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‘HIStory’ Sales Not a Record : Music: Michael Jackson’s latest doesn’t top Guns N’ Roses ‘Illusion I and II’ debuts. But first-week estimates of 375,000 to 470,000 albums sold put it ahead of his ‘Dangerous.’

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Michael Jackson’s “HIStory Past, Present and Future, Book 1" album may not have set sales history, but the two-disc package appears to have done robust business during its first week in the stores.

Estimates from various retailers Monday suggest the album sold at least 375,000 copies and possibly as many as 470,000. Exact figures won’t be known until released Wednesday by SoundScan, which monitors U.S. record sales.

If the estimates are correct, “HIStory” far exceeded the 326,500 first-week mark registered by Jackson’s last album, 1991’s “Dangerous,” a single-disc collection which went on to sell more than 5.5 million copies in the U.S.

But the figures fell short of the first-week sales registered in 1991 by Guns N’ Roses’ pair of “Use Your Illusion” albums, which was the mark that “HIStory” had to beat to claim the fastest start ever by an artist.

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Though “Illusion I” and “Illusion II” were packaged separately, approximately 700,000 copies of each sold opening week, turning it, in effect, into a double album because retailers reported at the time that fans in virtually all cases bought both.

First-week sales results in the record industry aren’t as crucial a measure of a project’s eventual success as they are in the film industry.

Yet record-industry insiders have been waiting eagerly for the results to see if there would be consumer resistance to Jackson’s decision to release a double album--one disc featuring greatest hits, the other featuring new material.

Another concern: potential backlashes over controversies, ranging from 1993 child-molestation accusations to complaints by Jewish groups that a song on the new album contained anti-Semitic language.

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Jackson has said he will re-record the lyrics for future copies of the album and offered apologies to anyone offended by the words, which he said were used to illustrate the evils of prejudice. The entertainer, though continuing to proclaim his innocence, also paid an out-of-court settlement last year in the molestation case.

“The figures we are getting have been fantastic,” Epic Records President Richard Griffiths said Monday. “I think we’re going to have better sales than ‘Dangerous’ and better sales than I personally had expected.”

“We obviously feel that the King of Pop is back,” said Gary Arnold, merchandise director for the country’s 213 Best Buy stores.

While retailers typically discount new albums, the $19.98 price that Best Buy, Target and other mass-merchandise stores were charging in some markets for “HIStory” was below the $21.22 that stores paid for the album.

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Most music retailers weren’t going that low, but they were selling it for under $25.

Blockbuster Music, which was selling it for $24.88, is counting on “HIStory” to break its records.

“We figure it will be the best seller we’ve ever had,” said Wally Knief, a spokesperson for the Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.-based Blockbuster Music, which has been in the record-selling business for about two years.

“HIStory” and Pink Floyd’s “Pulse” are albums being counted on by retailers to make this summer one of the hottest summers ever for the music industry.

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“It’s definitely the best schedule of releases we’ve had since Christmas a year ago,” said Arnold. “And we’re looking for many of these albums, especially the ‘HIStory’ album, to have strong sales through this Christmas.”

Times Staff Writer Chuck Philips contributed to this article.


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