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John Lennon catalog will get lift through Christmas

EMI Music in reissue effort for late Beatle's birthday

EMI Music’s John Lennon reissue campaign, which commenced Oct. 5 in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of Lennon’s birth on Oct. 9, will continue to roll through the yuletide retailing season.

The remastered Lennon packages made notable chart entries last week. The hits compilation “Power to the People” bowed at No. 24 (with 18,000 copies sold). The new edition of Lennon and Yoko Ono’s 1980 set “Double Fantasy,” featuring both a new “stripped” mix and the original version of the album, debuted at No. 24 (12,000 sold). “Imagine” entered at No. 88 (5,700 sold).

The lavish eight-CD “Signature Box” comprising his complete albums signed on at No. 148 (3,300 sold). And the four-disc themed compilation “Gimme Some Truth” arrived at No. 196 (2,500 sold). In addition, the Starbucks compilation “Remember,” first released in 2006, rose to No. 66.

While EMI’s well-publicized push created high awareness, the numbers for Lennon’s solo work did not come close to matching initial sales in September 2009 for the remastered Beatles catalog. “Abbey Road,” the bestselling individual title, sold 89,000 out of the box, while the Fab Four’s stereo and mono boxed sets sold 26,000 and 12,000, respectively.

Bill Gagnon, senior VP-general manager of catalog for EMI North America, expresses satisfaction with the early Lennon numbers: “We scanned almost 50,000 units the first week, if you add up all the titles we released. If you put that in perspective — 50,000 units on content that’s essentially been available before — it’s pretty impressive.”

Though the Beatles’ material is still unavailable digitally, EMI released Lennon material in the MP3 format. “We had great support from iTunes, with home page placement,” Gagnon says. “We did iTunes LPs for ‘Power to the People’ and for ‘Double Fantasy,’ and we did great numbers on those titles.”

EMI’s next promotional phase will be keyed to the Nov. 22 bow of Michael Epstein’s documentary “LennonNYC” on PBS’ “American Masters.” A&E Home Video will issue the film on DVD on Nov. 23.

Gagnon says the PBS airing is “right before the Thanksgiving holiday. In addition, we’re going to have a second wave of our TV advertising going. We’re going to be doing social networking outreach at the same time, right before people go into the gifting holidays.”

More Beatles-related material is materializing between now and December. Remasters of the Fabs’ so-called red and blue best-of compilations were reissued Oct. 19.

On Nov. 2, Paul McCartney’s bestselling 1973 Wings opus “Band on the Run” will be re-released by Concord Music Group in a deluxe edition.

On Nov. 26 — retail’s “Black Friday” — George Harrison’s 1970 debut solo album “All Things Must Pass” will be issued by EMI as a limited edition three-LP boxed set exclusively at participating Record Store Day indie retailers.

“There’s a good assortment of Beatles product in the marketplace, and there’ll be attention brought to it by all companies,” Gagnon says.

Another anniversary on Dec. 8 will likely occasion additional sales: On that date in 1980, Lennon was shot to death in New York City. This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ formation and the 40th of their split.

Variety.com/Soundcheck

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