Justin Bieber Tops MGMT, Plus An Analysis Of The Best-Selling (Well, Maybe) Record Store Day Singles

This week's album chart has in its first two positions the two biggest stories in pop music last week. Once again, the pole position was assumed by Canadian teenager Justin Bieber, whose first full-length, My World 2.0, sold 92,000 copies--only the second time this year that the No. 1 album had sales under 100,000. Bieber's cumulative sales are now at 768,000 over four weeks. It seems like so much more, doesn't it?) Meanwhile, the much-discussed Congratulations, by Brooklyn avant-pop outfit MGMT, came in at No. 2, selling 66,000 copies during its first week of retail availability.

Bieber and MGMT weren't the only things dominating the music press: Last Saturday's Record Store Day festivities received quite a bit of notice as well, and I figured it would be fun to look at the aftermath. So I took a look at the Soundscan numbers for the various limited-edition singles sold at independent stores that day. A cross-reference between this week's singles chart and the official list of Record Store Day offerings resulted in this Top 20:

1. The Rolling Stones, "Plundered My Soul"

2. Bruce Springsteen, "Wrecking Ball"

3. Them Crooked Vultures, "Mind Eraser No Chaser"

4. Black Keys, "Tighten Up"

5. Neil Young, "Heart Of Gold"

6. Bon Iver & Peter Gabriel, "Come Talk To Me"

7. The Doors, "People Are Strange"

8. Elvis Costello & The Attractions, "Live At Hollywood High"

9. Built To Spill, "Water Sleepers"

10. Beach House, "Zebra"

11. Yeah Yeah Yeahs, "Skeletons"

12. Phoenix, "Fences"

13. Elvis Presley, "That's Alright Mama"

14. Peter Gabriel & Stephin Merritt, "The Book Of Love"

15. Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds, "Squirm"

16. Against Me!, "I Was A Teenage Anarchist"

17. Passion Pit, "Little Secrets"

18. Gorillaz, "White Flag"

19. Gogol Bordello, "We Comin' Rougher"

20. Coheed & Cambria, "Guns of Summer"

Now, obviously artists like the Stones and Springsteen have history (and the old music-industrial complex) on their side, so it's natural they'd be near the top of any one-shot chart. But there was something that seemed a bit off--say, the relatively low position of Phoenix, and the heavy classic-rock bent of the top eight--so I reached out to Eric Levin of Criminal Records in Atlanta, one Record Store Day's founders, with a few questions about Soundscan's sampling accuracy at the indie-store level.

"Soundscan has made strides in the past couple of years to be a little more accurate in reporting, including moving a whole segment of indie-store chains into the indie column --Newbury Comics, Amoeba, several regional chains like Bull Moose, Plan 9, and Gray Whale," Levin told me. "But they still don't have the majority of indie stores reporting, so the numbers are always going to be inaccurate. In addition, many indie releases, Record Store Day items included, don't have bar codes and aren't registered with the system."

Levin, for his reporting, uses StreetPulse, which collects data from a wider pool of indie retailers and doesn't solely rely on bar codes for its data collection. Here's the top 20 of this week's StreetPulse vinyl chart, with non-singles stripped out:

1. The Rolling Stones, "Plundered My Soul"

2. Built To Spill, "Water Sleepers"

3. Soundgarden, "Hunted Down"

4. Black Keys, "Tighten Up"

5. Phoenix, "Fences"

6. Queens of the Stone Age, "Feel Good Hit of the Summer"

7. Bon Iver & Peter Gabriel, "Come Talk to Me"

8. Them Crooked Vultures, "Mind Eraser No Chaser"

9. Beach House, "Zebra"

10. Elvis Costello & the Attractions, "Live at Hollywood High"

11. Rodriguez, "Inner City Blues"

12. Neil Young, "Heart of Gold"

13. Bruce Springsteen, "Wrecking Ball"

14. Peter Gabriel & Stephin Merritt, "The Book of Love"

15. Drive-By Truckers, "Your Woman Is a Living Thing"

16. Devo, "Fresh/What We Do"

17. Yeah Yeah Yeahs, "Skeletons"

18. Passion Pit, "Little Secrets"

19. The Doors, "People Are Strange"

20. Against Me!, "I Was A Teenage Anarchist"

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So while the Stones are still up top, and for the most part the charts do look the same, the upper reaches do skew a little younger--hey, there's Phoenix! (I am so sad that the Soundgarden single is sold out, by the way.)

The StreetPulse charts don't offer solid numbers, but Levin did tell me that the Rodriguez single, for its part, sold out of its 2,000-copy run immediately; for comparison's sake, SoundScan counted slightly more than 2,000 sales on the Rolling Stones single. Many of the RSD releases were limited to four-digit print runs, and extrapolating too much from the data (like which artists can lure people into record stores) probably is ill-advised; I would have loved to have seen more r&b, pop, and hip-hop artists making special offerings, if only to see just what can actually lure people into making special one-off purchases these days.


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