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A Timely Lull in New Album Releases

September 16, 2002

One of the eeriest aftereffects of the Sept. 11 attacks last year were skies utterly free of aircraft for days when all flights were grounded.

The record business faces an analogous situation a year later as stores nationwide are virtually free of major new albums, a situation usually limited to Christmas week.

"We've felt it big time," says Tower Records' Southwest region director, Bob Feterl. "We're going to end up OK, but up to this point it's been pretty brutal."

Most record companies opted to avoid scheduling major releases last week, both out of respect for the one-year anniversary and out of sheer pragmatism, knowing that people wouldn't be in the mood to be scooping up new albums as usual.

It was a double whammy for retailers, with the new-release scale back immediately following the traditionally slow Labor Day weekend and back-to-school week.

Among those who did go ahead with new releases Sept. 10 were industry maverick Ani DiFranco, who issued a double-CD live set, "So Much Shouting, So Much Laughter," on her Righteous Babe label, freshman rapper Shade Sheist ("Informal Introduction") and country singer Aaron Tippin, whose new "Stars & Stripes" album includes his post-9/11 hit single "Where the Stars and Stripes and the Eagle Fly," making it seem fairer game for Sept. 11-week release.

But don't look for any of those to dislodge the Dixie Chicks, Eminem or Avril Lavigne from the top of Billboard's album chart when new Nielsen SoundScan figures are released Wednesday.

"Of the new releases that did come out, there weren't any real big sales stories there," says Wherehouse Entertainment senior pop buyer Bob Bell.

Retailers expect things to pick up as early as Tuesday, with the arrival of new albums from Disturbed, Lifehouse and Kenny G. Then a raft of potential hit albums lands Sept. 24 with new efforts from Beck, India.Arie, Peter Gabriel and Uncle Kracker as well as the widely anticipated Elvis Presley "30 No. 1 Hits" compilation.

"It's a temporary situation," Bell says. "It created a couple of quiet weeks, but that's going to turn around very quickly. It's nothing we're very concerned about."

Randy Lewis

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