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What Does Susan Boyle’s Amazon Record Really Mean?

susanboyle What Does Susan Boyle’s Amazon Record Really Mean?This morning a press release went out touting Amazon presales for Britain’s Got Talent-propelled belter Susan Boyle’s debut album; “Susan Boyle’s I Dreamed A Dream is Music’s Largest CD Pre-Order,” the headline touted, and once again, many a media outlet eagerly reported this bit of non-news. While the appetite for Boyle’s sorta-brassy voice and up-from-under backstory among the segment of people who still buy CDs—your Streisand fans, your Bubléholics—is probably undeniable, the lack of numbers in the press release is enough to make me get all existential. You know—what does it all mean, man? After the jump, a little bit of number-crunching with the press release’s top 10.

Here’s Amazon’s just-released preorder top 10, and overall first-week sales for those records.
1. Susan Boyle, I Dreamed a Dream (2009—first-week sales TK)
2. Norah Jones, Not Too Late (2007—first-week sales 405,000)
3. U2, No Line on the Horizon (2009—first-week sales 484,000)
4. Bruce Springsteen, Magic (2007—first-week sales 335,000)
5. Dixie Chicks, Taking the Long Way (2006—first-week sales 526,000)
6. Coldplay, “Viva La Vida (2008—first-week sales 722,000)
7. U2, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb (2004—first-week sales 840,000)
8. David Cook (2008—first-week sales 280,000)
9. Diana Krall, Quiet Nights (2009—first-week sales 104,000)
10. Clay Aiken, A Thousand Different Ways (2006—first-week sales 211,000)

Unfortunately, Amazon numbers for these first-week sales aren’t available. But we can sorta extrapolate; data for and other online CD retailers (not digital-music stores) is broken out on the “Internet” chart. Here’s this week’s top five on that chart, with online sales and corresponding Billboard 200 data in parentheses:
1. Michael Bublé, Crazy Love (16,000 Internet, 203,000 overall (No. 1))
2. Bob Dylan, Christmas In The Heart (7,200 Internet, 20,000 overall (No. 23))
3. Rosanne Cash, The List (5,800 Internet, 18,000 overall (No. 28))
4. Barbra Streisand, Love Is The Answer (4,700 Internet, 49,000 overall (No. 4))
5. The Flaming Lips, Embryonic (4,500 Internet, 32,000 overall (No. 8))

If you put together the two charts, it’s not too much of a stretch to posit that an album’s ranking on CD-selling sites is little more than a leading indicator that it appeals to an that’s slightly more classicist (classic rock, classic pop) in its tastes than buyers of the New Moon soundtrack (No. 7 on the Internet chart, 2,700 sales) and Jay-Z’s Blueprint 3 (No. 11 on the Internet chart, 1,100 sales). Perhaps this constant cawing about Boyle’s Amazon ranking is actually Sony’s way of reminding the public that she has an album coming out, and that people really liked to watch her on the Internet back in the day! (You know, in May.)

So then, will the Susan Boyle record sell well in the States? Sure; if the above pre-orders are any indication of wider interest, she’s likely to at least break the six-figure mark, which is “success” in the current moment. Is I Dreamed A Dream likely to top the charts the week it comes out? That’s actually an interesting question; it’s currently slated to be released on Nov. 23, the same day as new albums by Rihanna, Timbaland, and the similarly Cowell-beloved Adam Lambert. Not to mention the re-release of Lady GaGa’s The Fame, which, thanks to its tacking on an extra eight tracks, seems like a much better deal than most expanded editions these days. But as the recent lessons of Bublé and Streisand have shown, the purchasing power of the Oprah viewer is not to be trifled with! So it’s a toss-up, really—but definitely not a sure thing because of the stat-free boastings of one online retailer.

Susan Boyle’s I Dreamed a Dream is Music’s Largest CD Pre-Order [BusinessWire]
Earlier: Attention Everyone: Please Stop Reporting Chart Data That Isn’t Backed Up By Hard Numbers, Because Doing So Makes You Look Dumb


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