Alanis Morissette May Set Sales Record

Retailers predict singer/songwriter's new release will post better first-week numbers than current record-holder Lauryn Hill's did.

Music insiders and retailers are predicting that Alanis Morissette's fourth album, Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie, released Nov. 3, may possibly hit record-breaking sales numbers in its first week on the market.

Though the actual figures won't be in until Wednesday, there's considerable confidence that Morissette has topped the first-week sales record for a female solo artist. That record currently belongs to rapper Lauryn Hill, whose The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill sold 422,500 copies in its first week.

"We sold a heck of a lot more units here than I expected," said Rich Zubrod, manager of the Virgin Megastore in New York City's Times Square. He added that his store "went in strong" with its initial order of Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie (Maverick Records) and has already re-ordered. "Considering how well it did here, it may do even better than 600,000."

Surpassing the 600,000-unit mark in the first seven days of its release would put Morissette's album close to this year's heavyweight champ. The Beastie Boys' Hello Nasty moved a whopping 681,500 copies in its first week -- the strongest debut of the year.

With her cathartic songwriting and distinct vocal delivery, Morissette, 24, has distinguished herself as one of the most prominent -- and successful -- musical voices of the decade. Her last album, 1995's Jagged Little Pill, is the best-selling debut solo-album in U.S. history, having gone platinum (1 million sold) 16 times over in America on the strength of several hit singles.

Featuring the hit track "Thank U" (RealAudio excerpt), the 17-song Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie was released amid one of the biggest record-release months of all time. (Nov. 17 will see the most releases ever put out on a single day in the history of the recording industry.)

Stan Goman of Tower Records' Retail Operations office said Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie is this week's top release for the chain's nationwide sales and that its first-week numbers are 10 percent higher than Hill's Miseducation. Goman would not provide actual numbers, but he noted that sales figures for Junkie also are 10 percent higher than Tower's runner-up best-seller this week -- Irish rock-band U2's greatest-hits collection, Best Of 1980-1990.

Zubrod estimated that Morissette's sales were approximately 15 percent higher than U2's. "The fact that it's all-new material against a greatest-hits record seems to give it a lot more credibility," he said.

Elsewhere, however, pop buyers say that Morissette's release was overshadowed by U2's greatest-hits album, which includes a limited-release B-sides compilation. At Tower Records in Chicago, rock-buyer Mark Anthony reported selling 361 copies of Junkie last week, while U2's album almost doubled those sales, selling 645 copies. K-Mart spokesperson Dennis Whigent said that Junkie sales are "meeting expectations."

Howie Klein -- president of Reprise Records, Maverick's partner in the promotion of Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie -- would not discuss his expectations for first-week sales, saying that for this album, his already have been met.

"This woman has put her heart and soul into making an amazing record, and everyone at Reprise and Maverick have to work very hard to make sure it gets exposed and people know it's out so they [pick it up]," Klein said. "This is a record that has the ability to touch people in an intimate way and will have a profound impact on people."

As for the possibility of Morissette breaking Hill's sales record, Klein said that to compare artists' sales is "grotesque."

Online retailers saw evidence of the demand for Junkie well before it was released. Larry Burnett, music editor at America Online, said his company's advance-order promotion of the album proved so successful that AOL quickly followed it with similarly designed promotions of future artists.

Beginning on Oct. 23, America Online offered downloadable, 30-second clips of four Junkie songs. (The promotion was first offered only to AOL users, then was expanded to the Web.) Approximately 700,000 separate Internet users visited the promotion page between Oct. 23 and Nov. 4, Burnett said, adding that AOL has followed with similar specials for the Rolling Stones, Whitney Houston and Jewel.

Since the song excerpts were put up in clip format, it took the average user about three minutes to load each one. "We had about 300,000 users download the tracks," Burnett said. "That definitely shows that people were willing to put some time into hearing the songs."

Record buyers also said that the Rolling Stones' live album, No Security, and Beck's Mutations were among this week's top sellers in addition to Morissette and U2.