Springsteen sales off to a strong start

Los Angeles Times, 1992-04-01, by: Chuck Philips
Record store owners call first-day purchases of the veteran rocker's new "Human Touch" and "Lucky Town" albums "phenomenal."
Is Bruce Springsteen still the Boss? Record store owners Tuesday described first-day sales of the veteran rocker's new "Human Touch" and "Lucky Town" albums as "phenomenal." Official figures won't be available until next week, but retailers estimated that more than 100,000 copies of Springsteen's first releases in five years were purchased across the nation on Tuesday.

"It's pretty much all I've sold this morning- that and Def Leppard," said Trish Orton, compact disc buyer at Tower Records in Tustin. "People have been getting them every since we opened at 9 this morning. Everybody has been buying both of them. Some people didn't know there are two [Springsteen albums], but when they find out, they buy both."

In a marketing ploy borrowed from Guns N' Roses, hundred of record retailers across the nation- including Music Plus and some Tower Records stores in the Southland-opened their doors at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, the first minute they were legally allowed to sell the albums. "Our midnight sale turnout was twice as big for Bruce as for Guns N' Roses," said Steve Barrett, regional marketing manager of HMV Records in New York. "The pouring rain didn't stop the fans. We were jammed until 2 a.m."

Springsteen's strong initial sales spurt surprised executives at Music Plus, who expected metal band Def Leppard's "Adrenalize" to outsell the 42-year-old rocker during its 92 store midnight sales promotion. "Honestly, we anticipated a huge number of Def Leppard customers to show up at midnight, but Bruce outsold Def Leppard by a mile," said Angie Diehl Jacobs, director of marketing at the Los Angeles-based record retail chain. "Another surprise was that most of the consumers who bought the records were pretty young-about 25 at the oldest." Most customers bought both albums rather than choose one.

But Springsteen's midnight sales were "moderate at best" at Tower Records' flagship Sunset Blvd. store, according to Larry King, buyer at the Hollywood store. One reason, he speculated, was the post-Oscar activity in the area. "There were parties all up and down Sunset Monday night and it killed business," King said. "We only sold about 40 Bruce records and a dozen Def Leppard."

Despite the generally positive response to Springsteen's new works, few insiders expect him to repeat the double barreled chart coup scored last September by Guns N' Roses, whose two "Use Your Illusion" albums grabbed the top two spots on Billboard's pop chart by selling more than 1.4 million copies their first week out.

"Sales of previous Springsteen albums have varied greatly-from the 12 million of 1984's "Born In The USA" to the 3 million of 1987's "Tunnel Of Love." Sony Music, the company that releases Springsteen's music, has taken a low-key approach to promoting his new albums-as opposed to its marketing blitz last fall for Michael Jackson's "Dangerous" album. The company offered retailers a 3% discount on initial orders for Springsteen discs, but placed a cap on how many albums each retailer could purchase.

This policy contrasts sharply with marketing strategies employed by Geffen and Capitol Records last year prior to the release of long-awaited albums by Guns N' Roses and Hammer.