Music News

Insane Clowns prosper even as album sales wane

LOS ANGELES (Billboard) - Despite the No. 20 debut on the U.S. album charts by Insane Clown Posse’s new disc, the principal player in the Detroit-based rock/rap hybrid knows what is about to happen.

Members of the Insane Clown Posse pose as they arrive at the 2003 Billboard Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, December 10, 2003. Despite the No. 20 debut on the U.S. album charts by Insane Clown Posse's new disc, the principal player in the Detroit-based rock/rap hybrid knows what is about to happen. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

“We do our best sales in our first two weeks, and then we fall off,” Violent J says.

“The Tempest,” self-released on the act’s own Psychopathic Records, sold 33,000 units in the United States in its first week on the tally, according to Nielsen SoundScan. As ICP enters its 20th year of existence, the act’s fan base, which ICP lovingly refers to as “juggalos” (for him) and “juggalettes” (for her), is still showering its support.

And even though first-week sales of “The Tempest” -- the act’s 11th charting album -- are significantly lower than the 73,000 units sold by the act’s last full-length, 2004’s “Hell’s Pit,” Violent J isn’t worried. That’s because ICP has an entire industry to fall back on.

A smaller, more underground version of Kiss and its “Kiss army,” perhaps, ICP feeds its juggalos and juggalettes a bevy of products, from board games and lunch boxes to lighters and watches, and stages its own multiday convention of sorts (the Gathering) every July. Dates have not yet been set for this year’s event, but last year’s fest -- staged outside of Columbus, Ohio -- featured such performers as Too $hort, Digital Underground and Drowning Pool. The Columbus Dispatch estimated last year’s attendance in the 7,000 range.

“We do everything but the actual manufacturing of the CDs,” Violent J says. “That’s the only thing we don’t do yet, but we’re getting a damn pressing plant one day.”

For now, the act will have to settle for about 30 full-time employees manning its own studio, office and 25,000-square-foot warehouse space. ICP also started an extreme wrestling league in the JCW (Juggalo Championshit Wrestling), and works such artists as Twiztid, Blaze and Boondox under the Psychopathic banner. A recently launched imprint, Hatchet House Records, will release lesser-known acts.

While ICP has worked with its share of major labels, it launched Psychopathic in 1991 to release albums from side projects and friends. The company is headed by Bill Dail, who declined to be interviewed.

“When we first started off, we did everything ourselves, and the goal was to get a record deal,” Violent J says. “We sold more and more CDs and figured out how to get it in the stores and we figured out how to do merchandise. Once we got signed, we realized the label only did what we were doing.”

The band has had a sometimes contentious relationship with major labels, most notably its well-publicized scuffle with Disney-owned Hollywood Records over the content of its 1997 album “The Great Milenko.” The act eventually signed to Island, and went completely independent for the release of 2002’s “The Wraith: Shangri-La.” While the act’s sales have never come close since to matching the 1.7 million units sold by “The Great Milenko,” its two independent full-lengths have sold more than 220,000 units each.

The act’s entire catalog of full-lengths and EPs has sold 6.5 million units, according to Nielsen SoundScan. And even though CD sales are declining, ICP business is doing just fine, Violent J says.

“Our merchandise today does better than it ever has,” he says. “But there’s probably no chance in hell that ‘The Tempest’ will go platinum. But if we can get it over 100,000 units, I’ll be happy as hell because I know that’ll bring a lot of revenue into the company.”