Hey U2! Hey Offspring!
Hate to be a Grinch, but you guys better watch out--the pressure's on.
Can U2's new, still untitled album, due March 4, avoid the sales stumble suffered recently by its American counterpart R.E.M.? R.E.M.'s "New Adventures in Hi-Fi" has sold just 738,000 since being released in September. (U2's last album, 1993's "Zooropa," has sold 2.1 million copies to date.)
And can Orange County's Offspring, moving to the major label Columbia with its "Ixnay on the Hombre" album due Feb. 4, fare better than Green Day? The two bands exploded on the rock scene simultaneously in 1995 with albums that sold 5 million and 6 million copies, respectively, in the U.S. However, Green Day's follow-up to "Dookie" this year, "Insomniac," has sold only 1.6 million.
In the wake of that trend--which also has seen Pearl Jam total a surprisingly low 1 million for its four-month-old "No Code"--music retailers, while confident that both albums will be hits, are sounding cautious notes as they prepare to determine how many copies to stock.
"We're very optimistic about U2," says Lew Garrett, vice president of purchasing for the Ohio-based Camelot Music chain. "I don't see any reason why that shouldn't be a huge record."
But he adds, "I think Island [Records] would be foolish not to see what has happened in the very recent past with groups like R.E.M. If there was any album I would have bet on in 1996, it would have been R.E.M.'s."
Gary Arnold, vice president of marketing for the Best Buy retail chain, shares that optimism--and caution. "We have to base our plans on the fact that overall sales achievements today are more conservative," he says.
So how are the bands and record companies adjusting their strategies? They're not.
"I'm not going to make judgments on Pearl Jam or R.E.M.," says Island executive vice president Hooman Majd. "That's not fair. But if the fans feel it's a great record, they'll buy it. So we'll promote this record as we would have regardless of how any of those others did."
Key in that promotion, both Majd and the retailers note, is a massive U2 world tour starting in summer--something that R.E.M. did not do in support of "Hi-Fi."
Offspring manager Jim Guerinot echoes Majd's philosophy.
"If I were a negative person, I'd see what happened to Green Day or Pearl Jam and go, 'Gosh, we're gonna fail,' " he says.
"And if I were just a positive person, I'd say look what happened to Bush and Smashing Pumpkins and Rage Against the Machine, who all have big hits, and say, 'We're gonna succeed.' But you just have to be honest and say, 'Hey, if it's a great record, it will do great.' "
Columbia Records Chairman Don Ienner says that he has no intention of measuring this album against others, including Offspring's own last hit.
"Whether we achieve 6 or 8 or 9 million sales is not our benchmark--I'd be thrilled with 2 million," he says. "But it's a brilliant rock record. I don't care about timing, genres, 'rock bands are dead,' 'rock is alive.' Same with our upcoming Aerosmith record. I'm proud to take our chances against the world."