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Chart Watch Extra: Eminem Makes Digital History

Chart Watch

Eminem's Recovery this week becomes the first album to sell 1 million digital copies. But it won't be the only one for long. Adele's 21 is a cinch to reach the 1 million mark in digital sales next week. Recovery has sold 1,001,000 digital copies in 54 weeks. 21 has sold 992,000 digital copies in just 19 weeks.

Recovery has been a big digital hit from the start. It sold 500,000 digital copies in just six weeks, faster than any other album in digital history to that point. (Lady Gaga's Born This Way broke that record when it sold 622K in its first week in May, aided by a much-debated 99 cent promotion.)

Digital has accounted for an ever-increasing share of Eminem's album sales, which reflects digital's industry-wide growth in recent years. Digital accounts for no more than 3% of the total sales of any of Eminem's first four studio albums. But it accounts for 5% of the total sales of his 2005 greatest hits set, Curtain Call: The Hits; 16% of the total sales of his 2009 album Relapse; and now 25% of the total sales for Recovery.

Paul Rosenberg, Eminem's manager, was pleased with the news of Eminem's record-setting achievement. "Over the years, we've made a concerted effort to engage Em's online fan base, so this achievement is especially rewarding," he said.

Recovery is the only rap album to sell even 500,000 digital copies. Its closest competition among rap albums is Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (483K), followed by Lil Wayne's Tha Carter III (414K), Jay-Z's The Blueprint 3 (414K) and West's Graduation (369K).

While the music industry will cheer the first million-selling digital album, it has been a long time coming. Nielsen SoundScan has been tracking digital album sales since 2004.

It has been nearly six years since the first million-selling digital song hit. Gwen Stefani's "Hollaback Girl" earned that distinction in the week ending Oct. 9, 2005.

The simple reality is that songs are more popular than albums in the digital realm. Recovery has sold fewer than one-seventh as many copies as the best-selling digital song, the Black Eyed Peas' "I Gotta Feeling." (The Peas' smash has sold 7,299,000 copies as of this week.)

Twelve albums have topped the 500,000 mark in digital sales. Eighty-five have topped 250,000 digital copies.

By contrast, more than 200 songs have topped the 2 million mark in digital sales. Ninety-three have topped 3 million. Forty-one have topped 4 million. Thirteen have topped 5 million. Four have topped 6 million. One has topped 7 million.

The biggest hit from Recovery, "Love The Way You Lie" (featuring Rihanna), is the only song in digital history to sell more than 300,000 copies in five or more weeks. It has sold 4,926,000 copies to date, which makes it the 16th biggest seller in digital history.

Here are 13 key albums that have set (or are poised to set) key digital records:

Maroon 5, Songs About Jane. The first album to sell 25,000 total digital copies. It achieved the feat in June 2004.

Eminem, Encore. The first album to sell 10,000 digital copies in one week. It sold 13K copies in the week ending Nov. 21, 2004.

U2, How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb. The first album to sell 25,000 digital copies in one week. It sold 30K copies in the week ending Nov. 28, 2004. Also, the first album to sell 50,000 total digital copies. It achieved the feat in the week ending Dec. 26, 2004.

Coldplay, X&Y. The first album to sell 50,000 digital copies in one week. It sold 62K copies in the week ending June 12, 2005. Also, the first album to sell 100,000 total digital copies. It achieved the feat in the week ending July 3, 2005.

John Mayer, Continuum. The first album to sell 250,000 total digital copies. It achieved the feat in the week ending April 22, 2007.

Maroon 5, It Won't Be Soon Before Long. The first album to sell 100,000 digital copies in one week. It sold 102K copies in the week ending May 27, 2007.

Coldplay, Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends. The first album to sell 250,000 digital copies in one week. It sold 288K copies in the week ending June 22, 2008. Also, the first album to sell 500,000 total digital copies. It achieved the feat in the week ending Aug. 17, 2008.

Soundtrack, Twilight. The first (and still the only) soundtrack album to sell 500,000 total digital copies. It achieved the feat in the week ending Aug. 23, 2009.

Taylor Swift, Fearless. The first album by a female artist (and the first album by a country artist) to sell 500,000 total digital copies. It achieved the feat in the week ending Nov. 8, 2009.

Lady Gaga, The Fame. The first album by a pop or dance artist to sell 500,000 total digital copies. It achieved the feat in the week ending Jan. 3, 2010.

Eminem, Recovery. The first album by a male artist (and the first and only album by a rap artist) to sell 500,000 total digital copies. It achieved the feat in the week ending Aug. 1, 2010. Also, the first album to sell 1 million total digital copies. It achieves the feat this week.

Lady Gaga, Born This Way. The first album to sell 500,000 digital copies in one week. It sold 662K copies in the week ending May 29, 2011.

Adele, 21. Next week, this will become the first album by a female artist to sell 1 million total digital copies. It will also be the first album to sell 1 million digital copies within one year of its release date.

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