Whitney & Britney Stateside...

[Sonicnet Report]

Whitney Greatest-Hits Collection Expected To Sell Well
Retailers predict double-CD release will withstand competition from Britney Spears, Pearl Jam, Phish.

Contributing Editor Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen reports:

Despite R&B superstar Whitney Houston's several recent, well-publicized performance cancellations, her greatest-hits album, which arrives in stores Tuesday (May 16), should do well amid competition from major releases by Britney Spears and Pearl Jam, retailers say.

"It's a huge release day," said Cathie Ronnenburg, general manager of the Tower Records store in Paramus, N.J., near Houston's home in suburban Newark. "Whitney tends to be the kind of artist who sells well her first week and then sells solidly for another six or eight months."

Whitney — The Greatest Hits is a two-CD collection featuring one disc of ballads such as "I Will Always Love You" and "Same Script, Different Cast," a new duet with Deborah Cox that is at #28 on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop singles chart. Disc two comprises remixes of Houston's uptempo hits, including "I'm Every Woman" and "How Will I Know."

Houston blamed throat problems for her missed performances at this year's Academy Awards and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in March. Numerous articles appeared in various publications speculating that Houston's problems concerned drugs. The singer also blamed illness for several cancelled shows on her summer 1999 tour.

Ronnenburg contrasted the release of Whitney — The Greatest Hits with Spears' Oops! ... I Did It Again, which she said may be typical of a "fast burn" release, which sells very well during its first week or two then drops off significantly.

"Houston's got no chance against Britney [during the first week of sales]," she said, but she added that Houston's sales ultimately could rival those of the pop princess. Ronnenburg said she ordered several hundred copies of each album.

Whitney — The Greatest Hits has a list price of $25.99, which Ronnenburg said is low for a two-disc package. Tower will start selling the album at a sale price of $22.99. "That's a pretty good price for two discs," Ronnenburg said. "I don't think the cost will deter people from picking it up."

Jim Fath, music manager of the Virgin Megastore in downtown Chicago, ordered more than 1,000 copies each of the Houston and Spears albums and said that in his store, Whitney will probably outsell Britney — at least until the weekend.

"We're in a huge tourist and business area, and the demographic that buys Britney Spears albums won't get down here until Saturday," said Fath, whose store is located on Michigan Avenue in the city's shopping and office district. Stores in more suburban locations, such as Ronnenburg's, are likely to see bigger sales of Spears' album during the week.

Fath said he planned to be open at midnight Monday to sell the singers' albums, as well as new releases from Pearl Jam and Phish. He said he expects Pearl Jam's Binaural and Phish's Farmhouse to be the biggest overnight sellers.

Fath added that Houston has a proven sales track record and noted that her 1998 album, My Love Is Your Love, continues to sell well. The album, which features the single "It's Not Right but It's Okay", has sold more than 3 million copies and is at #99 on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop albums chart.

Arista has been promoting the greatest-hits compilation heavily, including placing a full-page ad in Sunday's New York Times.

Fath said his store sold 20 copies of the vinyl-only collection Whitney — The Remixes in the week after its April 25 release. That's a sizeable number for a vinyl release, he said, and it bodes well for the greatest-hits album.

"This is almost like an early Christmas release for us," Fath said. "People will be buying this one right through the end of the year."



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