Number-Crunching The Throne: Jay-Z And Kanye West Hit #1, But Was Moving 436K Good Enough?

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The big chart story this week is Katy Perry‘s record-tying fifth #1 single from Teenage Dream on the Billboard Hot 100. Below the fold, though, everyone’s talking about the #1 debut of Watch The Throne. Jay-Z and Kanye West‘s collaborative album sold 436,000 copies in its first week—the second-best single-week total of the year after the monster 1.1 million first-week Lady Gaga achieved in May (with help from Amazon) for Born This Way, but far short of the 600,000 some industry insiders had predicted.

The album’s release was unique in two key ways: its successful protection from leaks and its oddly-timed and digital-first release schedule (a Monday iTunes exclusive followed by a Friday physical release, instead of a simultaneous Tuesday release). Just as industry watched Amazon’s 99¢ Born This Way sale to determine strategies for other future releases, they watched The Throne to see how the duo’s unique strategies might affect sales.

So is 436,000 bad news? Not really. In the first place, those are still “big-boy numbers,” as Respect editor-in-chief Elliott Wilson put it to MTV News (besides which, the album’s promotion was primarily aimed at critical, not commercial, success).

More notably, that number fits neatly into the initial projections for Watch The Throne, which were shifted upwards based on the album’s first-day sales on iTunes—which turned out to be a mistake. The album may have set a new one-week iTunes sales record, but within a day of its release it had fallen to #9 on the live-updating iTunes album sales charts (and currently is languishing at #70).

As it turned out, the Throne’s anticipation strategy led to massive first-day sales. An anonymous Roc Nation executive told Billboard that the anti-leak strategy was employed “to create that nostalgic moment of unwrapping the CD and listening to it for the first time,” and that seems to have built anticipation to the point that the album experienced the digital equivalent of a line outside the record store at midnight. A lot of people who were going to buy the album at some point in its first week made sure to buy it on the first day. So if, as the executive claims, the strategy was aimed at building anticipation, rather than any effect it might have on sales, it worked like a charm.

That’s It? The Throne’s First-Week Album Sales = 436,000… [Digital Music News]

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