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Idol anthology: Best initial sales ever

The American Idol: Season 5 Encores album set a record for the franchise, selling the most albums in its first week for any finalists' anthology. OK, the 154,000 copies was dwarfed by the Dixie Chicks' new album, which sold 526,000, and was even beaten by the yet-to-wane High School Musical phenomenon (a new double-CD deluxe version of the soundtrack boosted sales to 175,000, more than double last week).

But this season's Idol anthology edged the first season's album (which sold 146,000) and nearly doubled last year's package. The numbers for all five anthologies follow.

Season         First-week sales    Total sales

1                  146,000                643,000

2                  101,000                648,000

3                    55,000                266,000

4                    83,000                332,000

5                   154,000               ????

(Figures courtesy Nielsen SoundScan.)

Note that none of these have exactly been blockbusters, but this new one promises to eclipse the underperforming Season 3 and 4 albums.


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Sales are what counts. After all AI is there to make money.

And yet what a sad little number it is in someways. If the ratings are correct and over 30 million people tunned in for the competition. Then that means that only about 1/2 a percent of the viewing audience is willing to actually spend money on what they saw.

Things that make you go hmmmmmm.

Posted by: Kate | May 31, 2006 5:33:49 PM

I'm actually surprised anybody buys that thing. There are future CDs of maybe 2 or 3 of the finalists that I might consider, but this seems strictly for completists.

Since so many of the hardcore fans seem to build up endless negativity towards the one or two they don't vote for, it means buying a CD filled mostly with songs by singers you hate.

Add that to the fact that these are hastily put together versions of (in some cases) cheesy songs, the whole project baffles me.

Posted by: Dominique Francon | May 31, 2006 6:04:24 PM

Good point, Kate. You know, I think it's the live part of American Idol that intrigues me the most. I much prefer the format of the show and watching the competition each week-- some of that magic seems to disappear once it's translated into the cd. I don't really know why, but it is rather odd considering how many people follow the show. You'd think the numbers would match up. But then this is the first year that I've ever bought the cd and that's because it contains at least four artists that I wanted to hear. I never buy any cd (no matter who it is) unless I like at least three or more of the songs on it. That's my own weird reason and I can't speak for the cd-buying public at large. There are probably more factors beyond the popularity of the show that are involved in selling cds, though.

Posted by: Jen | May 31, 2006 6:12:11 PM

This season sure has breathed new life into the franchise. It's got people wanting to spend dollars. The Idol people couldn't be more excited. Season 3 was sure a dud though.

I myself wouldn't buy it. Especially in today's digital download era. I only bought the CD from Season One because of the novelty.

Posted by: Christina | May 31, 2006 8:23:26 PM

I am surprised that the Idols' compilation sold as well as it did. Most people are buying the downloads of what "their Idol" sang and forgetting the rest. I know that is the route I took and I know of many people that did the same thing.

Posted by: Babe | Jun 1, 2006 9:35:59 AM

More sales figures thoughts.

I wonder how much Itunes has affected the sales of Encores cds? I, for one, went to Itunes and bought just the songs I wanted. (Elliott and Taylor, if anyone is interested.) It cost me $2 instead of the $13 I would have spent on the whole album and I got exactly what I wanted.

If you look at Itunes, Chris is having the most success followed closely by Taylor. Elliott peaked in the mid 60s and Kat in the high 70s.

This combined with the pre-sale info. from Amazon for Taylor's and Kat's debute singles is pointing to an important difference between the two finalists. At this point in the post show world, Taylor is having noteably more success at translating a strong fanbase into dollars.

In the end, any contestant's ability to transform votes into money will be the catalyst to having an actual career.

Want proof? Look at the only other two contestants to have their AI corination songs be successful, Kellie Clarkson and Carrie Underwood. Both are out selling their season 2 and 3 counter parts.

Only time will tell if Taylor or Kat manage to get the air play and sales to match these ladies' success. This is after all a marathon and not a sprint.

Another interesting thing to point out. Kellie, Carrie, and Taylor are the only winners to never have found themselves in the bottom two during the competiton.

Just some things to mull over.

Posted by: Kate | Jun 1, 2006 10:37:57 AM

Clays new album is due out soon. Most if not all of his internet fans love his new hair-due.

MOAM is doing just fine.

Posted by: Muggy | Jun 1, 2006 12:58:58 PM

Who wants to hear Kevin Covais and the girl with the initials "MM"? Even the songs of Taylor and Elliot were not their best performances, but I wouuld skip most of the songs if I bought the whole CD. I don't even want to hear Kellie, Bucky, Paris, Lisa, or Mandisa again. Taylor rules.

Posted by: susie smith | Jun 1, 2006 2:52:30 PM

I think a lot of viewers watch 'Idol' for the sake of watching it -- true competition brings out the viewers, which is why spectator sports will forever be popular (and that's why 'Idol' isn't fixed). Most viewers never intend to buy any recordings.

'Idol' makes money in several areas, but CD/digital recording sales may be the least of them. A lot of cash comes from media (TV and Internet) advertising revenue and sponsorships, and even more comes from tour ticket sales, which apparently has become far more popular than ever. Let's remember that these people were amateurs and people literally plucked off the street -- industry expectations at the onset are never high for any of them since they are unproven commodities, even after months of hype and TV exposure. A platinum record would be icing on the cake, since the REAL money has already been made.

Posted by: Annoyed | Jun 1, 2006 4:37:37 PM

Wow, Kate, you are really an Idol/music industry savant!

A key point that may have been overlooked is demographic appeal, specifically how an Idol's constituency prefers to get their music.

Example: My group of mid-30s, soccer moms/dads had a betting pool on this year's Idol; we all overwhelmingly liked Chris & Mandisa, and we were split down the middle between Elliott and Taylor. I (and my friends) would buy the compilation CD because I'm not confident that there will ever be an Elliott or Mandisa album, and I really enjoyed their music. At the same time, I'm not quite technologically-savvy enough to download music to my 9 year old's Ipod.

So my take is that the compilation CD sales are being driven by tweens/pre-teens & soccer moms: the people who actually still buy CDs. This year's Idol had so many finalists that appealed to my age group in particular, unlike Seasons 3 & 4 (Diana DeGarmo? Jasmine Trias? Scott Savol?).

(This demographic idea might partially explain the ouster of Chris, as all of us 90s-loving Live fans adore Chris but don't actually spend hours voting. Luckily for him, his sales prove that he appeals to a cross-section of younger viewers.)

Posted by: RMC in ATL | Jun 2, 2006 7:46:01 AM

RMC. Thanks for the compliment. But I think it's more of a sign that I have way too much time on my hands. :)

Annoyed, excellent point about where Idol makes the bulk of its money. But I still maintain that the winner's ability to sell albums is a key factor for the show's continued success.

If Idol does not produce a music hit, it looses at least some of it's legitamacy and people will begin to loose interest. In order to make bucco dollars off of advertisers, the show needs to keep an appealing audience.

To keep that audience, Idol needs to continue to make people feel like they are watching/participating in the the selection of the next big music star.

Posted by: Kate | Jun 2, 2006 9:54:15 AM

But, Kate, 'Idol' is still, above anything, a TV show. If the winners were consistently going multi-platinum (and they haven't, btw), it still wouldn't be a success if the ratings were lousy. 'Idol' was a gimmicky summer filler show rejected by every other network that turned into a huge moneymaker, and not because it helped a label sell records. Just look at the anthology sales figures above as cases-in-point -- no way they could be considered serious moneymakers in the biz. And the previous four winners cut 'Idol' albums that could only be considered minor hits at best. Kelly is a tenuous exception -- while her second, non-'Idol' album is a bona fide hit, her contract album can't be considered a mega-success; meanwhile, the jury's still out on Carrie, though it's probably unlikely that her first album won't be a mega-hit. I propose that the show succeeds not on the premise that people think they're picking a future big music star, but because the producers do a great job in making a good, addictive TV show that makes people come back again and again. People want to see regular people succeed -- neighbors, local church choir singers, perennial school talent show performers. And if you don't believe me, just go back and read some of the responses in this blog during this past season -- people really cared about their favorite contestants. Meanwhile, the "hit" original singles haven't really burned up the charts, and are eminently forgettable (anyone remember Ruben's single? Or Fantasia's? And Taylor's future single -- the one from the finale -- has already been universally derided as cheesy, fluffy treacle).

Not to say that none of these guys will go on to bigger and better things post-'Idol' (Kelly certainly has). It's just that the TV show goes on in spite of its lack of creative music success.

Posted by: Annoyed | Jun 2, 2006 4:11:24 PM

I noticed in the ITunes music store that Chris' "Wanted Dead or Alive" was the 29th most downloaded single for the day. Taylor's "Taking it to the streets" is something like 69. They were the only two from this season's compilation on the top 100.

Posted by: pen name | Jun 3, 2006 12:55:25 AM

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