What does it take to get people to buy digital albums? A pop icon dying apparently. Following the death of Michael Jackson the UK iTunes top ten albums is dominated by Jackson, with the entire top ten albums accounted for except for the #3 and #10 spots. That’s an 80% hit rate. By contrast, though Jackson claims the #1 single it is the only entry in the top 10. (Though to be fair he does get a total of 40 out of the entire top 100.)
So what does this tell us? At risk of over simplifying, I’d argue that there are two key trends behind these sales:
- Older Jackson fans inspired to reacquaint themselves with his music, buying albums
- Curious new fans wanting to know what all the fuss is about, buying single tracks
The last time Jackson had a UK #1 album was 2001, and that was his first since 1995 (which outsold his 2001 ‘Invincible’ by nearly 1 million). So there aren’t that many new fans of his new music. Most of his core fan base was established in the 80’s and 90’s and are thus in their late twenties and upwards, and grew up buying CDs. So they’re the ones that still revert to the album format when given the chance, and they’ve come out in numbers. Variable pricing certainly helped (e.g. ‘Bad’ is 4.99) but the the premium priced ‘King of Pop’ (12.99) is at #2.
The younger fans though, who are more used to buying singles, are doing exactly that. And with the ‘momentum effect’ of hits, this activity coalesced around ‘the Man in the Mirror’, driving it to #1.
So it’s no coincidence then that the top 10 albums chart is dominated more heavily than the top 10 singles. The album remains the preferred domain of the CD generation and the single tracks remains the preferred option of the digital generation.