Wednesday, May 24, 2006



Yesterday I found myself driving to meet to friends for lunch and I was howling with laughter in my car. Al Franken was doing a bit-- a fantasy conversation between the Foreign Minister of Mexico and the French Ambassador to Mexico-- that was insane. As you probably know, O'Liely called a boycott of France and French products after France refused to follow Bush into his disastrous and unjustified war in Iraq. Since O'Liely's boycott, Americans have bought over $5 Billion MORE French products. So on his lame TV show a couple days ago O'Liely threatened the Mexican Foreign Minister with a boycott of Mexico and told him to ask the French Ambassador if he wants to get a gage on the power of the O'Lieley audience. Franken's skit emphasized O'Liely's imaginary clout and impact which ended in the Foreign Minister and the Ambassador trying to come up with ways to incite O'Liely so he would follow through on his threat. Crooks and Liars should get this up; I'll tell John.

But the reason I'm bringing this up today has nothing to do with Al Frankin or Bill O'Liely or with Mexico or France. As you probably surmised from the title, it has to do with Neil Young and his awesome new album, LIVING WITH WAR. The last time I talked about it, I think I explained that you would be able to listen-- free-- to the whole CD at Well, Neil has done something else pretty innovative at the site, thought it takes a little hunting around to find it. Here's the short cut to "The Great Debate." Neil is running reviews, both laudatory and scathing for the album-- including from right-ring propaganda rags like The National Review, The Moonie Washington Times, the Washington Post and Rupert Murdoch's NY Daily News. These right-wings are frothing mad and screeching like banshees about all their... issues. Neil says that LIVING WITH WAR has generated "the most remarkable reaction to any of my albums to date"... the biggest reaction in his 40 years of record making! "Many people," he says "just thank me for speaking for them."

Despite the nay-sayers on the far right, the record has been well-accepted by the public at large. As you probably know, I was the president of Reprise Records, Neil's record label, for many years. I retired a few years ago but I was really excited to see this one come charging out of the gate, saleswise, at 60,000 units and entered the overall sales chart at #15. But that only tells part of the story. A leading indicator of where music sales trends are going is i-Tunes. And although LIVING WITH WAR peeked last week at #2 on the overall chart, the album came in #1 on the rock chart (2 weeks in a row)-- not too shabby for someone who's been making records for 40 years.

A normal Warner record release sells around 5% digitally. Neil's album sold 16% digitally. That can be attributed to the power of the music blogs and progressive blogs to get out the word. There are 3,000 sites hosting album promotions and over a quarter million albums have been streamed online. There are 6,300 blogs talking about the album-- from monsters like the Huffington Post and Daily Kos to small personal blogs where people are talking about how the songs have impacted them emotionally. The CNN interview on YouTube was seen by over 200,000 people and Neil's MySpace page has had over half a million visitors in 3 weeks-- and 30,000 friends linking to his page!

And overseas, they seem to like LIVING WITH WAR too. While the U.S. week #1 was 60,000, outside of the U.S., the # was over 160,000. It entered the Canadian sales chart at #7 and came in #11 in Germany (Europe's biggest market) and #14 in the U.K. It was #4 in Norway and #11 in Sweden.

Back at iTunes, the most downloads were for the song "Let's Impeach the President" and the second most from the new album was "Looking For A Leader." But as big as the record is saleswise and as popular as it is at iTunes and other online services, commercial radio stations-- parts huge corporate monopolies that have taken over the public airwaves (thank you very much, Bill Clinton)-- are scared to death to play it. I spoke to one old friend, a program director who LOVES the album and whose wife loves the album and who listens to it all day. He told me his station only plays it late at night because "It's too polarizing." God forbid! Then programmers ask (eachother and their consultants) why radio has become more and more irrelevant 1 + 1 = 2; very simple; very direct.

At non-commercial radio (stations like KCRW here in L.A., WFUV in NYC, WXPN in Philly, KEXP in Seattle, etc) the album is #4. These are stations that don't focus on pre-digested playlists of singles but who go deep on albums based on quality and play lots of different songs. These are stations that are eating up LIVING WITH WAR.

Meanwhile, toothless rednecks, the non-billionaire part of the 29% coalition in the U.S. who still approve of George W. Bush, have declared war on Neil Young. Take a look (unless you get sickened easily by people like Limbaugh and Hannity):


At the very top of Neil's website, he urges everybody to go out and buy the Dixie Chicks album. As HITS Magazine said, " The Dixie Chicks alienated their Red State fans three years ago, and rather than sucking up, they've chosen not to make nice with their original base. But is the trio's bold strategy of going after the non-country, non-conservative audience paying off in the early going?" Well... Dixie Cicks fans don't seem to mind all the squawking and moaning by the shrill voices on the far far right. I mean 60,000 is a solid number for Neil. And over 430,000 was a real good number for the Dixie Chicks first week sales.

Labels: ,


At 7:09 AM, Blogger spaghetti happens said...

That's a parody site, right? I mean, come on.


Post a Comment

<< Home