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Key Signature "Shelf Life" (Februry 15, 1999)


Look at the Top 25 selling albums of all time in the United States: Michael Jackson (Thriller), The Eagles (Their Greatest Hits), Fleetwood Mac (Rumours), Led Zeppelin (Untitled), Whitney Houston (The Bodyguard). Only a handful of the albums on the list were released in the 90's - Alanis Morissette, Hootie and the Blowfish, Garth Brooks, and Boyz II Men. The rest were spread evenly throughout the 70's and early 80's.

Where is the new "lasting" music of today? It seems to come fewer and farther between. Quantity rather than quality seems to be the order of the day -- if the first single doesn't break out in record proportions, scrap the artist and move on to the next project.

What is even more impressive when looking at the list are the SoundScan sales numbers each of the albums managed to rack up during a recent week. Every album moved more than 1,000 units. Meanwhile, some of the oldest of them all were the strongest; the Eagles' Greatest Hits (released in 1976) moved 4,400 units and hotel California (1976) 4,200, AC/DC's Back In Black (1980) burned through 4,700, and Carole King's Tapestry (1971) a hefty 5,800.

It just serves to underline the depth of the foundations on which true artist development labels are built. It is all about developing catalog that has longevity ("shelf life"). That shelf life comes from quality songs, artists, and production. Quality outlasts the quantity and in the long run far out performs it monetarily.

As more consolidation and downsizing within the music business is on the horizon, the industry had better wake up and shift its' focus back toward artist and material development.

~Jim Ervin
Warrior Records