Pop-country crooner Garth Brooks' Double Live album has broken the one-week sales record previously held by grunge-rockers Pearl Jam's Vs., and, in so doing, claimed the top spot on this week's Billboard 200 albums chart.
The much-hyped Double Live went platinum in its debut, moving 1,085,373 units in the week ending Nov. 22, according to SoundScan, the company that has tracked music sales at the point of purchase since 1991. During its first week of release in 1993, Vs. moved 950,378 copies.
"Here at Transworld we are very pleased with the first-week sales of Garth," Bob Higgins, chairman of the 600-store chain Transworld Music, said in a statement released Wednesday (Nov. 25).
"It exceeded our estimates," Higgins said. "We expect great results with this album ... and look forward to this being one of the key albums during the holiday season."
Before the arrival of SoundScan's tracking system, it was difficult to track with reliability how many copies an album sold, due to the often labyrinthine accounting practices of the music industry. The record Brooks broke applies only to album sales tracked in the SoundScan era.
Brooks held off such high-powered competitors as rappers Method Man and Ice Cube, pop-folkie Jewel and Southern California punkers the Offspring -- all of whom landed in the top 10 -- to take the top spot. Considering the onslaught of new releases by high-profile artists Nov. 17, a day officially dubbed "Super Tuesday" due to the sheer number of debuts, Brooks platinum sales seem all the more impressive.
The two-CD set features 25 live recordings by Brooks, including three new singles and such hits as "Longneck Bottle" (RealAudio excerpt).
While each set contains the same recordings, Brooks elected to release different cover art and liner notes for each million copies pressed, with a total of six different sets of packaging. The first million copies of Double Live came attached with a sticker certifying that the CD was part of the first set.
"I'm a Brooks collector, so I made sure to get a first edition," country-fan Joel Body, 32, wrote in an e-mail. "I didn't pick it up because I thought it would be worth something later, I picked it up because I think [Brooks] is one of the most exciting live acts of our time and I wanted something special to [help me] recall how great he has been the times I saw him in concert."
Retailers across the U.S. report that some Brooks collectors picked up numerous copies of Double Live, with some getting all six different covers.
Brooks fueled his record-breaking run by giving the album a huge promotional push. Upon its debut Nov. 17, Brooks played a concert broadcast exclusively to 2,000 Wal-Mart stores in the U.S., where Double Live was on sale. Prior to the release date, Wal-Mart customers were able to reserve one of the first million copies by laying down a deposit. Brooks also appeared on numerous television programs last week, including his own special on NBC.
Early on, Brooks supporters were certain of his selling power. "Garth will do fine against any competition," proclaimed Brandon Weisner, webmaster for Planet Garth (http://www.planetgarth.com). "Legions of fans will show up at midnight at Wal-Marts across the country and buy six copies of the same album."
As it turns out, Weisner's prediction was correct. On Wednesday, Wal-Mart issued a statement declaring that Brooks' promotional efforts led the chain to its biggest day of music sales in the company's history.
Brooks also broke this year's one-week sales record, set when punk rappers the Beastie Boys moved 681,000 copies of Hello Nasty during its first week of release in July.
"I guess this just goes to show that hype pays," proclaimed Brad Stern, an assistant manager at Harmony House in Birmingham, Mich. "[Brooks] got the word out about the album, and the people came."