The clock on Rascal Flatts' Web site counts down the days, hours, minutes and even seconds until the Sept. 25 release of the superstar band's fifth studio album, "Still Feels Good" (Lyric Street). There's no doubt the date is circled on many music industry calendars.

In a business in which album sales are off by double-digit percentages this year, more than a few people will be interested to see how Rascal Flatts will fare. After all, "Me and My Gang" scored the biggest first-week sales debut of 2006 when it moved 722,000 copies that April. Only four country acts have had bigger first weeks: Tim McGraw, Garth Brooks (twice), Shania Twain and the Dixie Chicks.

The album was the second best seller of 2006 behind "High School Musical," with 3.5 million copies sold, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Rascal Flatts is also one of the biggest success stories of the new century. In addition to radio hits—the band has seven No. 1s and 17 top 10s on Hot Country Songs, including its current "Take Me There," which is No. 7 this issue—it has performed exceptionally at retail. Its 2000 self-titled debut sold more than 2 million copies, and its last two albums have broken the 4 million plane (see chart, page 22). The band's touring career (see story, page 22) has seen it play to increasingly larger crowds.

But the retail landscape has changed since the band's last release, and no act has had a sales week as big since. That fact is not lost on the band's Jay DeMarcus. "I'm a realist," he says. "I know that at some point there's got to be a ceiling somewhere. I remember thinking while we were all toasting each other for the last record, 'You know, this might be the last time anybody sells this many units out of the box, because of the digital world and the new world that we live in and how the Internet has affected record sales.' "

Don't mistake DeMarcus' realism for defeatism. "I don't know if we'll do 722,000 units again in the first week . . . but we're going to do everything we can to try and sell as many records as possible."

Lyric Street VP of sales, marketing and media Greg McCarn agrees. "There's a lot of questions as to what the top end is, given the deterioration of the marketplace, but whatever that can be, we'd like to repeat and have the biggest-debuting album of the year."

Read more about the band's upcoming release "Still Feels Good," the sales expectations from Lyric Street president Randy Goodman, and the marketing aces Rascal Flatts and the label have up their sleeves.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboardbiz

Print