Once upon a time, music fans bought hundreds of millions of CDs each year, fueling lavish industry profits. Nowadays, with streaming the dominant format — but with each click bringing infinitesimal royalties — artists and their record companies must come up with all sorts of gimmicks to sell those gleaming plastic discs, which can help boost an album’s position on the weekly Billboard chart.
Over the last couple of months, the chart has been a showcase of some ingenious tactics. Taylor Swift offered four deluxe versions of her album “Lover” at Target stores, while the metal band Tool sold 88,000 CDs in its first week as part of a $45 foldout package that included a four-inch HD video screen.
But now a K-pop supergroup has truly pushed the envelope: SuperM — a seven-member boy band whose existence was announced just two months ago — topped Billboard’s latest album chart with a seven-track EP that was sold in an array of CD versions and bundle deals.
SuperM’s debut, “The 1st Mini Album ‘SuperM’,” opened at No. 1 with 164,000 album sales and a modest 4.9 million streams, according to Nielsen. Of those album sales, 113,000 were CDs and 51,000 were digital downloads.
The CD version came in eight packaging variations, one for each member of the group (plus a “united” version), which included a variety of posters and collectible cards. The group’s fans took to social media to display the many versions they acquired.
“The 1st Mini Album” was also available as part of more than 60 sales bundles for merchandise and concert tickets, which featured items like T-shirts enabled with augmented reality: point a smartphone at the shirt using a special app, and the SuperM member pictured on it becomes animated. Tactics like these have become increasingly common, but also raised concerns in the industry about distorting the weekly charts.
By comparison, the No. 2 album this week, “Over It” by the Atlanta rapper Summer Walker, was a streaming smash, but with minimal album sales. “Over It” was streamed 155 million times, yet sold just 14,000 copies as a complete album.
Post Malone’s “Hollywood’s Bleeding” fell one spot to No. 3, while “Kirk” by the rapper DaBaby — last week’s top album — fell to No. 4. Swift’s “Lover” holds at No. 5 in its seventh week out.