[The Nicks Fix]

May 26, 2001

Stevie Nicks Promotion On VH1 Leads To Big First Week

PRE-ORDERING PAYS OFF: VH1 executives are viewing first-week sales of Stevie Nicks' new CD Trouble in Shangri-La (Reprise)—an album the channel heavily promoted through online and offline programming, as well as through its E-commerce arm—as an early home run for its new convergence strategy. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Top Internet Album Sales chart with 4,100 units sold and at No. 5 on The Billboard 200 with 109,000 units sold. (Billboard, May 19).

VH1.com, the Internet arm of the cable channel, was promoting pre-orders of the CD under a new service known as Hear Music First, which allows early buyers to listen to an album as a secure stream before it hits stores. Traffic to the VH1.com store nearly quadrupled with the launch of the promotion, accounting for more than 75% of the visitors to that part of the site.

What's more, Nicks' sales through VH1.com accounted for more than half of all her Internet album sales for the May 19 reporting period. Second was Destiny's Child, which sold roughly half of what Nicks did.

"Obviously, what we were doing was reaching her core fan base," says Fred Graver, VH1 executive VP of programming and production. "It was great for our audience. They got to hear the new album two weeks before it hit the street."

The Hear Music First offering was promoted on the VH1 cable channel as well as via the Internet. As part of the online promotion, links to VH1.com were set up on sanctioned fan sites, including nicksfix.com.

Fans who bought the CD through VH1.com ahead of its May 1 release received a pass code to access a Windows Media stream of the album. The album could be listened to online, and users could also access the album's artwork, lyrics, and liner notes, as well as interviews.

Meanwhile, VH1 made Nicks its featured artist of the month for May, with behind-the-scenes information relating to the new album and showcases of encore presentations of VH1 Storytellers: Stevie Nicks, Behind the Music: Stevie Nicks, Behind the Music: Fleetwood Mac, and Fleetwood Mac's live full-length reunion concert program, The Dance.

"It was a good one-two punch," says Rick Krim, VH1 executive VP of music and talent. "The online promotion helped build a lot of awareness for the record and its pending release, and then [VH1 TV] programming knocked it home."

"It's not like when there's an 'N Sync record and every kid on the block has to have it the first second," he adds. "I think we created a bit of an urgency [for the album]."

For their part, Reprise executives say they couldn't be happier with the results of the Hear Music First push. Andreas Wettstein, VP of new media at Warner/Reprise Records, says the promotion played an important part in helping raise awareness of the new record. "Certainly, she was a great fit with VH1 and a natural fit for an experiment of this nature."

As for the next artist to participate in the Hear Music First initiative, Graver says VH1 hopes to name its next artist within a month. "We want to do the first few of these pretty carefully," he says. "We want it to be the right artist, the right label, and something that's right for our audience."

-- Brian Garrity

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