Diminishing Returns

OMG: Katy Perry Sold Singles; Now She's Selling Albums

Katy Perry; courtesy of the artist i i

hide captionA shot from Katy Perry's "California Gurls" video — one of the singles that sent her album Teenage Dream to the top of the charts this week.

courtesy of the artist
Katy Perry; courtesy of the artist

A shot from Katy Perry's "California Gurls" video — one of the singles that sent her album Teenage Dream to the top of the charts this week.

courtesy of the artist

Katy Perry's album went to number one this week, knocking Eminem out of the top spot on the Billboard 200. 192,000 individual sales and counting, according to Nielson Soundscan, It's a record for Perry. It's the opposite of a record for her label, Capitol Records — 192,000 sales for a major artist is pretty dismal, but that doesn't take away its top spot glory. Being top dog — or whatever Perry is — is not what it used to be.

No surprise that someone with two chart-topping singles would do well with album sales. Both "California Gurls" and "Teenage Dream" have the same coven of pop producers behind them: Dr. Luke, Max Martin, Benny Blanco. The consumer can safely assume that other songs on the record might be dealing with the same topics: girls in daisy dukes making out with melting popsicles — and have that same popsicle sound.

One interesting aspect of Teenage Dream's achievement, however, is this, according to Capital's press release:

Katy has now achieved the highest pre-album street date track sales of all time, with 4.4 million digital tracks sold prior to the album’s release — setting a Nielsen Soundscan-era record.

The supremacy not of Perry— but of the single— is cemented in this achievement.  If you had any doubts that the release of download-able digital tracks is what makes a pop artist today, lose them in the face of that 4.4 million compared to the 192,000 albums sold.

Eminem's first and second singles off his album, Recovery, both went to number one — "Not Afraid" and "I Love the Way You Lie" (which is still the number one single) — and those songs were also similar. They had different production teams, but both had strong rock crossover potential and were hyped up, uber-confessional rap ballads — in other words, perfectly produced singles, with potential to dominate in various markets.

Eminem's album sales were much — much — stronger than Katy Perry's, however: 741,000 in its first week.  Recovery's well over two million now.  Whether singles success leads to album sales (tepid or otherwise) will get an interesting test when Kanye West puts out his album in November, after releasing one track a week until the album itself drops.

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