Today, I would like to begin with the announcement of a merger between Wig Bubbles and the Facebook page The Wig. This refinement in our operations marks the beginning of an exciting new chapter here at Wig Bubbles industries that will see us consolidate and streamline content. We are proud to announce this coordinated effort and promise to you, the reader, a wealth of shared content.
Of course, there will be layoffs.
But, uh… hmm… must provide distraction.
Here’s something: It says here that, according to SoundScan, the United States saw sales of older, ‘catalog’ items eclipse those of new releases in 2015. We are talking “physical product” here, almost as though older listeners prefer a record, compact disc or 8-track tape to an intimidating, computer-machine-friendly version of an album.
It should be noted, however, that even in the digital world, catalog titles — defined as releases as ancient as 18 months of age, sometimes more — are rapidly catching up. During 2015, relics accounted for 50.9 million digital units. (And who doesn’t love a good digital unit?) New releases, meanwhile, barely trumped (if I may still use the verb) that number, with 52.5 million digital sales.
Moreover, 52.4 million of those latter purchases were almost certainly of 25, the latest Adele album.
Some ‘experts’ link this sweating-to-the-oldies craze to the return of vinyl records as the format of choice for aging audiophiles. The kids, they claim, are not buying vinyl. This, despite the fact that they also claim the kids are buying vinyl. Indeed, increasingly we are seeing new releases being made available for sale solely in handy, round, 12-inch form.
Perhaps, then, the surge of sales in dusty ditties is owed to some other explanation.
Allow me, if you will.
Come with me to the early 1990s and a a little shop of hoarders called Sam the Record Man, located at Merivale Mall. (Right around where The Source is now located, if memory serves.) An enthusiastic music-lover, I happily accepted a part-time position there, in anticipation of listening to and peddling many a cool new release.
What I quickly learned was that the vast, vast, vast majority of customers had no interest in these strange new artists and albums, what with their rocking and rolling and hipping and hopping. A little newing and aging, perhaps. But, dammit, they wanted the classics. And (almost) nothing but.
Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours. Boston’s self-titled album. Bat Out of Hell. Thriller. The Eagles’ Their Greatest Hits. Steve Miller’s (His) Greatest Hits. Cat Stevens’ (Yusuf Islam’s) Greatest Hits. A little Back in Black, maybe. Bien sûr The Wall and Dark Side of the Moon. Appetite for Destruction. Born in the USA. Led Zeppelin’s Don’t Call Me Zoso. And let’s round things out with something like Supertramp’s Crime of the Century and/or ABBA Gold.
That was pretty much it. And as one not unfamiliar with radio in Ottawa, I see little reason to believe a whole heck of a lot has changed. Toss in Jagged Little Pill, a little Mariah, Shania and Céline and of course Nevermind and you’ve probably got 50-million-plus units right there.
And that’s not counting the dozen or so copies of Marquee Moon sold in 2015.
The shocker, really, is that it has taken this long for catalog sales to officially take over. I mean, is 2016 likely to see a new release to rival the quality of the first Boston album?
Alas, even as they again conquer the music world it seems fewer and fewer of those classic rockers are likely to be around by the end of 2016 to enjoy that victory. Let us hope that trend does not continue.
After all, it is up to those old soldiers to continue to teach those young’uns a thing or two about staying power.
At least until May 2017, when Adele’s 25 celebrates its 18-month anniversary and bolsters the ranks.