Latest Cake Album Hits No. 1, Sets Dubious Record In The Process

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Robert McKnight
Cake

This year sure has been a fickle beast thus far -- treacherous weather, Jared Lee Loughner and now a slumping music industry.

Showroom Of Compassion, the latest album from venerable rock band Cake, took the top spot on the Billboard charts for the week ending on January 16, Yahoo! News reports.

That's good news, right?

Well, the album sold 44,000 copies and set a record for the lowest-selling No. 1 album of all time -- since Nielson SoundScan was brought in to keep track of such stats in 1991, anyway -- so not so much. Cake's sixth album broke the previous record of the worst week for a No. 1 album -- 52,000 units -- set only a week earlier by Taylor Swift's Speak Now

Do these abysmal sales doom the upcoming fiscal year for the music industry?

Not necessarily, given how the situation can be assessed. For starters, Cake self-released Showroom Of Compassion on their own label, Upbeat Record. A simple Google search for "upbeat records" yields such results as this nice-looking record store in Wilkinsburg, PA and a Colombian house music record label. That being said, it's not impossible to find many ways to buy Cake's latest album, but let's just say it wasn't exactly released by Columbia, as their last album was. But hey -- I put the word out that Cake was releasing a new album a week ago, so the onus definitely is not on me.

It's also painfully early in the year for any big-name new releases. The rest of the top ten from Cake's dubious week include the aforementioned Swift, Rihanna, Bruno Mars, Nicki Minaj, Kanye West and the Country Strong soundtrack. Those albums sold plenty more copies in their respective opening weeks, and the post-holiday trickle means no one wants to quite spend more of their hard-earned, already-spent-on-Christmas-gifts money on something like albums. 

Oddly enough, Cage The Elephant had the No. 2 album this past week, with their Thank You Happy Birthday falling 5,000 units short of Cake's top spot. The top two spots on the Billboard charts, then, belonged to Cake and Cage The Elephant -- bands nowhere near the Nicki Minaj's and Bruno Mars' of the world. So strike one for the indie bands -- and for Cake, especially. Even if they set a rather dubious record, those guys had the number one selling album of the week -- something the band has never achieved throughout its career.

Does anyone else remember when 'N Sync's No Strings Attached sold 2.42 million copies in its first week in March of 2000? The No.1 spot on the Billboard charts has fallen from 2.42 million to 44,000 in 12 years.

If Showroom Of Compassion selling 1.8% as many copies as No Strings Attached did in its debut week isn't an eye-opening statistic for the music industry, then I don't know what is.

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2 comments
Xander
Xander

Michael, Eye-opening in which way though? I hope that we do see "Less" reliance on units sold in a week, and find some better way to go about this as Artist should be rated more on their merit rather then if they're the flavor of the week. I remember when No Strings Attached was released, and when my sister came home with that album. It wasn't pretty to hear "Bye Bye Bye" being played on infinite loop, let alone the rest of the mainstream trash that year. (Not sayin' it was all bad, but our MTV generation choked on own alcohol-and-pop induced vomit in the early 2000.)

Compared to now, it makes sense that we won't see the same numbers ever again due to many factors. Most of which can be explained in the rise of digital sales and diffusion of money for entertainment. Unfortantlly, I can only imagain the usual topics will be brought up from these low sales. My bet will be the first "professional" (ie. quack) opinion we'll hear about these issues will be blamed on music piracy and while we need to "clamp down on internet freedoms along with services that are devauling music". (Ironicly, I was pirating alot more music back in early 2000 compared to today, these days, I will spend alot more on bands that I personally feel attached to).

I would like to think that this chart doesn't show a downfall of sales, but rather the rise of what self-labels can do. Kickstarter projects seemed trival at first, but this may be the year where we'll see more artistic direction taken rather then whoever has the better marketing tea,.

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