Album Race Still Too Close to Call

French Suggest Tax Breaks to Labels for Production Costs

Cumulus Puts a Kibosh on Announcing Playlist Adds to Trades

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Reprinted with permission from Hits Magazine

January 24, 2006

As we head into the final stretch of the HITS Album chart race, Mary J. Blige and Jamie Foxx are still neck-and-neck for the #1 spot, which is too close to call at this point, according to our crack retail department. Both are headed for sales totals in the mid-90's, which means there will be no album to crack the 100k mark this week.

And a happy new year to you, too. As our esteemed Professor of Chartology, Scratch Golfer and Sometime Editor-in-Chief Lenny Beer likes to say, there will be 10 records in the Top 10 this week. Barely.

The big news is the Neil Diamond album, 12 Songs, which is up more than 200%, thanks to his appearance on Oprah last week, with sales looking in the 22k range from barely over 7k last week. The Rick Rubin-produced "comeback" had been hurt by Sony BMG's "Rootkit" controversy when the album was released with copy-protection that planted spyware on your computer when you tried to play it. That Winfrey lady can apparently sell records as well as books. Another veteran act, Johnny Cash, benefited from Golden Globes exposure for the movie Walk the Line (which earned Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon acting honors) as Legend moves up to #5, with an approximately 57k sold. Custard/Atlantic's red-hot British newcomer James Blunt is also showing strength, leaping into the Top 10 with 40k, thanks to the smash, "You're Beautiful," airing on a current TV commercial.

Here is how the HITS chart is shaping up as of 9 a.m. this morning Pacific Standard Time. As always, keep checking our rolling sales tally on the site to make sure you are abreast (love that word) of the most current results, and can astound your superiors with your intimate (nice word) knowledge of retail sales trends. Just remember, no betting.

1. Mary J.: 92-95k
2. Foxx: 92-95k
3. Carrie Underwood: 73k
4. Eminem: 72k
5. Johnny Cash: 57k
6. Nickelback: 49k
7. Chris Brown: 47k
8. Notorious B.I.G.: 42k
9. James Blunt: 40k
10. Kelly Clarkson: 38k
    Black Eyed Peas: 38k

Remember, these are only preliminary figures. If they're wrong, don't blame us. Even if everybody else does.

HITS magazine is the most powerful information vehicle in the music industry, and is read religiously by all the top executives and everyone else.

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Reprinted with permission from Hits Magazine

January 24, 2006

OOh la la. The French have a way for record companies to make more bread.

The French government is planning to introduce tax credit schemes that will allow record labels to offset part of their recording costs through a tax deduction that could bring as much as $12.27 million into the industry.

French Minister of Culture Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres announced the plan at this week's MIDEM confab in Cannes. He said the European Commission has been notified of the plans and it would be included in a bill before French Parliament this spring.

The bill also offers tax breaks for wine during lunch, renting Jerry Lewis DVDs and any record that contains songs by either Charles Aznavour, Yves Montand or Maurice Chevalier.

The EC needs to be apprised of any fiscal schemes that will affect competition within EU Member States.

Donnedieu de Vabres insists he's confident the measure will be approved under an international Unesco charter that authorizes states to set up support schemes to promote cultural diversity.

According to the plan, labels will be entitled to tax deductions for production costs and expenses linked to the development of digitization of catalogs. Expenditure on development and digitisation will be limited to $429k per recording. Total tax credits per company should not exceed $613k per year, which represents a lot of croissants.

The news was welcomed by industry executives, particularly from the indie sector.

Universal Music France Chairman/CEO Pascal Negre points to favorable results from countries like Brazil, where music production is financed with a similar scheme.

Stephan Bourdoiseau, Chairman of the French indie label's body UPFI, and chief executive of France's leading independent distributor Wagram, says he anticipates a positive clearance from the European Commission and that the scheme will be retoractive to Jan. 1 of this year.

He suggests some 100 companies could be eligible for the scheme. "In the past few years some 37% companies of four or more employees in the field have disappeared and there is about 100 companies that fit the definition today," he says.

HITS magazine is the most powerful information vehicle in the music industry, and is read religiously by all the top executives and everyone else.

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Reprinted with permission from Hits Magazine

January 23, 2006

Cumulus stations will no longer report music adds to trade publications. Take that, Billboard.

EVP John Dickey told the online site All Access that "Our philosophy is that the charts do nothing for us as a business. Our job is to program to serve the listener and advertisers. It's no longer broad enough of a horizon to look just at adds and charts. That's only a small part of what it should be.

"It should be retail sales, clubs and other points of national and regional media influence. We have been training a breed of programmers who have become too reliant on charts and callout. They all have a place but I want to train folks to become more innovative and use their guts."

He explained that the "Tuesday Add Mentality" doesn't benefit his chain. "If the trades want to know specifics, they can look at Mediabase." He went on to say the chain will add records "at any point during the week," not just Tuesday. Great. Now record promotion geeks can hock them every day.

Dickie insisted they will no longer send out weekly playlists. "We want to be cutting-edge and forward-thiking, and we're excited about getting out of the Add business."

The national programming staff at Cumulus, Sr. Format Dir. Top 40 Jan Jeffries, Exec. Format Dir. Val Garris and Nat'l Format Dir./Pop Mark Politt, will still have input, according to Dickie, who says music decisions will be made after consulting data from Big Champagne, Soundscan "and other media sources both inside and outside of radio... This is a more intelligent and expansive approach and will allow us take more intelligent risks with our programming."

Former indie John Kilgo goes in-house as Senior Director Label Relations for Cumulus, charged with developing business models that work for labels and the broadcasting chain.

HITS magazine is the most powerful information vehicle in the music industry, and is read religiously by all the top executives and everyone else.

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By Kenny Kerner

Don't look now, but the Garth Brooks box set is at about 1 1/2 million in sales at the Wal-Mart retail stores alone! Billboard refuses to chart the set. Keep in mind that every box set contains six CDs. I guess that answers the question about Brooks's lagging popularity after his self-imposed retirement. By the way, did you get to see the Wal-Mart Christmas commercials that Garth did with Santa Claus?

Be on the lookout for a resurrected live version of the Who's Quadrophoenia coming soon... Now that he's newly married, it's back to the Red Piano for Elton John... Get ready to say goodbye to Warner Bros. records as rumor has it they will finally be digested by EMI, leaving us with only three major record companies... Country super duo Brooks and Dunn doing some opening slots on the current Rolling Stones tour. Talk about exposure to a new audience!

Grammy-nominated record producer/songwriter/guitarist Richie Zito surfaced recently teaching a course called Original Song Pre-Production at Musicians Institute in Hollywood. All sections of the course were sold out immediately. In case you don't remember, Zito worked with such acts as Poison, Janet Jackson, the Cure, Elton John, Cher, and dozens of other superstars.

If you've seen the cover of the debut Bo Bice CD — he's the American Idol runner-up, you'll see how they cleaned up his disheveled rock appearance. Gone is the long beard and long hair — replaced by a cutesy haircut and clean shaven face. And all along the judges were hailing him as the only "real" contestant! Well, I guess there's real and there's retail. Winner Carrie Underwood looks to be as big as Kelly Clarkson.

New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer is at it again — this time opening up a new investigation to determine whether or not the pricing of digital music downloads violates current antitrust laws. Can you say Elliott Ness?

And finally, Who guitarist Pete Townshend announced on his Web site that the Who will tour behind a new album in 2006. Band was waiting for drummer Zak Starkey (Ringo's kid) to finish his touring commitment with Oasis.

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