The AP ran a story yesterday about Michael Jackson's album sales "exploding" since his death. The numbers are impressive — but they may be even more impressive than traditional reporting and charting outlets like SoundScan and Billboard can quantify.
Though Number Ones, Essential Michael Jackson and Thriller outsold The Black Eyed Peas' latest release last week, none of them will crack the Billboard top 200 album chart (older albums are relegated to a 'catalog' chart). And the record-breaking 2.3 million downloads of Michael Jackson's tracks (3.3 million if you count Jackson 5 tracks) dwarf the 415,000 albums SoundScan reports he sold last week, 58% of which were digital downloads. 174,300 physical copies is still a really big number for a marketplace unprepared for a run on a particular artist or album, so it's a safe bet that many people actually bought the CD version on backorder (as of this writing, Amazon lists Thriller, Off the Wall and Bad as available "within 1 to 3 weeks").
Is this the moment digital stores like iTunes and Amazon MP3 prove themselves a real alternative? It seems clear that people went to online stores first and en masse. Brick and mortar stores (and even online versions of brick and mortar stores) obviously didn't have enough of the records in stock, and people didn't want to wait a week to hear MJ's songs.
Did you buy Jackson's music last weekend? Did you download or opt for the CD?