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Cut To The Chase, Garth Brooks Stands Alone at #1
Tuesday, September 29, 1992
Los Angeles Times.. Story by Chuck Phillips

::::: ALSO SEE :::::
The Garth Brooks phenomenon continues.

Brooks' new album, "The Chase," has broken country rival Billy Ray Cyrus' 17-week stranglehold on the No. 1 spot on the nation's pop charts.

The collection, which was released Sept. 22, sold a whopping 403,000 copies in its first week in the stores, topping Cyrus' "Some Gave All" by 300,000 copies for the week, industry sources said. That's the highest first-week total since the 770,000 registered last fall by Guns N' Roses' "Use Your Illusion II." This is the second time a Brooks album has entered the pop charts at No. 1--a feat unmatched since Billboard magazine began using the SoundScan monitoring system in May, 1991. His "Ropin' the Wind" collection, released last fall, was the biggest-selling album of 1991, spending 18 weeks at No. 1. Total sales to date: more than 9 million.

"This is the kind of success you see coming down the pike only once every 20 years or so," said Bob Freese, vice president of marketing and sales at Nashville-based Liberty Records. "Garth . . . is a complete phenomenon. The pop world has never seen anything like this guy before."

Brooks' sales with "The Chase" are all the more impressive because Liberty Records saddled the 10-song package with a $16.98 CD price tag--$1 more than the previous ceiling on regular CD releases. The album was widely discounted to around $11.98, but that still is about $1 above the normal superstar CD discount rate.

In all, Brooks will have five albums in the pop Top 50 when Billboard magazine publishes its charts on Saturday. That's believed to be a first in the modern pop era. His other bestsellers: a month-old Christmas collection titled "Beyond the Season" at No. 5 with 78,000 copies sold; "No Fences" at No. 15 with 41,000 copies; "Ropin' the Wind" at No. 18 with 39,000 sold, and "Garth Brooks," at No. 42 with 24,000 copies.

Not only is Brooks' quick sales start good news for Liberty Records, it's further evidence of the growing sales punch of country music. Between them, Brooks and Cyrus have spent a total of 27 weeks at No. 1 this year. Altogether, there will be almost two dozen country albums among the Top 100 albums on the new pop chart. Among the other artists represented: Vince Gill, Wynonna Judd and Trisha Yearwood.

"Country music in general has shown a tremendous upsurge in sales in recent years," said Arnie Bernstein, president of the 850-outlet, Minneapolis-based Musicland, the nation's largest retail chain. "Right now, country is selling big everywhere to fans of all ages."

"This isn't just a repeat of the 'Urban Cowboy' craze" of the early '80s, added Jim Dobbe, vice president of sales merchandise at the 306-outlet, Torrance-based Wherehouse Entertainment. "What pop audiences are responding to in Garth and Billy Ray are singers who grew up on rock 'n' roll. Country music isn't just a Nashville or Midwest thing anymore. It's big in Manhattan Beach too."

For the past two years, country has been the nation's fastest growing category of music sold, accounting for about $1 billion of the industry's $7.8-billion annual sales, according to industry sources. But that share is expected to increase by as much as $500 million when 1992 sales figures are tallied, retailers say.

Many in the industry credit country's high visibility in the pop market to SoundScan, the New York research firm that provides the computerized sales data that revolutionized Billboard's pop charts.

In many cases under Billboard's old system, store personnel frequently reported country artists' sales only to Billboard's country album tally sheet, thus causing their showing on the more prestigious pop chart to be lower than it should have been.

Country artists fare much better under SoundScan because figures are entered into a computer every time a clerk runs an album through the bar code scanner at the sales register. "You have to give a lot of credit to country's rise on the charts to SoundScan," said Angie Diehl Jacobs, head of marketing at the 91-outlet, Los Angeles-based Music Plus chain. "Country's been a hot seller for quite a while, but now the numbers of albums we move over the counter are showing up on the chart."

Cyrus' album dropped to third in sales last week behind Brooks and Eric Clapton's "Unplugged" album, which sold 111,000 copies. Pearl Jam's "Ten" was No. 4 with 99,000 albums sold. The other newcomers in the Top 10: rockers Nine Inch Nail's "Broken," a six-song EP that finished No. 7 with 59,000 copies sold, and Extreme's "III Sides to Every Story," which finished No. 10 with 54,000 copies.




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