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POP MUSIC | POP EYE

Pilots in Holding Pattern

June 09, 1996|Steve Hochman

Singer Scott Weiland's battle with drug abuse has reportedly cost Stone Temple Pilots millions in lost concert revenue and album sales.

How much do rock stars pay for drugs?

In the case of Stone Temple Pilots singer Scott Weiland, who is currently in treatment for his much-chronicled drug abuse, it's millions of dollars.

That's how much music industry experts--including those close to the band--say the group is losing in album sales and concert opportunities during Weiland's attempt at recovery.

The group's "Tiny Music . . . Songs From the Vatican Gift Shop" album has sold only 800,000 copies in three months of release--a million less than its predecessor, 1994's "Purple," sold in the same time. It seems unlikely that the new album will ever approach the 3.4 million total of that record.

While no one suggests that any dollar amount is worth risking Weiland's health for, and while the group has been widely praised for suspending tour and promotional activities to allow him to get help, the sales drop-off is tied directly to the band's absence from the road.

"For a rock 'n' roll band, touring is essential for album sales," says the band's manager, Steve Stewart. "When you simply put tickets on sale, the mere event excites people and there's a lot of radio promotion and media coverage. It feeds on itself."

Weiland's drug problem also contributed to the late delivery of the album to Atlantic Records, giving the company insufficient time to build excitement about the release.

"They didn't have time to prepare this album as well as they would have with more lead time," says Billboard magazine charts editor Geoff Mayfield.

Meanwhile, the band is also passing up guaranteed minimum payments of around $200,000 per concert that it would be earning on tour--and that doesn't even count additional concert sales of T-shirts and souvenirs.

STP isn't alone. Seattle band Alice in Chains hasn't toured for three years, in part because of singer Layne Staley's battle with addiction, and its sales also reflect that absence. The band's latest album, "Alice in Chains," got off to a hot start when it debuted last October. Without a tour to support it, though, sales quickly slowed and the total now is 1.2 million--a healthy amount, but only half that of the band's bestseller, 1992's "Dirt."

A new "MTV Unplugged" show featuring Alice in Chains has just premiered, with an album from the session coming on July 30. That could give the band a boost, but few observers believe it will compensate for the lack of a concert tour.

The greatest toll, though, is emotional.

"What [Stone Temple Pilots] did is really cool and a tough thing to do," says Rogers Stevens, guitarist of Blind Melon, whose singer Shannon Hoon died last October of an overdose while on tour.

"I feel really bad for them because I know what they're going through. You build your dreams for years and years and then have a guy in the group who at times you have to drag along. Scott seems like a talented and cool guy--I know he doesn't want to hurt his friends. But people in his position are pretty powerless to [drugs]."

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