TEXT OF INTERVIEW
Doug Krizner: The music business has been in a funk, as sales continue to drop. In 2007, the top-selling album was a Christmas project, second-best was a soundtrack to a teen-themed Disney movie.
Well, there’s a wealth of highly anticipated releases in the new year. Let’s get a preview now from Bill Werde of the trade magazine Billboard. Bill, among the super-stars, a new album coming from Madonna, right? Her last with Warner Brothers?
Bill Werde: I think there’s going to be probably more curiosity about this Madonna record than there has been in a Madonna record in a long time, if only to see sort of what her send-off is from Warner Brothers. You know, Madonna did sign this deal with Live Nation, and it got quite a bit of attention as an industry-changing deal, where she basically left her record label and signed with a tour-promotion company that’s looking to get into the record business.
Krizner: You were telling me earlier that there’s a lot of buzz about a new album from U2.
Werde: Yeah, absolutely. Sources say there’s about two albums worth of material now. And while it’s hard to pin down a release date, I think a lot of the excitement is coming from comments made by Daniel Lanois, who produced much of the album, who has sort of told fans that they might expect an Achtung Baby-period U2, which was a really popular album for U2. So that’s generating some good excitement.
Krizner: I was also reading that the new album from Usher is being highly anticipated. Can you give us a sense of what this might be like?
Werde: Well, the Usher record has actually been pushed back from last year. In the pop world, when an album’s been pushed back, the speculation is that it’s still looking for a strong single or a strong third or fourth single. Usher, his last album was really the album of the year when it came out. So for the music industry, this is really one to watch. I mean, Usher’s a proven hit-maker.
Krizner: How much is at stake for the recording industry this year?
Werde: Well, you know, the sales of recorded music continue to decline, and digital growth is not offsetting that. So I think what happens is for major labels, there’s more and more pressure for their blockbuster releases to really connect. Usher’s sales are now over 9 million copies on the last album, and you know, we haven’t had an album like that in the music business since then.
Krizner: Seems like a good segue into Mariah Carey — Billboard is saying that her 2008 release is perhaps the most highly anticipated album of the year. Any sense, Bill, of what it might be like?
Werde: Well, I mean judging by the producers that she’s working with, I would expect an album that’s not altogether different from her last album. Jermaine Dupree, who’s really the megaproducer who a lot of people credit with turning her career around with her last album, is back to helm this one. You know, and she’s working with a lot of the top hip-hop and R & B producers that are out there right now.
Krizner: Bill Werde is executive editor at Billboard. Bill, thanks so much for speaking with us.
Werde: Thanks Doug, it was a pleasure.
Krizner: In Los Angeles, I’m Doug Krizner. Thanks for listening.