Even with the Eagles’ history-making No. 1 debut last week still fresh in industry minds, there are those who believe that charts themselves are becoming insignificant. "You’re going to see a lot more people not playing the chart game," says one EMI executive. "It used to be about shipping enough so that you get your position, your numbers look good for that quarter, and then dealing with the returns later. Today, the scenarios have changed. It’s more about reacting to the consumer than to what’s on the charts."
Case in point: Capitol Records Group has shipped 600,000 copies (all of which were bought outright, as in no returns) of the Spice Girls’ Greatest Hits to Victoria’s Secret for Tuesday’s release of the album. VS has more than 1,000 locations in malls throughout the U.S., but it’s not a SoundScan-enabled retailer, so the Spice Girls’ first-week sales won’t be counted. Not that EMI minds. The record has already sold more than gold, and that’s before digital sales (also starting this week) or even the album’s wide physical release on Jan. 15. Still, under this system, there’s no way to track whether the album actually moves or ends up in a landfill.
This may be the future of music sales, but don’t big-name artists still covet that slot on the Billboard Top 10? Especially a group like the Spice Girls, who haven’t released any material in seven years? "Actually, it gives more leeway for long-term plans and strategies," says the exec. "By the time the physical CD is out, they’ll still be touring the U.S., and through the shopping season, the album will be everywhere." Besides, he adds, "there’s a Victoria’s Secret in every mall, and how many malls don’t even have a record store?" Point taken.