This article was updated at 3:51 p.m.
By counting the CDs handed out at shows on his current tour, Prince posted his highest-selling week in the SoundScan era. However, he landed at No. 3 behind Usher and the debut week for Mario Winans’ sophomore disc.
Usher’s “Confessions” (La Face) held down the top spot for the fifth straight week, selling 253,000 copies for the week ended Sunday, according to SoundScan.
“Confessions” beat Winans’ “Hurt No More” (Bad Boy), the first album from the R&B singer since 1997’s “Story of My Heart,” by 30,000.
It’s Prince’s “Musicology,” however, that has the music industry buzzing. “Musicology” posted sales of 191,000 for the week, his highest total since 1991’s “Diamonds & Pearls” (Warner Bros.) moved 172,000 copies. (His No. 1 albums, “Purple Rain,” “Around the World in a Day” and the soundtrack to “Batman,” pre-dated SoundScan.) “Musicology” is his first album distributed by a major since Arista released “Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic” in 1999.
But his method for getting to that tally has never been used in the 13 years SoundScan has been the official meter for record sales.
Prince’s manager Londell McMillan said Prince planned to distribute the CD to concertgoers prior to signing a distribution deal with Sony Music.
“We were told that if we sell at the shows, we’ll hurt ourselves,” McMillan said. “But this is the time to be innovative … and when 93.5% of the sales are at retail, that’s a great week for a cool guy.”
Advertisements for Prince’s concerts state, “Buy a ticket — get the new CD for free at the show,” but tour organizers admit the cost of the CD — about $9 — is built into the ticket price. The best seats at Prince’s shows have averaged about $75; his Staples Center shows were priced at $49-$85.
Between his tour opener March 27 in Reno and last Sunday, Prince had played 18 shows. Conservatively estimating 15,000 tickets are purchased per show, 270,000 copies of “Musicology” would have been given out. Prince and Sony were aware SoundScan would only count those albums after the release date.
For the current week, only sales from a show in Columbia, S.C., were counted because the cycle for venue sales is different from retail — Thursday through Wednesday. The concert accounted for almost 13,000 in sales, or 6.6% of the total. Prince played four shows between the album’s release date, April 27, and Sunday.
Assuming the counting of the giveaway CDs — which contain none of the packaging found in the retail version — continues, Prince’s figures should stay strong into July. He is playing six shows this week and three next week and then takes off until May 24, when he starts another leg at the Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim.
“The present plan is to continue selling the CD,” McMillan said, “but we’ll be evaluating the process. Ultimately, the call belongs to Prince. If we stop, we’ll notify the ticket-buying public.”
Also in the top 10, “The Pretty Toney Album,” Ghostface Killah’s first album for U’s Def Jam — the Wu-Tang Clan member made three discs for other labels — sold 68,000 copies to land at No. 6. Gospel act MercyMe had its strongest first week ever, as “Undone” (INO) hit No. 12 on sales of 56,000.
Dallas metal act Drowning Pool’s “Desensitized” (Wind-Up), their first with new singer Jason Jones, sold 42,000 to debut at No. 17 and the former teen idols Hanson return at No. 25, selling 37,000 copies of “Underneath” on their 3CG label.
Other debuts included Fear Factory’s “Archetype” (Liquid 8) at No. 30, selling 32,000; John Michael Montgomery, one slot below on sales of 30,000 for his “Letters From Home” (Warner); Zakk Wylde’s Black Label Society, moving 24,000 copies of “Hangover Music, Volume 6” (Spitfire); and the Kottonmouth Kings, selling 23,000 copies of “Fire It Up” (Suburban Noize).
Seven of the week’s nine top-50 debuts are on independent labels. The compilation album “Rock Against Bush” on Fat Wreck Chords, just missed the top 50, selling 19,000-plus and debuting at No 54.