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Will arrest affect Jackson’s sales?

Industry experts believe the effect will be minimal
/ Source: Billboard

There’s already been some fallout from the criminal charges filed against Michael Jackson this week, but retailers do not expect the scandal to affect the recording artist’s sales. In fact, Jackson’s new album is widely expected to debut at No. 1 in the U.K.

POLICE SEARCHED Jackson’s Neverland estate near Santa Barbara, Calif., the same day that his Epic compilation “Number Ones” hit stores. After prosecutors filed child molestation charges, CBS opted to postpone indefinitely a prime-time Jackson special that had been scheduled for Nov. 26. Jackson subsequently turned himself in to authorities and posted $3 million in bail.

“People aren’t surprised,” says Carl Mello, music buyer for Boston-based chain Newbury Comics. “It’s not like they’re going, ‘Oh my God, Michael! I would have never believed that.”’

Arriving on the same day as hotly anticipated titles from Britney Spears, Blink-182, the Beatles and Dave Matthews Band, Jackson’s “Number Ones” was far from the most talked-about Nov. 18 release until authorities arrived with search warrants at his residence that morning.

Based on first-day numbers cited by music merchants, sales executives predict the album will begin in the neighborhood of 85,000-100,000 copies, a sum that would cause it to fall shy of the top 10 in next week’s Billboard 200.

This is the third hits compilation culled from Jackson’s Epic discography since 1995, when “HIStory: Past, Present and Future” began a two-week stand at No. 1. It sold 390,000 copies in its first week and has sold 2.5 million to date, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

A single-disc distillation of that double-album, which jettisoned the new tracks from the original 1995 set, hit stores two years ago. It peaked at No. 85 and has sold 632,500 to date, SoundScan reports.

The only new tracks available on this new compilation are from the 2001 album “Invincible” and a new song, “One More Chance,” written by R. Kelly.


Aside from adult-leaning R&B stations, “One More Chance” has been a tough sell at radio. It slides one spot to No. 46 on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay, despite a modest audience gain. So far, it has not connected with top 40 stations.

A total of 93 stations in all formats tracked by Nielsen Broadcast Data Systems played the song Nov. 12-19, compiling 11 million audience impressions in that period. In sister magazine Airplay Monitor, “One More Chance” advances 14-11.

Several radio station programmers say they will follow listeners’ desires when deciding whether to drop the song from their playlists. Many also believe it is too early to gauge public reaction regarding the allegations.

“If listeners say, ‘Stop playing the music,’ we will,” says Elroy Smith, program director for Clear Channel-owned R&B stations WGCI and WVAZ in Chicago. “If he’s found guilty, we’ll have to reconsider. But for right now, until a jury makes a decision, we can’t put it out there that he’s guilty by not playing him.”

Jackson’s 1991 album “Dangerous” had been in stores almost two years when a similar allegation made headlines in August 1993. Despite the widespread notoriety, the album saw only an 8% dip that week, sliding three spots to No. 44. This is not unusual for an album in its 92nd chart week.

The album neither dropped quickly in protest nor gained spikes from the months of media attention surrounding that episode, which led to an out-of-court settlement and no criminal charges being filed. It chalked up another 25 weeks on the chart, selling 355,000 of its 5.8 million SoundScan sales to date during those six months.

From the start of 1994 through the week reflected by this week’s charts, Jackson’s various solo albums have sold some 10 million copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

The manager at one national chain store thinks the damage might cut deeper this time.

“It could go either way,” she says, “but I think people might be so sickened at this point that they just might want to throw their hands up in the air.”

But Newbury’s Mello observes that the new album has not yet suffered from the weight of the latest allegations. It “doesn’t seem to be affected positively or negatively,” he says.

“In this early stage, it’s selling right in line with what I thought it would do.”

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