A retail recovery?

Eminem slaps sales troubles away

By now, you've likely seen the promotional blitz for Eminem's Recovery album, either online or on the tube.

It's hard to miss: Vince Offer, the man who has tried to sell us on the Slap Chop and the ShamWow, acts as pitchman for the album. There aren't any album clips—nor any appearances by Eminen—just Vince pitching the benefits of buying the CD.

"MP3 players are boring, stop having a boring life," Vince says. Yup, iTunes is just like the tuna salad without the nice chopped vegetables.

After Vince's initial shill, the Eminem promo moves onto showing us models and Vince using the CD for many household applications. It is used to chop steak, burritos and tomatoes; Vince suggests it can be used as a coaster and to fix wobbly tables.

Yes, it's all meant to be edgy, tongue-in-cheek—but there is a clear message here. While you are laughing, you are being reminded over and over that CDs are better. That MP3s are boring.
Basically, buy the entire album, don't just download a song.

Of course, there's a lot more money to be made if the kids are convinced to buy the entire album. There are two things at play here, the first being that one of the major reasons for the slump in music sales as a whole is the reality that more and more consumers are going into digital e-tailers and picking just the one or two songs they like rather than buying whole albums. So, they're spending 99 cents or maybe $1.29 on an artist when, just a few years back, they'd have had no problem dropping nearly $20 for each CD.

The other factor: because hip hop appeals to a much younger demographic than even hard rock, it is the hardest genre to successfully market as a valuable commodity. The younger the Internet user, the more likely he or she is to file swap. That's just a statistical truism. And hip-hop's audience? Young music fans.

Put it together, and you realize why Eminem and his own label, Shady Records, need to be so inventive when it comes to marketing the album.

Really, the critics have been all over this effort, and it doesn't matter. Because the marketing machine is working.

Recovery has spent four straight weeks at number one on the Billboard charts in the US. And it's not like so many number ones we've seen over the past couple of years, where an album almost wins by default against an entire field of weak-selling records.

It sold more than 700 000 copies in the US in the first week of release. It broke the one million mark by week two.

By week four, it had shot past 1.5 million copies.

Compare some of Eminem's numbers to the competition. In the week he debuted at number one, Drake's Thank Me Later was at number two. Eminem sold more than 700 000 records. Drake sold: 74 000. That's a massive difference.

Since we don't have exit polls at record stores, we won't know exactly how many people were influenced to buy Recovery because Vince Offer told them to. But this is for sure: if CDs are indeed dying, Eminem has at least given the format a shot in the arm, inspiring it to go down fighting. V

Steven Sandor is a former editor-in-chief of Vue Weekly, now an editor and author living in Toronto.

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