What role did bundling play in Madonna’s big debut?
Billboard.biz editor Bill Werde discuss what role did bundling play in MDNA’s big debut on the Billboard 200.
As you know Madonna sold 359,000 copies of MDNA , but many of Madonna’s sales came through a bundle option, in which fans who purchased tickets for her upcoming tour received a code that could be redeemed for either a physical CD or a digital download of the album.
Of Madonna’s 359,000 sold, trusted sources tell Billboard that somewhere in the area of 185,000 came from the bundle/redemption code. Sacre bleu, you say, doing math: 359 – 180 = 179. Mr. Richie’s 199,000 is the true king-making total this week!
But that’s completely ridiculous.
With all respect deserved and paid to the beloved songs of Mr. Richie, think about two important points.
One: Madonna fans who redeemed that code are not receiving the album for free. The price of Madonna’s album was bundled into the ticket purchase. I can understand why there’s confusion about this. Even the CEO of Ticketmaster tweeted that fans buying tickets got “a free copy of MDNA.” (The March 30 tweet has since been taken down). Such is the less-than-fully-transparent nature of bundling.
But let’s take a hypothetical for a second: the cost of MDNA wasn’t bundled into the ticket price, or that Billboard doesn’t count those sales. All 185,000 fans who used the Madonna redemption code were the first in line to buy tickets to her tour. These are her top fans, each of whom were eager to shell out anywhere from $50 to more than $350 for a seat. If no bundle existed, do you really think a large portion of these fans wouldn’t have purchased the album? We’ll never know for certain, of course. But I think it’s a more than safe bet that Madonna has the no. 1 album in the U.S. under any circumstance – joining her deserved no. 1 debuts in at least 17 other countries, according to manager Guy Oseary’s tweets.
For context, here are her recent albums’ first-week sales, per Nielsen SoundScan:
2008 – Hard Candy – 280K
2005 – Confessions on a Dance Floor – 350K
2003 – American Life – 240K
2000 – Music – 420K
1998 – Ray of Light – 371K
So you can see, given that MDNA has a nice buzz and single going, it’s pretty much beyond reason to think that suddenly this album would sell substantially less than any recent one Madonna has released.
That said, let’s wait and see what the drop-off is next week on sales of MDNA. Second weeks tend to follow a fairly predictable curve. And while it’s far from a perfect science, it’s one of the best bullsh– detectors out there for an inflated first week. Billboard’s head of charts Silvio Pietroluongo says that an iconic pop star’s album will generally drop anywhere from 65 to 80 percent second week. If MDNA drops a lot more than that, it’ll be an indication of the degree of first week inflation caused by bundling.
Read the full story on Billboard.biz.