I’ve been reading all the stories and I can’t figure it out.
The LAT says he’s sold nine million around the world since his death. The Jackson operation, leaking to a hometown newspaper, has always used the world figures whenever the national one aren’t that hot, but let’s take it at face value. Next question: How many CDs, how many digital albums? How many digital tracks?
The story doesn’t say, doesn’t say, and doesn’t say.
Of U.S. sales, the story says this:
Nielsen SoundScan said Jackson’s albums sold 1.1 million copies over the last seven days and had combined to sell an impressive 2.3 million in the U.S. in the nearly three weeks since he died.
Meanwhile, the NYT reports similarly that he sold 1.1 million copies of his solo albums, but then says:
Almost 1.9 million tracks, separate from albums, were sold as digital downloads.
That makes it sound as if he sold another 200,000 albums’ worth digitally.
The sales aren’t insignificant, and I don’t mean to be cranky, but I don’t see them as particularly strong. Boy bands used to sell a lot more than a million albums in a week, though sales overall are a lot lower these days, of course. Finally, a crank will of course note that about half the sales are of two latter-day greatest-hits repackagings, Essential and (the hyperbolically titled) Number Ones.
Now, read Billboard closely, and you can see that Jackson sold 1.1 million for the week total, physical and digital album equivalents. The story says he sold 400,000 copies in the chart half-week immediately after his death, and then 800,000 last week, with a total since his death, three weeks ago, of about 2.3 million. Digital sales were high last week because retailers ran out of physical product. Now they are back in the pipeline.
For the nine million figure to be correct, Jackson would have to be selling almost four times as many CDs around the world as he is at home, a rate that, as we have seen, would far exceed his previous sales patterns.
Update: After nosing around, and checking in with worldwide sales expert Guillaume Vieira, I think it’s fair to say that Jackson has sold about seven million total worldwide in the weeks since his death. Vieira said specifically that the nine million figure is pieces shipped. In other words, the LATâ€”whose trumpeting of nine million sold was attributed to “a source”â€”was carrying Sony’s water.