Canadian music biz still in doldrums

11:28 AM PST 05/22/2008 by Robert Thompson, Billboard, AP

Sales drop 15% last week, down 30% from '07

TORONTO -- The Canadian music biz continues to be rocked by lackluster sales, with album sales dropping 15% this week compared to the previous week, and tumbling 30% from the same period in 2007, according to the latest figures from Nielsen Soundscan.

The top-selling album in Canada for the week was Death Cab for Cutie's "Narrow Stairs," on Warner Music Canada with about 11,800 copies sold, while Madonna's "Hard Candy" (Warner Bros) stayed at No. 2 with 11,300 copies sold.

However, sets like the self-titled third album by Montreal's Simple Plan (Lava/Atlantic) remained in the Top 40 with slightly more than 1,000 copies.

Although largely unwilling to go on the record, Canadian music industry insiders admit to being shocked by the decline. "Our office has been talking about it today," said one distributor. "Wow. A thousand units to go top 40 in Canada? I don't like to paint a negative outlook on these things, but ...."

Canada's major labels have been struggling; at this point, admits one major label publicist, "I don't know what it takes to sell records." Overall, album sales in Canada for the year to date are down 17% to 10.4 million, compared with 12.5 million in the same period in 2007.

One publishing industry source said the situation simply reflects the fact that the structure of major labels in Canada and elsewhere have to change.

"A major label can't be happy with a band selling 200 copies off the stage at their show, because their cost structures can't support that," the source noted. "That's crazy and that's what's wrong with the business these days."
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