We won’t have the final numbers until Wednesday morning when physical album sales are also included in Soundscan’s calculations, but iTunes has released the first-week sales totals for Watch The Throne, and the figures are quite impressive. For over three years, Coldplay’s Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends held the record for first-week copies sold in the online music store with 155,000, but swooping in with nearly double that amount is Jay-Z and Kanye West’s collaborative supergroup, The Throne, cashing in with a whopping 290,000 digital purchases. (For comparison’s sake, Lady Gaga‘s Born This Way sold 440,000 downloads in the Amazon.com MP3 store back in June, but that was also priced to move at only $0.99 for the entire album.)
Aside from the fact that Jay and ‘Ye are arguably two of the hottest rappers in the game right now, there are a few things to consider when digesting this news. First of all, Watch The Throne has been heavily promoted and buzzed about over the past few weeks and months, and the iTunes release was an exclusive one, which certainly spiked first week sales. Secondly, and perhaps even more shockingly, is the fact that the album didn’t leak beforehand. For a genre that falls victim to digital assaults via hackers on a regular basis, a feat such as this is almost unheard-of. In their forthcoming August 20th issue, Billboard takes a closer look at the Mission Impossible-like process of keeping one of the year’s most anticipated albums under digital-fingerprint-protected lock and key. Let’s just say that many precautionary strategies were agreed upon and executed, all in the name of safeguarding digital files as they were created; in-person meetings replaced email correspondence, wi-fi signals were disabled during recording sessions, and hard drives were protected 24-hours a day like homeland security secrets.
Despite this impressive sales figure, it remains to be seen whether or not this album will have the same sort of cultural impact that solo records from these two individuals tend to have. Reviews of Watch The Throne have so far been mixed, and lead single “Otis” hasn’t quite taken off in the way that many foresaw. Will this record mimic the arc of Lady Gaga’s latest release –huge first week sales, followed by sharp decline– or chart its own course? Tough to say at this point, but we’ll certainly be watching.