WINNER OF THE WEEK: Songs for Japan – a 38-song compilation of mostly existing hits such as U2’s “Walk On” and Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” plus live tracks by Madonna, R.E.M. and Sting – landed at Number Six on the Billboard album charts, selling a not-especially-impressive 68,000 copies. However, the two-disc set is, for now, an iTunes exclusive and hit Number One on the Apple store this week. It also has star power and a timely, worthy cause (proceeds for the $9.99 album go to the Japanese Red Cross Society). We expect bigger things when the official CD arrives in record stores April 5.
WINNER-LOSER COMBO OF THE WEEK: Like Michael Jackson, Eminem and any number of pop stars before him, Chris Brown has that bizarre mix of abhorrent personal behavior and undeniable hit tunes. After Good Morning America host Robin Roberts had the audacity to ask Brown about his 2009 arrest for allegedly assaulting his then-girlfriend, Rihanna, the singer reportedly smashed a window and stalked out of the studio. Yet he’s one of the most resilient hitmakers of the digital-music age – “Run It!” is the Number Three most-streamed song in history, according to Nielsen BDS, perhaps indicating people like to listen to Brown’s music but feel guilty spending good money on it. His new album F.A.M.E. is custom-built for the pop charts, and it dutifully topped Billboard’s album chart this week with sales of 270,000 – Brown’s first Number One.
“FRIDAY” UPDATE OF THE WEEK: Rebecca Black’s 15 minutes have lasted almost two weeks. The 13-year-old singer’s “Friday” jumped from Number 57 to Number 38 on Billboard’s digital-singles chart, selling 50,000 copies and jumping 50 percent from last week. But it positively surged on BigChampagne’s Ultimate Chart – which measures traditional sales in addition to YouTube views, Facebook likes and a bunch of other newfangled criteria – to Number Seven, thanks in part to more than 66 million views on YouTube. That bodes well for its near future. To sum up, the song has sold 87,000 99-cent singles in two weeks, and if this Los Angeles Times story is accurate, Black (or her family) owns the master recording after paying her recording company, Ark Music Factory, $2,000 to make the video. In a standard iTunes deal, the Apple store (the predominant seller of digital singles) takes 29 cents wholesale. Publishing/songwriting royalties, owned by Ark, take out another roughly 9 cents per sale. So: 87,000 times 99 cents equals $86,130, minus combined Ark and Apple payments of $33,060, and that’s $53,070. Subtract Black’s initial $2,000 video fee and she has a new $51,070 with which to kick it on the weekend. How much did you make the last two weeks?
EATING STROKES OF CROW: Last week we predicted the Strokes’ Angles – perhaps the best album ever made by rock stars playing in separate rooms, in like 751 different sessions, then splicing the entire album together using wire and twine – would sell 198,000 copies and hit Number One. “No way do the Strokes hit that number. Way too bold of a prediction,” a source who knows something about the band told us by email. “Think it’ll be half that number. If there is ever a band to be the poster children for illegal downloads it’s the Strokes.” Our source was weirdly precise: Angles sold just 89,000, enough for Number Four – not a bad total for a rock band in these recessionary times, but hardly enough to touch their best-selling album, 2001’s Is This It, which went platinum just a month ago.