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Valentine's Day Turning Big Bucks For Music Biz

Of the Oakland Press

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When it comes to Valentine’s Day, nothing delivers the message quite like flowers, candy, lingerie ...

And songs.

In recent years, the run-up to Valentine’s Day has brought hearts and cupids to the music industry, which has created a season second only to the December holidays for special products and tie-ins. Each year sees a number of new Valentine’s-themed releases — including compilations of love songs from the catalogs of assorted artists — as well as special promotions to take advantage of the market.

“I think in today’s market we obviously want to maximize all opportunities and capitalize on as many events as we can,” says Greg Mize of the Troy-based Handleman Company, which distributes music to chain stores around the country. “The Christmas market is obviously by far the biggest, but more and more people are looking for special items for (Valentine’s Day), and there’s a real desire to serve that market.”

The initiatives seem to be working. In 2007, sales for the holiday week were 11.07 million, up 13 percent from the previous week’s 9.82 million, according to Nielsen SoundScan. It was the year’s top single week for album sales outside the November and December shopping season.

In fact, the biggest Nielsen SoundScan week ever recorded outside November-December was Valentine’s week in 2004, when 18.1 million units were sold — including a million copies of Norah Jones’ well-timed sophomore album, “Feels Like Home.”

Rhino Records Vice President Mike Engstrom agrees the Valentine’s market “is definitely being more widely recognized in the business. The labels look at it as a nice little blip on the radar where we can all target releases that makes sense.”

This year has seen a substantial number of special Valentine’s releases, including:

Legacy Recordings’ “Beautiful Ballads & Love Songs” series, featuring compilations of romantic favor-

___ ites by Frank Sinatra, Aretha Franklin, Billie Holiday, Miles Davis and Barry Manilow;

Capitol/EMI’s 22-track Ricky Nelson “Greatest Love Songs” collection and the 17-track “Kenny Rogers: A Love Song Collection;”

Rhino’s Al Jarreau “Love Songs” set, with 14 favorites, including the hit “We’re in This Love Together,” his 1976 cover of Elton John’s “Your Song” and “Let It Rain,” a collaboration with George Benson and Patti Austin;

A Trisha Yearwood “Love Songs” collection, featuring five Top 10 country chart hits, on MCA Nashville/UMe.

Reba McEntire, meanwhile, recorded four new songs for the 10-track “Love Revival,” which is available exclusively via Hallmark through February. It’s the greeting card retailer’s third Valentine’s-themed album following gold sales for previous releases by Michael Bublé in 2006 and Josh Groban in 2007.

And the Whitman’s candy company has licensed singersongwriter David Martin’s “Something in Your Eyes,” which he wrote for his wife, for its heart-shaped 2008 Valentine’s Day sampler. A snippet of the song plays when you open the box, and the package contains a code for a free download of the track.

Adam Block, Legacy’s senior vice president and general manager, says the compilations in particular have proved popular with both fans and Valentine’s shoppers.

“If you’re a gigantic Frank Sinatra fan,” he notes, “you’ll be excited to learn of a new collection of his most beautiful songs you can share with someone you love. These releases live on both as a celebration of an individual artist’s music and also as a lifestyle sort of accouterment.”

Rhino’s Engstrom adds that these titles also have a life beyond Valentine’s Day, with Mother’s Day the primary beneficiary. The love songs compilations, he says, also have the potential to benefit the rest of the artists’ catalogs.

“With an artist like Al (Jarreau) or whoever we put out,” Engstrom says, “the hope is that people remember these individual love songs and will then go back and look at the individual albums those songs came from. There’s an enormous upside. “

And Engstrom says that artists in general certainly have no problem with their love songs being repackaged for consumption at this romantic time of the year.

“Love songs knocked me over when I was a kid,” he says. “We have these feelings that are very specific, so we write and we sing about that particular connection that we feel, that particular emotion and that sentiment that everyone can relate to.

“I think we’re probably exercising something we can’t quite help. We just have to get it out there, and people know exactly what we’re talking about, you know?”

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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