In an industry with a new standard of 100K-big debuts, Eminem’s Recovery pushed double platinum in two months, spent seven weeks at No. 1 and Susan Boyled the market. Music biz experts weigh in on how hip-hop’s Energizer Bunny kept on going
KEITH CAULFIELD, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR OF CHARTS AT BILLBOARD: Recovery definitely bucked the trend of what we normally see with any significant release. Generally, the album will have the best first-week sales—which Recovery did—but it falls off a cliff in week two. How do you get people who didn’t care, or didn’t know, to suddenly find your album? Eminem was able to do that. He was No. 1 for weeks, and [didn’t] sell less than 80,000 copies a week.
RAEKWON, RAPPER: Fans can tell when you giving them a piece-of-shit album. Em even said the album before Recovery [2009’s Relapse] was trash. [His success] had a lot to do with communicating with fans and figuring out what they’re feeling. All of that is something you take to the studio and keep in the back of your head.
JEFF BASS, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER ON SEVERAL EMINEM ALBUMS, INCLUDING THE SLIM SHADY LP: The bigger you get as an artist, it’s harder to come by a hit record. Encore and Relapse were not huge successes—he’s not immune to failure. He gave his old fans something to latch on to. But he also struck a nerve working with newer artists like Rihanna [“Love the Way You Lie”] and Lil Wayne [“No Love”].
DENNIS DENNEHY, INTERSCOPE EVP OF MARKETING & PUBLICITY: “Love the Way You Lie” is probably the song of the summer. It had such an immediate resonance with both males and females, and engaged a lot of people that might not have been engaged on Relapse. So you get people that three or four weeks in are like, “I’ve been hearing good things. I’m gonna buy the album.”
CAULFIELD: You can’t sell the way he’s done unless you have different groups buying your records. Because he’s selling well on iTunes, he’s getting younger fans that are only now discovering his old stuff.
RAEKWON: It amazes me how he can sell so many units, but you don’t hear his records all the time on the radio or in the club. At the same time, he surrounded himself with a strong team who said, “This is what we need you to do.”
DENNEHY: There was no point in us rushing everything out. Everybody feels like they know about him because he’s so personal in his lyrics, but there’s still that mystery because he’s not out there all the time.
JON CARAMANICA, MUSIC CRITIC: People are still rooting for him. He’s had a public struggle with addiction. Combine that with a lead single that told the story of his comeback and a song with a very savvy use of Rihanna, and you get a recipe for success in a down market.