He Hath Felt No Wrath Like That Of A Britney Supporter

To say it was a strange week in the music biz would be an understatement. But it may have been an even stranger one in the Billboard offices—or at least in the inboxes of any staffers unlucky enough to have their e-mail addresses posted online. For these poor souls, it was a week that exposed them to horrors most men and women never experience: the vitriol of Britney Spears fans who felt their hero had been shafted.

For those under a rock, Billboard's chart team changed its policy on allowing retail exclusives onto The Billboard 200 albums chart, which enabled the Eagles' first album in 28 years—distributed only to Wal-Mart—to reign atop the charts, dislodging Ms. Spears' comeback from the peak position.

The e-mails started arriving fast and furious Nov. 6, as news of the change hit the blogs and Spears message boards. Be glad you weren't Anthony Colombo, our affable chart manager for rock, ringtones and videos. In other words, Mr. Colombo had nothing to do with the decision, but had the misfortune of being listed as the charts department contact on Billboard.com. At press time, he had skimmed some 621 Spears-related messages, presumably much in the model of the first several hundred he read, which included an impressive mastery of the profane, various creative anatomical suggestions and even a vaguely worded threat to his well-being. You can get a taste at our jadedinsider.com blog, where some 600 comments follow a post on the Eagles news, many threatening to cancel "prescriptions." All of us are worried, frankly, about the response from our younger cousins when we head home for the holidays.

I don't mean to make light of a serious decision, however. My phone did its own share of ringing this week, and it seemed many in the industry were divided along the lines of "This is great—we need titles that sell 700K to anchor our charts," and "$@#^%&!!"

I'll leave others to explain the decision (see "Eagles Help Shorten 'Long Road' to Change," page 71) or ponder what it means for the retail world (see "What's (Not) In Store," page 12), and suffice it to say I think the correct call was made, because it's the one that best-represents the facts of the market.

My biggest, most sincere hope is that this decision does not tarnish what was nothing short of the campaign of the year orchestrated by those at Jive. As it should be, the folks at that label are too classy to pull the spotlight they deserve away from their artist. Our Q&A with Jive executive VP/GM Tom Carrabba (see page 27) is as refreshing for its low-key tone as it is for its frank appraisals of the moves that worked wonders. He would never say this, but let's face it: Two months ago, the morning after Spears' positively torpid performance at the MTV VMAs, even her fans in the industry—and I unironically count myself as one—had given up hope. Jive immediately got the music out there to tastemakers and kept a laser-focus on those tracks. Now, with Spears yet to do any major press or promotion, Jive is in a position to be talking about a third or fourth single, and few are doubting the label's prospects.

If the e-mails Colombo received—from China, from Latin America, from everywhere—are any indication, support is widespread. And very passionate.

Source: Billboard.biz