It's Album Judgment Day 'Super Tuesday' predictions for new discs come true
Nervous record executives always warn sadistic journalists against taking opening-week sales figures of their albums too seriously. Records aren't like movies, they caution. Films make the bulk of their cash in the first few weekends of release. Albums find a more intimate and lasting place in listeners' lives, selling over great periods.
Those warnings came with special ferocity last November, when the industry found itself bound up in "Super Tuesday," perhaps the biggest day in music sales history. No fewer than eight heavyweight stars issued albums on that day, going up against each other on the next week's charts. Exec after exec said, "Don't judge these albums right away. Look at them five or six months down the line."
So we have.
The results prove those opening-week performances, in most cases, predicted exactly how well the albums would do over the long haul. There are two relative exceptions: the rap LPs bucked the pattern slightly, though even those follow a previously established truism: Albums appealing to the youngest and most hardcore audiences enjoy their biggest sales early on.
For instance, both Ice Cube's "War & Peace Vol. 1" and Method Man's "Tical 2000: Judgment Day" failed to uphold their opening-week advantage in the long run. While Method debuted at No. 2, its cumulative sales (1.3 million) put it in the fourth or fifth position compared to other Super Tuesday releases. Ice opened in the fifth-best slot among the Super albums, but ended up sixth (with so-so sales of 750,000).
The other, minor, exception concerns the soundtrack to "The Prince Of Egypt," which opened in the bottom position in the Super competition, at a poor No. 94, but managed to beat, with overall sales of 650,000, the Seal album, which started at No. 22 but ended with a horrendous tally of 400,000.
Still, both albums' low openings did accurately predict long-range disappointments. The only reason "Prince" opened lower than Seal was because that disc appeared weeks before the movie had been released.
All the other albums' debuts perfectly mirrored later sales. Arranged in order, they are: Garth Brooks' "Double Live," which opened at No. 1 and went on to sell 4.4 million. Jewel, at No. 3, moved 2.9 million. Mariah Carey, at No. 4, racked up 2.4 million. And Whitney, with a poor opening position of 13, went on to sell 1.3 million.
That last figure has to hurt. It's a long way down from Houston's sales of the late '80s/early '90s, when she regularly landed in the 5 million and up range. But if fellow diva Mariah clearly commands more sales juice these days, both had to suffer red faces over the crummy sales on the "Egypt" album, which featured a duet between the singers.
While we're comparing six-month-down-the-line sales, let's revisit another fall "blockbuster." Alanis Morissette's "Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie" can now be labeled an official dud. While the previous "Jagged Little Pill" moved 13 million copies, the new one has barely huffed over the 2 million mark. Those sales could've been earned on curiosity alone.
The biggest problem? None of the album's songs have caught on like those from her breakthrough. Unless things change, you can expect Alanis' next album to move a mere 500,000 copies, and that number you can predict years before first-week sales even figure.
NEWSFILE: 20 APRIL 1999
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