Blake Shelton, a country singer, releases his first “Six Pak” today, a six-song collection called Hillbilly Bone. His Hillbilly Bone CD is sold at a lower price than a regular CD.
In 10 years, “I’ve released only five albums,” says Shelton, 33. Under the six-pack model, he plans to release another set in August and possibly a third near year’s end. “I can record a lot more and release a lot more.”
“People are curious about it,” says Billboard senior chart manager Wade Jessen. “The game changer is if this thing comes out and sells so well that when (the label’s) competitors put a pencil to it, they decide it may be something they want to do as well.”
Other acts have started to sell music in packages besides singles and standard albums. Singers ranging from Michael Bublé to Lady Gaga have put out smaller sets to supplement sales or target niche audiences. Luke Bryan releases his second Spring Break digital EP today, with three songs that don’t appear on album Doin’ My Thing. New acts like country’s Josh Thompson and American Idol’s Jason Castro have released digital EPs in anticipation of full albums.
Having an album with fewer tracks also worked well for teen singer Justin Bieber, who has sold 945,000 copies of his seven-track My World since November. Successor My World 2.0 comes out on March 23 with 10 cuts.
Shelton’s first four albums went gold. While he continues to have big radio hits — the six-pack’s title track is No. 3 on USA TODAY’s country airplay chart — his last album, 2008’s Startin’ Fires, sold just 205,000 copies.
“People heard the song they wanted (She Wouldn’t Be Gone) on the radio, pulled out their iPhones and got it,” Shelton says. “They didn’t go to Walmart to get the whole album.”
Shelton’s release comes one week after the Country Music Association released a report showing declines in both the number of country music fans and the amounts they’re spending on music.
“We want to try to buck the sales trend with Blake and deliver his fans more music more often with a value price ($4.99-$6),” says Peter Strickland, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Warner Bros. Nashville.
If Shelton is successful, the label will likely use the “Six Pak” model with other artists, Strickland says. And what would define success? “To exceed the last record.”
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