Hats off to Garth Brooks and Billy Ray Cyrus.
The two country singers accounted for four of the seven biggest selling albums of 1992, a year in which a strong holiday sales spurt pushed total industry sales to about $8 billion--or about 8% over 1991, retailers said Monday.
Brooks, with three albums among the final Top 10, and Cyrus, whose "Some Gave All" was the year's top seller, accounted for more than $231 million in sales. Cyrus' album sold an estimated 4.7 million copies, generating almost $64 million, according to figures compiled by SoundScan, the firm that has gathered computerized sales data for Billboard magazine's pop chart since May of 1991.
Because 1992 was the first full year of operation for SoundScan, its figures give the industry its first independent analysis of what pop fans are buying.
The big winner besides country: alternative rock acts--which had traditionally appealed only to college or underground rock fans--also contributed heavily to the year's sales strength. Three of the year's Top 12 albums, in fact, came from the alternative rock world: Pearl Jam, Nirvana and Red Hot Chili Peppers.
"This was the year of the unexpected," said Angie Diehl Jacobs, head of marketing at the Los Angeles-based 91-outlet Music Plus chain. "It was chock-full of surprises. Country and alternative rock were really hot. But lots of rap and R&B; artists came on really strong too. I would venture to say that no one could have ever predicted what ended up being the big sellers last year."
Indeed, albums by many of the artists with the strongest track records--including Madonna, Prince, Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi--didn't finish among the year's 50 best-selling works.
After Cyrus, the best selling albums of 1992 were: Brooks' "Ropin' the Wind," 4 million; Pearl Jam's "Ten," 3.4 million; "The Bodyguard" soundtrack, 3.3 million; Kris Kross' "Totally Krossed Out," 3.2 million; Brooks' "No Fences," 3.1 million; Brooks' "The Chase," 3.1 million; Nirvana's "Nevermind," 2.7 million; Def Leppard's "Adrenalized," 2.7 million; and Metallica's "Metallica," 2.6 million.
Retailers said they got their biggest sales gains during the last week of the holiday season in which consumers purchased about 29.3 million albums--a 17% increase above the 25.2 million units sold during the same period in 1991.
For the past two years, country has been the nation's fastest growing category of music sold, accounting for about $1 billion of the industry's annual sales--or about 14% of total sales, according to industry sources.
Many in the industry credit country's high visibility in the pop market to SoundScan. In many cases under Billboard's old system, store personnel frequently reported country artists' sales to Billboard's country album tally sheet, thus causing their showing on the more prestigious pop chart to be lower than it should have been.
Country artists fare much better under SoundScan because figures are entered into a computer every time a clerk runs an album through a bar code scanner at the sales register.
"What the computerized sales information shows is that artists in all kinds of different genres have extremely strong followings," said Mike Fine, chief executive officer of SoundScan, the New York research firm that gathers the sales data for Billboard magazine's pop chart.
"Obviously, country music had the biggest sales surge last year, but alternative rock, metal, rap and R&B; all proved to be big sellers. But you can't discount pop. I mean, look at what Whitney (Houston) did. She broke every record in the book."
Houston's "The Bodyguard" soundtrack album sold an estimated 1 million copies for the week ending Dec. 27, the most single week sales by an album since SoundScan introduced its computerized monitoring system.
The figure shatters the record of 831,000 copies sold two weeks ago by the same album. "The Bodyguard" sold about 3.3 million units in seven weeks and Houston's single "I Will Always Love You" sold 2.8 million copies in 10 weeks.
Lew Garrett, vice president of purchasing at the North Canton, Ohio-based, 356-outlet Camelot Enterprises Inc. was optimistic that his chain's 9% increase will carry over into this year.
"We had such a fantastic Christmas season, we're on a real high," Garrett said Monday. "The consumer confidence level seems to be much more intense. And we're not talking about hype here any more. SoundScan gives everybody in the industry real quantified sales information. As far as I can tell, the industry appears to be in very good shape."
But Jeffrey Logsdon, managing director of Seidler Amdec Securities Inc., a Los Angeles brokerage firm, said Wall Street analysts and investors are not as bullish about the music business as in years past.
"There was much more enthusiasm toward the music industry five years ago at the dawning of the compact disc revolution ," Logsdon said. "While the record business is viewed mildly positive on Wall Street, I don't think that any investors are overly enthusiastic about it."
Other major sellers during 1992: the Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Blood Sugar Sex Magik," Eric Clapton's "Unplugged" and U2's "Achtung Baby," all 2.4 million; Michael Bolton's "Time Love & Tenderness," 2.3 million; Michael Jackson's "Dangerous," 2.2 million; Boyz II Men's "Cooleyhighharmony," 2.1 million; Genesis' "We Can't Dance" and En Vogue's "Funky Divas, both 2 million; and Michael Bolton's "Timeless" and Bonnie Raitt's "Luck of the Draw," both 1.9 million.
Among the "superstar disappointments": Springsteen's "Human Touch," 1 million; Wilson Phillips' "Shadows and Light," 830,000; Madonna's "Erotica," 800,000, Springsteen's "Lucky Town," 780,000; Bon Jovi's "Keep the Faith," 520,000; and Prince's "Symbol," 500,000.