Here are 10 entertainment properties that nearly got an "A" this year.
AC/DC'S "BLACK ICE"
Sold only in Walmart, Sam's Club and through the band's website, "Black Ice" gave the aging hard-rock act its second No. 1 album, and its first since 1982.
Though its debut sales week was bested only by Lil Wayne's "Tha Carter III," its distribution approach couldn't be more different. AC/DC's control of where "Black Ice" could be bought did little to damp consumer interest. Credit this to the cultivation of an extremely loyal fan base, some of whom posted puzzling comments on torrent sites where they could illegally fetch the record that they'd be buying as well as pirating it.
Up 10% to $25 billion in 2008, the live music industry is the one part of the music business that isn't embattled.
It turns out there's no digital substitute for the live experience and last year saw big evidence from Jon Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen and Madonna. 2009 should be just as big as U2 gets a world tour going with Live Nation and with brisk sales at festivals such as Coachella. Of course, the road could get bumpier if the already-scrutinized proposed merger of Live Nation and Ticketmaster hits any ruts.
Professional porn may be a dying business, but one adult film studio is bucking the trend: Digital Playground.
Pouring some $10 million into the high-def "Pirates 2" has more than paid off: Whereas the first "Pirates" sold some 1 million copies on DVD since its release three years ago, "Pirates 2" has sold 500,000 in its first six months of release alone. An innovative R-rated cut has gotten the film into Blockbuster Video, which eschews skin flicks. It has requested 40,000 copies (the normal order for a Hollywood title is 5000) and 15,000 Blu-Ray editions.
The breakout star of Disney's "Camp Rock" is still a Miley Cyrus-in-training on the Billboard charts, where her debut "Don't Forget" entered at No. 2 last October only to plummet down the chart weeks after.
But the tween pop star will gain more visibility in 2009 with a Disney series, "Sonny With a Chance" and a made-for-TV movie, "Princess Protection Program," on the horizon, as well as the inevitable sequel to "Camp Rock," featuring the Jonas Brothers.
The biggest-selling artist of 2009 thus far is not U2, Beyonce or Britney, but Taylor Swift, whose album "Fearless" has been No.1 for 11 of its first 19 weeks of release.
Savvy marketing from independent country label Big Machine paired Ms. Swift with famous Disney pals such as the Jonas Brothers and Miley Cyrus and made her the biggest country crossover star since the Dixie Chicks. Plus, her good-girl image means she's all the more endorsement-friendly to marketers such as Walmart, who hired her for an exclusive line of l.e.i. sundresses in February.
The Buffy creator saw an experimental web series, "Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog," snag a surprise 2.2 million streams during its first week, enough to temporarily crash the site.
The ensuing weeks brought more audience and No. 1-selling sales on iTunes, generating even more hype for his return to network TV, "Dollhouse," in February. The buzz paid off, with the show earning Fox its best Friday-night ratings in months and even improving upon its lead-in, "The Sarah Connor Chronicles."
If digitally distributed music is sending CDs to the dustbin of history, you'd think there'd be no future at all for these artifacts of analogue.
Think again. Vinyl sales were up almost 90% in 2008, according to Nielsen Soundscan, with big-selling releases from Radiohead, Guns N' Roses and Metallica. That surge will only be helped if electronics retailer Best Buy gets into the market. Following a successful test at 100 locations, it is thinking about putting a vinyl section in each of its 1,000-plus stores.
ISLAND DEF JAM AND PARACHUTE
This spring, Island / Def Jam both helped break a brand-new alt-rock American band and break out a 127-year-old German brand.
By using the new Parachute single, "She Is Love," for Nivea's new national TV campaign, it catapulted Europe's cosmetic leader -- long stuck at 8% of the U.S. hand and body-cream market -- into 15% to 18% sales increases. Parachute benefited too: "She is Love" has been streamed 1.2 million times on MySpace and its second single, "Under Control," begins airing in a second Nivea commercial last month.
Love 'em or hate 'em , you can't deny the importance of these convicted content thieves.
Established in 2003, the Swedish torrent tracker made headlines recently when, following a circus-like trial, its founders were sentenced to a year in prison and slapped with a $3 million fine for breaking Swedish copyright law. Besides vowing to appeal, the pirates fired back with a social-media heavy response including a long, bizarre video discussion on Bambuser.
Although disappointing ticket sales for their 3-D concert movie may have indicated the Jonases' 2008 breakout success might have been fleeting, weekend ticket sales for their summer concert tour suggest their 15 minutes are still very much near the 5:00 mark.
The Jonases banked 800,000 tickets in three days, which can only bode well for their upcoming fourth album, and long-term health of their Disney Channel sitcom, "JONAS," which premiered to 4 million total viewers and beat all kids' TV in its timeslot.