Great question, since the digital version of Songs of Innocence was pushed out to 500 million iTunes users back on September 9. Now that the physical edition of the album (CD, vinyl, paid downloads) has been available for a week, how’s it doing in the marketplace?
According to VVN, a grand total of 39–yes, thirty-nine–people in Australia paid for a download last week. Another 2,861 people bought the various physical versions of the album, which came with bonus tracks not included with the freebie. That was good for a #7 debut on the Australian national album charts.
In the UK, Sunday night’s final tally had Songs of Innocence debut at #6 on those charts. That’s the worst first-week showing by a U2 album in 33 years.
Figures for Canada and the US won’t be available until Wednesday. While there are no estimates for Canada that I’ve seen, the word is that the album will do well to hit between 25,000 and 30,000 units. That would still place the album in the Top 10, but far from their customary #1 debut slot.
HOWEVER, before everyone get all frothy about the album being a failure, the reality is that this just underscores how today’s album charts are becoming more and more useless. Yes, they can still show who’s winning and losing in the marketplace, but with so many other ways of acquiring music these days–music streaming services, torrents, YouTube, etc.–just tallying physical and digital purchases no longer tells the true story of an album’s success or failure. The Songs of Innocence situation is further complicated by the fact that the band gave away 500 million (potential) downloads. Thing that’s gonna skew the stats?
In other words, we shouldn’t be placing too much credibility into where this album (or any album, for that matter) finishes on the charts each week. With the way things are, the charts are old and busted and nowhere near the defining metrics of what’s going on in the music industry.