As an addendum to the “Best local albums of the year (so far)” critical roundup printing in tomorrow’s newspaper, it seemed worth checking in to see how the biggest Minnesota records of late are doing in the sales department. Nobody is on the verge of a platinum record, to put it mildly.
One point I made to Minnesota Public Radio reporter Chris Roberts, when he interviewed me for the much-debated “golden era” report on the local music scene: If you go by album sales, we’re definitely not in any kind of heyday. Even the famously unfamous Replacements sold a couple hundred thousand copies of their records. Of course, we’re in a completely different era of the music business, where albums sales mean far less in a band's career. Doomtree fans have probably burned and bootlegged twice as many copies of the “No Kings” album as were bought. Not to mention, the group probably makes three times as much money on a record issued on its own label vs. one issued on a traditional record label (still not a lot).
Here are the latest, rounded-off Nielsen SoundScan U.S. sales figures on the biggest local records issued within the past year (not counting Motion City Soundtrack’s “Go,” which just came out two weeks ago and debuted at No. 8 on Billboard's Independent Albums chart). These numbers do include digital sales of the entire albums, but not individual song downloads:
Trampled by Turtles, “Stars & Satellites” (issued: April 10, Banjodad/Thirty Tigers): 38,000
Poliça, “Give You the Ghost” (Feb. 14, Totally Gross National Product): 14,000
Doomtree, “No Kings” (Nov. 22, Doomtree Records): 11,000
Howler, “America Give Up” (Jan. 17, Rough Trade): 4,000
It may seem ironic that the only album issued by a “real” record company (and not the band’s own label), Howler's, is the least successful. However, Howler’s sales in Europe and especially England -- where Rough Trade is based, and the band has toured more often -- are undoubtedly much higher. At least TBT is putting up some impressive numbers, especially considering its disc is the newest of these releases. But again, T-shirt sales, Twitter followers or drum-stick endorsements might be more accurate ways of gauging a band's success nowadays than album sales.