Could a band that broke up in 1970 really become the best-selling act of the decade?
The Beatles might just pull it off, thanks to EMI Music's September 9 release of their remastered catalog. Eminem currently reigns as the best-selling artist of the decade, with sales of 32 million albums in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan, followed by the Fab Four with 28.2 million. The Eminem catalog is sure to pick up more sales by year's end, thanks in part to the continued strong performance of his May release "Relapse," which has sold 1.4 million copies.
Beyond the fan excitement generated by the first remastering of the entire Beatles catalog in more than 20 years, sales will also benefit from the massive marketing push behind MTV Networks' video game "The Beatles: Rock Band," which will be released on the same date. Sources say the game is backed by a $20 million-$25 million advertising campaign, which includes the value of advertising on TV networks owned by MTV parent Viacom. That will provide consumers with a timely refresher course on their favorite Beatles songs -- and perhaps prompt many of them to pick up a newly minted remaster.
EMI is banking on the legendary band to be a strong seller through the year-end holidays. The label is shipping 4 million copies worldwide on street date, including 1.9 million in the United States. The catalog relaunch will also get its own $1 million-$2 million TV advertising campaign, which will include spots on key cable networks like ESPN, TNT, TBS, TV Land, USA Network and MSNBC. Sources say that the primary spend will be at MTV's fellow Viacom sibling Nickelodeon as part of an effort to turn the network's young, game-playing audience into Beatles fans.
And just in time for the start of the holiday shopping season, sources say ABC is planning to air a two-hour prime-time special on Thanksgiving night that will feature Beatles footage and contemporary artists performing Beatles songs.
SoundScan sales tallies of the remastered Beatles albums could be diluted somewhat by a boxed set that includes all of the remastered titles in stereo and a collectible monophonic boxed set of the Beatles albums originally released in mono. According to sources, EMI is shipping worldwide about 150,000 copies of the stereo boxed set and 40,000-50,000 copies of the mono set. Each U.S. sale of either multidisc set will count as only one SoundScan sale, however, which could deflate total unit sales.
Even though EMI has ramped up production of both boxed sets, consumers may find them tough to find initially. Amazon, which took preorders on both versions, says it's sold out based on its initial allocations but is encouraging customers to continue preordering the sets, promising to let them know when more are available. After initial shipments are sold out, sources say the stereo boxed set -- expected to be a popular Christmas gift purchase -- won't be back in stock until late September. The mono set is expected to be back in stock in mid-October.