Don’t act surprised if Coldplay, Lil Wayne, Lady Antebellum, and Drake happen to storm up Billboard 200 with their latest releases next Thursday. Google’s newly launched digital store, Google Play, included them as a part of their daily ¢25 album deal, rumored to be an exclusive for the store’s first week in business. Amazon, on the other hand, slammed their fist on the table and defend their position as the dominating deal-offer on the digital market: they price-matched every discounted album on Goolge Play. Game on!
Predictions for the next Billboard album chart came out on March 8th, and here is how the competitive sale impacted the sales of the involved records:
Lady Antebellum‘s Own The Night is projected to sell between 65-70k copies; Lil Wayne’s The Carter IV is also predicted to sell around 65k. Another album that got offered for this ridiculously low price was the compilation NOW 41, which is expected to move anywhere between 90 and 100k copies thanks to the discount. However, Coldplay’s Mylo Xyloto and Drake’s Take Care are absent from the early predictions because they got discounted on the following days.
You might ask yourselves: What happened to the new Billboard rules that exclude heavily discounted albums from the sales counting for the album chart? Well, as of November 16th, discounted copies of an album (priced under $3,49, that is) are not added up to the overall week sales of that particular album, hence they can’t influence the album’s performance on Billboard 200, BUT that is effective only for a month after the album’s release date. Once those 4 weeks are over, an artist can sell their album for a dime, and it should still count towards the final numbers for the week.
What does all that mean for the industry? Billboard will publish their stats for album sales two weeks from now, and it will show an amazing increase as opposed to the respective numbers from the same period last week. Moreover, if these sales continue, and the rules remain as they are, we’ll have great increases in digital album sales for this year. Although positive thinking does go a long way, having stats and charts reflecting on imaginary sales doesn’t do anybody justice. It’s inaccurate. As much as that type of sales pumps up the number of records sold, it doesn’t do anything to boost profits. Moreover, it certainly cannibalizes potential real sales.
Drake’s album sold 29,000 copies last week with an increase of 13%. If we assume that the increase rate remains he should sell around 33,000 copies this week. Instead, he will probably sell above 65k copies (given the fact that neither Lady Antebellum nor Lil Wayne made it to top 10 on Billboard 200 last week, and Drake was #8 on the chart). That is at least 4,000 additional people that were going to buy the record anyway. 4,000 x $12.99 (the album’s regular price on Amazon) = $51,960; compare that to 4,000 x 0.25 = $1,000. Even worse, compare it to the 36,000 (potential additional people who bought it with the discount) x $0.25 = $9,000. That’s right, Drake is actually losing money.