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On the Charts: The Beatles Rock iTunes

Plus: Lil Wayne's 'Tha Carter IV' drops 77 percent but holds on to Number One

September 14, 2011 1:10 PM ET
beatles charts
Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, George Harrison and John Lennon of the Beatles
Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images

WINNERS OF THE WEEK: Old guys on iTunes. The Beatles, who made their long-delayed iTunes debut late last year with much fanfare, released their modern greatest-hits album 1 on iTunes this week, selling 60,000 copies (compared to 1,000 the previous week) and hitting Number Four on the overall charts. Thanks to a $9.99 deal, 1 was Number Two on iTunes, after Lil Wayne's Tha Carter IV. Plus, Aerosmith recently reissued all of its albums from 1973 to 1987, including classics Toys In the Attic and Rocks, via iTunes, and Bob Seger announced earlier this week that he would finally end his reign as one of the download service's biggest holdouts. Why are all these stubborn stars caving to iTunes all of a sudden? One possible answer is that artists are seeing dollar signs after the Eminem court victory earlier this year, which declared iTunes to be "licensing" rather than "sales" revenue for artists – so Seger would get 50 percent of every sale rather than 12. We have no idea what Seger's actual contracts say, but let's do some fantasy math: His Greatest Hits sold 3,539 copies during a random week in June, according to Nielsen Soundscan. If he sold that many copies of a $9.99 iTunes download, that's $35,390 in revenue. Apple takes about 30 percent of that, which leaves about $25,000. If he gets 50 percent under the newly defined licensing royalty, that's a little more than $12,000 – in a week. Or almost $650,000 in a year. Given the Detroit market these days, that's probably enough for another big house for Bob. Hooray! And go Tigers!

LOSER OF THE WEEK: Albums' second week. Amazon pumped artificial sales steroids into Lady Gaga's Born This Way earlier this year, offering it online for just 99 cents, absorbing the hit financially while helping the album sell 1.11 million copies in its first week – and then it dropped 84 percent in the second week. And while Lil Wayne's new Tha Carter IV sold all 964,000 copies in its debut week without any kind of dramatic price cut, it still drops 77 percent this week, selling just 219,000 copies, but maintaining Number One. With the exception of Adele's impossible-to-kill 21, albums have been leaping to Number One, then dropping off, all year – speaking, perhaps, to loyal fans' willingness to buy new product immediately, while second-tier fans wait to download the thing for free. 

ADAM LEVINE, KING OF SOME MEDIA: How big was NBC's The Voice in restarting Maroon 5's faltering career? The pop-rock band had been struggling to sell both albums and concert tickets until this summer, when Adam Levine turned out to be the show's tattooed everyman. Long after country contemporary Blake Shelton dropped off the charts, Levine remains dominant. His band's "Moves Like Jagger" (with a cameo from fellow judge Christina Aguilera) hit Number One on iTunes this week; Gym Class Heroes' "Stereo Hearts," featuring a guest appearance from Levine, is at Number Five; and the band's "Hands All Over," thanks to a four-day iTunes sales price of $6.99, is at Number Four on the albums chart. (Billboard reports the album surged from Number 23 to Number Seven overall, selling 29,000 copies, making its first Top 10 showing since the album's second week last October.) Is this a Voice phenomenon? Yes, in part. But it's also because Levine has an interesting personality, and his people finally figured out how to show it off directly to fans, with no filter such as radio or Ticketmaster.

LAST WEEK: Beyoncé Capitalizes on VMAs Appearance

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“Bird on a Wire”

Leonard Cohen | 1969

While living on the Greek island of Hydra, Cohen was battling a lingering depression when his girlfriend handed him a guitar and suggested he play something. After spotting a bird on a telephone wire, Cohen wrote this prayer-like song of guilt. First recorded by Judy Collins, it would be performed numerous times by artists incuding Johnny Cash, Joe Cocker and Rita Coolidge. "I'm always knocked out when I hear my songs covered or used in some situation," Cohen told Rolling Stone. "I've never gotten over the fact that people out there like my music."

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