- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 26, 2001

Sales of patriotic music have skyrocketed since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, but analysts say American pride likely won't be enough to curb a general slowdown in music sales this year.

Compact discs featuring Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the U.S.A.," Ray Charles' version of "America the Beautiful" and even old tunes from John Philip Sousa are selling briskly, both in stores and online. Mr. Greenwood has two albums ranked in the top 5 of Amazon.com's compact disc sales, and "God Bless the U.S.A." is now the No. 2 selling country album, according to Billboard Magazine.

"People are just wanting to feel the strength from this music," said Sharon Weber, spokeswoman for Wal-Mart, the nation's top music retailer. "After Sept. 11, we have seen steady sales in that category."

Many retailers have had trouble keeping certain musical selections in stock. At the Best Buy in Laurel, the entire section devoted to Mr. Greenwood and Mr. Charles were empty shortly after the attacks. Stores are just now getting the chance to restock, and sales remain brisk, though exact sales figures are still being determined.

"We're working diligently to make sure the music is there for our customers. It has been a challenge," said Miss Weber, who added that sales in spiritual music have also picked up.

Advance orders on certain songs have picked up as well. Demand for Whitney Houston's version of "The Star-Spangled Banner," performed at the Super Bowl in 1991, have caused Arista Records to issue a re-release. Though it won't hit stores until Oct. 2, the song is already ranked 19th on Amazon.com.

Music retailers say any sale of patriotic music is an increase over three weeks ago, when such albums sat on shelves, mostly collecting dust.

"It's the type of genre where you wouldn't see a regular increase," said Victoria Whitaker, manager of Tower Records in Rockville. Miss Whitaker said sales of patriotic music have picked up there, and that many customers have been taking such music to listening booths in the stores.

But observers of record sales say it will take more than a wave of patriotism to revitalize a sagging music industry. EMI Inc., one of the five largest music companies, announced yesterday that it expects profits to decrease 20 percent owing to slow sales in the United States and Latin America. The company said in a statement that it had a decline in sales in its second fiscal quarter and "September is proving to be particularly difficult." This announcement comes amid heavy sales of Mr. Greenwood's album, "American Patriot," which was released in 1992 by Capitol Records, a division of EMI.

Analysts said music is currently the weakest division of AOL Time Warner Inc., the nation's largest media and entertainment company. The company's music division pulled in $895 million during its most recent fiscal quarter, down from $1 billion during the same quarter of 2000.

John Corcoran, an analyst with CIBC World Markets in Boston said it was too early to tell what overall impact the sales of patriotic music have. But he said it would probably take more than a temporary increase to get the industry back on track.

"A minor uptick like this is too small a tail to wag this whole dog," Mr. Corcoran said.

He said that AOL Time Warner's music division, like most in the industry, attribute much of its sales to customers overseas. These customers are unlikely to purchase music with an American theme. In addition, several of the biggest record companies, including Bertelsmann, Sony and EMI, are based abroad.

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