Album Sales Down, But Hard Rock Rebounds

July 21, 2003

Edna Gundersen of USA Today is reporting that "hard rock took a hard fall in recent years, but the embattled genre may be climbing the comeback trail.

"Album sales, down 8.3% from a year ago and certain to register a third year of decline, vary from genre to genre, with jazz and Latin music posting significant gains this year against the backsliding subdivisions of rap, country, R&B, gospel and New Age.

"Only the 'hard music' sector, which encompasses heavy metal and aggressive-leaning rock, showed a staggering upswing. Sales soared 232% over the first half of 2002, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Consumers have snapped up 36.2 million hard-rock albums this year, compared with 10.9 million in the same period last year. Though the segment represents a small fraction of overall album sales in the same six-month spans (296.5 million in 2003, 322.9 million in 2002),the growth signals a robust rebound for rock, which dwindled after the grunge boom fizzled and bubblegum invaded.

" 'An active year for rock is not a huge shock,' says Geoff Mayfield, director of charts at Billboard. 'Rock cycles in and out.'

"In a recent report on the hard-music category, Billboard discovered a strong rock resurgence in the second quarter of 2003:

* In seven of 11 chart weeks from April 12 to June 21, rock titles topped Billboard's album chart. In all of 2002, rock led the pack only six weeks.

* The most recent drought ended when LINKIN PARK's "Meteora" opened at No. 1 with 810,000 copies in April, the year's third-highest sales week.

* During the second quarter, seven of nine records that arrived in the chart's top three rungs were rock.

"Young bands such as GODSMACK and STAIND helped push totals higher, but rock also got a boost from veteran METALLICA and pioneer LED ZEPPELIN.

"Some of rock's recovery can be attributed to 'the maturation of kids who were into teen pop,' Mayfield says. 'But some of the rock acts succeeding now have an older fan base.' "

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