Gwen Stefani set for first #1 on Billboard 200

This is What the Truth Feels Like is headed for an estimated 80,000 equivalent album units by the end of the day, good for a #1 bow. Surprisingly, This is What the Truth Feels Like would be Gwen Stefani’s first #1 album as a solo artist. Of 6 prior top 10 albums as a solo artist and as the lead vocalist of No Doubt, only No Doubt‘s breakthrough album, Tragic Kingdom, was able to take the crown. Tragic Kingdom, which contained the 16-week 1996 #1 radio smash “Don’t Speak” (which was not allowed to chart on the Hot 100 under the rules in place at the time because it was not sold individually as a physical single), went on to sell over 8 million copies in the United States and 16 million worldwide.

By the way, at the time, “Don’t Speak” broke the record for the most weeks atop the radio airplay chart. Only one song since has ever racked up a longer stay atop radio: The Goo Goo Dolls’ “Iris” made it to 18 weeks in 1998.

Singles “Used to Love You” and “Make Me Like You” peaked at #s 52 and 54 respectively on the Hot 100. Stefani also featured on Eminem’s latest (#80-peaking) single, “King’s Never Die,” for the film, Southpaw.

Stefani last saw major chart success in 2006-2007 when The Sweet Escape produced an eponymous #2-peaking single in addition to #6-peaking “Wind It Up.” The Sweet Escape has sold over 1.7 million copies in the United States.

Current single “Make Me Like You” is steady at #102 on radio songs, with 21.507 million weekly audience impressions from Pop, HAC (adult pop), and AC formats, after a daily increase of 263,000 weekly audience impressions. “Make Me Like You” is also #34 on iTunes (about 26,000 copies sold in the week ending 3/24/16), although it is not currently charting on Spotify.

Weekly Recap: Madonna’s Touring $Ms and $Bs; Kelly Clarkson & Lady Gaga Sales Bounces

Kelly Clarkson’s “Piece by Piece” is approximately still #1 on iTunes one week after a touching American Idol performance. 

After you combine sales of the album version of the song with sales of the American Idol performance recording, “Piece by Piece” sales have just barely started to fall below those of Rihanna’s current #1 hit, “Work.” Kworb.net now projects 202,000 total sales for “Piece by Piece” over the tracking week ending March 3rd, 2016, compared to aggregate sales of 160,000 for “Work.”

With its massive radio airplay and streaming factored in, Rihanna’s “Work” will still easily retain the #1 position on the Hot 100, but don’t be surprised to see Kelly Clarkson in the top 5 when the new chart is revealed early next week.

In other news, “Piece by Piece” leaps onto the 50-song rolling Adult Pop radio airplay chart at #46 today with 286 weekly spins, representing 2.459 million audience impressions. After the strong reaction to her American Idol performance, it appears that Kelly’s label is once again promoting the song to radio. Watch for a debut on Pop songs too, plus a slow scaling of both charts over the coming weeks and months.

What I’m watching: Where is this song going to be in a month? How quickly does it gain radio airplay, and to what extent does radio airplay drive continued sales? Does this song get a little bit of token radio airplay, and then peter off once people get over her American Idol performance, or does it slowly build to a substantial radio hit? If this song does become a real radio hit, then what are the implications for Kelly Clarkson’s career, which until recently seemed to be fading?

Madonna Grosses $107.3M From Rebel Heart Tour & $1.24B for a 3rd place in all-time touring revenue, after only U2 ($1.6B) and The Rolling Stones ($1.8B). 

The other acts with $1B+ in touring revenue? Elton John $1.05B and Bon Jovi $1.03B.

Per Billboard, Madonna raked in another $19.3 million in touring revenue in January, bringing her Rebel Heart Tour total to $107.3 million. Suppose Madonna gets to pocket 30% of that total => her total cut is $32.19 million.

Suppose your name is Adele, and you sell more albums than any man has ever sold before: 8 million albums at $10.99/each => $87.92 million gross revenue. Suppose Adele gets 10% of that revenue => her total cut = $8.792 million.

This is why Madonna, whose songs are no longer played on the radio, and whose most recent album didn’t produce a single top 40 hit on the Hot 100, makes more money than Adele. Adele hasn’t been touring, and that is where the money is at.

Adele will, of course “remedy” that situation shortly.

What I’m watching: With two months of touring revenue still to be counted, could the Queen of Pop break $150M?

Lady Gaga Reaches Top 10 on iTunes

Kelly Clarkson isn’t the only one heating up iTunes sales. After an emotional Oscars performance surrounded by other survivors of sexual assault, Gaga saw the biggest iTunes sales bump, reaching #8 with her passion-project “Til it Happens to You” (featured on The Hunting Ground).

Gaga sold an estimated 27,000 copies during the tracking week, good for a debut somewhere in the bottom half of next week’s Hot 100, considering that it is paired with modest streaming and radio airplay.

Bottom line? Gaga has pulled off one more non-controversial and highly public performance, helping her worm her way back into the public’s good graces and maintaining a sky-high visibility. This places her in an extremely good position for her next album drop.

What I’m watching for: LG5, of course.

Trivia Question

Last Week: Lady Gaga has been drafted to sing at the Super Bowl and the Grammys. Last year, when Katy Perry performed the Super Bowl Half Time Show, she brought out a surprise guest. Do you remember who that guest was? Bonus point if you know the name and peak position on the Hot 100 of the only single she has since released.

Missy Elliott; “WTF;” #22 Hot 100 peak.

This Week: How much did Madonna’s MDNA Tour gross?

 

 

 

Weekly Recap: The Weeknd, Twenty One Pilots, Hot 100 #1 Battle, Justin Bieber, Haley Reinhart, Adam Lambert, Adele, Selena Gomez, Lady Gaga, Rihanna

As Rebecca Black once “sang,” to all of our entertainment, IT’S FRIDAY. Because, I mean, yesterday I think it WAS Thursday. And tomorrow is Saturday. And Sunday comes… afterward… If I can keep my days straight, I believe that Monday is the next one, right? Or was it Tuesday? Oh the travails of very-early-onset Alzheimers.

Obviously, it’s time for a weekly recap of what to watch in the music industry.

10) The Weeknd

In the Night” appears to have peaked at #5 on radio songs, as it is now clearly shedding airplay. After taking home a 4th place trophy for pulling off 45 consecutive weeks of having a single in the top 10 of the Hot 100, the question was whether The Weeknd‘s “In the Night” could continue the trend with the buzz of its music video release. It missed the top 10, peaking at #12 (Youtube streams were pretty wimpy… relatively, of course), and the question became whether it could reach the top ten at all on the strength of gradually building airplay. Now that its airplay has peaked, that finally appears impossible.

Except… he has been nominated for six Grammys this year (including Record and Album of the year) and he is slated to perform. We should probably expect a pretty big Grammy bump, at least in terms of sales. Will it be enough to vault The Weeknd back into the top 10? Maybe… Probably. We’ll just have to wait and see.

9) Twenty One Pilots

“Stressed Out” is actually not that far behind Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself” in terms of radio airplay, and it is now growing at a substantially faster pace. “Stressed Out” could reach #1 on the Hot 100.

What am I watching? Global Youtube streams for “Stressed Out” are only at 1 million/day. Compare that to “Love Yourself”‘s 4 million/day. In terms of actual US streams and from all services, “Love Yourself” has more like a 40% lead on “Stressed Out” (still seriously problematic, since streaming is the most heavily-weighted component of Billboard’s charts).

8) Drake v. Zayn Malik v. Rihanna v. Justin Bieber

There is literally a four-way battle brewing for the top of the next Hot 100. Drake, Zayn Malik, and Rihanna all released massive new singles; meanwhile, Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself” maintains massive streaming, and decent streaming as it nears the top slot on Radio Songs.

Estimated figures:

Drake – “Summer Sixteen” – 215K sales, 9.5m radio, 2m (?) (Drake’s song is only available for streaming via Apple, and it is not yet charting on any radio airplay charts; however, Billboard reported 3.4 million radio audience impressions in the first three days of the tracking week.)

Rihanna (feat. Drake) – “Work” – 163K sales, 48m radio, 10m streams (?) (Rihanna’s single is not available on YouTube or Spotify, and Tidal has not released streaming figures. However, Billboard reported 2.2 million first-day streams.).

Zayn – “Pillowtalk” – 250K sales, 14m radio, 17m streams

Bieber – “Love Yourself” – 105K sales, 140m radio, 15.8m streams

My bet? Zayn appears to have the edge with “Pillowtalk.” This guess is partly because the chart-formula was just rebalanced to give more weight towards sales, but leaving streaming as the biggest component.

7) Justin Bieber

Replaced himself atop the Hot 100. 5th week atop Artist 100.

 

6) Haley Reinhart

She’s reversing course on AC and finally starting to fall off with “Can’t Help Falling in Love.” Slow growth on HAC, where she has now reached #34.

5) Adam Lambert

Adam finally dropped off of Pop songs altogether, and he has seemingly reversed course on HAC after peaking at #23. He is currently at #24 on the chart, with no daily spin gain or loss. Essentially, Adam’s single is done with its regular chart run. It is time to either A) pull a fabulous stunt and turn “Another Lonely Night” into the new official ballad of SINGLES AWARENESS DAY 2016; or B) start promoting “The Original High” so that it can have a legit chance to conquer the summer!

NOTE: Several years after Adam rooted for Haley on her season of American Idol, their paths are about to cross in terms of radio airplay. Adam is stalled/dropping from just over 4 million weekly audience impressions, while Haley’s song is just approaching the 4 million mark. Both artists are producing great music and proving that they will have staying power in the music industry (Adam was recently named the top-earning American Idol alum of 2015 with an estimated $10m income from various projects; Haley has now been the subject of multiple viral Youtube sensations over the course of 2015 and just made her TV debut as the voiceover of an animated young boy on the Netflix original, “F is For Family.”

4) Adele

“When We Were Young” is reversing track on radio airplay. It has basically stalled at #11. It needs a music video or Grammy performance with a little bit of Adele sparkle dust to give it a stimulus, or Adele needs to release a new single. Why? 25 sales are lagging behind projections. Basically, 25 is falling into Taylor Swift’s 1989 pattern, after spending its first five weeks steadily 3X 1989. I think we would all like to see Adele keep selling massive numbers of records and keep breaking records. So, WAKE UP, Adele. Snap your fingers and make the magic happen! ;P

3) Selena Gomez

VAULTS into Top 10 with new single “Hands to Myself” (with both the biggest gains in streams and digital sales for the week). “Hands to Myself” is the third single off of Revival, but Selena doesn’t seem to be slowing down. She previously reached #6 with two prior singles: “Come & Get It” and “The Heart Wants What it Wants” (and, including her work as Selena Gomez & the Scene, the Top 40 (none higher than #20) with 6 singles). With Revival, Selena has reached the ranks of #5-#7 with all three singles to-date, basically making her prior albums look amateurish. BTW, I’m digging the new music.

What am I watching? Will “Hands to Myself” hit the same radio peak as prior singles, or is it just popping into the top ten for a superficial visit? I’ve also noticed that “Hands to Myself” has a remarkable initial Youtube bump (topping 4 million/day for a few days), but that it has since fallen to (what appears to be a sustainable) 1m/day. It will be interesting to see whether it keeps deflating, and it will be interesting to see if the strong views are an indication of relative strength, or whether they are simply due to the steamy content.

2) Lady Gaga 

Gaga is about to set a new record: She will be the first person EVER, within a single calendar year, to sing at: 1) the Super Bowl; 2) the Grammys; and 3) the Oscars. Meanwhile, she just WON a Golden Globe for her performance as the star of American Horror Story: Hotel (to which she is presumably returning for another season), and she is NOMINATED for BOTH a Grammy AND an Oscar. To top it off, her passion project, “Til It Happens to You” (which is responsible for her Oscar and Grammy nominations) is legitimately scaling an airplay chart, as she rises 26-23 today on Adult Contemporary (the third-greatest gainer by spins).

What am I watching for? LG5. Gaga is reportedly planning on dropping an album this year. Gaga’s last (pop) album, 2013’s Artpop, was lampooned as a flop (relative to her prior albums), but it was still the 9th best-selling album of 2013, and its debut sales week (258,000) was comparable to those of contemporaneous albums by Miley Cyrus, Rihanna, and Katy Perry. Plus, Lady Gaga is hot right now. She feels confident. And, quite honestly, Lady Gaga can really throw a punch in the music industry when she is feeling it. I can feel a storm brewing, and I will be fascinated to see what Lady Gaga drops next.

1) Rihanna

One of the biggest stories on the internet right now is how Rihanna’s new album was just certified platinum (representing 1 million sales) after about 14 HOURS of sales (Tidal claims to have moved over 1.4 million units, with 484,833 of them actual sales); and yet Neilson Soundscan officially reported first-week sales of only 460 copies. It’s not ACTUALLY a mystery: 1) Samsung bought and gave away 1 million copies for free, which Billboard and Neilson didn’t count but RIAA did. 2) Tidal was apparently reporting worldwide sales. And, 3) the sales started on the last day of the tracking week.

But, then, the question is whether Rihanna’s album is a “success.” I can report unequivocally that this is probably Rihanna’s single MOST successful album (as ALBUM, not necessarily as compilation of singles) to date. 1) Despite an insane number of massive singles (she already has the same number of #1 hits as Michael Jackson) Rihanna has only moved more than 2 million units (in the USA) of ONE of her seven prior albums, and neither of her two most recent releases has sold more than about 1.2 million copies TOTAL (in the USA). Free giveaway or not, Rihanna basically just brought her album to a par level of distribution in 14 hours–that’s impressive. Tack on the fact that it is still actually going through a legitimate sales run (it is slated to easily top the Billboard 200 in its second week [first full week] with about 125,000 incontrovertible pure album sales, plus massive streams and sales of lead single, “Work”), and the massive success of lead single, “Work” (which already debuted at #9 on the Hot 100 after a fraction of a week, and should challenge for a spot at or near the top of the chart after its first full week of sales, airplay, and streaming are factored in).

What am I watching for? How many albums will Anti sell? How will sales hold up over time? Will Rihanna find success with other singles on the album, or will it go the way of Beyonce (pitiful singles sales after everyone already bought the album)? It has become clear that “Work” will be a legitimate Top 5 hit for Rihanna, but can it make it to #1, either now or later? It is radio’s greatest gainer today, so it might reach number one after a few weeks of strong radio growth, even if it doesn’t make it based on initial sales.

Trivia Question

Every week, the first reader to post a correct answer in the comments section will get a point. I will keep a running scoreboard and post the answers with the next week’s trivia question.

  1. Adele’s “Hello” recently set a record for being the only song to ever sell more then 1,000,000 DOWNLOADS in a single week. What song holds the record for the largest weekly singles tally OVERALL, including both digital AND physical single sales?

 

Why Ariana Grande’s “Focus” is Dropping Like a Rock at Radio, Even as YouTube Streams Remain Impressive

Do you think “Focus” is, should be, or should have been a hit?

With just over 30 million weekly audience impressions (30.482m, -4.056 m), Ariana Grande’s “Focus” is the fastest-falling song in terms of overall audience impressions today, beating out Dan + Shay’s “Nothin’ Like You,” which shed 3.849 million audience impressions. In fact, it is the fastest-moving song altogether, as Justin Bieber’s current smash, “Sorry,” only gained 3.644 million audience impressions today.

Why is “Focus” falling so quickly? 

According to Mediabase Callout Research, pop audiences just don’t like the song. In the most recent survey, “Focus” was rated positively by only 43.5% of listeners, as compared to 38.4% who disliked it. Her net positive score of +5.1% was the worst of all songs surveyed (which included all 32 currently charting pop songs that had audience familiarity of at least 60%). In fact, every other song had a net positive score of at least +17%. Also, “Focus” was listed as a favorite by only 9.5% of listeners, also the worst showing.

So, if Ariana’s song is so terrible, then why is it weird that it is falling so fast?

1) Callout numbers are improving.

Interestingly, the callout figures are actually an improvement over earlier callout reports, in which Ariana’s net positive score was approximately +0%. Why would Ariana’s callout numbers be improving just as radio starts abandoning her song?

2) Ariana’s performance of “Focus” at the AMA’s was EXTREMELY well-received.

Exhibit A, B, C, D, E, F, G

3) The “Focus” music video is getting tons of streams.

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 12.14.42 PM

If everyone hates this song and wants it to die, then why are 4 million people streaming it on YouTube ever day? This is a seriously impressive view-curve, competitive with recent massive hits by Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, Drake, and The Weeknd.

Last summer’s smash “Problem,” which is arguably Ariana’s biggest hit to-date, was only getting about 2 million views/day at its peak, and it never went over 3 million views, even as it became one of the ten fastest-selling singles in digital history in its first week.

This song has been out long enough that if it were a complete flop, its YouTube views would be dropping by now. They should have fallen faster, and they shouldn’t be popping back up (except on Saturdays).

4) The song is perfectly structured to be a smash pop hit.

Yes, to some extent, I am expressing my subjective impression of the song. But, I am not alone. When this song was released, radio programmers across the country were dead certain that it was a hit. It was rocketing up the radio charts at a seriously fast pace. Only Adele’s “Hello” was rising faster (for a while). Then, when callout finally issued its first report, and it turned out audiences weren’t entirely thrilled by the song, its progression stopped dead, after rocketing halfway up the chart. Radio programmers were confused, so they did nothing. The song was an obvious hit, but it was disliked by a huge number of people. So, they left the song at current levels, and slowly decided to start dropping it off their playlists.

Listen to last summer’s “Problem,” and then listen to “Focus.” Then tell me exactly why one song is beloved by audiences, and the other passionately hated. You can’t. The only salient difference between them is that one came out in 2014, before Ariana Grande’s last album became a massive success.

5) The music video for “Focus” is seriously emaculate.

Exhibit A: Ariana, wearing freaking amazing contact lenses in “Focus!”

Screen Shot 2015-10-31 at 6.39.30 PM

Exhibit B: This is what she looks like when nobody is watching…

Screen Shot 2015-10-31 at 6.41.34 PM

Exhibit C: “Who me?”

Screen Shot 2015-10-31 at 6.41.16 PM

Exhibit D: Selfie time!

Screen Shot 2015-10-31 at 6.40.27 PM

Exhibit E: Sleek profile shot.

Screen Shot 2015-10-31 at 6.35.12 PM

Exhibit F: You’re totes jelly of mah nails bi-otch.

Screen Shot 2015-10-31 at 6.34.35 PM

Exhibit G: Test tube baby.

Screen Shot 2015-10-31 at 6.35.58 PM

Exhibit H: Wink!

Screen Shot 2015-10-31 at 6.42.28 PM

Exhibit I: Just kicking it with mah tube friends (sisters?).

Screen Shot 2015-10-31 at 6.36.36 PM

Conclusion

Maybe the problem is simply a combination of simple and non-simple factors. Audiences loved “Problem,” because it was fresh and new. If it sounds like “Problem: Part 2,” then it is probably not going to excite people.

After a long string of hits from Ariana, radio programmers saw a song that preserved the best qualities of the biggest of the hits, and they immediately started putting it on heavy rotation. But audiences almost never love a song instantly. Audiences like songs that they know. That is why songs almost never debut in the top ten on radio songs. Even the biggest hits by the biggest artists in history take several weeks before they are allowed to reach #1 at radio. Radio programmers took a song that audiences were naturally inclined to be disenchanted with, and they committed the most grievous sin of all: they overplayed it too soon.

The song is still a solid one. The music video is captivating, and Ariana has a massive fan base. 40% of people can strongly dislike the song, and it will still get massive YouTube streams if 40% of people want to watch it on YouTube.

But, radio programmers thrive on not offending people. Radio doesn’t like risks. Radio programmers try to play music that is least objectionable, so that everyone can passively listen to it on their way to work. 40% dislike of a song is a big problem for radio, and that is why it is currently collapsing at such a rapid clip.

Do you think “Focus” is, should be, or should have been a hit?

— More —

The iTunes and Spotify Chart Positions of Every Ariana Grande Song in Every Country in the World 12/15/15 11:04AM Eastern. 

Focus

Santa Tell Me

One Last Time

Boys Like You

Break Free

Love Me Harder

Bang Bang

Problem

Almost Is Never Enough

Last Christmas

All My Love

E più ti penso

The Way

iTunes:


Baby I

Santa Baby

My Everything

iTunes:

Adele Beat NSYNC’s One-Week Record in Less than Half a Week

Update: With just over one day of tracking remaining, sales are over 3 million. Hits Daily Double is now projecting 3.5 million sales. I don’t know how they arrive at that number, but my guess is that it has something to do with Black Friday, a divergence in Billboard and Hits methodology, and physical retailers possibly under-reporting current sales. Either way, I think 3.2m+ is a safe bet.  

Update: With just over two days of tracking week remaining, sales are at 2.8 million. Billboard has finally increased its estimate to 3 million for the week. It is clearly going to sell at least 3.1 million, possibly even 3.2 million or 3.3 million, given that it sold 500,000 copies in the past two days. Billboard purposively underestimates sales so that it can generate more traffic to easy stories when Adele “outperforms” expectations. 

Update: Billboard has now confirmed that Adele’s 25 broke NSYNC’s record with 2.433 million copies in just over three days of sales. Billboard is predicting 2.9 million total sales for the week; I think the total will be well over 3 million.

Update: HitsDailyDouble projects 5.05 million copies sold by December 31st, for a whopping 45% of all 2015 album sales (that is triple the 15% that NSYNC ended up with in 2000, when they made the 2.416 million weekly sales record). 

In the year 2000, at the height of the CD and boy band fever and before piracy and streaming, 88 albums sold more than one million copies, and six accomplished the feat in a single week. It was then that NSYNC set a record that no other artist since has come close to touching–No Strings Attached sold 2.415 million copies in a single week. The runner up, in fact, was another NSYNC album that sold 1.880 million copies the next year. Although 20 albums have sold more than 1 million copies in a single week since the beginning of Soundscan sales tracking in the early 1990s, a Backstreet Boys album and Britney Spears’ Oops I Did it Again are the only others to have sold more than 1.3 million in a tracking week.

Now, three of the past four albums to sell one million copies in a week have been by artists named Taylor Swift (the fourth was Lady Gaga’s Born This Way in 2011, which was famously discounted in the Amazon store for $1 during its debut week, accounting for perhaps 400,000 of its 1.1 million sales total). Taylor Swift is the only artist to ever sell more than one million copies in a week with three separate albums, and it was once thought that she might be the last artist to ever do so.

Then Adele happened. 

Here is a list of albums selling more than one million copies in a week: Artist; Title; Sales; Sales Week Ending

Adele; 25; TBD*; Nov. 26, 2015 (*sales for debut week to be determined; estimates between 2.9 and 3.4 million)
Taylor Swift; 1989; 1,287,000; Nov. 2, 2014
Taylor Swift; Red; 1,208,000; Oct. 28, 2012
Lady Gaga; Born This Way; 1,108,000; May 29, 2011
Taylor Swift; Speak Now; 1,047,000; Oct. 31, 2010
Lil Wayne; Tha Carter III; 1,006,000; June 15, 2008
50 Cent; The Massacre; 1,141,000; March 6, 2005
Usher; Confessions; 1,096,000; March 28, 2004
Norah Jones; Feels Like Home; 1,022,000; Feb. 15, 2004
Eminem; The Eminem Show; 1,322,000; June 2, 2002
NSYNC; Celebrity; 1,879,955; July 29, 2001
The Beatles; 1; 1,259,000; Dec. 24, 2000
Backstreet Boys; Black & Blue; 1,591,000; Nov. 26, 2000
Limp Bizkit; Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water; 1,055,000; Oct. 22, 2000
Eminem; The Marshall Mathers LP; 1,760,049; May 28, 2000
Britney Spears; Oops!…I Did It Again; 1,319,000; May 21, 2000
NSYNC; No Strings Attached; 2,415,859; March 26, 2000
Backstreet Boys; Millennium; 1,134,000; May 23, 1999
Garth Brooks; Double Live; 1,085,000; Nov. 22, 1998
Whitney Houston/Soundtrack; The Bodyguard; 1,061,000; Jan. 3, 1993

And here is a list of some huge artists that have released huge albums in recent years that have NOT sold one million copies in a week:

Katy Perry (Prism only sold 286,000 in its first week, and that is KP’s best figure to date, following Teenage Dream, which matched MJ’s Bad record of 5 #1 singles off a single album).
Miley Cyrus (Bangers sold 270,000 copies first-week)
Nicki Minaj (The Pinkprint sold 198,000 in pure album sales, first-week)
Lady Gaga (I know people are calling Artpop a flop, with only 258,000 copies first-week, but it was still one of the ten best-selling albums of 2013. Cheek-to-Cheek (with Tony Bennet) debuted at #1 with about 130,000 first-week sales)
One Direction (Their biggest opening weeks have been around 400,000)
Justin Bieber (With all of the hubbub surrounding the Bieber v. One Direction album battle last week, Justin Bieber more than doubled initial sales forecasts by selling over 600,000 copies of his album–IF you count album-equivalent track sales and streams. If you don’t, then it sold 522,000 copies first week)
Justin Timberlake (The 20/20 Experience came close to a million with 968,000 when it was released on March 15th, 2013, but no cigar)
Eminem (The Marshal Mathers EP 2 sold over 700,000 in 2013)
Beyonce (Remember the surprise album drop right before Christmas? It didn’t quite sell 1 million in a week, even if you ignore the fact that it was released in the middle of a tracking week.).
Kendrick Lamar (To Pimp a Butterfly 324,000)
Drake (If You’re Reading this, It’s too Late 495,000 pure album sales)
Dr. Dre (Compton 295,000)
Sam Smith (In the Lonely Hour has been a slow burn, without selling a ton in any given week. 166,000)
Maroon 5 (V 165,000)
Ed Sheeran (210,000 — also a slow burn driven by singles)
Various Artists (Fifty Shades of Grey 258,000)
Meghan Trainor (Title 238,000 — slow burn driven by singles)
Fall Out Boy (American Beauty/American Psycho 218,000)
Josh Groban (Stages about 500,000 copies all year; 180,000 in its first week if you count album equivalent streams and track sales)
Various Artists (Furious 7 Soundtrack)
Susan Boyle (I Dreamed a Dream sold 701,000 copies in its debut week in 2009. That was the biggest debut frame of the year, and the album was the second-biggest seller of the year with 3.1 million, after Taylor Swift’s Fearless (3.2 million). The album impressively continued to sell over 500,000 copies/week until after Christmas.)

Adele’s 25 is Blowing Past Sky-High Expectations

Update 11/23/15 – 25 sold 2.3 million copies in its first three days. Billboard’s new estimate: 2.9 million. I still expect over 3.3 million. 

Update 11/23/15 – 25 sold 1.902 million copies in its first two days, including 1.18 million digital copies and 722,000 physical copies. Thus, it is already the best-selling album of the year. Taylor Swift’s 1989 comes in second with 1.7 million.

There was a time not too long ago when the music industry questioned whether anyone not named Taylor Swift would ever sell a million copies of an album in a single week again. Taylor herself had accomplished the feat three times (in a row), more than any other artist in the SoundScan era. In fact, when 1989 was released last year, it was the first album to sell 1 million in a week since Taylor Swift’s 2012 album, Red.

Then Adele happened. 

After nearly doubling the previous sales record for a digital single with the debut of “Hello,” Adele went on to even more completely destroy the digital pre-order record (which was around 200,000) with about 550,000 preorders (200,000 in the first three days!). By that time, it was clear that Adele would indeed sell 1 million copies of 25 in its first week. The question turned to whether Adele could sell 2 million. Fairly early on, I predicted that 25 would sell at least 2 million copies, and I even posited that it would not be at all inconceivable that the album might sell more than 3 million in its first week. Billboard and other industry insiders were more conservative, with early estimates ranging from 1.3 million to 1.8 million. Billboard’s estimate rose to 2-2.5 million just before release. Now, the estimate has shifted up to 2.5-3 million copies.

But Billboard’s estimate is still conservative. 

Billboard’s estimate is based on first-day iTunes sales of 900,000 copies. That presumably includes about 450,000 preorders and 450,000 new orders of the album. Billboard has previously estimated that 25 sold 100,000 non-iTunes preorders, so, if we assume that it also sold 100,000 non-iTunes, non-preorder downloads, then 25 sold approximately 1.1 million digital copies in its first day.

When Billboard and Adele’s label predicted 2.5 million total sales, they were assuming 1 million digital downloads and 1.5 million physical sales. But, if the album has already sold 1.1 million downloads just in its first day, then these estimates are way off.

We don’t yet have any sales data for physical copies of 25 that I am aware of, but if we keep assuming 1.5 million, then the album would sell 2.6 million over the week even without any additional digital sales. The album is going to keep selling digitally. In real terms, the album sold 550,000 copies in its first day. If we assume that it will sell twice that again over the following six days, then we should expect 2.2 million total digital sales. That implies 3.7 million total sales. But, if digital copies of 25 are flying off of digital shelves, then who is to say that physical copies aren’t also flying off of real shelves even faster than expected? Could 25 sell 2 million physical copies? 3.7 million copies were shipped, so there is definitely the potential for more than 1.5 million to be sold in the first week.

At this point, it is not inconceivable that Adele could sell more than 4 million copies of 25 in its first week. 

But, maybe 25 won’t sell another 1.1 million digital copies this week. Maybe it will only sell another 550,000 digitally. Maybe it really will only sell 1.5 million physical copies in its first week. That still leaves us expecting 3.15 million copies sold in the first week, well above Billboard’s current estimate, and well above the current 2.415 million record.

Conclusion

Adele’s album is going to sell a lot of copies. How many?

I am now predicting 3.4675 million.

Why? When I made my initial predictions, I extrapolated data from Taylor Swift’s 1989. I looked at pre-order data, first-week sales of the lead single, and total album sales for the immediately preceding album. Interestingly, total album sales for the immediately preceding album and pre-order data both predicted between 3.3 and 3.6 million first week copies, which is what it now looks like Adele will end up selling. The first-week sales of the first single predicted around 2.6 million copies. It looks like an outlier, and intuitively it seems that it would have less predictive value than the other two stats. Preorder data has an obvious correlation to first-week album sales, and the long-term success of the immediately preceding album has long been known to be one of the best predictors of the magnitude of the initial sales debut bump, since most buyers at that point are basing their decision to purchase on their preconceptions of the kind of music that they will get from the artist. So, I took the flat average of the two data-driven estimates, and noted that it looked eminently reasonable based on my current preconceptions of Adele’s current album sales, and adopted it.

The data don’t lie. They paint a picture of a portion of reality, and the only question is to what extent the portion that you can’t see correlates well with what you can see. I guess I should have put more trust in the data in the first place, then my initial estimate would have been even more accurate relative to Billboard’s than it already is. ;P

“Another Lonely Night” Accelerates at Hot AC

Adam Lambert’s latest single off of The Original High has been accelerating modestly on Hot AC/Adult Pop. In other words, the rate at which it is increasing in audience impressions and spins has itself been increasing. For Adam Lambert fans, this is good news, as it implies that the song will be a bigger hit sooner.

“Another Lonely Night” has risen at least one position each day on the 50-position Hot AC radio airplay chart since it debuted on 11/14/15, and it currently sits at #33, with 416 spins representing 1,376,000 audience impressions over the past week.

Over the past week, it is the 16th fastest-growing song on the HAC chart by spins. Over the day yesterday (Saturday) relative to the prior day (Friday), it was the 8th fastest-growing song by spins and the 10th fastest-growing by audience impressions.

Overall, “Another Lonely Night” rises from #601 to #584 (+17) on radio today. Since the day before its first appearance on the chart (9 days ago), its weekly audience impressions have increased from 895,000 to 1,376,000 (+481,000, or 53.74%), with most of that gain (262,000, or 54.47%) occurring in the past two days. In that same time frame, weekly spins have increased from 235 to 416 (+181, or 77.02%), with the weekly rate of change accelerating from 108 to 141 (+33, or +30.56%).

If the overall audience impressions still seem weak, its because they are. Keep in mind that this is a song that just debuted on its first airplay chart one week ago. Wait until it debuts on Pop (which it will reasonably soon, since it is getting a lot of adds), and give it a month to get established, and then the overall numbers should start to look competitive.

But, for now, we can look for patterns in the data that can be used to predict future performance.

Here is essentially all of the data we currently have on the radio performance of “Another Lonely Night.” This information is available and updated semi-regularly on the data page for “Another Lonely Night.”

Adult Pop (HAC)
11/13 Friday: #NA; 235 weekly spins; +108 week-over-week weekly spins; 895,000 weekly audience impressions.
11/14 Saturday: #50; 252 weekly spins (+17); +109 week-over-week weekly spins (+1); 903,000 weekly audience impressions (+8,000).
11/15 Sunday: #48 (+2); 275 weekly spins (+23); +113 week-over-week weekly spins (+4); 949,000 weekly audience impressions (+46,000).
11/16 Monday: #41 (+7); 297 weekly spins (+22); +119 week-over-week weekly spins (+6); 993,000 weekly audience impressions (+44,000).
11/17 Tuesday: #39 (+2); 314 weekly spins (+17); +121 week-over-week weekly spins (+2); 1,035,000 weekly audience impressions (+42,000).
11/18 Wednesday: #38 (+1); 328 weekly spins (+14); +117 week-over-week weekly spins (-4); 1,023,000 weekly audience impressions (-12,000).
11/19 Thursday: #37 (+1); 350 weekly spins (+22); +128 week-over-week weekly spins (+11); 1,066,000 weekly audience impressions (+43,000).

11/20 Friday: #35 (+2); 372 weekly spins (+22); +137 week-over-week weekly spins (+9); 1,114,000 weekly audience impressions (+48,000).
11/21 Saturday: #34 (+1); 389 weekly spins (+17); +137 week-over-week weekly spins (+0); 1,221,000 weekly audience impressions (+107,000).
11/22 Sunday: #33 (+1); 416 weekly spins (+27); +141 week-over-week weekly spins (+4); 1,376,000 weekly audience impressions (+155,000).

So what can we do with this data?

The easiest thing to do is to extrapolate future chart positions from the current week-over-week spin increase. If we simply assume that spins will continue to increase at their current rate of 141/week, then we can project future chart positions in coming Sundays of: 31 (557 spins), 30 (698 spins), 28 (839 spins), 25 (980 spins), 24 (1121 spins), and 23 (1262 spins).

But, the rate of increase of weekly spins has itself been increasing at a rate of 3 2/3 per day, or 25 2/3 per week. If we assume a constant rate of acceleration of 25 2/3 spins per week, then we can project future chart positions in coming Sundays of: 31 (582.67 spins, or +166.67), 29 (775 spins, or +192.33), 25 (993 spins, or +218), 24 (1226.67 spins, or +233.67), 22 (1486 spins, or +259.33), and 19 (1771 spins, or +285).

So, take from that what you will. It’s by no means inconceivable that Adam Lambert’s song could be a top 20 hit on HAC in 6 weeks, but neither is it guaranteed. The song could slow before then, or it could start picking up steam.

Right now, of course, we are only operating on nine days’ worth of data. Adam hasn’t been performing the song on a lot of television shows, and we don’t have any Callout survey data on song-popularity yet. As more data start to come in, we will be able to generate more firm predictions.

So what can we say?

We can definitively say that the song is not toast yet. There is no real probative evidence that suggests that the song won’t be a hit.

Personally, I always thought “Another Lonely Night” was one of if not the song on the album with the biggest hit potential. “Ghost Town” is a good song, but it sounds like something you would hear in the club or on certain specialized radio stations. It never sounded like a pop hit to me.

“Another Lonely Night” sounds EXACTLY like a pop hit. Honestly, I kindof suspect that Warner Bros. released “Ghost Town” first in order to break the ice. They wanted to put a song out there that would slowly build up radio airplay in a completely organic and non-controversial way, so that radio would get used to the idea that it is safe to play Adam Lambert. Then, they drop the next big thing out of the bag. It isn’t dead on entry because radio has already been warmed up for Adam Lambert. The song gets a critical mass of early spins, and it starts to take root in people’s minds. It does well because its a good song, and then it starts to generate mainstream attention and pull in heavy radio airplay.

Keep in mind that Max Martin and Shellback are responsible for more pop hits than practically anyone else in history. They were at the heart of Adam Lambert’s early success, and they were absent from his commercially unsuccessful second studio effort. Adam Lambert has the capacity to be a permanent force in the music industry. He has a core fanbase that rivals (and frequently bests) those of any female pop diva, on, for example, stacking online votes. His flamboyant sexuality is barely even an issue these days. Coupled with hitmakers like Max Martin and Shellback and firmly backed by a supportive label, there is no reason to think that Adam can’t achieve mainstream success, and if “Another Lonely Night” isn’t the song that is going to get him there, then I’m seriously misreading the music market.

But, it will be interesting to see if the data end up confirming my suspicions. Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Another Lonely Night

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