“Susan Boyle tops US charts before her album even released. Whitney Houston probably less than thrilled,” screeched the UK gossip site 3am today, causing many credulous observers to fall in line. As it turns out, that “chart” is the Amazon albums chart, where the Britain’s Got Talent-bred singing star’s I Dreamed A Dream—which doesn’t come out until Nov. 24—is in fact No. 1. But overall? Said statistic is actually pretty meaningless, and certainly no indication that Whitney Houston’s just-released I Look To You isn’t selling well, as the Brits’ headline indicates. The reasons why, after the jump.
Who’s going to mailorder an album that’s in stores already? I Dreamed A Dream doesn’t come out until Nov. 24; Whitney’s I Look To You has already been available for instant acquisition (whether through a digital download or at a store) for five days. Why wait to get the album when you can feel instant gratification? (From the look of things, Amazon’s “music” charts and MP3 charts are separate; Look is the MP3 store’s No. 6 at the moment, although it’s worth noting that the five albums ahead of it have all been deeply discounted at points this week. I bought that Black Crowes album for $3.99 the other day!)
The bar to top the charts on Amazon? Is actually pretty low. Let’s take as an example the chart week ending March 1 (which is the most recent full SoundScan report I have, alas). The No. 1 album on SoundScan’s “Internet” chart, which measures non-digital sales from online outlets, was Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks Live, which sold a total of 6,017 copies. No. 2 was Robert Plant and Alison Krauss’ Raising Sand, which sold 3,317 copies. Those numbers are still pretty small even for this sales-bereft era.
Is Boyle’s album likely to blow up when it’s released here? Sure; her YouTube-spurred fame had quite a far reach, thanks to the savvy of Simon Cowell. (The Oprah episode featuring her even had a rerun this week!) But pitting her against Whitney in some sort of ersatz Battle Of The Divas just results in another story about the music business based on bad numbers. And the credulity with which they’re spread doesn’t really help anyone’s case—except those people who are trying to constantly point out that most writers don’t really understand how the music industry works and are more interested in a cheap hook that’ll get search engines whirring than anything resembling the truth.
A more interesting story? Why so many people seem hell-bent on ruining Houston’s redemptive story arc. She’s kind of having a bad week, press-wise!
Susan Boyle tops US charts before her album even released. Whitney Houston probably less than thrilled [3am]
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