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The beginning of the year is typically slow for new album releases.  The fact that the most notable release of last week was Christian rapper Lecrae’s fifth album speaks leaps and bounds for how stagnant releases actually are during January.  ScHoolboy Q took advantage of this slump and put out his first full length, Setbacks, inching towards his first thousand copies with a 100% digital release.  It looks like the N.E.R.D. Best Of compilation was a dud, but then again there was no real promotion backing the release and the group just put out their fourth album two months ago, so there’s really no point of this compilation.

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Lecrae “Rehab…The Overdose” – 17,318  (75% digital)

ScHoolboy Q “Setbacks” - 727 (100% digital)

N.E.R.D. The Best Of N.E.R.D.” – 258 (81% digital)

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Although we constantly dissect first week album sales, these numbers aren’t always the best indicator of how and album will sell overall, especially in the world of indies.  Over the course of the year, certain albums will pick up steam and based on critical praise and word-of-mouth, while others can completely fall off.

Take for instance Celph Titled and Buckwild’s collaborative album, Nineteen Ninety Now (Oct 26). The title moved 916 copies in its first week and went on to sell 3,384 as of today.  Therefore, from October 26 to today, they moved 2,468, averaging about 224 units a week.  Compared to an album like Eminem’s Recovery, those numbers aren’t huge, but this means that from every week after November 1, Ninety Now sold on average 24% of what it shipped in its first week.

So how does that reflect on major labels?  Let’s look at Mike Posner’s debut, 31 Minutes To Take Off (Aug 10).  In his first week, Posner moved 29,211 units and has since sold 109,050 copies.  From August 17 to now, he sold 79,839 copies, averaging 3,629 albums per week after its debut.  That’s only 3% on average of its first week sales.  Now in comparison to Ninety Now, Posner’s album’s been on the shelves twice as long, but even if we gave Posner a 11 week period (rather than the 22 weeks it’s been out), he would have sold on average 6% of his original sales each proceeding week.  I guess what I’m trying to get at is that even though indie artists typically don’t sell as many units as major label artists, their sales have greater longevity on a percentage basis.

Here’s another breakdown of indie vs. major sales (modified to take into account differences in release dates):

The Roots “How I Got Over” (Def Jam)  First Week: 50,961  Total: 184,926   Avg After 1st Week: 9,568  % After 1st Week: 18%

The Left “Gas Mask”  First Week: 270   Total: 1,312  Avg After 1st Week: 95  %  After 1st Week: 35%