For a week at least, DMB holds top spot


By Bill Ramsey

On Wednesday, July 24, as the Dave Matthews Band headed toward a tour stop in Hartford, Connecticut, the band's new album, Busted Stuff, was #1 on the charts, with SoundScan reporting first-week sales of 622,000 units. Billboard's website verified the achievement the next day, with the "Hot Shot Debut" listing published in the issue dated August 3.

The chart-topping debut, the band's second, came as little surprise for such a monster act, but fell short of last year's debut of Everyday, which reached the top spot by selling 750,000 copies in its first week.

Still more unsettling was the album's short stay on top. In the Billboard issue dated August 10, Busted Stuff dropped to No. 4, unseated by country star Toby Keith– not to mention Nellyville and Now 10.

Still, Charlottesville fans have embraced the new album, which was built on the ashes of last year's never-released Lillywhite Sessions. By late July, local Plan 9 record stores on The Corner and at Albemarle Square had sold 613 of the CDs, which retail for $13.99, accounting for two-thirds of the five-store Richmond-based chain's sales of more than 1,000 copies.

"We always order a large amount of his albums because we know they're gonna be huge," says Plan 9 salesman Jimmy Snider. "The album is doing very well."

The chain ordered 1,500 copies of Busted Stuff for its stores prior to its July 16 release. Plan 9 marketing spokesperson Kelly Wilkes says she expects the record to maintain healthy sales for some time.

At Spencer's 206 on Water Street, owner Spencer Lathrop says Busted Stuff has been selling "really well." While he can't quote exact figures ("I'm not computerized like the other guys," he notes), Lathrop says that the new CD is doing better than the band's previous effort.

"The consensus is that people like it a lot better than Everyday," says Spencer.

Perhaps, but Stuff has given its predecessor a healthy sales bump of its own. More than a year after release, multi-platinum Everyday was lingering at No. 120 on the Billboard charts, but on the coattails of Busted Stuff's debut, it quickly spiked to the No. 67 position, with same-week sales of 17,000 units.

So why isn't Busted Stuff selling as fast as its predecessor?

Rolling Stone's Andrew Dansby offers several explanations, including poor album sales overall for the year, the fact that most of the tracks had already been heard, and that there's no breakout single à la "I Did It," the frenetic Everyday tune penned with hit-making producer Glen Ballard.

By contrast, Stuff's lead single, "Where Are You Going?" is a quiet, moody ballad (some have called Stuff Matthews' Only The Lonely, a reference to the classic 1958 Frank Sinatra "sad bastard" album) as is "Grace Is Gone," the second single already in circulation. Neither has the rollicking punch of anything on Everyday, and considering the record's dark material, it's surprising that such tracks as "Kit Kat Jam" made the album's final cut.

As sales of singles and albums droop SoundScan reports that single sales are down 64 percent and albums nearly 10 percent this years the Dave Matthews Band's one-week residence at No. 1 says something about the album, fickle fans, radio consolidation, Internet piracy, and the "Wal-Martization" of record marketing.

While RCA, DMB's record label, may not be able to count on a long-term ride at No. 1 for any of its artists nor can any of the "Big Five" labels in this flavor-of-the-day atmosphere the company can take heart in the longevity of this band. DMB's latest live record and DVD, recorded and filmed in Boulder, Colorado, a year ago is scheduled for fall release. The live disc was recorded July 11, 2001, at Folsom Field in Boulder and is to be titled "Open Up The Curtains" after a line from "I Did It."

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