A string of hit records and a massive marketing campaign boosted Lady Gaga’s Born This Way to the biggest first-week album sales in six years, a strategic success that industry observers say won’t be easily replicated.
The 1.11 million copies she sold, the most since 50 Cent’s The Massacre sold 1.14 million in 2005, is the result of a steady stream of TV appearances — including recent ones on Saturday Night Live, American Idol and Good Morning America— buzzworthy videos, a rabid fan base and widespread availability. Taylor Swift, whose Speak Now sold 1 million when it was released in November, was the last album to hit the mark.
“Whenever an album sells so much in one week, people ask if it’s an indication of something broader,” says Keith Caulfield, Billboard’s associate director of charts/retail. “She is a true pop superstar, ostensibly the biggest in the past three years. Every single is a hit. Every video is a water-cooler moment. All eyes are on Gaga.”
The album’s sales were helped when Amazon, which often offers $2.99 daily deals on new and hit albums, decided to make Born This Way available for 99 cents. Albums wholesale for more than $8 and sell for an average of $11.99, according to Billboard. The response to the Amazon sale was so massive that the retailer’s servers slowed.
“We saw extraordinary response — far above what we expected,” says Amazon spokeswoman Cat Griffin. “We’ve never seen this much interest in one album in such a short period.”
Gaga’s first-week sales are “exciting, but an anomaly,” says Alicia Dennis, music editor for interactive pop-culture magazine Zimbio.com. “Amazon’s promotion was a great way to catch people who might have turned to other means (like cloud systems or illegal downloads) to listen to the new album.
“This kind of promotion could definitely boost sales for other artists, but they’d have to have Lady Gaga’s hype working for them as well, and no one does hype like Lady Gaga.”
Ean Mering of Pomegranate, a digital media network agency that provides brand development for artists and music companies, says a low-price strategy could have future benefits.
“This pricing approach will prove to be a great case study,” Mering says, adding:
“This is a good move that could open up Gaga to audiences who would not previously have purchased a $7.99 record.”
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