WINNER OF THE WEEK: Daft Punk. In addition to selling 339,000 copies in its debut week and hitting Number One on Billboard's Top 200, the French electronic-dance-music duo set a Spotify record for most streams in one day – the exact figures aren't public, but they're higher than Mumford & Sons' previous record of eight million. (We also know that in the U.S., listeners heard every track on Random Access Memories at least 500,000 times during its first week.) Can we thus conclude that Spotify and other streaming services add to first-week album sales rather than taking them away? That's a complicated question, one that record executives and artist managers are no doubt discussing at this very moment. See the next item for the "no" response.
LOSER OF THE WEEK: Vampire Weekend. It pains me to include VW in this paragraph since Modern Vampires of the City is perhaps the year's best album. But it dropped 64 percent in sales this week, logging only 48,000, and slipped from Number One to Number Seven. This was predictable, given the recent precipitous chart declines of rock albums by Fall Out Boy, Paramore and Bon Jovi. But I wonder what would have happened if the band had taken a more liberal, hype-building approach to Spotify, as Daft Punk did last week and Mumford & Sons did last fall. Instead, Modern Vampires of the City didn't appear on Spotify until this week, although like Daft Punk's Random Access Memories, it streamed on iTunes for more than a week until its release. As singer Ezra Koenig explained on Reddit the other week: "i'm down with spotify. i don't know all the financial details but generally it's a great resource. i should probably 'do some research.' our label decided to wait a couple weeks before putting MVOTC up there. struck as reasonable." Anyway, who needs record sales? The band is headlining festivals!
THIS CHART WEEK SPONSORED BY PITCHFORK: As long as I'm on the subject of hipster bands and Spotify, the National's release strategy was strikingly similar to that of Vampire Weekend. The gloomy Brooklyn band's new Trouble Will Find Me streamed for more than a week on iTunes, but didn't appear on Spotify until this week. The sales result? Trouble Will Find Me notched 75,000 copies in its debut week, 24,000 more than the band's previous high, for High Violet in 2010, and hit number three (behind Daft Punk and Darius Rucker's True Believers, which sold 83,000).
Last week: Vampire Weekend Score Second Number One