The constant stream of new material that Kanye West has made available at zero cost over the past six months didn't stop 496,000 people from buying his album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, in its first week in shops. That number comes from Nielsen SoundScan, and is good enough for the number one spot on Billboard's album chart.
West's album led an avalanche of high profile new releases. Every album in the top 10 — including five debuts — sold over 100,000 copies. Coming in behind Fantasy was Pink Friday, the debut from rapper Nicki Minaj, which sold 375,000 copies. As Billboard points out, it's the first time in two years that two new albums have each sold over 300,000 copies. Other top ten debuts: Justin Bieber's My Worlds Acoustic (#7 with 115,000 sold), My Chemical Romance's Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys (#8 with 112,000 sold), and Ne-Yo's Libra Scale (#9 with 112,000 sold).
The third and fourth spots were taken by former number 1 albums: Susan Boyle's The Gift sold 263,000 copies, and Taylor Swift's Speak Now sold 241,000. That figure more than doubles Swift's sales from last week. Billboard attributes the bump to Swift's televised Thanksgiving special, but I'm going to go out on a limb and hypothesize 100,000 or so Kanye West fans picked up Swift's album in order to craft full-album slash-fiction-type mash-ups.
Post-Thanksgiving shopping, along with bargain-priced downloads on Amazon, likely boosted sales figures all around (almost half of West's sales came from downloads), but even the rising tide and the high-profile new releases couldn't reverse this year's downward slide of album sales. Consumers bought 10.24 million albums last week, a huge jump from the week before, but still down 5% from the sales figures for the same week last year.