Thursday, July 3, 2008

Most album downloads ever

holds at #1 on Billboard's album chart for the second week with Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends. But the big news is that, in just two weeks, Viva La Vida has sold more downloads than any album in digital history. The old record was held by John Mayer's Continuum. Viva La Vida sold 66,000 downloads this week, bringing its two-week total to 354,000. Continuum has sold 353,000 downloads since its release in September 2006. The rest of the all-time top five albums with the most paid digital downloads consists of Amy Winehouse's Back To Black (329,000), Daughtry's Daughtry (323,000) and Justin Timberlake's FutureSex/LoveSounds (301,000).

In other download news, "Low" by Flo Rida featuring T-Pain this week becomes the first song to top the 4 million mark in paid downloads.

The paid digital download medium scarcely existed five years ago and now it's the biggest growth area in the music business. (It may be the only growth area in the music business.) Billboard reports that album sales in the first half of 2008 totaled 204.6 million, down slightly from 229.8 million in the first half of 2007. Digital track sales for the same period totaled 542.7 million, up substantially from 417.3 million.

This next item makes the point even more dramatically. Just three albums topped 1 million copies in sales (CDs and digital downloads combined) in the first six months of 2008, the lowest total since Nielsen/SoundScan set up shop in 1991. Six albums sold 1 million copies in the first six months of 2007. Fully 16 albums hit the million mark in the first half of 2006. (The business hit its peak in 2001 when a whopping 37 albums reached the 1 million mark in the first 26 weeks of the year.)

The three million-selling albums of the first half of 2008 are Lil' Wayne's Tha Carter III (1,526,000), Jack Johnson's Sleep Through The Static (1,248,000) and Mariah Carey's E=MC2 (1,063,000). Two other albums are close to striking the 1 million mark: Alicia Keys' As I Am (986,000 in 2008 sales) and Viva La Vida (971,000).

This isn't the first time that Coldplay has been able to boast of having the album with the most paid downloads in history. The band's previous album, X&Y, held that title when Nielsen/SoundScan started running an all-time list (they call it a "run-to-date" list) in January 2006. The Fray's How To Save A Life bumped Coldplay down to second place in December 2006. Continuum took over in March 2007.

The field of individual song downloads is also showing rapid growth. The Black Eyed Peas' "Let's Get It Started" was the first song to top the 500,000 mark in paid digital downloads. It reached the milestone in February 2005. Gwen Stefani's "Hollaback Girl" was the first song to top the 1 million mark (in October 2005). Daniel Powter's "Bad Day" was the first to top 2 million (in December 2006). "Crank That Soulja Boy" by Soulja Boy Tell ‘Em was the first to top 3 million (in January of this year). And this week "Low" becomes the first to reach 4 million.

Some future researcher, pouring through Yahoo!'s old files, may be very amused that I made a big deal about a digital album reaching a measly 354,000 copies or an individual song hitting a mere 4 million downloads. I hope so. It would mean that albums and songs will one day reach download sales marks that make today's record-setting numbers seem puny.

Katy Perry's "I Kissed A Girl" holds at #1 on Hot Digital Songs with 206,000 paid downloads. This brings its eight-week total to 1,193,000. Jonas Brothers' "Burnin' Up," the first single from their forthcoming studio album, opens at #2, pushing "This Is Me," Joe Jonas' Camp Rock duet with Demi Lovato, down to #3. The brothers' third album, A Little Bit Longer, is due Aug. 12. If it doesn't debut at #1, I will eat my hat.

Incidentally, this week marks the first time that the top three albums hold still for two weeks running since December, when Josh Groban's Noel, Alicia Keys' As I Am and Eagles' Long Road Out Of Eden repeated in the top three spots.

Here's the low-down on this week's top 10 albums.

1. Coldplay, Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends, 249,000. This is Coldplay's second album in a row to log two or more weeks at #1. X&Y held the top spot for three weeks in 2005. Who was the last artist to have back-to-back #1 albums that both had multiple weeks on top? Mariah Carey. Three songs from Coldplay's album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Viva La Vida," which dips from #3 to #4.

2. Lil Wayne, Tha Carter III, 209,000. Two weeks after debuting at #1 with the biggest one-week sales total in more than three years, the album holds at #2. In just three weeks, this has become the best-selling album of Lil Wayne's nine-year career. That distinction was held by Tha Carter II, which (as of this week) has sold 1,386,000 copies. Six songs from the new album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Lollipop" (featuring Static Major), which holds at #8.

3. Various Artists, Camp Rock soundtrack, 169,000. The TV soundtrack holds at #3 for the second straight week. This is off to a much faster start than the first High School Musical soundtrack, which took seven weeks to crack the top five (in February 2006). The second HSM soundtrack debuted at #1 with sales of 615,000. Five songs from Camp Rock are listed on Hot Digital Songs.

4. Motley Crue, Saints Of Los Angeles, 99,000. This is the Los Angeles-based band's fifth top five album--and its first since Generation Swine in 1997. The Crue first hit the album chart 25 years ago this October. The band reached its zenith between 1987 and 1991 when it released three consecutive albums that hit #1 or #2. The new album may have the most L.A.-centric title since Rage Against The Machine's The Battle Of Los Angeles hit #1 in 1999. The title track to the new album enters Hot Digital Songs at #115.

5. Three 6 Mafia, Last 2 Walk, 77,000. This is the hip-hop act's first album release since core members Jordan Houston and Paul Beauregard won an Oscar in 2006 for co-writing "It's Hard Out Here For A Pimp" from Hustle & Flow. This is Three 6 Mafia's second studio album in a row to reach the top five. The act hit #3 in 2005 with Most Known Unknown. Two songs from the new album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Lolli Lolli (Pop That Body)," which jumps from #21 to #17.

6. Various Artists, NOW 28, 66,000. In its fourth week, the compilation slips from #4 to #6. A NOW album has appeared in the top 10 in 15 of the first 26 weeks of 2008. So although the franchise is off its peak pace, it is still competitive.

7. Usher, Here I Stand, 52,000. Four weeks after debuting at #1, Usher slips from #6 to #7. He's standing, true to the title, just not quite as tall as he did with his last album. The album is #8 for the year to date. Three songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Love In This Club" (featuring Young Jeezy), which dips from #30 to #38.

8. Shinedown, The Sound Of Madness, 50,000. This is the Florida-based rock group's first top 10 album. Shinedown's previous highest-charting album was its sophomore set, Us And Them, which hit #23 in 2005. The band's 2003 debut, Leave A Whisper, hits the Catalog Albums chart at #152. It sold 2,000 copies this week, bringing its total to 1,187,000.

9. Disturbed, Indestructible, 50,000. Three weeks after debuting at #1, the hard rock band dips from #8 to #9. The album has sold 464,000 copies in four weeks, almost exactly the same number as NOW 28, which was released the same week. "Inside The Fire" holds at #90 on Hot Digital Songs.

10. Rihanna, Good Girl Gone Bad, 47,000. This platinum album has logged four weeks in the top 10, two when it was first issued a year ago and now two more on the heels of the release of an expanded, Reloaded edition. With all this success, I think it's time to change the title from Good Girl Gone Bad to Bad Girl Done Good. (And I mean "bad" in the hip sense.) Five songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Disturbia," which jumps from #6 to #5.

Three albums drop out of the top 10 this week. Plies' Definition Of Real falls from #5 to #11, Katy Perry's One Of The Boys dips from #9 to #13 and The Offspring's Rise And Fall, Rage And Grace drops from #10 to #23.

Kid Rock's Rock N Roll Jesus jumps from #16 to #12--the album's highest ranking since November. The album debuted at #1 in October and then fell as low as #82 in March before rallying on the strength of the zesty hit single, "All Summer Long." The tune is an homage to Lynyrd Skynyrd's 1974 smash "Sweet Home Alabama," with a little of Warren Zevon's 1978 hit "Werewolves Of London" thrown in for good measure. "Sweet Home Alabama" has sold 1,273,000 downloads, more than any other song from the 1970s.

Sigur Ros's Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust opens at #15. This is the Icelandic group's second top 30 album in a row, following Takk..., which hit #27 in 2005.

Cute Is What We Aim For's Rotation opens at #21. The New York-based band first hit the chart in 2006 with The Same Old Blood Rush With A New Touch, which hit #75. (This may be the most grammatically atrocious group name ever, though I guess We Aim For Cute wouldn't have been as memorable.)

Ups & Downs: Paul Potts' One Chance returns to the chart at #143, with a sales increase of 510% compared to last week. That's the biggest gain of any non-debuting album. The album debuted at #30 in September and peaked at #23 in November. Judas Priest's Nostradamus falls from #11 to #40 in its second week, a 69% sales drop. That's the biggest drop of any album in the top 200. Of course, Nostradamus was such a great seer, he could see this coming.

Leave ‘Em Laughing: In the week after comedian George Carlin's death, five of his albums return to the Catalog Albums chart, with sales totaling 12,000 copies. Nearly 9,000 fans downloaded his classic 1972 routine "Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television," making it the week's #164 entry on Hot Digital Songs. Carlin's new album, It's Bad For Ya, is due on July 29. HBO Comedy will re-air Carlin's recent HBO special of the name five times in July.

Catalog Report: I Can Only Imagine: Ultimate Power Anthems Of The Christian Faith tops the Catalog Albums chart for the seventh week. The Time/Life collection sold 16,000 copies and would have ranked #30 on the big chart if older, catalog albums were allowed to compete there. Only one Various Artists collection has had a longer run at #1 on the Catalog Album chart--Now That's What I Call Christmas!, which headed the list for 14 weeks from 2002 through 2005.

Heads Up: G-Unit's long-awaited sophomore album, T.O.S. (Terminate On Sight) tops this week's list of new releases. The rap trio's debut, Beg For Mercy, hit #2 in November 2003-after co-founder 50 Cent hit #1 with Get Rich Or Die Tryin' but before colleague Lloyd Banks topped the chart with The Hunger For More. Also due: John Mayer's Where The Light Is: John Mayer Live In Los Angeles, Vanessa Hudgens' Identified, My Chemical Romance's The Black Parade Is Dead and Alkaline Trio's Agony And Irony.

Counting ‘Em Down: Thirty-eight years ago this weekend, American Top 40 made its debut on seven radio stations. The show, created by Casey Kasem and Don Bustany, is still running today, with the tireless Ryan Seacrest hosting. Seacrest does a first-rate job, though he'd probably be the first to concede that it will always be Casey's show. Thanks, Casey and Don--and Ryan too, who has added the Casey-worthy line, "That's the run, from 40 to 1."

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