Rebel Heart is the US No.1 album on Top Album Sales, No.2 on Billboard 200
Keith Caulfield on Billboard discusses the latest albums chart and how the soundtrack for Fox TV’s series Empire debuts atop the list, winning the battle against Madonna’s Rebel Heart.
In its latest incarnation that debuted in December last year, the Billboard 200 chart ranks the most popular albums of the week based on multi-metric consumption, which adds to traditional album sales new metrics collected from 1,500 Nielsen SoundScan streaming sources including Spotify, Beats and Google Play, defined as “streaming equivalent albums”, and “track equivalent albums” – counting ten total song downloads as an album sale.
The Empire soundtrack was released March 10 through Columbia Records and bows with 130,000 equivalent album units earned in the week ending March 15, according to Nielsen Music. It’s the first TV soundtrack to debut at No. 1 since 2010, when three different Glee albums arrived atop the list.
Madonna’s Rebel Heart, also issued on March 10, starts in the No. 2 slot with 121,000 units. The Live Nation/Interscope Records release is Madonna’s 21st top 10 album.
Traditional album sales comprise 84% of Empire‘s first week, equating to 110,000 copies sold, placing the album at No. 2 on the Top Album Sales chart, which ranks titles by pure album sales.
Rebel Heart sold 116,000 copies (96% of its overall unit total) and is Madonna’s sixth No. 1 on the Nielsen-driven Top Album Sales tally (its chart history dates back to May of 1991, when Billboard began using Nielsen’s point-of-sale data).
Comparably, Madonna’s last studio set, 2012’s MDNA, started with 359,000 copies sold. Sources estimated that about 180,000 of those sales were generated by a concert ticket/album bundle offered with U.S. dates of Madonna’s then-upcoming MDNA Tour. Madonna employed the concert ticket/album bundle offer again for Rebel Heart, but unlike the MDNA tour only a handful of the Rebel Heart Tour dates are on sale at the moment. Thus, sources say the Rebel Heart concert ticket/album offer has so far spurred less than 10,000 in sales.
It’s also probably not incredibly helpful that the entirety of Rebel Heart, at least in demo form, leaked to the Internet in December. Then, in early February, what appeared to be the full mastered album turned up on the Web. Certainly, neither event helped the sales picture for Rebel Heart.
Although Rebel Heart debuts with more albums sold than Empire, it fell behind the soundtrack when it came to streaming and track equivalent album units — so it ended up at No. 2 on the overall Billboard 200 chart.
Empire earned 17,000 units from track equivalent albums, thanks to the strong performance of the set’s multiple Billboard Hot 100 hit singles like You’re So Beautiful and Conqueror, while it tallied another 3,000 units from streaming equivalent albums. During release week, Empire’s Jussie Smollett performed on TV’s The Ellen DeGeneres Show and on Fox’s American Idol.
Comparably, Rebel Heart‘s track equivalent album units totaled just over 4,000 (the set has yet to land a hit single on the Billboard Hot 100) and another 1,000 units in streaming equivalent albums. Madonna did not perform on U.S. TV during release week, though she did a series of sit-down interviews with multiple news outlets, including a much-publicized 90-minute chat with Howard Stern.
Interestingly, Rebel Heart is Madonna’s first studio album not to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 since 1998, when another red-hot soundtrack blocked the diva from the top: Titanic. Ray of Light settled for a No. 2 arrival on the chart dated March 21, 1998.
Back in the present day, it appears that Madonna herself is a fan of Empire: on March 17, the diva announced that the show’s Terrence Howard would star in her new music video for Rebel Heart‘s second single, Ghosttown.
Read the full article by Keith Caulfield on Billboard.com.