in five years). EMI follows with 11.5%.

 

The last week of March has been a good launching pad for youth-oriented albums, capitalizing on vacation weeks and the fallow period that follows Valentine's Day in the new-release bins. Last year wasn't all that different from this year's stanza: There were five album debuts in the top 10, and Shakira's re-emerged "Oral Fixation Vol. 2" skyrocketed into the top 10 from No. 98.

 

This week's top 10 is led by Tim McGraw's "Let It Go" (Curb), which sold 325,000 copies in the week ended Sunday, according to Nielsen SoundScan. That total is less than half the 766,000 units his 2004 album "Live Like You Were Dying" moved in its opening week.

 

At No. 2, "Now! That's What I Call Music Vol. 24" sold 230,000 --the lowest debut sales week for a "Now" collection since "Vol. 13" sold 171,000 four years ago. And rapper Young Buck's second album, "Buck the World" (G-Unit/Interscope), sold 140,000, which is 121,000 fewer than its predecessor, 2004's "Straight Outta Ca$hville." Both discs debuted at No. 3.

 

EMI did have the biggest sales for any tyro act as Mims' "Music Is My Savior" (Capitol) sold 78,000 copies and opened at No. 4.

 

Good Charlotte's fourth album, "Good Morning Revival" (Daylight/Epic), settled in at No. 7, selling 66,000 copies, a distant cry from the 199,000 that "The Chronicles of Life and Death" moved in its first week three years ago.

 

Rocket/Island's collection of Elton John hits, "Rocket Man: Number Ones," sold 49,000 to lift off at No. 9. It is John's seventh hit collection; the last one, the two-CD "Greatest Hits 1970-2002," debuted at No. 12 on sales of 101,000.

 

Rounding out the top 10 was Jennifer Lopez's "Como Ama Una Mujer" (Epic), her first Spanish-language album, selling 48,000. The Epic set bowed at No. 1 on the Top Latin Albums and Top Latin Pop Albums charts as well. In 2005, her album "Rebirth" sold 261,000.

 

Next week, Lopez will appear on both episodes of "American Idol"; last week's "Idol" coach, Gwen Stefani, saw her "Sweet Escape" enjoy a 60% sales spike, selling 42,000 copies and rising 10 slots to No. 15.

 

Redman's "Red Gone Wild" (Def Jam) sold 44,000 to open at No. 13; Lil' Flip's "I Need Mine" (Asylum/Warner Bros.) was a slot lower on sales of 43,000.

 

"Crystal Visions: The Very Best of Stevie Nicks" (Reprise) sold 34,000 copies to debut at No. 20. "Disneymania 5," which features acts such as Miley Cyrus and Jordan Pruitt singing tunes from Disney's animation pic catalog, sold 30,000 (No. 27), as did "Life in Cartoon Motion" (Geffen) by Mika, the Brit singer compared favorably to Freddie Mercury (No. 29).

 

Debuts lining up at Nos. 32-34 were the Prodigy's "Return of the Mac" (Koch), 27,000; Alabama's "Songs of Inspiration Vol. II" (RCA), 26,000; and Jack Ingram's "This is It" (Big Machine), also 26,000.

 

Macy Gray's "Big" (Geffen/will.i.am music) sold 23,000 (No. 39), and the Kaiser Chiefs' second disc, "Yours Truly Angry Mob" (Universal), sold 17,000 (No. 45).

 

---

CW.

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