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Year Ends on High Note for Album Sales

Although industry-wide album sales were down from the same weeks of last year in the two stanzas prior to Christmas, an extra gift-shopping day during the holiday frame closed 2003 on an up note.

With the holiday shifting back a day, from Wednesday in 2002 to Thursday, album sales are up a whopping 20.6% over the same week of the prior year. The final week’s splurge more than compensates for the 5.8% deficit seen the week before the Christmas frame or the 0.5% gap of the year’s 50th week.

Further, the 31.3 million album units sold during this Christmas shopping period also exceeds those of the holiday week in 2001, when Dec. 25 fell on a Tuesday. There were 24.8 million sold that week and 25.9 million tallied during Christmas week 2002. The strong holiday rally closes the gap in this year’s album sales to just 3.6%, the smallest lag behind prior-year sales that the industry has seen in 24 months.

Add up the last two shopping weeks of 2003, and the 63.4 million album units sold in that period beats the same window of 2002 by 5.6%, when Nielsen SoundScan had the year’s final two weeks clocked at 60 million copies.

Although chart-topping OutKast, Alicia Keys and Britney Spears (at Nos. 1, 2 and 10, respectively) are the only acts in the top 10 to show any gain over the previous frame, the last album chart of 2003 is stronger in every dimension than that which sealed 2002.

There are four albums with sales above 300,000 on the current chart, compared with only one during Christmas week 2002. Each of the current top 10 surpasses 200,000, two more than a year ago. The Billboard 200 also has more members in the 100,000-plus club, with 34, vs. 30 in the 2002 finale.

Finally, the No. 200 title stands at 18,000, compared with 13,500 in the last week of 2002. What a difference a day makes – especially when the day in question is an extra one before Christmas.


One former chart-topper replaces another on the Billboard 200, as a gain of almost 12% pushes OutKast past Alicia Keys.

BMG Distribution was positioned to win, regardless of which of those two came out on top. And for the second year in a row and the fourth time in six years, the big chart’s No. 1 title during Christmas week is a resident of the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart.

This is the fifth straight week that OutKast’s “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below” shows a gain over the previous frame.

This rap duo likely is not among those that think there are too many music awards shows, as some of its double album’s recent rallies came in the wake of exposure from appearances at the American Music Awards on ABC, Fox’s Billboard Music Awards and VH1’s Big in ’03 Awards, along with the notoriety of the act’s six Grammy nominations.

This time, Christmas shopping – and post-holiday trips to the music store inspired by gift certificates or the exchange of unwanted CDs – helps OutKast earn an 11.8% rise for a holiday-week tally of 374,000. That is 19.5% more than the 313,000 copies that the soundtrack from Eminem’s “8 Mile” sold when it returned to No. 1 during Christmas week 2002 but substantially less than the 398,000 that rock band Creed sold when “Weathered” held the top slot during the holiday frame of 2001.

“The Diary of Alicia Keys,” meanwhile, is practically flat with the sales it achieved during the preceding frame, up 0.3% in the holiday week (371,000).

Besides Christmas-week conquests by Keys this time and “8 Mile” in the holiday frame of 2002, rapper DMX planted hip-hop’s crown atop the Billboard 200 during the Christmas weeks of 1998 and 1999, when the release dates of “Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood” and “… And Then There Was X,” respectively, were set to coincide with the holiday frame.


This marks the second consecutive week that a difference of less than 0.1% separates the No. 1 from the runner-up on the Billboard 200.

OutKast beats Alicia Keys by less than 3,000 units. On the previous chart, Keys edged country king Toby Keith by a razor-thin lead of fewer than 500 units, topping the list with 370,000 copies.

There have been only two other weeks in Nielsen SoundScan’s 12-year history when the gap between the top two titles on the Billboard 200 has been smaller than the difference that separated Keys and Keith. During one week in 1997, Aerosmith beat the “Space Jam” soundtrack by fewer than 200 copies, while a space of about 300 units placed Keys’ first album behind Eminem’s D12 when the latter’s set bowed at No. 1 in 2001.

The last week of the SoundScan calendar year also marks the third time in 2003 that less than 1,000 copies have stood between the big chart’s top two. OutKast edged Rod Stewart by about 500 the week of Nov. 15, while little more than 900 units kept “8 Mile” ahead of Norah Jones the week of Jan. 18.


In the days after Christmas, rap and rock titles gain traction, when younger shoppers go for edgier fare than that which parents, uncles and aunts might buy as gifts for the kids in their lives.

While the extra shopping day certainly helped overall volume, figure that it was the few days after Christmas that helped 50 Cent’s G-Unit rally the Billboard 200’s Greatest Gainer (15-11, up 28%).

Among the rock and rap fare that surges are titles by Jay-Z (18-12, up 26%), Blink-182 (16-14, up 15%), Tupac (25-19, up 18%), Ludacris (28-20, up 14%), Chingy (29-22, up 15%), Nelly (40-28, up 29%) and Coldplay (49-36, up 12%). The big chart’s percentage-based Pacesetter goes to rapper Obie Trice (170-123, up 50%).

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