Last week, as per Nielsen SoundScan, 24% of the titles(48 albums) on the Top 200 Current Albums Chart have achieved over the counter sales over 1 million units. An additional 26 albums have achieved sales between 500,000-999,999 units. So 37% of the entire chart has scanned platinum (1MM units) and gold (500k+ units), respectively. And a decent number of releases beneath this level have been recent releases which haven't reached these levels simply because they haven't been in the market long enough.
So yes, there are hits, believe it or not, hits that have reached a mass audience - and mostly via the CD cofiguration. It is certainly taking longer for some of these releases to reach these higher levels. Most of the platinum releases have been out at least 6 months, if not longer. Some have been on the chart close to two years. What that means for corporate brands is that they have to realize that musical acts do have fans, but that those fans are taking longer to react to that album's presence in the market. Whether that is due to less discretionary income, increased marketing clutter, or consumers not finding their music through traditional music marketing channels such as terrestrial radio or MTV (and having almost infinite choice on the Internet), there is still demand for music and artists.
But this isn't the only chart that determines the idustry's health (or lack of it). Increasingly, record companies and artists have an increasingly diverse pie of revenue-producing activities. Downloads of individiual tracks and mobile phone ringtone downloads represent for certain artists a majority or significant percentage of revenue on a per project basis.
So, when should a brand commit to an act as part of their marketing efforts - when the label is trying to do push marketing of its own and the artist will be everywhere at retail, press, etc..., or later on, when the brand's presence will actually represent the label's main marketing of the artist for that period? The answer is always contextual based on your brand's needs and timing, but the best time to secure the artist for any types of brand activities is in the planning stages for a particular release, even if the execution of your campaign occurs later on in that artist's album release cycle. The pre-release stage is when the label is most active and engaged on a particular artist, and most accepting of input on how to find "other people's money" to help fund certain artist activities, whether that be a radio promo tour, tour sponsorship, integrated, multi-channel campaigns, etc... Later on, the label's focus might be diverted to other artists or there may be less commitment to your desired act based on the artist's performance in the market.