Kid Rock famously elected not to make any of the songs from his smash album Rock N Roll Jesus, notably the multi-format radio smash "All Summer Long," available for download. He has profited handsomely from that decision, as his album has climbed back from a low of #82 in March to #2 this week on The Billboard 200, which is based on sales data collected by Nielsen/SoundScan.
But Kid Rock's decision created an opening for an entity known as Hit Masters to cover "All Summer Long" and release its version as a download. This week, 96,000 fans bought the cover version, nearly as many as the 101,000 fans who bought Kid Rock's album. The Hit Masters version (on the low-overhead Hip Kiddy label) ranks #5 on Hot Digital Songs, up from #32 last week.
"All Summer Long" isn't the only cover version on the current chart. The marvelous "American Boy" by Estelle featuring Kanye West is no longer available for download as a track. If you want it, you have to buy Estelle's album, Shine. As a result, Estelle's version of the song plummets from #6 to #59 on Hot Digital Songs (its 22,000 paid downloads came early in the tracking week), while a cover version by an act known as Studio All Stars enters the chart at #43. The title of the Studio All Stars' cover version is fairly shameless: "American Boy (Tribute To Estelle)." ("Tribute" sounds so much nicer than "rip-off," don't you think?)
And what did pulling the song do for sales of Shine? Zip. The album drops from #124 to #158 in its 17th week on the chart. It sold 4,000 copies this week, bringing its total to date to 100,000 copies. That's a pittance compared to the 935,000 who have downloaded Estelle's version of the song.
Artists and record companies can try to manipulate fans into buying an album by making the most desired song unavailable for download, but there's no guarantee the tactic will work. And, as we're seeing, they run the risk of allowing opportunistic acts to move in and cover the song. For committed fans of an artist, a cover version is cheesy. For casual fans, it may just be close enough.
Coldplay Nabs First "Gold" Album Download: Since 1975, the standard for a gold album has been sales of 500,000 copies. Coldplay's Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends is the first album that has ever reached that sales threshold just with paid digital downloads. As of this week, the album has sold 514,000 downloads. The digital realm accounts for nearly one-third of the album's total sales. The album has sold 1,619,000 copies, combining physical and digital sales, which puts it at #2 for the year to date.
By way of comparison, the #1 album for the year to date, Lil Wayne's Tha Carter III, has sold less than one-eleventh of its total in the digital realm. The album has sold 204,000 digital downloads, out of 2,262,000 total sales.
Rapper T.I. enters the Hot Digital Songs chart at #1 with "Whatever You Like." The song sold 205,000 downloads this week, the heftiest total on that chart in eight weeks. This is T.I.'s first #1 song on Hot Digital Songs as a lead artist, though he was a featured artist on Justin Timberlake's "My Love," which topped the chart for two weeks in October-November 2006.
Here's the low-down on this week's top 10 albums.
1. Jonas Brothers, A Little Bit Longer, 147,000. The brothers hold at #1 for a second week after making the third biggest debut of the year last week. That's the good news. On the down side, sales slid 72% compared to last week, the steepest decline of any album in the top 200. Only one #1 album in 2008 has experienced such a steep second-week decline. Day26's eponymous debut album suffered a 73% drop in its second week in April. Four songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Burnin' Up" at #12. The song has sold 969,000 downloads in nine weeks.
2. Kid Rock, Rock N Roll Jesus, 101,000. The album jumps from #3 to #2, its highest ranking since October, when Bruce Springsteen's Magic bumped it from the top spot. The album has sold in excess of 100,000 copies in each of the last two weeks. The album topped 100,000 in sales in its first week of release and then not again until its 45th and 46th weeks. Most unusual. The album has sold more than 1 million copies in 2008, making it #6 for the year-to-date.
3. Staind, The Illusion Of Progress, 92,000. Staind's last three studio albums all debuted at #1, making this a disappointing entry for the Boston-based band. The group's first-week sales tallies have also been on a marked downward trend. Break The Cycle debuted in May 2001 with first-week sales of 716,000. That album was followed by 14 Shades Of Grey in May 2003 (first week sales: 221,000) and Chapter V in August 2005 (first week sales: 185,000). Nearly 18,000 copies of the new album were sold digitally, making it the week's #1 Digital Album. "Believe" vaults to #67 on Hot Digital Songs.
4. Various Artists, Mamma Mia! soundtrack, 87,000. The soundtrack dips from #2 to #4. It's the first album to spend its first seven weeks in the top 10 since Juno, which spent its first nine weeks in the top 10 earlier this year. The album is #14 for the year-to-date. The Meryl Streep movie has grossed $124.5 million in its first six weeks at the box-office. The movie is selling the album at this point: Not one of the songs is still listed on the top 200 Hot Digital Songs chart.
5. Ice Cube, Raw Footage, 70,000. This is the rapper's eighth straight studio album to make the top 10, dating all the way back to N.W.A.'s EFIL4ZAGGIN in June 1991. The group broke up after that #1 album, but Cube has kept up the pace with seven straight top 10 studio albums of his own. Death Certificate bowed at #2 (behind Garth Brooks' Ropin' The Wind) in November 1991. Cube did even better a year later when his next album, The Predator, beat out Whitney Houston's The Bodyguard soundtrack to debut at #1. "Do Ya Thang" enters Hot Digital Songs at #110.
6. Miley Cyrus, Breakout, 62,000. The album dips from #4 to #6 in its fifth week in the top 10. The album is #13 for the year-to-date. Four songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "7 Things" at #32. The spirited song has sold 978,000 downloads in 12 weeks.
7. Lil Wayne, Tha Carter III, 57,000. The year's #1 album dips from #6 to #7 in its 11th week in the top 10. Five songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "A Milli" at #30. This is the 12th consecutive week that at least five songs from this album have appeared on Hot Digital Songs. Artist of the Year: Lil Wayne.
8. Sugarland, Love On The Inside, 56,000. The album drops from #5 to #8. The country duo was ahead of Lil Wayne last week and is now behind him. This is the album's fifth week in the top 10. "All I Want To Do" drops to #52 on Hot Digital Songs.
9. Various Artists, Camp Rock soundtrack, 47,000. Camp Rock debuted in the top 10 the same week as Coldplay's Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends. Who would have ever guessed that this High School Musical knockoff would remain in the top 10 longer than the latest album by the Biggest Band in the World? But that's what has happened. Camp Rock dips a notch to #9 to log its 10th straight week in the top 10. Coldplay's latest drops from #7 to #11. Three songs from Camp Rock are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "This Is Me" by Demi Lovato & Joe Jonas at #62.
10. Shwayze, Shwayze, 47,000. This is the week's third highest new entry. The hip-hop duo (Aaron "Shwayze" Smith and Cisco Adler) stars in the MTV reality series, Buzzin.' Four songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Corona And Lime" at #28.
Three albums drop out of the top 10 this week. Coldplay's Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends drops from #7 to #11, Rihanna's Good Girl Gone Bad drops from #9 to #12, and Jonas Brothers' Jonas Brothers falls from #10 to #20.
The soundtrack to the Cheetah Girls' third Disney Channel movie, The Cheetah Girls: One World, debuts at #13. That represents a drop from their previous release, The Cheetah Girls 2, which debuted at #5. (The initial The Cheetah Girls soundtrack peaked at #33 in August 2003, paving the way for Hannah Montana, High School Musical, Camp Rock, and all the rest.) One World, which premiered on Friday, is the first Cheetah Girls movie since the departure of Raven-Symone, who played Galleria. Three songs from the album are listed on Hot Digital Songs, topped by "Cheetah Love" at #143.
The Academy Is... debuts at #17 with its third studio album, Fast Times At Barrington High. It's the group's second album in a row to reach the top 40. Santi debuted at #32 in April 2007. The title of the new album is a nod to the 1982 movie Fast Times At Ridgemont High. The soundtrack to that film peaked at #54, so this homage has climbed higher than the real thing. The Illinois-based rock group seems to have Cameron Crowe films on the brain. Its 2006 breakthrough album was titled Almost Here. Crowe won an Oscar for writing the screenplay to Almost Famous.
Black Stone Cherry's sophomore album, Folklore & Superstition, debuts at #28. The Southern rock band's drummer, John Fred Young, is the son and nephew of founding members of The Kentucky Headhunters, which had back-to-back top 50 albums, Pickin' On Nashville in 1989 and Electric Barnyard in 1991. This is already higher on the chart than either of those albums climbed, though the Headhunters' heyday was before the advent of Nielsen/SoundScan. In those days, country was underrepresented on the charts.
ABBA's Gold-Greatest Hits holds at #1 on the Catalog Albums chart for the sixth straight week. The album sold 20,000 copies this week and would have ranked #19 on the big chart if older, catalog albums were eligible to appear there. This is the fifth straight week that the album would have placed in the top 20.
Ups & Downs: Christian singer/songwriter Natalie Grant's Relentless, which initially bowed at #81 in February, re-enters the chart at #183. It enjoyed sales gain of 44% compared to last week-greater than any other non-debuting album.
Heads Up: The Game's LAX and Slipknot's All Hope Is Gone are expected to vie for the #1 spot on next week's chart. The Game has started at #1 with his last two releases, The Documentary and Doctor's Advocate. The rapper's "My Life," featuring the ubiquitous Lil Wayne, is #21 on Hot Digital Songs. Slipknot has yet to reach #1, but has debuted in the top three with its last two studio albums, Iowa and Vol. 3 (The Subliminal Verses). The band's "Psychosocial" is #83 on Hot Digital Songs. Slipknot won a Grammy for Best Metal Performance in 2006 for "Before I Forget," a track from its last album. Also due next week: NOW That's What I Call Country!, the Verve's Forth, blues legend B.B. King's One Kind Favor, country singer Jimmy Wayne's Do You Believe Me Now?, R&B singer Solange's Sol-Angel And The... and Latin star Luis Fonsi's Palabras Del Silencio.
Shameless Plug: I'm putting the finishing touches on my second Chart Watch Extra. It will be a companion piece to my recent look at the most downloaded oldies. This will be a ranking of the vintage (read: pre-1989) albums that have sold the most copies in the Nielsen/SoundScan era. Will Bob Marley and Pink Floyd make the list? Count on it. Look for it on Friday.