LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - In an unusual development on the pop album charts, veteran rock band the Eagles were awarded the No. 1 spot on Tuesday after a last-minute rule change relegated Britney Spears to second place.See Also:
The Eagles' first studio release in 28 years, "Long Road Out of Eden," sold about 711,000 copies last week, according to preliminary data released by tracking firm Nielsen SoundScan. Spears sold a modest 290,000 copies of her album, "Blackout."
In a normal world, the Eagles would be No. 1 and Spears No. 2, but the Eagles album was available only through Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which traditionally does not report data to SoundScan. Additionally, trade publication Billboard does not allow such exclusive releases to appear on its flagship Billboard 200 chart, which is compiled from SoundScan data.
That meant Spears would have been No. 1 upon the release of final SoundScan figures on Wednesday morning. However, Billboard said late Tuesday that it had changed its rule and the Eagles would indeed be No. 1. The rule was imposed at the request of retailers and labels shortly after Billboard started using SoundScan data in 1991.
"We know that some retailers will be uncomfortable with this policy, but it was inevitable that Billboard's charts would ultimately widen the parameters to reflect changes that are unfolding in music distribution," said Geoff Mayfield, Billboard's director of charts.
He said Billboard had become aware only within the last 24 hours that Wal-Mart would be willing to share the sales data for the Eagles album with Nielsen SoundScan. A Wal-Mart spokeswoman was not available for comment.
The retailer had said earlier in the day that the Eagles album generated the largest first-week sales of any music product at the company in two years.
Back in November 2005, Wal-Mart teamed up with retired country star Garth Brooks to sell an exclusive boxed set. The retailer said at the time that "Garth Brooks: The Limited Series" sold more than 500,000 copies on its first day during the busy Thanksgiving holiday period. But the feat was not recognized by Billboard.
Exclusive releases have become common in recent years, with retailers such as Target Corp. and Starbucks Corp. aggressively striking deals with musical acts in order to drive customer traffic.
ANOTHER BAD YEAR
The Eagles now stand as one of the biggest-selling acts during another dismal year for the music industry. Overall sales so far in 2007 are off about 15 percent from the year-ago period. The biggest first-week seller so far this year is rapper Kanye West, whose "Graduation" sold 957,000 copies during its first six days in September.
For Spears, whose musical career has been overshadowed in recent years by an unending litany of personal and professional missteps, the prognosis for "Blackout" seems less favorable. Her previous release, "In the Zone," debuted at No. 1 in November 2003 with 609,000 copies. It went on to sell relatively poorly compared to her previous releases.
Her Jive Records label had forecast that "Blackout" would open to between 330,000 and 350,000 copies, although retailers were less bullish.
The sales were respectable, said music industry consultant Clark Benson, CEO and founder of market research firm Almighty Institute of Music Retail.
He noted that the teenagers who turned Spears into a pop culture icon almost a decade ago have moved on to other things, and that Spears herself did little to promote the album, apart from a widely ridiculed performance at the MTV Video Music Awards in September.
Spears has released just one single from the album, "Gimme More," which peaked surprisingly strongly at No. 3 on Billboard's Hot 100 singles chart. Jive has not announced plans for a follow-up single.
"Since the first single is starting to fade, the unanswered question is whether the relatively positive response to "Gimme More" was just morbid curiosity," Benson said.
Jive is a unit of Sony BMG Music Entertainment, a joint venture between Sony Corp. and Bertelsmann AG. The Eagles own their own label.
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