The ink was barely dry on a press release announcing Justin Bieber’s feat scoring the highest first-week album sales figure of 2015 when the young pop star’s accomplishment turned into a footnote to the juggernaut of British neo-soul singer Adele’s “25,” which is poised to be the all-time first-week sales champ.
Nielsen Music reported Monday that “25” has sold 2.3 million copies during its first three days of release. That makes it by far the fastest-selling album in a decade and a half, and puts it on pace to surpass the longtime record holder, boy band 'NSync's album “No Strings Attached,” which sold 2.4 million in 2000 during its first week of release.
“It will surpass 'NSync’s album today,” David Bakula, Nielsen Entertainment’s senior vice president of industry insights, told The Times on Monday. “The projections I’ve seen are putting it at around 2.9 million [for the first week]. This thing has as good a chance of hitting 3 million in one week as any record in history. It’s incredible.”
Bakula said that it should easily double the 1.29 million first-week figure that Taylor Swift’s “1989” registered in October 2014, which became the fast-selling album in more than a decade.
“When Taylor Swift did 1.3 million last year, people looked at that and said ‘Wow, how can something like that happen in this day and age?” Bakula said. “Adele’s album is not just slipping by 'NSync’s record, it’s going to destroy it.”
The 'NSync first-week record has held strong for 15 years, and has long been considered unbreakable because music sales have dropped dramatically in succeeding years as consumers have shifted away from traditional sales to file-sharing and, more recently, to streaming services.
Merely crossing the 1 million sales threshold in a single week, something that happened regularly at the end of the 1990s and early in the new millennium, has become an event in itself.
Country-turned-pop star Swift has done it with her last three albums in 2014, 2012 and 2010. Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” also topped the 1 million first-week figure in 2011, aided significantly by a two-day promotion during which Amazon sold the album for 99 cents.
Still, “25” is operating at an entirely different—and higher—level.
Anticipation for “25” has been the subject of considerable speculation for months, speculation that turned concrete with the release of the first single, “Hello.” The video logged 27 million views in the first 24 hours — a record, as were the 1.1 million digital downloads of the song, obliterating the previous record of 636,000 copies for rapper Flo Rida’s 2009 single “Right Round.”
Like Swift’s recent blockbuster albums, Adele’s record company is keeping “25” off Spotify and other music streaming services, which in the case of superstar releases can successfully drive consumers to purchase the full album.
In just three days, “25” has surpassed combined sales of the nation’s top selling albums over the previous 11 weeks. Over the weekend, Billboard reported that “25” sold more than 900,000 copies on iTunes during the first day it was available from the digital retailer.
Oh, and for the record, Bieber’s new “Purpose” album sold 648,711 copies during its first week, surpassing the 535,000 figure posted in February by Drake’s “If You’re Reading This” album that had been the highest first-week figure of 2015 to date.