Published Aug 12, 2010This week, Canadian indie rock rules the charts, as Arcade Fire's The Suburbs is the No. 1 album in the U.S. If you were wondering exactly how a group of Montreal rockers managed to out-sell Eminem, the answer could be ultra-cheap digital sales from Amazon.
For the first week the album was out, the retailer sold digital copies of The Suburbs for just $3.99 - a price so cheap it made seeking out illegal copies practically pointless. According to Billboard, 62 percent of the album's 156,000 copies sold were digital (that's 97,000 downloads).
While it's unclear exactly how many of those sales came from Amazon's promotion, it doubtless played a role in the album's huge first-week sales. As the New York Times points out, Amazon's $3.99 promotion also helped Vampire Weekend to reach No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart back in January.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times's Pop & Hiss blog [via The Daily Swarm], Merge co-founder (and Superchunk bassist) Laura Ballance explained her mixed feelings about the ultra-cheap promotion.
"Devaluing music is something that concerns me greatly," she said. "But it's hard to draw a hard line on it. At this point, people can download music for free if they really want to. If you're trying to get people to buy music, people who wouldn't otherwise, maybe that's the way to do it. Just to make it so cheap that it tips the scale."
She added, "I find the resistance I had five years ago to music getting cheap is being broken down over the years by relentless pressure. People want to pay less."
On the other hand, Billboard also points out that the album moved a massive 6,100 vinyl copies. That's almost twice as many as Vampire Weekend's 3,300 earlier this year. But vinyl sales alone would have put The Suburbs at No. 67 on the charts.