WINNER OF THE WEEK: Katy Perry. Putting aside Chris Brown for a moment – his Fortune sold 134,000 and hit Number One on the Billboard 200 – we’d like to talk about an email we received last week from Amazon. Digital albums for $1.99, it said. Tapping on an iPad in our hotel room during vacation, we scooped up (via Cloud Drive) a bunch of stuff we’ve been enjoying on Spotify – the Beach Boys’ That’s Why God Made the Radio, Big K.R.I.T.’s Live from the Underground, Regina Spektor’s What We Saw from the Cheap Seats and, yes, Perry’s two-year-old Teenage Dream. On July 3rd, actually, Teenage Dream was one of 20 digital albums on sale for a ridiculous 99 cents, and 19 of them landed in the Top 40, most notably Ellie Goulding’s Lights, the slow-burning electro-folk record that jumped 444 percent, from Number 116 to Number 21. Teenage Dream sold 80,000, an increase of 410 percent, enough to push it from Number 21 to Number Two. Amazon eats the revenue loss for its Daily Deals, but it understands that in an age when even us devoted record-collectors say, “I’ll just listen online,” prices matter.
LOSER OF THE WEEK: Recent Number Ones. A month ago, Usher’s Looking 4 Myself took the top spot, but this week it’s out of the Top 10 completely; last week, Linkin Park’s Living Things hit Number One, but it’s down to Number Five, with just 64,000 sales, a drop of 72 percent; Adele’s 21, Number One for much of the past year and a half, sold a comparatively tiny 41,000 and dropped to Number Nine, its lowest rank ever; and others in the Number One club, from Carrie Underwood’s Blown Away to John Mayer’s Born and Raised, aren’t in the Top 20. What does this tell us? It’s simple to achieve Number One these days – just release an album in a week when nothing else is going on and sell 60 or 70 thousand copies. More difficult is hanging onto Number One: for that, you have to be one of the top pop stars in the world, an Adele or a Taylor Swift. Good luck.
BEST MARKETING EVER: As you may have heard, tough-guy R&B singer Frank Ocean came out last week with an emotional, beautifully written Tumblr post recalling that his first love was a man. (“I feel like a free man,” he said, and, well, just read it already.) A week later, not only is there no major trace of an anti-gay backlash, but the media attention is paying off in record sales: Ocean put out his scheduled album, Channel ORANGE, a week early on iTunes and it quickly leapfrogged Perry, Brown, Maroon 5 and the Zac Brown Band to Number One.
LAST WEEK: Linkin Park Rule the Day