It might be the year 2020, but if you glanced at the U.S. iTunes Store’s Top Albums tally this past week, it’d be hard to tell what decade you were in.
Thanks to sale pricing and fan promotion, a trio of older albums by Mariah Carey, Madonna and Janet Jackson all jumped into the iTunes Store’s always-updating Top Albums tally. On April 27 and 28, Carey’s 2008 album E=MC2 was No. 1 on the iTunes Store’s Top Albums tally, while Madonna’s 1994 set Bedtime Stories visited No. 1 on April 30. Meanwhile, Jackson’s 1986 album Control also visited the top 10 during the week — and at one point, all three albums were together in the top 10.
According to initial sales reports to Nielsen Music/MRC Data, E=MC2 sold about 2,000 copies total across all retailers in the U.S. in the week ending April 30. About half of that sum was driven by digital sales on April 27, the day the album topped the iTunes tally. Traditionally, the album sells a negligible figure on a daily basis.
As for Bedtime Stories, it shifted a little over 1,000 copies for the week, while Control sold just under 1,000. Again, the bulk of each album’s sales were driven by digital sales — nearly 1,000 for Bedtime Stories on April 30 (the day it was No. 1 in the iTunes Store) and a little under, 1,000 for Control across three days (April 28-30). Like with E=MC2, both Bedtime Stories and Control generally sell a negligible figure on any normal day.
It doesn’t necessarily take a large number of sales to reach No. 1 on the iTunes Store’s Top Albums ranking, especially considering album sales have been on the decline for years, and it was a particularly soft week for new releases on April 24. The trio of albums were part of an iTunes Store promotion where more than 100 pop albums were discounted to $4.99 and advertised in a banner ad that appears at the top of the front page of the Store, directing consumers to “$4.99 Pop Albums at a Great Price.”
As generally happens with deeply discounted albums (most new titles sell for at least $9.99), they start to rise up the iTunes Store Top Albums list, since it reacts in real time to customers’ purchases. After that, fans of the divas took notice of the albums dotting the iTunes Store Top Albums list and began awareness campaigns on social media to drive attention to the albums. That promotion then helped engineer more sales for the albums, which brought them to the top 10 of the store. At that point, the albums got much wider attention, since the top 10 of the Top Albums list is visible on the front of the iTunes Store, and casual music fans likely saw the albums in the top 10 — perhaps encouraging even more sales.
E=MC2 debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart dated May 3, 2008. Bedtime Stories debuted and peaked at No. 3 (Nov. 12, 1994), and Control hit No. 1 on July 5, 1986. None of the albums are expected to re-enter next week’s Billboard 200 chart, despite their surge on the iTunes Store.