Michael Jackson’s Posthumous Sales Surge

Singer currently holds eight of top 10 slots on iTunes singles chart.

From Cairo to Compton, Harlem to Hanoi, last week, fans of the King of Pop were celebrating the life of [artist id="1102"]Michael Jackson[/artist] by listening and dancing to the iconic singer’s music. They were also rushing out to buy as much of it as they could, creating a retail crush around the country (and the world) that will likely land a number of Jackson albums at the top of the Billboard catalog charts next week.

Retailers across the country reported a mad rush on Jackson titles, with many saying that they had quickly run out of their stock of music within 24 hours of the singer’s death on Thursday at the age of 50. The quickest-selling titles, according to Billboard, were the Number Ones and The Essential Michael Jackson compilations, as well as the expanded reissue of Thriller. Billboard predicted that those three sets, along with Jackson’s studio albums Off the Wall, Bad and Dangerous, will likely leap to the upper reaches of the Top Pop Catalog Albums chart next week. The magazine said that Number Ones will probably take the top spot after resting at #20 last week on sales of 4,000.

By comparison, the top catalog album last week was Christian act tobyMac’s Portable Sounds, which sold 9,000 copies, while sources told Billboard that at least one of the Jackson titles sold more than double that total just on Thursday alone. Nielsen SoundScan tracks sales through Sunday (June 28), with the new chart rankings released on Wednesday, July 1.

Keith Caulfield, Senior Chart Manager and Analyst for Billboard, said that he did not have any updated numbers on Jackson sales on Monday, but that “when an artist of a certain stature passes away, especially a sudden passing, there’s always that instant reaction on the Billboard charts.” But, unlike the deaths of such icons as Johnny Cash (2003) and Frank Sinatra (1998), both of whom were older when they died, Caulfield said whatever impact Jackson’s passing would have is amplified by the fact that we are now living in the digital music age. “Now you have digital albums, which didn’t really exist when these stars died in the past,” he said.

In a telling tale of the times, as of Monday (June 29), eight of the 10 best-selling songs on iTunes belonged to Jackson, with “Man in the Mirror” resting at #1 on a singles chart that also included such hits as “The Way You Make Me Feel,” “Billie Jean,” “Black or White,” “Smooth Criminal,” “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough,” “Thriller” and “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing).” The only other songs on the chart blocking Jackson’s clean sweep were a pair of singles from the Black Eyed Peas.

In total, 38 Jackson songs were in the top 100 on the iTunes Top Songs chart. Outside the top 10, 15 other Jackson and Jackson 5-related albums and anthologies made it onto the list of the 100 best-selling digital albums. Jackson’s impact was even felt on the ringtones chart, where “Thriller” was at #2, “The Way You Make Me Feel” came in at #5 and “Smooth Criminal” slid into the #8 spot among the 17 Jackson ringtones on the chart. A spokesperson for iTunes would not comment on sales figures, referring questions to Jackson’s Sony label. A spokesperson for the label had not returned calls for comment at press time.

As befits the man who made the music video a true art form, Jackson had a complete lockdown on the Top Music Videos chart on iTunes, as well, taking the top 10 spots with such landmark clips as “Thriller,” “Billie Jean,” “Black or White” and “Beat It.” In all, more than 40 Jackson videos made it onto the top 100 videos chart.

Jackson wasn’t the only one whose sales increased: “Weird Al” Yankovic’s parodies “Eat It” (#94) and “Fat” (#81) also got some love, along with Alien Ant Farm’s cover of “Smooth Criminal” (#94).

The story was similar on the Top Albums chart, with Jackson monopolizing seven of the top 10 spots with The Essential Michael Jackson at #1, followed by Number Ones, Thriller, Off the Wall and Bad. Also in the top 10 were the 25th anniversary edition of Thriller and Dangerous.

It was the same story at Amazon.com, where the top-25 single-track downloads featured 16 Jackson songs and half of the top 20 on the MP3 albums chart was populated by Jackson’s solo albums or efforts with his brothers.

London’s Daily Telegraph reported a similar phenomenon in the country where Jackson was slated to make his comeback in two weeks at a series of now-scuttled 50 shows at the O2 Arena in London. A best-of album reached #1 on the U.K. charts over the weekend, and four other albums entered the top 20 alongside 43 singles in the top 200. Given the additional digital sales, the paper predicted that Jackson’s posthumous sales could easily dwarf those of such fellow music icons as Elvis Presley and John Lennon.

Don’t miss “Michael Jackson: Picking Up the Pieces,” Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET on CBS, featuring a special report from MTV News. 

For complete coverage of the life, career and passing of the legendary entertainer, visit “Michael Jackson Remembered.”

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