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Wincing the month away

The_shins Here's some good news for the record companies: January's just about over! The month was a complete stinker in terms of sales, with each week running 14% to 17% below the same week in 2006. Granted, the industry's numbers are notoriously dependent on a few artists hitting big. So bring on Coldplay! Errr, uh-oh, the singles box isn't due until the end of March.... Anyway, thanks to Coolfer for compiling the sales data, as well as reporting an interesting tidbit about "Wincing the Night Away," the new album from indie-pop  life-changers The Shins. Of the 119,000 copies of the album sold, 30% -- about 36,000 -- were digital downloads. With the CD available at big-box retailers for less than $10, it's not likely that the digital sales were driven by bargain-hunters. Rather, it seems that a huge chunk of Shins fans simply didn't care to own the plastic, the liner notes or the DRM-free tracks. They just wanted the music as soon as possible.
The percentage is high, but it shouldn't be all that surprising. Two years ago, Coldplay sold 62,000 downloadable copies of its album "X&Y" in one week. That was 8% of the total first-week sales -- an unusually large chunk at the time, but much more routine now. It makes me wonder how much faster the ground would be shifting toward digital if DRM wasn't part of the picture. But then, the Shins' sales prove that DRM isn't a deal-breaker for tens of thousands of music fans....

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Times editorial writer Jon Healey pens opinion pieces about a variety of business issues, and blogs about technologies that are changing the entertainment industry's business model.

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