Corporate Buy Outs and the Decline of Teen Jive

by Dave Marsh

Sam Cooke was right. No matter how long it may take, change does come.

Last week, Clive Calder of Jive Records and Zomba Music forced Jive’s distributor, BMG Music, to buy his company for $3 billion. Even though it has plenty of cash, BMG didn’t really want Jive, which specializes in teen appeal acts (Britney Spears, ‘N Sync,, etc.) Over the past year, the company’s business is off significantly–from almost 7% of the market in 2000 to a little more than 3% now. As a stock analyst told the N.Y. Times, “You could buy the EMI Group right now for about that.”

But it wasn’t a need for cash that made Calder want to deal. Market share for teen acts is plummeting like dotcom share prices. That may mean that the market is shifting away from teen jive, though it’s hard to compare this cycle to the past. Clear Channel, which has a Top 40 monopoly, has a huge stake in teen appeal. But otherwise, the signs of a shift is there.

Record buyers have complained, with justification, about CD prices since the format’s launch. Catalog prices, at least, are falling now. The new industry standard-set by Sony and Universal a few months ago, with BMG following suit recently–seems to be $11.98, which as a practical matter means about $10 at discount stores or on the Internet.

It’s easy to see why this happened, too. Billboard shows “deep catalog” sales, by far the most consistently profitable kind, off almost 5% this year, while more recent catalog is off 6%.

Labels shout and scream that this is all the fault of the Internet. Well, no album this year got downloaded like The Eminem Show which it sold 284,000 its first weekend plus more than a million in its first full week, peak numbers for the year. Although label execs refuse to recognize it, Internet downloading most resembles not a B&E job but the way people used radio before the government gave Clear Channel its monopoly.

If I told you that I found my favorite harbinger of change in Ed Christman’s report that label execs are not being offered lavish new contracts, it’d make me look mean. It would also be a lie.

My actual favorite was Rolling Stone hiring an editor who believes “people don’t have time to sit down and read.” This pleases me because because it will kill off any remaining illusion that Rolling Stone has even a vague musical expertise. Also, if the magazine’s sales continue to decline, they won’t be able to blame those of us who used to write “7000 word stories” as they have for the past 25 years.

New editor Eric Needham provides a treble delight when he says, “All the great media adventures of the 20th century have been visual. Television, movies, the Internet, they’re all visual mediums.” First, Needham reveals that he doesn’t know the plural of medium. Then, he all but admits that he has to be read aloud to (otherwise he would recognize text as a visual medium). Finally, in the age of Napster, he’s decided that the Internet is a visual medium.

Pity Rolling Stone’s poor music editors. There’s no change there, of course.


(what’s playing in my office)

1. Try Again, Mike Ireland and Holler (Ashmont) (After about three listens you realize that Ireland, the best new honkytonker, has kicked it into another gear by adding elements from his roots rock days in the Starkweathers.)

2. Human Being Lawnmower: The Baddest & Maddest of the MC5 (Total Energy)

3. 1000 Kisses, Patty Griffin (ATO)

4. The Eminem Show, Eminem (Interscope)

5. Masquerade, Wyclef Jean (Columbia)

6. “It’s Been A Change,” Buddy Miller (from Rhino’s otherwise appalling Rockin’ Patriots)

7. Halos and Horns, Dolly Parton (Sugar Hill)

8.You’re Gonna Need That Pure Religion, Rev. Pearly Brown (Arhoolie) 9. By the Hand of the Father, Alejandro Escovedo (Texas Music Group)

10. Tonight at Johnny’s Speakeasy, Jo Serrapere & the Willie Dunns (Detroit Radio Co.)

11. Daddy’s Home: The Very Best of Shep and the Limelites (Collectables)

12. Gravity, Alejandro Escovedo (Texas Music Group)

13. Return of a Legend, Jody Williams (Evidence)

14. “I Won’t Let Go,” Dorothy Love and “Walk On and Talk On,” Brother Joe May (from Creed Gospel Classics, Vol. 5, AVI)

15. Veni, Vidi, Vicious, The Hives (Sire/Burning Heart/Epitaph)

Dave Marsh coedits Rock and Rap Confidential. He can be reached at: marsh6@optonline.net

Dave Marsh’s Previous DeskScan Top 10 Lists:

June 12, 2002

June 4, 2002

May 27, 2002

May 20, 2002

May 14, 2002

May 6, 2002

April 30, 2002

April 22, 2002

April 15, 2002

April 9, 2002

April 2, 2002

March 25, 2002

March 18, 2002

March 11, 2002


Dave Marsh edits Rock & Rap Confidential, one of CounterPunch’s favorite newsletters, now available for free by emailing: rockrap@aol.com. Dave blogs at http://davemarsh.us/

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